ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Seventeen Blind (Wo)Men and an Elusive Elephant

Contemporary India – Transitions,
Peter Ronald deSouza (ed);
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2000;
pp 388, Rs 475.

Dialogue, by its very nature, is implicated in a particular kind of assemblage of audience. It is contingent upon the positions of those who speak and those whom they address. The import of a statement depends on where the statement is made. This essential situatedness of the dialogue is a double-edged weapon. On the one hand, it enhances its communicative potential by rendering conversation context-specific, while, on the other, it has the inherent danger of demoting itself into the grooves of cultural relativism. Fortunately for us, the current volume does not lend itself to the latter tendency even though it owes its origin to an intended dialogue between Goa and Portugal, after years of ‘sullen silence’ which took place in Lisbon in June 1998. In this sense, it is a fitting tribute to the editor’s professional diligence that he steers clear of these imminent temptations, howsoever strong they might have been. This awareness is, indeed, crucial for the reader to enable himself/herself to make sense of the volume.

In fact, Contemporary India – Transitions has been conceived and subsequently delivered in a poignant moment of editorial urge towards ‘Initiating a Dialogue on India’. Moreover, the said dialogue has mainly been anchored at two levels – intracultural and intercultural. Intracultural because the core issue of ‘whose India, which India’ has to be politically negotiated among contending voices (ideas and interests put together) of ‘many Indias within India’. Intercultural because ‘modern societies need to talk to each other’ (p 10) and also because ‘...India must increase the number of avenues on which it will travel, on which it will announce its arrival from being an ex-colony to being a modern nation responsible for its own destiny’ (p 12).

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