Matryoshka Dolls and Modern Media

Matryoshka or nesting dolls. They come in a variety of sizes, characters and number of dolls nested one inside the other. The largest doll is the grandmother with future generations of dolls tucked inside her. This symbolizes the hope and value of life and the family; the heart and soul of Russian people .

Matryoshka dolls and Miller's canny observation meet in one place in modern culture. The Web 2.0 age allows immense interconnected networks of voices that offer opinions of other opinions all nesting within each other in a way familiar to local communication but now elevated to an often hard to conceive international scale. Look inside one doll and you will see another doll, another internal debate, that continues on in this way until the whole world is talking to itself.

In that spirit...

India in review is captured in two book reviews on some very broad spanning subjects.

Gyan Prakash
has written an e
legant review of William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal, the author's examination of the events and ideas that led to the 1857 uprising.

It is Dalrymple's contention that it was Victorian Evangelism, a systematic and racist vie
w akin to apartheid that took hold among the British elite in the latter half of the Raj and caused an acrimonious rift to form between them and their erstwhile subjects.

Prior to that Dalrymple argues there was much evidence of the normal commingling of the different groups, Europeans cohabiting with Indians, marrying and taking on the ways of the subcontinent in large number, a theme that has been a consistent refrain in his writings.

Dalrymple known to be the most fair of scholars, and possessed of a genuine love of India and its people outlines in lucid detail the enormous scale and cruelty of the British reprisals following the defeat of the rebels in 1857.

The killings went on for days, Dalrymple re-counts in vivid style in the Last Mughal, an indiscriminate massacre of countless innocents that betrayed any and all codes of military honor, and what amounted to in the end as indistinguishable from premeditated murder

Prakash does not question Dalrymple's sense of justice but he does take issue with his perspective that the Orientalist view on colonial history popularized by the Palestinian scholar, the late Edward Said, confounds the normal healthy dynamic of that natural meeting place of different cultures.

Dalrymple defends his view by pointing to the examples of those Europeans from that period whom assumed Indian cultural identities out of their own new found passion for the place. Prakash criticizes this line of reasoning by pointing to the Orientalism inherent even in these examples of unassuming liberal behaviour; as Prakash indicates the choices available for Europeans at that time entering into cultural liaisons of various kinds arose out of the their position of privilege as the dominant controlling power, choices that would certainly not have been easily available had all other things been equal. There was no escaping the exploitative nature of the Raj, Prakash contends. Much as I like Dalrymple's work I can't help but agree with Prakash. Both the book and the review merit a look.

Amit Chaudhari reviews India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha. Guha's work is, in theory, an enormous
undertaking. Within the span of 688 pages to capture the entire gestalt of India's recent modern history. According to Chaudhari he largely succeeds mostly falling short in capturing the cultural and intellectual life that animated the secular democratic movement . The book hints at the incipient greatness of India growing out of the ideas that were framed in its democratic constitution. Chaudhari's review captures a gestalt of the gestalt producing a welcoming invitation to read the book.