Book Review: ‘The Other Country – Dispatches from the Mofussil’ by Mrinal Pandeby Seema Khinnavar on Nov 7, 2012 • 10:55 PM 1 Comment
Chronicling the broadening gap between rural and urban India ‘The Other Country – Dispatches from the Mofussil’ by Mrinal Pande is a must-read for all those who wish to understand some of the deep rooted social problems plaguing our country today.
The book has been clearly divided into four parts, the first part of which presents to the reader Pande’s comments on the state of languages in India and their use in the media. Having been an English language teacher as well, Pande has interesting observations to offer on the barriers or inequalities that the language creates among vernacular and English-medium students pursuing higher education. More often than not, the otherwise talented vernacular students end up performing poorly in academics due to their lack of the required linguistic skills.
In the second part, Pande narrates inspiring tales of strong-willed women such as Prabha Devi, Bhanwari Devi, Aaliya, Mary Kom and Irom Sharmila who have fought against all odds and made far-reaching choices to challenge the ‘man-made asymmetry of power’. On the other side, she also highlights the objectification of women in the hugely capitalist media. She questions the authority of patriarchy in India and condemns the society which perceives women as nothing but powerless, child bearers.
Having traveled extensively across the country as a journalist, Mrinal Pande has an insight into the enormous societal change happening in the country today. In the third part titled ‘Surviving the odds’, she recounts tales which describe these changes. She ridicules the media which dedicates a considerable portion of their features for advertising rich and exotic food while at the same time underlines the necessity of maintaining a perfect figure over a fit and a happy body. Commenting on the party policies of various politicians, she questions the aggressive use of language and symbols which create ‘sub-nationalistic urges in the country’. She skips from issues affecting farmers to concerns about the man-wild conflict facing a number of villages to crimes resulting out of the lack of basic necessities such as food and even the commercialization of festivals in India.
In the fourth part of the book, Mrinal Pande brings to light various contemporary issues such as that of poor water management, the inhumanity of linking death to social networking and the futility of spending a humungous amount of public funds and space on statues of politicians. She repents the gradual phasing out of classical music and scorns the hypocrisy of young audiences who flock to classical music performances only to make a style statement.
She sprinkles her stories with sharp yet humorous and satirical sentences; my personal favorite being, ‘… the 1856 heritage building looked like a disheveled coolie asleep in the sun.’ A collection of Pande’s columns recently written for prominent newspapers, the ‘The Other Country – Dispatches from the Mofussil’ brings to the reader a thought provoking insight into the myriad issues affecting the ‘India Shining’ image of our country.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Seema dreams of working as a full-time journalist. She believes that the stories which she writes will help bring about a positive change to the world. A voracious reader, she is also equally interested in photography, cooking, travelling, tennis and basketball; not in any order though.
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