Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 5th 2015 Contents B3
Thursday, November 5, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
REVIEW BY KEVIN BALDEOSINGH
It is difficult to find a good comprehensive
history of India, and even harder to find
a good sociological portrait. As with African
history, political controversies and ideological
agendas have ensured that the majority of
such books have marked biases and, for India,
calculated campaigns by Hindu nationalists
to re-write India s history has further muddied
the factual waters.
This is why some of the best books on India
have been written by foreigners (and, indeed,
history writing about India began with Euro-
peans). But British journalist Edward Luce, who
was the Washington Post s South Asia bureau
chief from 2001 and 2006, is also aware of the
historical tendency of European travellers to
romanticise India, so he starts his preface with
a caution: "This book is not about a love affair
with the culture and antiquities of India. I have
read too many paeans by foreigners to have
any thoughts of adding to that extensive list."
Instead, he says.
"My aim is to provide an unsentimental eval-
uation of contemporary India against the back-
drop of its widely expected ascent to great
power status in the 21st century."
So Luce s book is not only history, but also
a social and economic portrait of India. His
title is chosen because he thinks that "India
had laboured too long under the burden of
spiritual greatness that Westerners have for
centuries thrust upon it", and that the country s
progress has been hampered by the pervasive-
ness of religion. Luce notes that "Some Indian
philosophers have justified poverty as a con-
sequence of the actions the poor committed
in their past lives. The doctrine of reincarnation,
it seems, makes it easier to overlook the squalor
of the here and now."
This is the central issue that Luce deals with---
that India despite its economic strides continues
to display so many traits of a backward nation,
such as widespread illiteracy, child malnutrition,
and poverty. "The fact that India, alone among
large nations, embraced full democracy before
it had a sizeable middle class or anything close
to majority literacy among its voters was unique
at the time and remains so on this scale," writes
Still, India has begun to make progress, and
the country s main religion, Hinduism, has also
begun to transform itself with such changes.
"Traditional Hinduism had no real congregation:
it was a religion of different castes," Luce writes.
"Festivals such as Divali and Holi, which were
traditionally north Indian, are now celebrated
across most of the country."
However, the flip side is that religion, espe-
cially the caste system, continues to shape
India s politics. Thus, the Rashtriya Swayam-
sevak Sangh is an organisation based on Hindu
nationalism and, Luce says, "The way the RSS
is organised was inspired by European fascism."
That organisation s political arm, the Bharatiya
Janata Party has led the government several
times. More pertinently for us in T&T, some
Hindu leaders here draw their ideological inspi-
ration from the RSS and BJP.
Although published nine years ago, this book
remains one of the best resources for anyone
who wants a good understanding of India s
past, present, and likely future.
Volunteering can be a great expe-
rience, but the key is to find the right
match for you. Like all matchmaking,
finding your partner may take several
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Come for the interview, have a short
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you---just say so.
But... if you have come on the eight
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signed the one-year contract and spent
six full days together at the training,
it s not the time to break it off. Don t
leave Alta at the altar.
Because some people are shy of com-
mitment, Alta offers options at a range
of commitment levels from sponsoring
a student all the way up to the big
commitment---being a tutor. If you can t
give time, you can give money: $600
to sponsor an Alta student for one year
A mid-range commitment option is
to become a Reading Guide at an Alta
Reading Circle. The Reading Circle is
where Alta students get the guided
practice so vital to building reading flu-
ency. It s similar to what good home
support does for the child learning to
While tutors go to class twice a week,
Reading Guides give half that time---
just once a week. Also the Reading Cir-
cle has a Saturday option at Nalis in
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while preferred, training is not com-
But even with options, Alta is not
a match for everyone. In addition to
speed dating, there s an e-harmony
type option: an online volunteer
match programme---VCTT Volunteer
Centre of T&T.
So in this season of giving, start dat-
ing to find your volunteer match for
the New Year. When you find a good
prospect that attracts you, get into a
serious relationship. Maybe this will
last a lifetime. Marise Warner came to
Alta as a young lawyer and 19 years
on, she declares that Alta is her longest
Maybe you will find true love with
Alta. Like all good relationships, you
get so much more than you give.
Raphael Sookram, a volunteer tutor for
14 years who last year doubled up to
teach Level 3 and spelling students four
days a week, puts it like this: "The
gnawing emptiness inside has been
replaced with a genuine sense of pur-
pose, renewed self-confidence, and a
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Other words tutors have used for
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discovery, uplifting, hope, a yearning
fulfilled, wow! Sounds like love.
Make a date with Alta---you may find
Find the right volunteer match
India: The unromantic version
Edward Luce spent a considerable amount of
time in India where he was a correspondent
for the Financial Times.
Volunteer, Donate, Sponsor-a-
student. Call 624-2582 or email
email@example.com for more
info. Like us on Facebook or check
out our YouTube Channel: Adult
Literacy Tutors Association
In Spite of the Gods.
Anchor Books, 2007.
ISBN 978-1-4000-7977-3; 383 pages.
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