Wednesday, December 3, 2014

As Stephen Hawking gets a new Machine for Easier Communication Today, Some Thoughts on Digital Inclusion and the Differently-Abled


 

A Special Article on the Occasion of the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3rd December 2014
 
Stephen Hawking with actor Eddie Redmayne.(Photo: Liam Daniel, Focus Features)
Photo Courtesy: http://www.usatoday.com

A report that appeared today in USA TODAY: "How a groundbreaking device is helping Stephen Hawking communicate" (http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/12/02/intel-hawking-tool/18822665/) talks about

The new system — called ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit), created by a team that includes scientist Lama Nachman —( was) announced Tuesday by Intel. Its goal: To help millions like Hawking more easily communicate.”

The Report further adds:

"Intel has been supporting me for more than 25 years, allowing me to do what I love every day," Hawking said in an e-mail to USA TODAY. "The development of this system has the potential to improve the lives of disabled people around the world."

          MND and quadriplegia affect more than 3 million people worldwide, causing deterioration of  voluntary muscle activities for speaking, walking, swallowing and body movement. It eventually leads to death.

Stephen Hawking remains an enigma for all of us, but the fact that his life is worth living because of the technology that enables him to contribute and communicate should make us think about the significant issue of digital inclusion for all differently-abled persons.

As technology encroaches upon our lives becoming an enabler as well as posing new challenges of behavioural adjustments, it is but natural that we also talk about the ways to make it inclusive and all-embracing. In fact, it really stems out of our expectations from digital revolution that we hope it to be completely inclusive, whereas there have been many a ‘revolution’, which has always been quite exclusive for chosen few. However, it seems that in the context of digital inclusion, first the very idea of inclusion needs to become more inclusive, as is clear from the fact that most of the discussions, roundtables, conferences, policy initiatives, media coverage etc. do not take into account the needs of the differently-abled.

In fact, when the New York Times did a significant story on digital divide in August 2013 titled, ‘Most of US Is Wired, but Millions Aren’t Plugged In”, it got a Letter to the Editor, written by Lainey Feingold. The Letter which was gracefully published by the paper needs to be re-produced in full for the benefit of the present discussion and to provide a better perspectives to the reader:

Lainey Feingold is an eminent disability
rights lawyer in USA
Photo Courtesy: http://lflegal.com
            Dear Editor:

Your otherwise excellent article about the digital divide (“Most of U.S. Is Wired, but Millions Aren’t Plugged In,” Business Day, Aug. 19) missed an opportunity to discuss the significant digital divide between people with disabilities and those not (yet) disabled.

The Commerce Department report on which your article was based recognized the impact of disability. It found that Internet use among those with a disability is only 48 percent compared with 76 percent for those with no disability. In every metric used in the report, people with disabilities lagged behind. Your reporters rightly covered the digital divide based on race, age, education, class and geography. Disability deserved to be covered as well.

In my experience as a disability civil rights lawyer working with the blind community on technology and information access issues, the disability divide has two major components. First, disability cuts across and magnifies all other factors you mention.

Second, and equally important, there is a digital divide for people with disabilities because of a lack of accessible online content. Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, recognized that, saying “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

Lainey Feingold
Berkeley, Calif., August 19, 2013


If the New York Times can be sort of lopsided in its rather well-intentioned report on issues related to Digital inclusion and divide, then it would almost be a natural thought-process for those who think themselves to be abled without realizing that they are actually disabled to think about the differently-abled. 
As per the Policy Paper of ‘Government Digital Inclusion Strategy’ of Government of UK, Updated 10 November 2014 and available on https://www.gov.uk:

Digital services must be compatible with the tools some disabled people use, like screen readers or Braille software. It’s illegal to make public services online inaccessible to disabled users.
It further recognizes and underlines:
People with disabilities - are less likely to have digital skills and capabilities

ONS estimates 3.6 million disabled adults had never used the internet. This represents 31% of those who were disabled and over half (53%) of the 6.7 million adults who had never used the internet. Of those adults who reported no disability, 8% (3.1 million adults) had never used the internet."


Photo Courtesy
http://www.accessnetwork.org/page/accessible-aid.html
This Policy paper is also important because of its realization about lack of enough digital infrastructure, and programmes for making all individuals of UK digitally skilled.

As Francis Maude, Member of Parliament, states in his ‘Foreword’ to the paper:

   "…recent research published by the BBC has found that 21% of Britain’s population lack the basic   digital skills and capabilities required to realize the benefits of the internet. Around a third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) don’t have a website, and when we include voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) this figure rises to 50%. Independent analysts Booz and Co. estimate full digital take up could add £63 billion value to the UK economy."

For a country like India, then, the message is loud and clear. We need to develop large-scale digital skills enhancement programmes, as well as for digital inclusion, including bringing into its fold the needs of the differently-abled before we can make credible noises about going digital.
 
--Kumar Vikram

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Maulana Azad on ‘Classical’ Languages Sanskrit and Tamil, ‘International’ Languages Urdu and Bengali, and ‘National’ Language Hindi






Studio/Nov.’51, (A22g) Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Education Minister of India planting a sapling at the Central College of Agriculture Hostel at Pusa (Delhi), the opening ceremony of which was perofrmed by him on November 3, 1951. Photo and Caption Courtesy: http://photodivision.gov.in/waterMarkdetails.asp?id=23015.jpg
Today (11th November) is Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s birth anniversary, which is now also celebrated as National Education Day. As I had mentioned in my article written last year on this occasion, (you can read the article at this link on the blog http://aboutreading.blogspot.in/2013/11/a-finished-product-of-indian-culture.html)  Maulana Azad remains for me one of the greatest heroes of our times in whom I am yet to find anything that can slight him or his personality. While just going through the book Speeches of Maulana Azad 1947-1958 published by Publications Division (1st Edition January 1956; Revised Edition November 1989),  I came across an article that puts the issue of having a national language in historical perspective and also brings forth quite frankly the weaknesses that encompass the modern Hindi language and the challenges that it needs to confront in order to establish itself as a true national language. A reading of the speech, given as the Inaugural Address at the First All India Conference on Letters, New Delhi, March 15, 1951, shows that lot many issues that Maulana Azad flagged nearly 65 years back are still quite relevant and need to be viewed more closely. One of the arresting points of the speech for me is Maulana Azad’s clear-cut perspective about what makes literature of a language international’. For him, if the literature of a language has been translated enough into foreign languages, then that should be considered truly international. In the context of Urdu, he thus says,

Among the Indian languages, it is only from Urdu that some works had been translated into English and other European languages more than a hundred years ago. Garcin de Tassy published a French translation of Sir Syed Ahmad’s Asar-al-Sanadid as early as 1850. Maulvi Nazir Ahmed and Maulana Shibli Numani have also produced works which have been translated and quoted by well-known European scholars. In the third volume of his Literary History of Persia, Edward Browne has drawn extensively upon the works of Shibli Numani. In fact, a large portion of this book, particularly the Chapter on Hafiz, is almost a translation of Shibli Numani’s Shair-al-Ajam.”

Now, in the age of translations that we live in, it is of utmost importance to realise that translations are not one way process---foreign literature getting translated into Indian languages—but through translations if we hope to develop cultural and literary understanding, then our literatures, and views must get translated into the langauges of the dominant cultures. Otherwise, the bogey of translations will be, and to great extent already being, used to force down the throat of sub-ordinate or minority cultures the views of the dominant cultures. In this  sense, as somehow I always have the apprehension, translations can ultimately become a tool for spreading globalisation and its uniform ideas. Hence it is all the more necessary to look at the insights that Maulana Azad offers when he states: "...it is not enough if a language translates works from other languages. Valuable as such translations are, and greatly as they contribute to the development of a language, they cannot by themselves establish a language as a world language. A language or literature attains that status only when it makes some contribution which by its originality or depth of insight or beauty of expression marks an addition to the achievements of man."

Herein I reproduce the last 3 pages of the 7 page speech, which is published under the heading ‘Literature and Nationality’—Kumar Vikram



Photo Emporium, Cuttack/January. 1950, A22mThe Hon ble Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s Education Ministe, and Chairmanof the Central Advisory Board of Education, photographed after the inauguration of the Annual Meeting of the Board at Cuttack in January, 1950, with H.E. mr. Asaf Ali, Governor, Shri H.K. Mahtab, Pandit Lingraj Misra, Education Minister of Orissa, (in front row), Dr. Tarachand, Secretary to Education Ministry, and Mr. M. C. Padhan, D.P.I., Orissa. Phto and Caption Courtesy: http://photodivision.gov.in/waterMarkdetails.asp?id=12846.jpg
EXCERPTS FROM ‘LITERATURE AND NATIONALITY”

“...It is obvious that if any language is to attain recognition outside its own domain, it must contain works which are accepted as valuable contributions to human knowledge or culture. For this, it is not enough if a language translates works from other languages. Valuable as such translations are, and greatly as they contribute to the development of a language, they cannot by themselves establish a language as a world language. A language or literature attains that status only when it makes some contribution which by its originality or depth of insight or beauty of expression marks an addition to the achievements of man.
The fourteen languages recognised by the Constitution include Sanskrit and Tamil. Sanskrit is, of course, in a class by itself, and is rightly recognised as one of the most developed of classical languages. Tamil also has a rich and ancient literature and its poetry has been and deserves to be translated into foreign languages. We must, however, remember that Tamil is really a classical language, and most of the achievements of Tamil which entitles it to recognition belong to a past age.

If therefore we leave out Sanskrit and Tamil as classical languages, we must face up to the painful fact that only Bengali and Urdu among the modern Indian languages can claim to some extent international recognition. Urdu, in less than three hundred years, has achieved a progress that is almost phenomenal. Urdu poetry developed suddenly and produced poets who can rank with the immortal poets of the classical languages. Mir Anis can take his place after poets like Valmiki, Homer and Firdausi; Sauda, Mir and Ghalib have composed lyrics that are excellent, judged by any standard. Ghalib, in particular, has reached heights of originality and beauty that rank him with the greatest lyric poets of the world. In prose too, Urdu has, in about a hundred years, produced works in history and literature that have rightly attained international fame. Among the Indian languages, it is only from Urdu that some works had been translated into English and other European languages more than a hundred years ago. Garcin de Tassy published a French translation of Sir Syed Ahmad’s Asar-al-Sanadid as early as 1850. Maulvi Nazir Ahmed and Maulana Shibli Numani have also produced works which have been translated and quoted by well-known European scholars. In the third volume of his Literary History of Persia, Edward Browne has drawn extensively upon the works of shibli Numani. In fact, a large portion of this book, particularly the Chapter on Hafiz, is almost a translation of Shibli Numani’s Shair-al-Ajam. Browne has expressed his regret that Shibli Numani’s book did not appear ten years earlier, for in that case his first two volume of Literary History of Persia would have benefited by the incorporation of his material and interpretation. It is not only Shibli Numani’s work which has attained this status. There are other authors too whose books have been translated into Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Russian and German.

Besides Urdu, the only other modern Indian language which has attained international status is Bengali. This is due almost entirely to the genius of Rabindranath Tagore. There is perhaps no language today which has not translated some of the works of Tagore. His name is rightly recognised as among the immortals and on account of him Bengali has an honoured place among the literatures of the world. Similarly, some of Sarat Chandra Chatterji’s novels have also been translated into some European languages.

If we exclude Sanskrit and Tamil as classical languages, and leave out Urdu and Bengali, it is a regrettable fact that none of the other modern Indian languages have yet attained world status or made any contribution to the literature of the world. It is true that Gujarati has one work which has attained international importance, viz., the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi. Similarly, Tilak’s Geeta Rahasya in Marathi has also rightly won the appreciation of scholars throughout the world. But we cannot class a language as a world language on the strength of only one or two books. 


Studio/Oct.51,A22d(v)Dassehra was celebrated at Ramlila Grounds on October 10, 1951. The President, Ministers of Central Cabinet, members of the Diplomatic Corps and a large number of Delhi citizens attend the celebrations.Photo shows Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Education Minister and Lala Deshbandhu Gupta and others witnessing the Dassehra celebrations. Photo and Caption Courtesy: http://photodivision.gov.in/waterMarkdetails.asp?id=22671.jpg
I am sure that all the literary figures who have assembled here today will agree with me that we have to pay special attention to the question of Hindi. We have accepted it as our national language, and the Constitution provides that it must take the place of English in 15 years. It is therefore essential that Hindi should develop sufficient strength and wealth to fulfill this important role, and yet we have to admit with sorrow that Hindi has not yet developed a literature which has achieved international standards of recognition. I would like to remove one misunderstanding in this connection. What is called Hindi today must be distinguished from Brij Bhasha and Avadhi. It was in Brij Bhasha and Avadhi that during the 16th and 17th century great progress was made under Moghul patronage. From the time of Akbar to that of Shah Alam, there was always a Poet Laureate in Brij Bhasha at the Moghul Court. It was during Jehanagir’s reign that Tulsidas wrote his famous work in Avadhi. Brij Bhasha and Avadhi, between them, threw up a galaxy of talents of which some of the most distinguished names are those of Tulsidas, Amir Khusroe, Malik Mohammad Jaisi, Abdul Rahim Khan Khanan, Mirabai, Kabir, Dadu, Ramdas, Shah Barkat Ullah and Abul Jalil Bilgrami.

The poetry of Brij Bhasha attained a high degree of excellence and can rightfully claim a place among the literatures of the world. This, however, is quite distinct from what is called Hindi today. Modern Hindi started as a literary language in the beginning of the 20th century and was in fact only a variation of the same language of which the other variation is Urdu. The only difference between the two is that Hindi is more Sanskritic in vocabulary. There is no doubt that a great quantity of literature has been produced in Hindi since the beginning of this century. Many magazines and newspapers have been and continue to be published. Hindi can also boast of translations from almost all the Indian languages as well as from some of the languages of Europe. While therefore the quantity of literature produced in Hindi is extensive, the quality is not yet of a degree which can entitle Hindi to a place in world literature. This is a matter which is of anxious concern to all of us, for a language which we have chosen to be our national language must attain a status commensurate with that dignity. As nationals of India, it is therefore our duty to try to enrich the literature of Hindi and see that really first-rate literature is produced in it.     

I have mentioned earlier that apart from Sanskrit, Tamil, Bengali and Urdu, there are some important works in languages like Gujarati and Marathi, and one may add Telugu. It is, however, necessary that all these languages must develop rich literatures of their own so that the contribution of India to world literature may correspond to her past attainments.

I would like to draw your attention to one other problem which the present conference should consider. Though Hindi has been accepted as the national language of India, we have to recognise that it is not the mother tongue of people from the South, the East and the West. Till these areas take up the study of Hindi on an adequate scale and their people acquire facility in the use of Hindi, the problem of our national language in not rally solved. We must, however, be very careful as to how we proceed in the matter. We must respect the susceptibilities of our brethren from South, West and East India. They should never feel that they are being compelled to accept something against their will. We are grateful to them that they have accepted Hindi as the national language and we must work for the spread and development of Hindi with their willing co-operation. It was in order to tide over the difficulties of the transitory period that it was decided to have an interval of 15 years during which the use of English should continue. That decision should not be lightly changed and we must be careful to avoid doing anything which may create an impression among our brethren from these areas that it is proposed to change that decision without their consent. I would, however, at the same time, appeal to them to remember that if we are to succeed in implementing our decision to substitute English by Hindi after 15 years, the necessary preparation for the change must begin now. I have every confidence that we will receive the co-operation of all Indians – whether they come from the East or West, the North or South – in the proper development of Hindi as our national language.

I would conclude by saying that the question of the national language is not the concern of any particular section or group. It is a matter which vitally affects the whole country. I consider it an accident that the language which was chosen to be the national language was from North India. Under a different set of circumstances, it might have been a language of the South. Since, however, the choice has been made, it is the national duty of all Indians – Whether of the South or of the North – to do everything for the development and enrichment of Hindi. I am confident that, with the full co-operation of the North and South, East and West, Hindi will soon develop a literature which will enable it to claim its place among the rich literatures of the world.”

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, pp144-147, ‘Literature and Nationality’, Speeches of Maulana Azad 1947-1958, Publications Division, First Edition 1956, Revised Edition 1989.   

Saturday, November 1, 2014

मेरे पास कहने को कुछ खास नहीं है




मेरे पास कहने को कुछ खास नहीं है 



मेरे पास कहने को कुछ खास नहीं हैं 
बस आडम्बरी शब्दों का एक ढेर है 
जिन पर बैठ मैं उनके तरह तरह के पर्यायवाची रू
ढूंढतागढ़ताबोलतालिखता रहता हूँ 
कुछ वैसे ही 
जैसे कोई बड़ा नेता 
हर तरह के लिबासटोपीरंग पहन पहन कर 
खुद को बहरूपिया सा पेश करने का स्वांग रचता रहता है  
दरअसल शब्द कोशोसमान्तर कोशोंविश्व कोशो  के बगैर 
मेरी अनुभूतिअभिवयक्तिअनुभव 
उस कुबेर की तिजोरी के सामान हैं 
जिनसे अगर काला धन का एक एक कतरा निकाल दिया जा
तो अंततः गाढ़ी पसीने की ख़ुशबू से सुगन्धित 
एक पैसा भी ना मिले  
आश्चर्य नहीं कि दिन प्रति दि
सरल शब्दों को और भी विकटदुरूहऔर समझ से परे 
बनाने-गढ़ने की अंतहीन परंपराओं को 
सुढृढ करने की हर प्रयास में 
मैं हमेशा तत्परता से शामिल रहता हूँ 
ठीक उसी तरह जैसे 
सरलमीठीसादासुलभ नदियां 
दौड़ दौड़ कर तत्परता से 

खारेरहस्यमयघाघ समुद्र में कूदती जाती हैं.   

 कुमार विक्रम 



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

एक शीर्षक विहीन कविता



 एक शीर्षक विहीन कविता 


१.
मृत्यू उपरांत भी 
जीने की आस रहती है
अपनों के स्मृतियों के कोने में 
एक जगह पा लेने की चाह
स्मृतियों के परे जाकर भी
रहती है.
२.
जीवन में भी
मृत्यू की याद सताती रहती है
जीवन पूरी तरह जी लें
कदम कदम पर
अपने संग चलते साये को देख
मन में यह भाव बहता रहता है.
३.
लगता है जीवन और मृत्यू
बिछड़ी हुए बहनें हैं
जो कभी मिलती तो नहीं
लेकिन एक दूसरे का हाथ पकड़ कर
एक दूसरे की नैया
पार कराती रहती हैं

कुमार विक्रम

Friday, October 24, 2014

नयी प्रार्थनाएं




नयी प्रार्थनाएं 


पक्षियों की तरह उड़ना नहीं 
मछलियों की तरह तैरना नहीं 
चीते की तरह तेज दौड़ना नहीं 
हाथी की तरह बलशाली नहीं 
कुत्ते की तरह वफ़ादार नहीं 
गधे की तरह खटना नहीं 
महापुरुषों की तरह अजर-अमर होना नहीं 
इंसानों को अब अपने सपने 
कुछ और बड़े, कुछ और वृहत बुनने होंगे 
अपनी प्रार्थनांएँ कुछ और विकट गढ़ने होंगे      
जैसे इन्सानी खून को रिसते देख
उसे टपकने से पहले 
रोक देने की संवेदना और उबाल की दरकार 
बीमार का हाल-चाल पूछने का सलीक़ा 
बूढ़े-बुजूर्ग को सड़क पार कराने की कला
बच्चे को कंधे पर बिठा 
दुनियाँ की सैर कराने का विज्ञान 
झूठ को झूठ 
और सत्य को सत्य 
कहने की हिम्मत और ज़रूरत।


कुमार विक्रम

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Woman Without Body: To Mary Kom


A Woman Without Body: To Mary Kom


This poem was in the making for quite sometime, but today, when Mary Kom has won Gold Medal at the Incheon Asiad, it needs to come out and speak.



That was the idea she strove for
A woman not be seen
Looked at because of her body
But because she was a normal being
May be a doctor or a teacher or an engineer
Or may be a boxer
Punching holes into the idea of a woman’s body
Fighting not with a fellow-woman
But with the notion of being a woman
Wearing gloves of defiance
Having a bout with a web of perceptions.
So, finally it comes through
Finally-- a woman without her body.

 


Kumar Vikram


Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom (born 1 March 1983 at Kangathei, Manipur), also known as MC Mary Kom, or simply Mary Kom, is an Indian boxer. She is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships. Nicknamed "Magnificent Mary", she is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing in the flyweight (51 kg) category and winning the bronze medal. She has also been ranked as No. 4 AIBA World Women's Ranking Flyweight category. Today she won a Gold Medal in women's flyweight (48-51 kg) division defeating Zhaina Shekerbekova of Kazakhstan at Asiad Games, Incheaon, South Korea.

Friday, September 26, 2014

लुप्त होती भाषाएँ

 
 
 
 
 

लुप्त होती भाषाएँ 

 
कहते हैं 
हज़ारों भाषाएँ लुप्त हुई जा रही हैं 
वे अब उन पुराने बंद मकानो की तरह हैं 
जिनमे कोई रहने नहीं आता  
मकान से गिरती टूटी-फूटी कुछ ईंटें
बच्चों को संस्कारी बनाने के लिए 
घर के मंदिर में बेढंग शब्दों जैसे 
सहेज कर रख ली गयी हैं 
जैसे बीती रात के कुछ सपने 
दिन के उजाले में
आधे याद और आधे धुंधले से 
हमारा पीछा करते रहते हैं 
लुप्त होती भाषाओं के नाम 
अजीबो-ग़रीब से लगते हैं
साथ ही यह सूचना भी 
कि उन्हें जानने-बोलने वालों की संख्या 
कुछ दहाई अथवा सैकड़ों में ही रह गए हैं 
कैसा वीभत्स सा यह समय लग रहा है 
जब प्यार की भाषा 
अजनबियों के सरोकार जानने की भाषा 
बीमार पड़े कमज़ोर वयक्तियों की 
जुबान समझने की कला
या फिर उसका भाषा-विज्ञान 
जानने-समझने-बोलने वालों की संख्या 
दिन पर दिन घटती जा रही है. 
 
कुमार विक्रम

Thursday, September 18, 2014

घर के पुरुष का आगंतुक के लिए ट्रे में चाय लेकर आना



घर के पुरुष का आगंतुक के लिए ट्रे में चाय लेकर आना 

शायद ज़रुरत से ज़्यादा ही आश्वस्त 
शायद झेंप जैसी किसी भावना को 
आधुनिक परिधानों 
जैसे बरमूडा और टी -शर्ट से ढंकते हुए 
या ध्यान अपनी ओर से 
हटाने की कोशिश करते हुए 
जैसे की हाथों में ट्रे हो ही ना 
इधर-उधर की बातचीत करते हुए 
आगंतुक को घर ढूढ़ने में 
कोई परेशानी तो नहीं हुयी 
यह जानकारी लेते हुए 
शायद परंपरा के विरूद्ध 
एक ही हाथ में ट्रे पकडे हुए 
वह हिम्मत कर प्रवेश करता है 
एक ऐसी दुनिया में 
जहाँ माँ, बहन, पत्नी, बेटी 
अथवा नौकरानी के सिवा 
कोई और दाखिल नहीं हुआ है 
और यकायक कई सवालों से 
अपने-आप को घिरा पाता  है
जो ज़रूरी नहीं पूछे ही जाएँ 
लेकिन वातावरण में
उनकी अकाट्य उपस्थिति होती है 
'शायद पत्नी बीमार होगी''
माँ कुछ ज़्यादा ही उम्रदराज़ होंगी 
बहनों की शादी हो गयी होगी 
अभी बेटी बहुत छोटी होगी
इकलौता होगा  
नौकरानी रखने की हैसियत नहीं होगी
उसे भी लगता है 
मानो किसी पहाड़ी की चढ़ाई उसने की है 
और 'अतिथि देवो भव''
अपने पत्नी अथवा माँ 
अथवा बहन अथवा बेटी 
अथवा किसी नौकरानी के कंधो पर 
सदियों सवार होकर नहीं 
खुद एक बार गहरी सांस लेते हुए 
चरितार्थ करने की कोशिश की है.       

कुमार विक्रम 
 
----

''हिंदी समय' एवं ' उद्भावना' में प्रकाशित   

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Some ‘Eminently’ Half-Read Books




Well, everybody is listing out ten of their favourite books. I would rather like to list out the books which somehow have remained half-read, or quarter-read, a kind of an unfinished agenda on my table, which stare at me, but still I have not been able to finish them. In this light, I am reminded of the irrepressible Khushwant Singh, who once said that he picked up James Joyce’s Ullyses seven times to read and every time he could not go beyond the seventh page!

The first book that I would like to mention is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Going by its reputation, nearly more than a decade back I got hold a copy of this book, and read nearly two-third of it, but somehow along the way, I lost interest. I do not remember much but the character of Gatsby and his fascination for his love seemed to revolve around very few episodes of significance. Perhaps, there was a lack of detailing or so, I would say. And though I have tried a few times to complete at least the parts left unread for the sake of keeping it under the list of ‘read’ books, I have actually failed myself.

I would not consider Mahatma Gandhi’s Autobiography as half-read, because ‘technically’ I have read it in full, but I have never read it in one go or in the narrative sequence in which it has been written. In any case, the book’s chapters seem to be structured episodically, and hence I have read some chapters many a time like ‘The Gentle Bihari’ or the one related to Gandhi’s first visit to Champaran via Muzaffarpur from Patna.  

My father’s personal library had Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot in two volumes. Somehow volume two lost its way, perhaps to some visitor’s personal library, and never could find its way back. Hence, as it happened, while I could go through volume 1, the volume 2 remained beyond my radar, and I would rather confess that I have always found it a ‘heavy’ assignment to complete reading the novel in full. However, I know for sure that the novel is available in one volume too, and I am waiting for the first opportunity to finish the story of Myshkin, and overcome a long-standing ‘guilt’ of keeping this masterpiece in the ‘half-read’ list. In fact, as I write this I feel urged to start reading it afresh.


Herman Hesse’s Sidhharth is something that has travelled with me to various places in India and abroad, but I could never get past more than 25 pages or so. Actually, my edition has an extensive introduction running into almost 30 pages (perhaps by Donald McClory) with a Preface by Herman Hesse, and while I have read the Introduction and Preface on quite a few occasions, the story per se, perhaps demands a more deliberate engagement from me which I am not able to commit. But I do hope that I will find an occasion to complete the reading of the novel one day.

I am not sure if I should keep The Diaries of Franz Kafka (1910-1923), Edited by Max Brod under this list, because by its very nature, one is certainly at liberty to read it in parts, hopping pages, or coming back to some other entry. Still, I have found it a daunting task to read it cover to cover, and I doubt if I would ever be able to do so.

Strangely, I do not recall a Hindi novel that I left half-finished or quarter-finished, though, of course, there are many that are yet to be touched and wait for the reader in me to find time for them. But in the present article, that is not my concern, as I just wanted to look at some of the books that I sought for reading, but due to some reason or the other remained half-read or so. The relationship with such novels are certainly a bit strange, as whenever the names of such books are evoked, I am reminded of an association that is there, and still not there fully or substantially.

There are more such books for sure in my kitty, and I do hope that the readers will also come out with the list of books, not only read, but also half-read, providing an insight into the way how some of the masterpieces remain half or partially responded.

Kumar Vikram