ICSE -English Literature — Cabuliwallah

The Cabuliwallah [ The Fruitseller from Kabul ]
– Rabindranath Tagore

My five years’ old daughter Mini cannot live without chattering. I really believe that in all her life she has not wasted a minute in silence. Her mother is often vexed at this, and would stop her prattle, but I would not. To see Mini quiet is unnatural, and I cannot bear it long. And so my own talk with her is always lively. One morning, for instance, when I was in the midst of the seventeenth chapter of my new novel, my little Mini stole into the room, and putting her hand into mine, said: “Father! Ramdayal the door-keeper calls a crow a krow! He doesn’t know anything, does he?” Before I could explain to her the differences of language in this world, she was embarked on the full tide of another subject. “What do you think, Father? Bhola says there is an elephant in the clouds, blowing water out of his trunk, and that is why it rains!” And then, darting off anew, while I sat still making ready some reply to this last saying, “Father! what relation is Mother to you?”
In different words .. My little 5-year-old daughter Mini is, no doubt, a chatterbox. Her inquisitiveness about worldly things is limitless, but her patience to hear out the reply is equally limited. She darts in and out of my room, and shoots questions that bear the mark of her childlike simplicity. Staying quiet is not in her grain. Listlessness is alien to her nature. One morning, when I was deeply engrossed in my thought about a plot of my novel, she tiptoed into my room and fired her questions in rapid succession. Why did Dindayal call a crow a ‘ krow’, and was Bhola’s contention that an elephant in the cloud poured rains on earth not an absurd idea? Finally, Mini wanted to know how her mother was related to me! I knew her innate exuberance makes her so agile. So, seeing her quiet saddens me, although her mother finds her ebullience somewhat annoying.

“My dear little sister in the law!” I murmured involuntarily to myself, but with a grave face contrived to answer: “Go and play with Bhola, Mini! I am busy!”

The window of my room overlooks the road. The child had seated herself at my feet near my table, and was playing softly, drumming on her knees. I was hard at work on my seventeenth chapter, where Protrap Singh, the hero, had just caught Kanchanlata, the heroine, in his arms, and was about to escape with her by the third story window of the castle, when all of a sudden Mini left her play, and ran to the window, crying, “A Cabuliwallah! a Cabuliwallah!” Sure enough in the street below was a Cabuliwallah, passing slowly along. He wore the loose soiled clothing of his people, with a tall turban; there was a bag on his back, and he carried boxes of grapes in his hand.
In different words … The question about my relationship with Mini’s mother caught me unaware. She was too young to understand marital matters. To skirt the question I thought of saying ‘My little sister in law’. But, I chose to ward off the embarrassment by asking Mini, rather sternly, to go and play with Bhola.
Mini sat there near my feet playing something on her own. I was lost in my thought trying to figure out how Proptap Singh, with her beloved Kanchanlata in her arms, was trying to flee the castle from the third storey. Suddenly, Mini sprang to her feet shouting ‘ Cabuliwalah, Cabuliwalah’. Through the window that gave a clear view of the road, she had actually seen one walking on the road. The man was attired in baggy, soiled clothes, with a huge turban on the head. A bag hung from his shoulders. He looked so different, so quintessentially Afghan. He held some packets of grapes in his hand.

I cannot tell what were my daughter’s feelings at the sight of this man, but she began to call him loudly. “Ah!” I thought, “he will come in, and my seventeenth chapter will never be finished!” At which exact moment the Cabuliwallah turned, and looked up at the child. When she saw this, overcome by terror, she fled to her mother’s protection, and disappeared. She had a blind belief that inside the bag, which the big man carried, there were perhaps two or three other children like herself. The pedlar meanwhile entered my doorway, and greeted me with a smiling face.

So precarious was the position of my hero and my heroine, that my first impulse was to stop and buy something, since the man had been called. I made some small purchases, and a conversation began about Abdurrahman, the Russians, she English, and the Frontier Policy.
In different words … My daughter appeared intrigued, possibly. I knew she would call him, and that would disrupt my continuing with the story. True to my apprehension, the strange-looking Cabuliwallah looked at Mini, as if to size her up. He terrified my child for sure for she scampered to the safety of her mother into the inner chambers of the house. Mini had imagined that the stranger had two or three hidden in the bag. That thought drove great fear into her. In the meanwhile, the Cabuliwallah came in and greeted me with a customary smile.
I had planned to bring the encounter to a quick end by buying something and letting him leave early, so that I could proceed with my writing. I bought some small quantity, but somehow a conversation ensued. We started talking about Abdurrahaman, the Russians, and the Frontier Policy.
[To be continued]


CBSE Class 9 History –Nazism & Rise of Hitler

Nazism and the rise of Hitler

The Second World War started in September, 1939, and continued till for six years till September 1945. The Allies and the Axis powers were locked in a deadly combat that ended with the surrender of Germany and the death of Hitler. The Allies side was lead by the United States. Other important members in the Allies side were Great Britain, France, Poland, the Commonwealth nations under Britain, China and later joined by the Soviet Union. The Axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan.
The Germans and the Japanese had meted out extremely barbaric treatment to their enemies. The Jews came in for particular harsh treatment at the hand of Hitler. In Asia, the Japanese revelled in torturing and slaying their enemies, particularly the Chinese. Horrendous tales of torture and mass extermination of Jews by Hitler’s Nazi followers were routinely surfacing, but few in Germany raised their voice against it. Either they were numbed by Hitler’s mesmeric leadership to find fault with his persecution of the Jews, or were too afraid to vent their feelings for fear of reprisal by the Nazi hoodlums.
When the curtains came down finally on the war, and the guns fell silent, it was time to look back and introspect. Some did it out of moral compulsion; others did it out of fear of a revenge attack by the victorious Allied forces. Particularly for those Germans who had perpetrated the worst human rights abuses, the fear of being brought to book by Allied administrators appeared very real.

One such German was a doctor who lived with his wife and son in the vicinity of a forest. He knew the Allied would soon haunt him down and mercilessly punish him, and possibly his whole family. One day, he was discussing this imminent threat with his wife. He felt, he would either kill himself alone, or the whole family would commit mass suicide en masse. The twelve-year-old lying on his bed within the earshot heard this and was shocked. Next day, the whole family went to the nearby forest, sang and made merry. On returning home, the doctor shot himself in his head. The wife lost no time in burning out the clothes of her husband, apparently to hide the suicide act. For the young son, the gruesome killing of his father by his own hand was too devastating a scene to bear. He was shaken to the core. He feared that his mother would kill him too soon. So afraid was he that he stopped eating in his home for nine long years after that. This was in the Spring of 1945, and the boy’s name was Helmuth.
Helmuth must have realized later that his father had been a fanatic Nazi who idolized Hitler. As a true ‘patriot’, he must have committed atrocities of the worst kind against the hapless Jews. The moral revulsion and the fear of the Allies must have driven him to take his own life.
Hitler had one single goal. He had dreamed of making his fatherland the greatest and mightiest nation on earth. As the first step, he wanted to conquer the whole of Europe. Along the way, he perceived the Jews of Germany to be one of the main reasons for the misery and ignominy of his father land. So, he decided to annihilate that race. What seeded such a grotesque idea in his brain? Why did the Nazis follow him so blindly and perpetrated the worst genocide in human history? What was the motivation and the political motivation that triggered such a monstrous campaign of mass slaughter? It is essential to dissect this vulgar, jingoistic eruption of xenophobia.
After Hitler and his propaganda chief Goebbels committed suicide in the underground bunker to escape being taken to custody by the Allied commander, the War came to a formal end. Now came the time to retrospect and take remedial action. To bring to book the perpetrators of the many heinous crimes during the War, an International Court of Justice was constituted. It was to be based in Nuremberg in Germany. The Court was mandated to look into cases relating to War against Peace, War crimes and War against humanity.

Apart from starting a war, Hitler’s Germany stood accused of committing unthinkably cruel acts of punishment of specific ethnic groups. As the graphic details of the torture and mass murder of Jewish men, women and children emerged, the world seemed to be gripped with revulsion and horror. The situation cried for swift justice. The main actors of the genocide –the political leaders, the military officers and the remnants of the Nazi set-up had to be tried, and punished. With remarkable alacrity, the preparations for the trial got going. Some six million Jews, 200,000 Gypsies, one million Poles (citizens of Poland), and 70,000 Germans had been killed in the mad rush by the Nazi machinery to ‘cleanse’ the world of ‘unwanted’ people, and establish the supremacy of the German state. Even German citizens perceived to be physically and mentally unfit and those having different political views were sent to gallows. Nazi scientists and military men devised new methods to kill people ‘efficiently’ with the minimum hassles. Ruthlessness was aplenty: humanism had vanished from the German land. Killing centers like Auschwitz sprang up across Europe to cope with the flow of prisoners condemned to death.

After the trial, just about 11 top Nazi leaders were sentenced to death. Scores of other offenders were sent to jail for the rest of their lives. In hindsight, only a miniscule of the perpetrators could be called to account. The punishment, though symbolic, was tiny compared to the monumental genocidal crime committed by the Nazis.

.The question arises what made Hitler to launch such a strident and ultra-nationalistic military adventure? Did he have any compulsion to turn on his own Jewish and even German citizens with such savage anger?

Some historians ascribe Hitler’s urge for revenge to the ignominy heaped on Germany in the aftermath of the First World War. Perhaps, there is some truth in it.

Birth of the Weimer Republic –

The First World War (1914-18) had two feuding sides –Germany and the Austrian Empire in one side and England, France and Russia in the other. The latter group was known as the Allies. Germany entered the War as a mighty thriving nation.

Both sides had hoped for a quick victory over its enemy. However, such optimism was misplaced. Victory eluded the warring sides for a very long time. The war dragged on and on, causing untold misery through destruction of life and property in a massive scale.

In the early stages of the War, Germany virtually ran through the defences of France and Belgium giving them a false sense of invincibility. Germany’s victory march came to a grinding halt when America entered the War in 1917 to bolster the side of the Allies (England, France and Russia). The balance in the battlefield tilted decisively in favour of the Allies. By 1918, Germany and Austria were down on their knees, ready to give up with a plea for end of fighting.

Germany’s defeat caused great changes in the country’s political structure. The Emperor, who had ruled the country thus far and led it to the ruinous war, had to abdicate, and leave the scene for good. It fell on the shoulders of the parliamentary parties to pick up the pieces and create a structure to fill the political vacuum created by the Emperor’s exit. They convened the National Assembly. Its first meeting was held in Weimar. A democratic constitution was put in place. As per the terms of the Constitution, Germany became a federal structure. The Parliament, known as the Reichstag, had to have Deputies who had to be directly elected by the people. Every adult German including women had voting rights.

The Armistice Agreement & the Treaty of Versailles ..Faced with the prospects of imminent defeat, Germany asked for an immediate cessation all combat operations. The Americans, then leading the Allied side, agreed. Accordingly, an Armistice agreement was signed on November 11, 1918. On the same day guns fell silent on both sides. This Armistice Agreement later caused a lot of heartburn in Germany. The negotiator who signed the agreement on behalf of the Germans was later assassinated. This Agreement was followed by the Treaty of Versailles was the main peace treaty to formalize the end of World War I. It was signed on June 28, 1919.

The backlash ..  Sadly for the new-born democratic government, the beginning was not quite good. Post-war negotiations with the victorious Allies had to be conducted and terms of peace finalized. Both sides met in Versailles to conclude a formal treaty. As a defeated nation, Germany had little bargaining power vis-a-vis the victorious Allies side. The latter imposed strict and virtually punitive conditions in the peace treaty. There were unworkable conditions relating to payment of compensation and surrender of land by Germany. The Allied negotiators rammed the humiliating conditions down the throats of German negotiators. The Deputies were coerced to give the peace treaty the vital parliamentary approval.

For the battle-scarred, impoverished and defeated Germany, the ignominy was simply intolerable. The people frowned on the Deputies for having ceded so much to the Allies in the Versailles negotiations. Soon, the initial good will of the new parliament vanished. People seethed in anger against the parliament, calling the Armistice negotiators as ‘November criminals’, a derogatory term later exploited by Hitler’s propaganda machine. 

It is worth noting what Germany lost trying to comply with the Versailles Treaty.

  1. Germany lost most of its overseas colonies.
  2. With this went 10% of its population.
  3. Germany’s land mass got reduced by 15%.
  4. It lost 75% of its crucial iron ore reserves, and 26% of its coal deposits.
  5. These war-time reparations enriched France, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania at a tremendous cost to Germany.
  6. Germany was demilitarized to pre-empt any future military adventure.
  7. The War-Guilt clause pinned the ‘sinner’ tag on Germany, making it the offender and destroyer of peace. The onus fell on Germany to make good all the war-time losses suffered by the Allies. In monetary terms, it worked out to a staggering 6 billion pound sterling.
  8. The Allied armies exercised their control on Rhineland – the region that was so resource-rich and important for German economy. This occupation continued for much of the 1920s.

Most Germans perceived the Versailles Treaty’s terms too suffocating to bear. They vented their anger on the nascent Weimar Republic.

The Effects of the War …

The WW2 drained Europe of its life and soul. By the time the War ended, the continent was in ruins, devoid of its life, vitality and soul. The Weimar Republic (Germany in its new Avatar) bore the brunt of the War’s aftershocks. It had a huge bill to pay to the Allies. There was no escape from the crippling reparation payments. Germany was down on its knees having to meet the dues. For the folly of the erstwhile Emperor, the new Republic had to pay through the nose. The financial load was back-breaking.

Germany’s internal politics was divided. Catholics, Socialists and Democrats stood by the new Republic, where as conservative nationalists had no patience with their young government.  The wise peacemakers who had signed the Armistice were publicly derided as ‘November Criminals’. The chauvinistic mindset fueled by the exploitative terms of the Versailles Treaty shaped the political mindset in Germany. Indignation and an urge to avenge the humiliation at the hands of the Allies was rife among the common people.

The legacy of the First World War ..

The First World War had inflicted severe pain, suffering and frustration to the soldiers of both sides. They spent hours and days in the muddy trenches of the battlefields, suffered casualties, saw rats feeding on friends’ corpses, with no visible end their agony. The battle had drawn on for months and years remorselessly. While the soldiers endured such severe suffering, the society became increasingly militarized. Common folks saw wars as necessary for national pride. In the media, fighting for the country was glorified and laying one’s lives in war was considered a very honourable sacrifice. Such collective fascination for army fueled military adventurism. People seemed to prefer to be ruled by strong dictators. Democracy appeared to be a soft, slow and ineffective form of government. Clearly, love for iron-hand rule under a dictator grew with the fanatical glorification of the life in trenches. Europe was sliding, dangerously.

Political Radicalism and Economic Crises ..

Just when Weimer Republic was coming into existence, two separate political movements of momentous importance were gripping Germany and Russia. These movements were

  1. Sparticist League in Germany
  2. Bolshevik Revolution in Russia

Sparticist League ..  Spartacist League is an American name that drew inspiration from the Spartacus League of Weimar Republic in Germany. The Spartacus League was a communist movement that came into existence in Germany during World War I. The League was named after Spartacus, the legendary leader campaigner who masterminded the largest slave rebellion of the Roman Republic. The idea of slavery is anathema to Marxists, who abhor this repressive practice for its shameful disregard for human dignity and freedom. Spartacus League (Sparticist League) was the brainchild of social activists like Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and a few others. In a nutshell, Sparticist League spearheaded Communist political philosophy in Germany.

Bolshevik Revolution .. Russia had reeled under the repressive Tsarist rule for centuries. Poverty, and general backwardness made the Russians lag behind their European counterparts. The entry of Russia in the First World War cost the country huge loss of money, men and material. People’s faith in the Tsar began to falter. They failed to appreciate why Russians had to make so much sacrifice simply because the Tsar wanted it. Shortage of food items made life miserable for the common people. Discontent and resentment against the ruler soared. Tsar no longer commanded reverence historically enjoyed by the dynasty. A violent political upheaval was in the offing.

Otherwise known as The October Revolution, or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a seizure of state power by a group of armed revolutionaries called Bolsheviks. It happened on October 25, 1917. It laid the foundation for communist rule in Russia under the leadership of Lenin.

We can see that the ideological moorings of the Spartacist League and the Bolshevik Revolution were almost identical.

The Bolshevik Revolution’s success in seizing power, and the coming into being of the Soviet Union had an electrifying on Europe, particularly in Germany. In matter of weeks, Russia, a symbol of weak governance and inequality became a role model for Germans looking for salvation from their wretched fate. Such shift towards authoritarianism disturbed many other Germans.

As a counter against this shift, Catholics, Democrats and Socialists met in Weimar to boost the authority of the sagging Weimar Republic. Their effort was successful at the beginning. Taking the help of war veterans, the Weimar Republic crushed the anti-government moves of the Spartacist League activists. These groups decided to dissolve the League, and formed the Communist Party of Germany.

The chasm between the Socialists and the Communists widened further. Although both groups to the ideas of Hitler, they could not join hands to form a common front against Hitler. Germany became a divided nation.

Economic crisis plunges Germany deeper in crisis …  By 1923, Germany’s economy went into a downward spiral. Inflation sky-rocketed, and goods became scare. Life became unbearable for the ordinary people.

Germany had taken huge loans for fighting the war. Repayment of these loans fell due. To make matters worse, war reparations as per the Versailles Treaty had to be paid. All these payments had to be made in gold. Germany’s gold reserves began to be depleted sharply.

Germany defaulted in its payment. France, as the debtor, refused to grant any moratorium. Instead, it occupied Ruhr, the thriving coal mines hub of Germany. The beleaguered, cash-starved Germany protested, but it fell in deaf ears. In desperation, Germany began to print notes copiously with scant regard to the catastrophic consequences such step could cause.  Inflation soared at astounding pace. The German currency fell almost every minute of the day, touching a few trillion marks for each U.S. dollar. With a worthless currency, Germany became a nation to be pitied, not treated with any respect. Germans walked with their head hung low.

Finally, America intervened through a rescue package called the Dawes Plan. The creditor nations were prevailed upon to stagger the repayments to give Germany a breathing space.

The Years of Depression follow……….

As America stepped in to inject some cash as short-term loans, the ailing German economy showed some signs of revival. This was between the years 1924-28. But, this little joy was short-lived. Wall Street Exchange crashed in 1929, triggering a panic sell-off of shares in America. This caused a severe turmoil, as the Stocks lost almost half of their worth. The U.S economy slipped into Depression.

German economy was battered by the unforeseen downturn in America. German industrial production plummeted by 40%. Unemployment soared. By 1932, six million jobs had been lost and the economy’s fall had begun to hit the average German very hard. Un employed men and women wandered in city streets soliciting work. Long queues were seen in front of Employment Exchanges.

Angst and fear gripped the middle and salaried class as their savings amounts’ net worth fell in tandem with the fall in the  value of the national currency. To earn a living, desperate people started to resort to petty crimes.

The middle class, once the backbone of the German society, began to get progressively impoverished. They feared soon they would be forced to do manual works to earn a living, or will simply be un-employed. This process of gradual decline of economic and social status of large sections of the population is called ‘proletaranisation’. Most middle class people feared they would soon be sucked into this category.

The Weimer Constitution had inherent weaknesses that made it weak to fend off dictatorial tendencies. Because of this, the Weimer Republic became a weak barrier to stop dictators from taking over the government.

What were the flaws of the Weimer Constitution …..

  1. The Constitution stipulated that Deputies would be chosen through a process of proportional representation. In other words, a party’s share of Deputy seats would be directly proportional to its vote share in the election. Since there were a number of political parties in Germany at that time, no party could win a decisively larger number of votes. As a result, its share of Deputy seats could never cross the half-way mark. This made coalition forming a prerequisite for forming a government.
  2. The other infirmity was the Article 48 of the Constitution. It enabled the President to declare emergency, suspend civil rights and rule by decree.

Instability of government became the order of the day. Cabinets were formed and dissolved in quick succession. In just about two and half years, 20 cabinets were formed and dissolved. The provision of Article 48 was invoked quite frequently by the President.  People lost confidence in the system and were greatly frustrated.

Hitler’s rise to power …

[To be continued]



ICSE English Literature .. Journey by Night –full explanation

Journey by Night by Norah Burke

Getting to know the protagonists ….

Sher Singh Bahadur (the father) .. He is the quintessential jungle man — gritty, valiant, defiant, and adventurous. He knew the ways of the jungle animals well. The countless encounters he had with the beasts had left deep scars all over the body. None of these deterred him a bit. Instead, the injuries tended to make him bolder and more irrepressible than ever before. He knew the sights and sounds of the animals well. This enabled him to judge the presence or otherwise of an animal in the vicinity. From the trails and pug marks left by cat, he could tell who had killed what, and where the predator hid. He bore the scars as his badge of honour.
He was deft too in capturing the ferocious jungle animals in his camera. For the hunters who came looking for games, Sher Singh was an invaluable companion and a guide. His indomitable spirit instilled confidence in them, and his penchant to correctly spot a prey in the surroundings made their expedition a delightful experience. Sher Singh mixed with the flora and fauna of forests seamlessly, as if he was just one of the many species living there. No wonder, his services were much sought after by those who came a-hunting. For days, he could live inside the forests, braving the animals, and the many discomforts of jungle life.
In recognition of his courage and his defiance of the danger posed by the animals earned him the title ‘Bahadur’. He was called Sher Singh Bahadur.

Sher Singh (the son) .. He is a twelve-year-old boy, the elder of the two sons of Sher Singh Bahadur. His wife had borne him many more children, but only these two survived the vagaries of the primitive jungle life in the Lalwani village. The constant battle with poverty, and the many odds of life had made hardened his mind and body. During the long absences of his father from home, Sher Singh had to shoulder the responsibilities of the family. The gutsy Sher Singh, despite his young age, discharged his duties with remarkable aplomb.

Sher Singh’s mother .. Born and brought up in a village in the hills, she grew up weathering the many trauma and tribulations that bedevil a hill woman’s life. She was stoic and impassive in the face of adversity. Over the years, she has taught herself to live without her husband, with no option but to fend for herself.

Story …

Sher Singh Bahadur, the father, was away from home on some hunting trip. His younger son, Kunwar was seriously ill with high fever. Sher Singh, the elder of the two sons was the only male member his mother could look forward to for any assistance. Kunwar showed all signs of a fast slide towards death. The glimmer of home lay in his being transported to the nearest hospital at Kalaghat, quite a distance away. Separating Sher Singh’s jungle hut and the hospital at Kalaghat stood dense forests infested with wild animals, and two treacherous mountain streams. A mud track ran through most parts of the path. Motorised transport was unseen in this remote backward place. In the final part of the path to the hospital, a namesake road ran. Occasionally a bullock cart could be seen plying through this track.
It was getting dark. For Kunwar, his mother and Sher Singh, it was getting dark too. Kunwar was too sick to turn around without medical help. Very reluctantly, the mother decided that Sher Singh, the twelve-year-old would carry his younger brother to the hospital at Kalaghat. The task was too daunting for young Sher Singh. He stood no chance of reaching the hospital. He could not carry the weight of his ailing brother through the fraught treacherous road. But, Kunwar’s plight weighed heavily in both Asher Singh and his mother’s mind. With a heavy heart and a perplexed mind, she made a sling, put it around his forehead, with Kunwar wrapped inside a saree that hung by the sling.
Sher Singh set out on the long march. His mother looked on wryly convinced that Sher Singh would not be able to make it to the hospital.
Dusk was falling. It was getting darker. Sher Singh walked on leaving the dimly-lit huts of Lalwdani behind. It was a village perched inside a forest. Grasslands around the village were deliberately burnt to prevent forest fires creeping into the village.
Kalaghat was nearly fifty miles away. Sher Singh with his load of his sick brother had to contend with a track that had rocks, thorny bushes, and sal trees. Jungle beasts roamed freely in the area.
[To be continued]

HISTORY ..Removing confusion regarding the three Chandragupta s

Chandragupta Maurya, Chandragupta 1 and Chandragupta 2

The three emperors are totally different from one another. Other than their names, they share nothing else. Their periods of reign, empires, capitals, and dynastic lineages were all very different.
Chandragupta Maurya . (The recent TV serial was made based on him.) Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya Empire. His reign lasted for nearly 24 years (321 – 297 BCE) untilhe voluntarily abdicated the throne in favour of his son Bindusara. He was a great warrior and a master in statecraft. Through his many successful military campaigns, he consolidated the fragmented political landscape of India. Except Tamil Nadu and Odisha (Kalinga, in those days), Chandragupta ruled over the entire Indian subcontinent. His conquests resulted in the extension of his empire to Afghanistan and beyond, till the eastern part of Persia (now Iran). He even defeated Alexander’s successors, Seleucus I Nicator, in battle. By marrying Seleucus’s daughter, he cemented the political and strategic bond with the Hellenistic kingdoms. The Greek diplomat Megasthenes, who visited the Maurya capital Pataliputra (now in Bihar), detailed the many high points of Mauruya’s reign. Having stamped his authority over a vast swathe of land in India and its north west, Chandragupta, with the aid of his formidable advisor Chanakya implemented a series of major economic and political reforms. Economy and culture of India flourished in his empire, thanks to his vision and zeal.
Chandragupta’s reign also saw major cultural and religious transformation in India. Buddhism and Jainism became increasingly popular among the masses. Inspired by the spirit of renunciation of Jainism, Chandragupta abdicated his throne. He oversaw the transfer of power to his son Bindusara. As a man detached from family, Chandragupta embraced Jainism, and went on a pilgrimage to South India in the company of the Jain monk Bhadrabahu.
Chandragupta 1..
Chandragupta I was a king of the Gupta Empire. He ruled around 320 AD—nearly 600 years after Chandragupta Maurya’s reign. He extended his influence over the vast Gangetic plain by cleverly befriending the kings and chieftains who ruled over small kingdoms there.
Chandragupta I was the son of Ghatotkacha, from whom he inherited the throne. His ancestors were known as Maharaja (king). Chandragupta 1 declared himself the Maharajadhiraja (king of kings). However, it remains unknown how he expanded a “small principality to the status of an important kingdom” by annexing neighbouring kingdoms. He also married Kumaradevi, a Licchhavi princess.The marriage boosted his power and authority. The exact boundaries of his empire have not been conclusively determined. He had two main sons — Kacha and Samudragupta.
Chandragupta 2 … He is also known by the name of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. Described as one of the most powerful emperors of the Gupta empire in India, he ruled from 380 AD till 415 AD. The Gupta empire reached the zenith of power, wealth, and prosperity during his reign. He extended royal patronage to art, architecture, and sculpture. Historians eulogize his reign as the “Golden Age” of India. Chandragupta II was the son of Emperor Samudragupta. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he enhanced his empire’s reach and clout through military campaigns and entering into marriage bonds with other kingdoms.
He ruled over Gujarat from 388 to 409 AD.

Letter to Editor complaining about poor roads

[Letter to Editor]

Yogesh Singh
..cell number…

The Editor
The Hindu Express
Hyderabad August 10, 2016


Unable to live with the dismal roads in our Alipetty area in Hyderabad, I bring my community’s grievances to the attention of the Hyderabad Corporation and the general public through your esteemed daily.

Despite being the capital city of Telengana, certain parts of Hyderabad suffer appalling civic neglect. While copious rains have brought joy to Telengana’s farmers, misery has piled up for residents of Alipetty area. Potholes have sprang up in dozens in the roads of our locality. For pedestrians, motorists and two-wheeler riders, the badly-maintained roads pose great peril. Accidents happen daily injuring commuters. Women, school-going children, and even able-bodied men dread to use the roads because deep craters lie invisible under the muddy & dirty water standing on the roads. Citizens’ protests and pleas to the concerned authorities have fallen in deaf ears.

Through RTI applications, we gather that Rs.12 crores have been spent on the maintenance of just 30 kilometers of Alipetty’s roads in the last two years. Obviously, large chunks of this public money have been siphoned off by unscrupulous contractors and a few corrupt officials. Frankly, we see no end to such apathy when greed and dishonesty is so pervasive.

We hope, publication of this letter will stir the conscience of the people in authority, and urgent action will be initiated to maintain the roads.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,


[Yogesh Singh]

(All names used in this letter are imaginary.)


A Doctor’s Journal Entry on August 8,1945 by Vikram Seth

A Doctor’s Journal Entry on August 8, 1945
By Vikram Seth

Preamble …Japan was down on its knees militarily towards the closing years of the Second World War. Defeat stared it in its eyes, yet this valiant nation refused to lay down arms. Casualties were mounting on both sides, but the attrition was much higher in the Japanese side than in the American’s. War was dragging on painfully, piling up misery on the tiny but gallant country. To stem the flow of further blood, and bring the War to a quick end, the Americans dropped atom bombs on the two Japanese cities with a gap of just three days. Hell descended on the hapless people as they simmered in the heat of the deadly bombs.

The tragedy was cataclysmic. The Japanese people had long been inured to the suffering and cruelty of war, but the pain inflicted by the two bombs was beyond their endurance. But, the hapless citizens endured the suffering with stoic resignation as the pain had numbed their senses and their sense of judgment.
Vikram Seth is adored by his readers for his humanism and deft portrayal of characters. In this poem, written more as a diary, he brings alive the lament and the wrenching pain of the ordinary civilians. They were mere pawns, caught in the whirlpool of strategic maneuvering of the two nations locked in war.

Poem’s meaning.. The victim and narrator is a doctor whose job is to alleviate the suffering of others. Now, he has become the suffering soul. He is jolted out of his bed early in the morning by a monstrous blast that rips off his under garments. The old lantern lighted up on its own as if a ghost had ignited it. Two blinding flashes came one after another. The doctor thought it was the usual magnesium flares normally used in battle fields, but these were far more sinister. He was puzzled.

His house made mostly of timber came crashing down. Rubbles were strewn all over the place. His garden and his house were in a shambles. The sight looked so intriguing and frightening. His vest had flown away from his body—such was the fury unleashed by the blast. A piece of shrapnel had pierced his right thigh. The dangling object d caused him excruciating pain. Blood flowed from the incision. His cheek had also been badly bruised. He somehow extricated the glass piece from his thigh. He was clearly flummoxed by the quick turn of events. Amidst this confusion, he wondered where his wife was. Her name was Yecko-san. The doctor called out her name with a full-throated cry.

To add to his horror, the artery in his neck had been bruised. As a doctor he knew how ominous it was. ‘Was he going to bleed to death,’ he wondered. Trembling with fear and nervousness, he yelled at his wife summoning her to his presence at once. Hopefully for him, she appeared, apparently very shaken. She had blood stains on her body. The blast seemed to have reduced her to a miserable soul. As the husband, he tried to instill some hope in her. ‘We will pull it through,’ seemed to be his message to her as he held her by her elbow.

The duo rushed out of the house trying to reach the street, but they tripped and fell flat on the way. He tried to figure out what he had stumbled upon. He recoiled in horror to discover that it was the head of a dead fellow human being. He had been crushed to death by the weight of a falling gate

It was no time to grieve, nor reflect upon. He prodded his wife to pull up herself so that they could make it to the hospital nearby. Just around that time, a house in front, uprooted from its foundation leaned sideways, staggered like a drunken man, and crashed on to the street. It was a really a dreadful sight to see when the earlier events had virtually drained them of their verve and fortitude. A fired appeared from nowhere and clawed dangerously forward.

The doctor’s conscience told him that he should do something for his beleaguered staff, but his enfeebled body did not permit him. Thirst and injury had taken a toll of his stamina. He slumped on the ground although he desperately wanted to reach the hospital. There was not even drop of water to quench his thirst.

The doctor felt breathless, perhaps out of exhaustion and thirst. However, in a show of remarkable tenacity, he could muster some strength in his limbs to get on his feet again. He had been completely stripped of his clothes by the fury and the fire unleashed by the blast. He felt no need to cover his body. A normal man’s sense of shame had deserted him. He was distraught though, reflecting upon his predicament and the way his mind had been benumbed by the dance of death and destruction all around.

A soldier stood nearby, silently, possibly trying to make sense of what had happened. He offered a towel to the disrobed doctor to cover his body. His legs, after so much of battering, refused to take commands. He told his wife Yecko-san to proceed to the hospital without waiting for him. She left reluctantly: his eyes followed her as she walked away. The parting, though insignificant, seemed to be so painful, but he had to be pragmatist in this hour of distress.

The Doctor was overwhelmed with a torrent of thoughts. Angst, dread and doom overtook his power of judgment. A pall of gloom seemed to have fallen on the city. The atmosphere was ghoulish. People, with deep burns on their bodies seemed to move around aimlessly. They looked like ghosts from the other world. With hunched back and bent shoulders, they moved clinging to the last straw of hope to stay alive.
The doctor saw a woman with her child in her arms moving towards the hospital. The mighty bomb had disrobed the hapless innocent duo! The sight was so sickening, so revolting. In normal times, a person sheds their clothes in the bathroom, never in the public streets. He had to turn his face away. He realized that an event of demonic proportions had happened robbing the clothes and the sense of shame from him and the mother and child. An old man lay on the ground seething with pain, but quite strangely, she was quiet. Perhaps, she would meet her end soon.

A weird silence had shrouded the people who had managed to survive. They did not cry, wail, callout for help, protest, or pray. They just obeyed the commands of the unseen to lay silent.


CIVICS — Voting right – Universal suffrage

How universal suffrage was enshrined in the Constitution …


The eminent persons who drafted the Constitution were highly educated, and generally very affluent. Many of them had studied in England. In many ways, they were elitist, despite their concern for the poor.


On the other hand, vast sections of the Indian population were illiterate, poor, unskilled reeling under superstition, bigotry and feudal in their mentality. The gulf between the writers of the Constitution and the citizens in the lower rungs of society was very wide indeed.


The Constitution writers genuinely doubted if these down-trodden people had the power of judgment to vote intelligently and judiciously. Hence, they hesitated to give voting rights to each and every Indian above 21. Perhaps,they thought it advisable to lay down some qualifying criteria for a person to be eligible to vote.

At the end, all these concerns were set aside, and universal voting right was given to all above 21.


In this regard, India stole a march over Britain, Germany and France, even America.


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CIVICS — Secular state

Secular State .. India is a secular state.

1. It does not have an official religion, unlike Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. Islam is the official religion there. The latter are called theocratic states.
2. India treats all its citizens equally. Showing favour to a citizen or punishing him for any offence more than others just because he belongs to any particular religion is not allowed in law. Whether one is a Hindu, or a Christian, or Muslim, one would get the same favour from the state as others. Similarly, for committing a crime, people will get the same punishment. The judge can not favour or disfavour any one on the basis of religion.
3. The Constitution has articles that define relations between citizens and their government. It has no clause to define how would one pray, to which God, and what reward one would get for belonging to a certain faith.
4. Thus, in governance, religion plays no part at all. But, the Constitution does not ask a citizen to become an atheist and give up one’s religion. Religion is treated as a personal and private matter.
5. The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution made communal speeches and writing (that spreads hatred and disharmony among followers of different religions) illegal and punishable under law.
6. Schools can be started and run by minority communities, where their scriptures and philosophy are taught, but they can not force the students to take part in any form religious instruction. They can not refuse admission to students belonging to other religions. Thus a school run by Muslims can impart Islamic education, but can not force the unwilling students to do Namaz.

Civics Class 9 .. Socialist State


A Socialist state is a hybrid of the Communist state and the Capitalist state. Therefore, it is essential to first understand the features of Communism / Communist State, and Capitalism / Capitalist state.


Communism / Communist state .. There are good and bad things about this political system.
Good side.. a. It takes care of each and every citizen’s living and welfare needs with respect to study, employment, healthcare, housing, food, recreation etc.
b. There is no distinction or discrimination on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, skin colour etc. All are treated equally. There are no communal riots, no strikes and no black flag demonstrations.
c. There is only one political party – the Communist Party. So, the chaos and crude public behavior we see in our country and in other democratic countries are not seen in a Communist state.
Bad side .. a. No one can own land, house, business, industries etc. Everything is owned by the state. After you retire, government will give you all that you need – house, healthcare, food etc. So, there is no encouragement to entrepreneurship. Everyone becomes a government employee directly or indirectly.
b. There is no freedom of expression. You can not say a word against the government or the leaders. Anyone doing this is punished very severely. At times, the government apparatus can become very oppressive and nasty.
c. The courts normally side with the government in cases brought before them.
d. You can not refuse employment offers / orders. You may be a qualified engineer, but the government might force you to work as a technician if suitable vacancies are not available. Similarly, no matter how hard-working and entrepreneurial you are, you can only aspire to be a managerial job in a government undertaking. Such restrictions stifle individual effort and creativity.
e. Because there is just one single political party, people have no choice to change governments. Thus, the government (state) becomes totalitarian and the rulers become dictatorial.
The Soviet Union (now defunct), China (now virtually capitalist), some east European countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Cuba and North Korea etc. were / are the Communist countries. In recent decades Communism has been in steep decline.
Karl Marx wasthe founder of Communism. Trotsky, Stalin, Lenin, Mao were the first prominent Communist leaders.

Capitalist system / Capitalist state …. Like Communism, it has got its good and bad points.

Good side .. a. There is no restriction on owning land, wealth, house, businesses, factories etc. In fact, the government encourages its citizens to acquire more wealth, get richer and expand their businesses. So long as you obey the rules, not resort to fraud and pay taxes honestly, no one can harm you in any way. People applaud those who become fabulously rich.
b. There are more than one political parties with clearly different political ideologies. Elections are held at periodic intervals where voters exercise their free choices. As a result, governments are voted in or voted out of power based on their past performance. This is true democracy.
c. There are courts that do not fear the government, and give judgments even if those go against governments and leaders. In the same way, newspapers and TV channels enjoy full freedom to express their views. No government can intimidate the media. Thus, freedom of expression is a guaranteed. One can have any religion. Thestyate does not interfere.
Bad side .. a. It does not care much about the poor and the backward sections of the people. There are no reservation, no subsidy or special schemes for poor people. So, we see neglect and discrimination of vast sections of people.
b. Too much freedom often leads to chaos as in the case of Brexit recently.
c. Some shrewd people fabulously rich exploiting others, often adopting very questionable methods.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany etc. are the leading capitalist countries.


Socialism / Socialist state .. It is equidistant between Communism and Capitalism. It allows individual ownership of property and businesses, but keeps some large industries under government control. It has special provisions for poor and backward classes. Reservation, job quotas, scholarships etc. are allowed to bring the poor people up. It allows freedom of speech, multiparty politics, elections and independent courts. It allows industrialists to become larger and larger acquiring more and more wealth, but there are many controls to moderate their growth. Thus, it is more caring, more responsive and more humane. It does not adopt coercive methods to acquire the property and wealth of individuals. When it does, it pays compensation.
India is a leading country following this system.


Raju welcomed the intrusion — something to relieve the loneli-ness of the place. The man stood gazing reverentially on his face. Raju felt amused and embarrassed. “Sit down if you like,” Raju said, to break the spell. The other accepted the suggestion with a grateful nod and went down the river steps to wash his feet and face, came up wiping himself dry with the end of
a checkered yellow towel on his shoulder, and took his seat two steps below the granite slab on which Raju was sitting cross-legged as if it were a throne, beside an ancient shrine. The branches of the trees canopying the river course rustled and trembled with the agitation of birds and monkeys settling down for the night. Upstream beyond the hills the sun was setting. Raju waited for the other to say something. But he was too polite to open a conversation.
Raju asked, “Where are you from?” dreading lest the other should turn around and ask the same question.
The man replied, “Fm from Mangal — “
“Where is Mangal?”




Around evening, monkeys and birds played on the branches of a tree that stood on a river’s bank. Under it Raju sat cross-legged on a stone slab. On being asked by Raju to sit down, the stranger politely sat two steps below after washing his face in the river’s water. He told Raju falteringly that he hailed from Mangal. [59 WORDS]