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.

As he was about to leave, he asked: “And where is the little girl, sir?”

And I, thinking that Mini must get rid of her false fear, had her brought out.

She stood by my chair, and looked at the Cabuliwallah and his bag. He offered her nuts and raisins, but she would not be tempted, and only clung the closer to me, with all her doubts increased.

This was their first meeting.

One morning, however, not many days later, as I was leaving the house, I was startled to find Mini, seated on a bench near the door, laughing and talking, with the great Cabuliwallah at her feet. In all her life, it appeared; my small daughter had never found so patient a listener, save her father. And already the corner of her little sari was stuffed with almonds and raisins, the gift of her visitor, “Why did you give her those?” I said, and taking out an eight-anna bit, I handed it to him. The man accepted the money without demur, and slipped it into his pocket.

Alas, on my return an hour later, I found the unfortunate coin had made twice its own worth of trouble! For the Cabuliwallah had given it to Mini, and her mother catching sight of the bright round object, had pounced on the child with: “Where did you get that eight-anna bit? ”

“The Cabuliwallah gave it me,” said Mini cheerfully.

“The Cabuliwallah gave it you!” cried her mother much shocked. “Oh, Mini! how could you take it from him?”

I, entering at the moment, saved her from impending disaster, and proceeded to make my own inquiries.

It was not the first or second time, I found, that the two had met. The Cabuliwallah had overcome the child’s first terror by a judicious bribery of nuts and almonds, and the two were now great friends.

They had many quaint jokes, which afforded them much amusement. Seated in front of him, looking down on his gigantic frame in all her tiny dignity, Mini would ripple her face with laughter, and begin: “O Cabuliwallah, Cabuliwallah, what have you got in your bag?”

And he would reply, in the nasal accents of the mountaineer: “An elephant!” Not much cause for merriment, perhaps; but how they both enjoyed the witticism! And for me, this child’s talk with a grown-up man had always in it something strangely fascinating.

Then the Cabuliwallah, not to be behindhand, would take his turn: “Well, little one, and when are you going to the father-in-law’s house?”

Now most small Bengali maidens have heard long ago about the father-in-law’s house; but we, being a little new-fangled, had kept these things from our child, and Mini at this question must have been a trifle bewildered. But she would not show it, and with ready tact replied: “Are you going there?”

In different words … As the Cabuliwallah lifted his large frame to leave, he inquired about Mini. I thought my daughter must get rid of her irrational fear of a fellow human being. I called her to my presence. The visitor wanted to befriend her by offering her raisin and nuts. But, she remained indifferent to the gesture of the stranger. Instead, she clung to me harder, determined to remain at a safe distance from him. The meeting ended with Mini’s suspicion of him not the least lessened.

One morning I was taken aback to see my daughter sitting on the bench with the tall, lanky bearded visitor seated near her feet. The duo seemed to be in great mood. The initial sulking had been replaced by bonhomie. He appeared to have unusual patience for her endless chatter. I found some raisin and nuts tied to the end of my daughter’s little saree. I frowned to see this and decided to give an eight-anna coin to him. He took it and slipped it into his pocket.

When I returned an hour later, the innocuous eight-anna coin seemed to have kicked up a fiasco. Apparently, the Cabuliwallah had given back the coin to her, and she had flaunted the ‘gift’ to her mother. She was aghast to discover that her little daughter had accepted money from an unknown man from a ‘foreign’ land. She was screaming in disapproval.

I stepped in to sort out the ugly situation. To my bewilderment, I found from Mini that the duo had met several times before, and the clever Cabuliwalah had made her way to her heart through gifts of raisin and nut on each encounter. Now, the two were friends. The rapport was real. It seems the Cabuliwalah had no dearth of jokes that Mini relished. She would ask him, what he had in his bag. He would reply saying he had an elephant!

The bond between the tiny girl and the tall old bearded Cabuliwalah was as fascinating as it was intriguing.

At times, he would ask her when was she going to her father-in-law’s house. My conservative household kept such matters from her. She could hardly understand the import of his question. She would throw the question back at her and ask him when he was going to his in-law’s house.

Amongst men of the Cabuliwallah’s class, however, it is well known that the words father-in-law’s house have a double meaning. It is a euphemism for jail, the place where we are well cared for, at no expense to ourselves. In this sense would the sturdy pedlar take my daughter’s question. “Ah,” he would say, shaking his fist at an invisible policeman, “I will thrash my father-in-law!” Hearing this, and picturing the poor discomfited relative, Mini would go off into peals of laughter, in which her formidable friend would join.

These were autumn mornings, the very time of year when kings of old went forth to conquest; and I, never stirring from my little corner in Calcutta, would let my mind wander over the whole world. At the very name of another country, my heart would go out to it, and at the sight of a foreigner in the streets, I would fall to weaving a network of dreams, –the mountains, the glens, and the forests of his distant home, with his cottage in its setting, and the free and independent life of far-away wilds. Perhaps the scenes of travel conjure themselves up before me, and pass and repass in my imagination all the more vividly, because I lead such a vegetable existence, that a call to travel would fall upon me like a thunderbolt. In the presence of this Cabuliwallah, I was immediately transported to the foot of arid mountain peaks, with narrow little defiles twisting in and out amongst their towering heights. I could see the string of camels bearing the merchandise, and the company of turbaned merchants, carrying some of their queer old firearms, and some of their spears, journeying downward towards the plains. I could see–but at some such point Mini’s mother would intervene, imploring me to “beware of that man.”

In different words .. For the poor and the alien class to which the Cabuliwalah belonged, finding oneself in the wrong side of the law was not very uncommon. Very often such offenders go to jail during which time they got free food, dress and shelter, same as what one gets in the father-in-law’s house. The ignominy of incarceration hardly matters. For the Cabuliwalah’s class, the word ‘father-in-law’ is often used as synonym for captivity in prison.

The Cabuliwalah lighted up on being asked when he would visit his in-law’s home. He gesticulated showing his powerful fist and punching it against an imaginary policeman. Mini didn’t understand why he roared with such wrath, but she would nonetheless enjoy the theatrics of the Cabuliwalah. He would join her with peels of laughter.

It was autumn. This is the time of the year when kings in olden days used to go on their military campaigns. I was, however, confined to my home in Calcutta letting my mind wander all over the world. The sight of a foreigner in the street rekindles my fascination with the land of his origin. I conjure up visions of the landscape, its mountains, rivers and the dwellings where nomads live. The sight of the Cabuliwallah seemed to take me to his land of rocky mountains, narrow winding mountain passes, camels moving slowly with their loads of merchandize, turbaned merchants armed with antique-looking rifles. To interrupt my thought chain, comes Mini’s mother urging me to keep the Cabuliwalah at arm’s length.

Mini’s mother is unfortunately a very timid lady. Whenever she hears a noise in the street, or sees people coming towards the house, she always jumps to the conclusion that they are either thieves, or drunkards, or snakes, or tigers, or malaria or cockroaches, or caterpillars, or an English sailor. Even after all these years of experience, she is not able to overcome her terror. So she was full of doubts about the Cabuliwallah, and used to beg me to keep a watchful eye on him.

I tried to laugh her fear gently away, but then she would turn round on me seriously, and ask me solemn questions.

Were children never kidnapped?

Was it, then, not true that there was slavery in Cabul?

Was it so very absurd that this big man should be able to carry off a tiny child?

I urged that, though not impossible, it was highly improbable. But this was not enough, and her dread persisted. As it was indefinite, however, it did not seem right to forbid the man the house, and the intimacy went on unchecked.

Once a year in the middle of January Rahmun, the Cabuliwallah, was in the habit of returning to his country, and as the time approached he would be very busy, going from house to house collecting his debts. This year, however, he could always find time to come and see Mini. It would have seemed to an outsider that there was some conspiracy between the two, for when he could not come in the morning, he would appear in the evening.

Even to me it was a little startling now and then, in the corner of a dark room, suddenly to surprise this tall, loose-garmented, much bebagged man; but when Mini would run in smiling, with her, “O! Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” and the two friends, so far apart in age, would subside into their old laughter and their old jokes, I felt reassured.

One morning, a few days before he had made up his mind to go, I was correcting my proof sheets in my study. It was chilly weather. Through the window the rays of the sun touched my feet, and the slight warmth was very welcome. It was almost eight o’clock, and the early pedestrians were returning home, with their heads covered. All at once, I heard an uproar in the street, and, looking out, saw Rahmun being led away bound between two policemen, and behind them a crowd of curious boys. There were blood-stains on the clothes of the Cabuliwallah, and one of the policemen carried a knife. Hurrying out, I stopped them, and enquired what it all meant. Partly from one, partly from another, I gathered that a certain neighbour had owed the pedlar something for a Rampuri shawl, but had falsely denied having bought it, and that in the course of the quarrel, Rahmun had struck him. Now in the heat of his excitement, the prisoner began calling his enemy all sorts of names, when suddenly in a verandah of my house appeared my little Mini, with her usual exclamation: “O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” Rahmun’s face lighted up as he turned to her. He had no bag under his arm today, so she could not discuss the elephant with him. She at once therefore proceeded to the next question: “Are you going to the father-in-law’s house?” Rahmun laughed and said: “Just where I am going, little one!” Then seeing that the reply did not amuse the child, he held up his fettered hands. ” Ali,” he said, ” I would have thrashed that old father-in-law, but my hands are bound!”

On a charge of murderous assault, Rahmun was sentenced to some years’ imprisonment.

In different words .. Mini’s mother is a meek and fearful person. She gets unduly apprehensive on seeing any sort of commotion outside our home. She concludes that something ominous is going to happen. From thieves to drunkards to tigers to caterpillars, she imagines endless types of dangers coming to our doorstep. So many years in our house has somehow not rid her of such irrational fear. From the beginning, she has been wary of the Cabuliwallah and has beseeched me to keep a strict eye on him.

No amount of patient persuasion succeeded to convince her that there was little reason to suspect the Cabuliwallah of having any hostile intent. She would counter me by asking if kidnapping of children was not common or there were no slaves languishing in Cabul. She would argue that anything was possible for the burly Cabuliwallah, and our Mini was an easy target for him.

Despite my pleadings, she never could drive the fear of the Cabuliwallah from her mind.

Around mid January each year, the Cabuliwallah used to make his long journey back home. It was a hectic time for him as he got busy collecting his dues. Despite his busy schedule, he comes to our house daily to see Mini. If he can not make it in the morning, he comes in the evening. Such acquaintance did cause some doubts, but Mini’s spontaneous pleasure on seeing him did dispel my fears. It was strange how the old, boorish-looking, large-framed man from a distant land, and our tiny Mini have developed such an emotional bond.

One morning, I was correcting the proofs of my writing. Cabuliwallah’s time to return home was drawing near. It was chilly outside, and the warmth of the early Sun light was so comforting. People walked on the road with their heads covered.

I was a bit taken aback to hear the sound of a ruction from my neighbourhood. I saw two policemen taking away the handcuffed Cabuliwallah. A bunch of boys followed the trio in great curiosity. Later it emerged that a neighbour had failed to pay off the debt to Rahmun, the Cabuliwallah. It had caused an altercation between the two that turned ugly as the impatient lender, Rahmun, turned on the borrower with his knife. The police man had seized the knife and there were blood stains on Rahmun’s clothes. I saw all these with great horror when I came out to see what had caused the raucous.

Our Mini appeared on the verandah. Seeing Rahmun, she carried out in her childlike zeal, ‘O, Cabuliwallah, Cabuliwallah, are you going to your father-in-law’s house?” The unruffled Rahmun smiled beamingly and replied that he was indeed going there. He held up his handcuffed hand, so that Mini could see it. In his characteristic defiant way, he declared that he would have thrashed his father-in-law if the handcuff had not been there.

After trial, Rahmun went to jail for a few years.

Time passed away, and he was not remembered. The accustomed work in the accustomed place was ours, and the thought of the once-free mountaineer spending his years in prison seldom or never occurred to us. Even my light-hearted Mini, I am ashamed to say, forgot her old friend. New companions filled her life. As she grew older, she spent more of her time with girls. So much time indeed did she spend with them that she came no more, as she used to do, to her father’s room. I was scarcely on speaking terms with her.

Years had passed away. It was once more autumn and we had made arrangements for our Mini’s marriage. It was to take place during the Puja Holidays. With Durga returning to Kailas, the light of our home also was to depart to her husband’s house, and leave her father’s in the shadow.

In other words .. As days, weeks and months went by, Cabuliwallah’s memory faded off. Few among us seldom bothered to imagine what the tall gutsy mountain tribesman must be doing inside the four walls of the jail. Mini was no exception. She grew up, spending most of her time with other girls of her age. The childlike innocence that used to filmy heart deserted her. She hardly came to my chamber to have a chit chat.

It was autumn. Mini’s marriage was on the cards. We had made the usual arrangements for her marriage, scheduled for the Pujah holidays. She would go to her husband’s home leaving us forlorn and heart-broken.

The morning was bright. After the rains, there was a sense of ablution in the air, and the sun-rays looked like pure gold. So bright were they that they gave a beautiful radiance even to the sordid brick walls of our Calcutta lanes. Since early dawn to-day the wedding-pipes had been sounding, and at each beat my own heart throbbed. The wail of the tune, Bhairavi, seemed to intensify my pain at the approaching separation. My Mini was to be married to-night.

From early morning noise and bustle had pervaded the house. In the courtyard the canopy had to be slung on its bamboo poles; the chandeliers with their tinkling sound must be hung in each room and verandah. There was no end of hurry and excitement. I was sitting in my study, looking through the accounts, when some one entered, saluting respectfully, and stood before me. It was Rahmun the Cabuliwallah. At first I did not recognise him. He had no bag, nor the long hair, nor the same vigour that he used to have. But he smiled, and I knew him again.

In other words .. The Sun rays in the morning were golden and radiant. The air was fresh and the ambience was enlivening. Even the old walls of the nearby lanes seemed to spring back to life when the sunlight fell on them.  The drums and the wedding pipes sang the tunes befitting for festive occasion. I somehow felt somewhat nervous. The Bhairavo tune played by the band made me gloomy. I knew Mini would leave us for good that night.

The samiana came up in the courtyard. A strange hustle and bustle gripped the household. I was in my study looking into the expenditures and the budget when I could sense that a visitor had come in. It was the same old Rahmun the Cabuliwallah. He bowed respectfully and stood near me. Bereft of his beard, bag and other paraphernalia, he was barely recognizable. The years in prison had made him look haggard and old. He smiled.

“When did you come, Rahmun?” I asked him.

“Last evening,” he said, “I was released from jail.”

The words struck harsh upon my ears. I had never before talked with one who had wounded his fellow, and my heart shrank within itself, when I realised this, for I felt that the day would have been better-omened had he not turned up.

“There are ceremonies going on,” I said, “and I am busy. Could you perhaps come another day?”

At once he turned to go; but as he reached the door he hesitated, and said: “May I not see the little one, sir, for a moment?” It was his belief that Mini was still the same. He had pictured her running to him as she used, calling “O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” He had imagined too that they would laugh and talk together, just as of old. In fact, in memory of former days he had brought, carefully wrapped up in paper, a few almonds and raisins and grapes, obtained somehow from a countryman, for his own little fund was dispersed.

I said again: “There is a ceremony in the house, and you will not be able to see any one to-day.”

In other words ... He had been released from jail the previous evening. For a moment I was flummoxed. N ex-convict, a criminal who had used his knife to fellow human being stood before me. It was so very un-settling. ‘What an ominous thing to happen in an auspicious day!’ I wondered.

I wanted to make him leave. I told him to come some other day as I said I was busy. He began to go, but turned around. He begged to see the ‘Little One’, implying Mini of the older years. He had imagined Mini to be the same sweet little one. Borrowing some money from a fellow country man, he had brought some almonds and raisins nicely wrapped in a paper. After serving the jail term, he had become penniless.

It was an awkward request. I told there was a festival in the house, so I couldn’t keep his request.

The man’s face fell. He looked wistfully at me for a moment, said “Good morning,” and went out. I felt a little sorry, and would have called him back, but I found he was returning of his own accord. He came close up to me holding out his offerings and said: “I brought these few things, sir, for the little one. Will you give them to her?”

I took them and was going to pay him, but he caught my hand and said: “You are very kind, sir! Keep me in your recollection. Do not offer me money!–You have a little girl, I too have one like her in my own home. I think of her, and bring fruits to your child, not to make a profit for myself.”

Saying this, he put his hand inside his big loose robe, and brought out a small and dirty piece of paper. With great care he unfolded this, and smoothed it out with both hands on my table. It bore the impression of a little band. Not a photograph. Not a drawing. The impression of an ink-smeared hand laid flat on the paper. This touch of his own little daughter had been always on his heart, as he had come year after year to Calcutta, to sell his wares in the streets.

In other words .. My refusal hit him hard. His face became downcast. He took a few steps, and then turned around with the gift packet for Mini in his hand. He begged me to give the packet to her.
When I started to pay him, he politely but firmly refused to take any money. He said that he had a similar young daughter at home, and it is her memory that makes him to see Mini happy.
Then, he proceeded to take out a small worn-out, but carefully preserved piece of paper from his deep pocket. With tender care he opened it. It had the impressions of the hand of a young child. He had preserved the impression as a token of love and longing for his little daughter.

Tears came to my eyes. I forgot that he was a poor Cabuli fruit-seller, while I was–but no, what was I more than he? He also was a father. That impression of the hand of his little Parbati in her distant mountain home reminded me of my own little Mini.

I sent for Mini immediately from the inner apartment. Many difficulties were raised, but I would not listen. Clad in the red silk of her wedding-day, with the sandal paste on her forehead, and adorned as a young bride, Mini came, and stood bashfully before me.

The Cabuliwallah looked a little staggered at the apparition. He could not revive their old friendship. At last he smiled and said: “Little one, are you going to your father-in-law’s house?”

But Mini now understood the meaning of the word “father-in-law,” and she
could not reply to him as of old. She flushed up at the question, and stood before him with her bride-like face turned down.

I remembered the day when the Cabuliwallah and my Mini had first met, and I felt sad. When she had gone, Rahmun heaved a deep sigh, and sat down on the floor. The idea had suddenly come to him that his daughter too must have grown in this long time, and that he would have to make friends with her anew. Assuredly he would not find her, as he used to know her. And besides, what might not have happened to her in these eight years?

The marriage-pipes sounded, and the mild autumn sun streamed round us. But Rahmun sat in the little Calcutta lane, and saw before him the barren mountains of Afghanistan.

I took out a bank-note, and gave it to him, saying: “Go back to your own daughter, Rahmun, in your own country, and may the happiness of your meeting bring good fortune to my child!”

Having made this present, I had to curtail some of the festivities. I could not have the electric lights I had intended, nor the military band, and the ladies of the house were despondent at it. But to me the wedding feast was all the brighter for the thought that in a distant land a long-lost father met again with his only child.

In other words … The Cabuliwallah’s words struck a raw nerve in my heart. My eyes welled up as I struggled to rein in my torrent of emotions.
I saw no difference in the love between the Cabuliwallah and his daughter Parbati, and my Mini and me. The barrier caused economic well being and social status between him and me vanished instantly.
I sent for Mini. I couldn’t refuse a grieving pining father. I brushed aside the fuss created by the womenfolk of my family to make Mini come. She was clad in a red silk Saree. She was decked up as a bride with sandal paste in her forehead. She appeared and stood self-consciously by my side.
The Cabuliwallah was not prepared to see Mini in this attire. Clearly, he was lost for words. It took a while for him to gather himself and say something. After a pause, he asked, “Little one, are you going to your father-in-law’s house?” Unlike the earlier years, Mini blushed at the question as she understood the loaded word ‘father-in-law’.
Memories of the duo’s first encounter and the blossoming of their friendship rushed through my mind. The Cabuliwallah heaved a sigh of relief and slumped on the floor. A huge weight seemed to have descended on his shoulders. He remembered that his daughter must have grown up like Mini has done. Eight years is a long period.
The drummers and the music party played their tunes. Rahmun was deeply engrossed in his thought. His grown up daughter, his countryside, and his commitment as father buffeted his mind relentlessly.
I knew why the Cabuliwallah had fallen silent. As I read his mind, empathy for him overwhelmed me. I took out a bank note and gave it to him. I asked him to rush to his country and discharge his duties as father to his grownup daughter.
The hand-out  to Rahmun forced me to dispense with the arrangement for the electric light and the military band. The austerity did not please the womenfolk, but I had no regrets. Instead the thought of the meeting of Rahmun with his daughter in distant Afghanistan filled my heart with great pleasure. I enjoyed the festivities of my house with much heightened spirit.


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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]

Letter to Collector for road connbection

The Collector                                                    Munibag village
Jhansi District                                                  Taluk .. Sahabd
Jhansi                                                               April 15. 2016


Sub .. Request for a tar road connection to Muninag




We, the villagers of Munibag, have no road connectivity to our village. We have to walk at least two kilometers through mud tracks to reach the road that leads to Jhansi. This causes great inconvenience to the students, to our elderly and sick, and to our womenfolk. It takes a one-hour bullock cart ride to reach the nearest Primary Health Centre. For pregnant women and terminally ill patients, this often results in death en route to the PHC. Our farmers find it hard to carry their fresh fruits and vegetables to the local Mandi situated four kilometers away. In short, the absence of a motorable road has stifled our welfare and economic progress.


We see a lot of rural development work presently going on in our Taluk under the MNREGA scheme. It would be a great boon for us if construction of an all-weather road to Munibag is included in this programme.


We give below the mobile number, name and address of our Sarpanch Sri Radheshyam Pandey. He will be most eager to discuss this proposal with you in your office at your convenience if you desire so.


Thanking you with expectation,


Yours faithfully,
[Names and signatures of villagers]


Name, address and cell no of Sarpanch ………


CC: 1. The MLA Sri …
2. The Chairman Panchayat Samiti Sri ……..

[All names are imaginary.]



National Integration –College level essay

                              National Integration
In the Indian context, National Integration is a matter of paramount importance. As an ancient country with mind-boggling diversity of race, religion, language and culture, India relentlessly grapples with fissiparous tendencies. Thanks to a judicious mix of military power, political acumen and sagacious leadership, India has managed to stay united. But challenges crop up periodically from within the country and without. This is the reason why national integration needs to be fostered with the utmost zeal and verve.
In our neighborhood, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and even China struggle to rein in centrifugal forces that tend to tear apart the country. Even rich and advanced democratic countries like Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada experience difficulties to hold together. The mighty Soviet Union imploded without a single bullet being fired. The regions that broke away to become independent countries such as the Ukraine, Georgia etc. have themselves been bedeviled by secessionist forces. Quite inexplicably, even the heavily down-sized and truncated Russia has to contend with never-ending insurgency in the tiny Chechnya which aspires to be an independent nation.


It is essential to examine what binds nations. Is it religion? If so, why did Pakistan brake apart in 1971? Today, Baluchistan wants to secede to form an independent country. Is it the language and colour of skin of citizens that binds nations? If so, why does Scotland want to secede from the United Kingdom? Is it culture? If so, why Ukraine is disintegrating? So, no single factor can be responsible to make or break a nation state.


Political scientists have pondered over the matter for long, and have come to conclude that a combination of un-fulfilled political desires, religious persecution, linguistic hegemony, economic disparity, and above all, an indifferent central leadership can fuel anger and disaffection among smaller ethnic groups to break away from the mother country.


India had its bouts of disruptive upheavals in the past. The Tamils, fearing dominance by the Hindi-speaking North wanted to secede in the years after independence. Nehru smothered the demand through persuasion, patience, and accommodation. When the Khalistan forces reared their head, the government used brute police power (led by K. P. S Gill) to wipe their leaders off the soil of Punjab. The festering Naga problem and the pro-Pakistan Kashmir rebels have been more or less contained. But, has the challenge to the unity of India retreated for good? It would be naive to think so.
It is worth examining the present dangers to national integration in India. What we see today is a growing isolation of Muslims and Christians who find the interpretation of nationalism by chauvinistic Hindu groups too noxious to live with. Efforts have been made to undermine the liberal principles enshrined in the Constitution by various covert and overt methods by self-seeking politicians. This has caused great unease among the minorities and a vast majority of moderate Hindus. Of late, the Dalits, long disenchanted with the polity of the country, have come under attack from a group of ruling party leaders. They have been portrayed as anti-national, unpatriotic, and disloyal to the country. Such uncharitable characterization of Dalits or for that matter, any other group imperils national integration.


A certain political party based in Mumbai claims that the bustling metropolis is meant to benefit only the sons of the soil. Those from other states are treated as interlopers and rent-seekers. Such claims are bizarre, and run counter to the Constitution. To further boost their pseudo-nationalism, the party openly takes avirulent anti-Muslim stand, and goes to the extent of blocking visit of sports teams and artists from Pakistan. The obvious intent is to derive electoral gains, no matter how grievous harm the party does to the unity of the country. Cohesion, inclusiveness, liberal values, and tolerance are alien to the philosophy of such parties.


Another creed of politicians needlessly take un-compromising and rigid positions in matter of sharing of national resources such as river water. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu bicker over Cauvery water in summer. This particular problem has defied solution for years, simply because adopting stubborn position helps the parties in power to project themselves as the protectors of the state’s interests. Such naked provincialism needlessly fuels rivalry between the Kannadigas and the Tamils.


Karnataka and Maharastra are unfortunately locked in a boundary dispute that becomes more and more intractable as the two states harden their stands. For national integration, such myopic approach in resolving contentious issues proves to be a big hurdle.
Another shameful exhibition of intolerance is seen when young students and workers from the North Eastern states are harassed, roughed up in Delhi and Bangalore for the slightest of provocation. The young migrants feel embittered and disaffected. On going back home, they narrate the horror stories before their friends and relations, who seethe in anger against the rest of India. Thus, isolationism grows at the cost of integration.


Almost in the whole of North and in parts of Western India, Biharis are looked down upon as stupid, uncouth, and boorish. This is despite the fact that Bihar produces the highest number of civil service officers and IIT graduates on per capita basis. In doing manual labour in farms and factories, Biharis outperform people from all other states. Such gritty and brainy people from Bihar suffer humiliation because of the entrenched prejudice against them. How can they be expected to be seamlessly integrated to the rest of India when they are treated with scorn and ridicule?
The venomous exchange of diatribes between the Telugus of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh is a unique case of politicians succeeding in separating people with the same blood, same language and the same culture. Such is the power of self-seeking politicians in turning one brother against the other for narrow interests.


It is heartening to note that an institutional mechanism in the form of National Integration Council is in place to address dangers to national integration. Started by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, this Council has the chief minister of all the states as its members. The Council deliberates on various issues endangering social harmony in the country and suggests measures to counter them. So far, the results have been mixed, but even its critics concede that it surely has helped in bridging differences and healing wounds in the body politic of the nation.


In conclusion, all of us need to realize that India today stands at a crossroads. If we stand united, bury our intolerance, and treat everyone as equal citizens of the country, we will propel our country to the zenith of power and prosperity. On the other hand, if we give short shrift to the spirit of the Constitution, fail to take everyone on board, and eschew inclusiveness, we will sink to the level of failed states like Somalia and Syria. In India’s rise lies the world’s rise: in India’s fall lies the world’s fall, because we make up one sixth of the mankind.

Precis writing exercise with answer


The Happy Prince
by Oscar Wilde

First part of the story ….

Write a precis of the following …

High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.
He was very much admired indeed. ‘He is as beautiful as a weathercock,’ remarked one of the Town Councillors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic taste; ‘only not quite so useful,’ he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.
‘Why can’t you be like the Happy Prince?’ asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon. ‘The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything.’
‘I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy’, muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.
‘He looks just like an angel,’ said the Charity Children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks, and their clean white pinafores.
‘How do you know?’ said the Mathematical Master, ‘you have never seen one.’
‘Ah! but we have, in our dreams,’ answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.
One night there flew over the city a little Swallow. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind, for he was in love with the most beautiful Reed. He had met her early in the spring as he was flying down the river after a big yellow moth, and had been so attracted by her slender waist that he had stopped to talk to her.
‘Shall I love you said the Swallow’, who liked to come to the point at once, and the Reed made him a low bow. So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, and making silver ripples. This was his courtship, and it lasted all through the summer.
Number of words 340 Précis should have 340/3= 113 to 118 words

The Happy Prince’s statue stood on a stanchion. With eyes of sapphire, gold-draped torso and ruby-studded sword-hilt, the Prince towered over his adoring subjects.
Councillors said he was as beautiful as the weathercock, mothers prodded their kids to emulate him, and sad citizens drew comfort from his beaming face. However, a dour mathematics teacher was not amused to hear from some Church children that the Prince looked like a dream angel.
A swallow had stayed behind from its migratory flock to have a romantic chat with a Reed it loved. The Swallow had stumbled on the Reed while chasing a moth across a river. The Swallow performed acrobatics on the water all through the Summer.
Number of words 116.


Conversational English -Using the right word in the right place

Baby steps to learning conversational English – 15


a. Ahmed had a small real estate agency. Later, he closed his business and joined a big construction company as sales manager. His friend, Muneer met him in the street a few days later. The conversation ran like this.
Muneer – ‘What’s your new job like?’
Ahmed – ‘Mixed. I ……….. having a bit more money, but I ……….. having my own office, and I really ………… having to write a detailed report on every single job I do.’ [Suggested words … admit, appreciate, deny, resent, miss]


b. Ananth is a Training Manager in an airline company. Smitha is the Asst. Training Manager. They have been asked to attend a second meeting of the stewards to brief them about the new hand baggage rules introduced by the management. The conversation runs like this.
Smitha — ‘Ananth, we need to meet the stewards again at 7pm.’
Ananth — ‘Not another meeting. I just ……….. seeing all those people again. Honestly, when Sinha opens his mouth, I just …… screaming. Would you ……… going and taking notes for me? Tell them I am ill, or my grandfather died, or something.’ [Suggested words .. can’t face, imagine, feel like, mind, involve]


c. Sudha is a domestic help recruited by a manpower providing agency. She was assigned to a wealthy man’s house. After working there for just a day, she has come back to the recruiting agency to vent her frustration like this.
Sudha .. ‘They said the job would ……. some light house work. They didn’t …….. cooking, gardening, scrubbing the floor, and dusting the house from end to end. I can’t ….. going another day. I am off.’ [Suggested words …. admit, involve, mention, mind, imagine]


d. Amir is a driver who was involved in an accident. He had to face the court where the prosecution lawyer (a junior working with the Public Prosecutor) grilled him rigorously. This is how the junior lawyer briefed his senior later in the evening.
Junior lawyer .. ‘During my cross-examination, the driver continued to ………… talking on his mobile phone at the time of the accident, and refused to ….. driving dangerously, claiming that he was forced to accelerate in order to ……. hitting an old lady who was crossing the road at that time. [Suggested words involve, appreciate, admit, avoid, deny]


a. Ahmed had a small real estate agency. Later, he closed his business and joined a big construction company as sales manager. His friend, Muneer met him in the street a few days later. The conversation ran like this.
Muneer – ‘What’s your new job like?’
Ahmed – ‘Mixed. I admit having a bit more money, but I miss having my own office, and I really resent having to write a detailed report on every single job I do.’ 
b. Ananth is a Training Manager in an airline company. Smitha is the Asst. Training Manager. They have been asked to attend a second meeting of the stewards to brief them about the new hand baggage rules introduced by the management. The conversation runs like this.
Smitha — ‘Ananth, we need to meet the stewards again at 7pm.’
Ananth — ‘Not another meeting. I just can’t face seeing all those people again. Honestly, when Sinha opens his mouth, I just feel like screaming. Would you mind going and taking notes for me? Tell them I am ill, or my grandfather died, or something.’ 
c. Sudha is a domestic help recruited by a manpower providing agency. She was assigned to a wealthy man’s house. After working there for just a day, she has come back to the recruiting agency to vent her frustration like this.
Sudha .. ‘They said the job would involve some light house work. They didn’t mention cooking, gardening, scrubbing the floor, and dusting the house from end to end. I can’t imagine going another day. I am off.’ 
d. Amir is a driver who was involved in an accident. He had to face the court where the prosecution lawyer (a junior working with the Public Prosecutor) grilled him rigorously. This is how the junior lawyer briefed his senior later in the evening.
Junior lawyer .. ‘During my cross-examination, the driver continued to deny talking on his mobile phone at the time of the accident, and refused to admit driving dangerously, claiming that he was forced to accelerate in order to avoid hitting an old lady who was crossing the road at that time. 



Tears, Idle Tears by Tennyson– Meaning Stanza by Stanza

Tears, Idle Tears
By Alfred Tennyson


Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Meaning.. In Autumn, the fields are ready for harvest. Summer begins to recede and winter begins to set in. The speaker scans the fields idly and begins to reminisce. As memories sweep through his mind, he is overwhelmed with some unexplained sadness. His eyes well up as his heart pines for the joys of the past. He realizes the happy bygone days will not return.


Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.
Meaning … It is clear the speaker fondly remembers his friends who are no more on earth. He imagines that these dead friends are returning to earth on a ship whose sail lights up when the first sunshine of the morning falls on it. This thought, so unreal, but so balmy, fades away in moments. In its place, comes the apparition of a ship laden with his friends heading to embrace death. The deep orange light of the setting sun’s rays fall on its sails just as the ship disappears into the horizon. It signals the death of the speaker’s near and dear friends. Thus, the day that brought so much delight and excitement to the speaker ends engulfing his mind in sorrow and despair.


Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.
Meaning .. The dawn in summer present a scene of contrast. A dying man lying on his bed hears the chirping of the birds, and the sun’s early rays come into his room. The window looks brighter and brighter as the morning progresses. But, due to obvious reasons, these joyful signs of Nature fail to lift the dying man’s spirits. For the man about to breathe his last, it is an inexorable slide to doom. These thoughts fill the speaker’s mind with gloom and awe. He grieves remembering the happy times that are gone.


Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!
Meaning … A lover thinks of his kisses on the lips of a woman he loves, but can not marry due to certain circumstances. The woman marries someone else plunging the lover to insufferable grief. For the speaker, it is lying remembering the romantic moments with a woman who is already dead. It was the gush of excitement of a young man’s first romantic encounter with a girl, but the liaison does not come to fruition. Such are the ways of the world. Such short-lived happiness amounts to enduring death-like sorrow while one is alive and well. The author laments the passing of the happy times.

High School economics — Market Faikure

Understanding what is Market failure

[Memorize the definition. The ideas will become clear as you see the examples and their explanation.]

Understanding Demand Supply Equilibrium… From time immemorial, buying and selling of goods and services have followed a familiar pattern. Let us consider a cluster of 50 villages having a population of nearly a lakh of people. Among this population, there are, say, 20 families whose profession is to rear cattle and sell the milk. A situation arises when the demand for milk goes up and the traditional cattle farmers can not supply so much milk. Inevitably, the prices soar as buyers scramble to procure their needs. Costly milk is not a desirable option. Seeing the scarcity, the traditional milk producing families buy more cows to meet the shortfall. Some young men from other professions such as fishing, washer men etc. buy cows and start their own diary business. As a result, milk supply improves and rates fall. It may so happen that the supply continues to go up and the rates continue to fall. At one point, the diary business becomes unprofitable. Many families will sell off their cows and will exit the milk supply business. As a result, the price of milk will rise again luring the families who exited the profession to re-enter the business. Milk supply will increase and price of milk will fall.

Such cycle of rise and fall of milk production and price of milk will continue till an equilibrium is reached. This is the interplay of market forces.

Competition between the producers of goods and services to offer high quality products at less prices leads to a healthy demand supply match. This equilibrium is highly desirable as the market becomes transparent, stable and predictable.

In a capitalist economy, great value is attached to the free play of market forces and the attainment of a healthy match between supply and demand of any commodity. Generally, it has been observed that a free play of market forces and free competition between producer of goods and services is very beneficial to the consumers and the suppliers.
In capitalist economy, allowing free competition and free interplay of market forces is considered sacrosanct. Governments seldom interfere in the market.

However, a free market can lead to undesirable consequences too. A situation may arise when either too much or too less of a certain product or service is being produced jeopardizing the interest of either the individual customer or the society as a whole. Such a situation is attributed to ‘Market Failure’.

The factors behind such distortion in market can be many, like – greed of industrialists, shortsightedness of an over-bearing government, callous indifference towards society’s needs, ineptitude of individuals taking decisions etc.

So, we can safely conclude that free-market mechanism is a fail-safe route to ensure optimum utilization and distribution of a country’s resources / assets. ‘Resources’ can include a very broad range of things like land, river, forests, ocean, cattle, transportation networks, education infrastructure, farm produce, minerals etc. It can also include man power resources like students, teachers, young skilled and unskilled workers, nurses, doctors, scientists, engineers, administrators, army men, police etc. etc.


Private cost, private gain, social cost and social gain –How to strike a balance .. Let us examine a case where an industrialist establishes a tannery and a shoe manufacturing unit near a village. As a result, he employs dozens of young men and women from the village, starts a leather technology polytechnic  near the village, repairs the village road to let loaded trucks come and go, offers to buy raw hide from local people, establishes a canteen where local people can buy food stuffs at reasonable rates. All these are meant to ensure smooth working of his business and, more importantly, to keep the local people in good humour.
All these cost him money. If we analyze these items of expenditure, we will see some of them are directly linked to his production, such as, cost of hide, chemicals, power bill, wages paid to staff, freight etc. The total of all these constitute what we term as ‘Private cost’.  Rest of the items such as widening of road, setting up a polytechnic, putting up a canteen etc. constitute ‘Social; cost’ to the entrepreneur. But, as we will see a little later, this is not the complete list of ‘Social Cost’.


For the villagers, the factory brought benefits such as employment, higher buying power, access to cheaper food items, access to a skill building education through the polytechnic etc. For the hide suppliers, it brought new business and new income.
For the shoe selling shops, it ensured steady supply of shoes, and so, ease of business. All these are classified as ‘Private gains’.


Un-accounted Social Cost … The tannery discharged its chemicals to nearby river, polluting it dangerously, and rendering it unsuitable for human use. The fishes died. Additionally, the factory’s chimney spewed toxic fumes rendering the air dangerous for inhaling. Thus, the tranquil, un-spoilt village lost its two life lines — water and air for ever. This is the additional ‘Social Cost’ generally ignored when all decisions are left to free- market forces. This cost must be added to the ‘Private Cost’ of the industrialist and recovered from him. He must be forced to treat the effluent and the fumes to render them harmless before being released to the environment.
When these costs are added, the cost of the finished shoes go up. It inconveniences the shoe buyer, but then it forces him to buy shoes only when necessary and try to conserve his shoes to reduce his buying. On the whole, although a little painful, due monitoring and imposition of environmental controls lead to  long term preservation of environment and optimum consumption of shoes.
Thus the government has responsibilities, and powers to regulate the free market forces from straying to a situation where the society suffers.


Definition of Market Failure

a. Market failure is a broad term. It happens when the price mechanism fails to allocate scarce resources efficiently or when the operation of market forces lead to a net social welfare loss.
b. A market failure occurs when the supply of a good or service is insufficient to meet demand. This results in an inefficient distribution of resources among market participants.

Market failure exists when the competitive outcome of markets is not satisfactory from the point of view of society. What is satisfactory nearly always involves value judgments.

Market failures happen in all societies, in all ages, and in all fields, be it industry, real estate, education, armed forces, healthcare, stock market operations, labour market, infrastructure development etc. NGOs, alert environment activists, economists, and media highlight these aberrations and force the government to step in correct the situation through legislative measures. These can be imposition of new taxes on goods being over produced, subsidies for goods and services being under- produced, imposition of partial bans, imposition of punitive penalties etc.


Some typical examples of ‘Market failure’…

1. Partly to gain popularity and partly out of concern for young children, pregnant mothers and the sick, government fixes the price of milk at Rs.25 a litre. The thousands of small rural milk producers are hit hard as the rate at which the large diaries buy milk from them falls. On the other hand, the urban middle and lower class consumers are elated as they can buy more milk at less cost.
Their joy is however short-lived. The resentful milk producers give up rearing cattle, sell off the cows and switch to some other profession. In a few months time milk availability falls sharply making it very scarce. The urban consumers vent their anger on the government.

2. During the World War 1, the British colonial administration forcibly recruited all available young men in villages to army. As a result, the farming activities in rural areas came to a standstill. Paddy, wheat and sugarcane production fell to near-zero level causing a famine in the countryside. The army got its soldiers, but the population went hungry.

3. The industrialist’s young son had got a gift of Rs. One Crore from his father. On the advice of a few of his ill-informed friends, he invested the money in the shares of an automobile company. In doing so, he disregarded the advice of his father to deposit the amount in a bank as fixed deposit. Sadly for the son, the company did not do well and was able to give just 2% dividend to its shareholders. The son got just 2 lakh in place of nearly 8 lakh which the bank could have given him for his fixed deposit.

4. Whenever a hydroelectric power plant is built, hundreds of villages are inundated driving lakhs of poor people out of their ancestral homes. Vast swathes of agricultural land are lost. Orchards drown, ponds are lost and places of worship are immersed. The environmental cost becomes painfully enormous. In return we get power for nearly six months a year.
The social cost of the hydroelectric project exceeds the benefit it brings to the society. This situation arises when the government assesses the impact of the proposed project too hastily.

5. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2010 is a case of the oil company British Petroleum’s (BP) efforts to maximize its profits at the cost of safety. The sub-contractor – Deepwater Horizon – was doing the drilling job deep under the sea when the accident happened causing a ruptured pipe to spew out huge quantities of crude oil into the water of the ocean. It took BP engineers a couple of days to plug the leak by which time the black oil had spread far and wide endangering aquatic life, damaging beaches and throwing the local fishing community out of their jobs.
It was a case of corporate greed and a reluctance to weigh the risks involved before undertaking a project. The oil industry is highly competitive and regulated by government. Yet, this colossal accident happened.
So, competition and government regulation do not necessarily guarantee due diligence on the part of large business houses. At the end, the society was the loser.

6. In India, the government encouraged starting of computer training institutions to meet the soaring demand for IT professionals. This yielded the desired results, but the time came when the best and brightest students shied away from science courses, and opted for IT education. This trend is not getting reversed, and the country’s leading science colleges, universities and labs are starved of brilliant students. Thus, due to inept planning and wrong policy implementation, the society loses.

Complete and partial market failure

• Complete market failure occurs when the market simply does not supply products at all – we see “missing markets”. Example .. The United States does no longer manufacture low value-added products like cast iron products, garments, toys, and imports them from China and other countries.
• Partial market failure occurs when the market does actually function but it produces either the wrong quantity of a product or at the wrong price. Example .. Take the case of dairy products like butter, cheese etc. India produces these items, no doubt, but the prices are way too high compared to those in New Zealand, EU countries etc.

Markets can fail for lots of reasons …..

1. Negative externalities (e.g. the effects of environmental pollution) causing the social cost of production to exceed the private cost. Example .. Factories situated in the banks of the Yangtze River in China. Their effluents have spiked the pollution level so much that traditional fishing folks do not get enough fishes to catch.

2. Positive externalities (e.g. the provision of education and health care) causing the social benefit of consumption to exceed the private benefit. Example … In France, the government provides very generous post retirement benefits to its population. This has burdened the budget and forced the government to increase taxes. As a result, net individual incomes have shrunk, and French goods have become uncompetitive in the export market. The economy as a whole has taken a hit.

3. Imperfect information or information failure means that merit goods are under-produced while demerit goods are over-produced or over-consumed. Example … India needs cheap basic drugs, vaccines and simple medical equipments to cater to the needs of the rural masses. India does not as much need sophisticated drugs needed for treating rare diseases like Dementia etc. So, government must promote ventures that cater to the needs of the poor rural folks suffering from malnutrition-related diseases, pre and post natal complications, Dengue, Malaria etc. Sadly, this emphasis is lacking.

4. The private sector in a free-markets cannot profitably supply to consumers pure public goods and quasi-public goods that are needed to meet people’s needs and wants. Example … Students need inexpensive, but high quality text books, nutritious, but simple mid-day meals, low-cost water purifiers and inexpensive computers. Obviously, few companies in India would like to enter this arena. So, the students suffer and the society loses.

5. Market dominance by monopolies can lead to under-production and higher prices than would exist under conditions of competition, causing consumer welfare to be damaged. Example … MNC automobile companies in India do not manufacture low-cost cars like Nano. Instead they produce high-value luxury SUVs. India needs these cars, but it needs more of Nano type cars.

6. Factor immobility causes unemployment and a loss of productive efficiency. Example .. America has clamped restrictions on the entry of Indian IT workers under H1B visa. This has adversely affected the efficiency and competitiveness of American IT firms.

7. Equity (fairness) issues. Markets can generate an ‘unacceptable’ distribution of income and consequent social exclusion which the government may choose to change. Example … In India, in the last few years we have witnessed some huge scams relating to coal mining, iron ore mining, real estate transactions, telecom licensing etc. Corruption angle apart, such cornering of the nation’s assets by a few companies and individuals has resulted in huge amounting of money landing in the pockets of a few crooked individuals. The miners who toil in the mines braving the hazards have seen no increase in their earnings. This is a clear case of unequal distribution of income leading to the social exclusion of the labourers who work in mines, construction sites etc.



Her Head by Joan Murray

Her Head by Joan Murray

Near Ekuvukeni,
in Natal, South Africa,
a woman carries water on her head.
After a year of drought,
when one child in three is at risk of death,
she returns from a distant well,
carrying water on her head.
Explanation …. Drought has ravaged the settlement named Ekuvukeni in the province of Natal in South Africa. Life has become scare making life for the women folk very hard indeed. As wells and water bodies have dried up in the parched land, a woman has to walk long distances to fetch water from distant wells. She brings the water by keeping the pail on her head.


The pumpkins are gone,
the tomatoes withered,
yet the woman carries water on her head.
The cattle kraals are empty,
the goats gaunt—
no milk now for children,
but she is carrying water on her head.
Explanation ….. The means of livelihood for the inhabitants of the area are nearly destroyed due to lack of water. Vegetable plants like pumpkin and tomatoes have shriveled, unable to survive in the parched earth. There is no respite for the woman. Water is indispensible for life. So, she continues to haul water on her head.


The engineers have reversed the river:
those with power can keep their power,
but one woman is carrying water on her head.
In the homelands, where the dusty crowds
watch the empty roads for water trucks,
one woman trusts herself with treasure,
and carries water on her head.
Explanation … The authorities have blocked the flow of water so that hydroelectric power plants have enough water to generate power. The privileged folks living in the upstream areas are much better off. Life in the downstream areas has become a real grind. People wait for water trucks winding their way in the mud tracks. Dust flies all round shrouding the thirsty folks waiting for the water trucks. But, the woman has no option but to trudge on with her load of water on her head.


The sun does not dissuade her,
not the dried earth that blows against her,
as she carries the water on her head.
In a huge and dirty pail,
with an idle handle,
resting on a narrow can,
this woman is carrying water on her head.
Explanation …. Undeterred by the scorching sun and the blasts of dust that buffet her along the way, she lumbers on carrying the large old pail on her head.


This woman, who girds her neck
with safety pins, this one
who carries water on her head,
trusts her own head to bring to her people
what they need now
between life and death:
She is carrying them water on her head.
Explanation … Water is the lifeline for her family. So, no matter how hard it is to bring it, she brings the water pail on her head. Her neck is girded by safety pins. She relies on her head to carry the load of water. She considers it her foremost duty to ensure her folks do not suffer thirst and perish. So, she does not demur to do the grueling work of fetching water.

The Lotus by Tory Dutt

The Lotus-Toru Dutt (1856-1877)

Love came to Flora asking for a flower
That would of flowers be undisputed queen,
The lily and the rose, long, long had been
Rivals for that high honour. Bards of power
Had sung their claims. “The rose can never tower
Like the pale lily with her Juno mien”–
“But is the lily lovelier?” Thus between
Flower-factions rang the strife in Psyche’s bower.

Explanation …. Love is the name of the beautiful princess who was courted by Cupid (the god of love in Roman mythology). Cupid wanted to make Love his wife. Love has the mythological name ‘Psyche’.
a. On one occasion, Love approached Flora (The Roman Goddess of flowers and spring) and asked for a flower that would have the magnetic seductiveness of the rose, and the majesty, grace and freshness of the lily.
b. For a long time, the rose and the lily had vied (competed) for the high throne of Queen of Flowers. The competition had become quite keen due to the patronizing of the two rival flowers by eminent poets.
c. The poets who adored rose criticized lily saying it looked pale and stood looking like the goddess Juno. Those who admired lily heaped praise on it profusely. Thus, the flower loving poet community was split into two factions – the rose camp and the lily camp. They engaged in their arguments sitting under the cool shade of the Psyche tree.

“Give me a flower delicious as the rose
And stately as the lily in her pride”–
“But of what colour?”–“Rose-red,” Love first chose,
Then prayed,–“No, lily-white,–or, both provide;”
And Flora gave the lotus, “rose-red” dyed,
And “lily-white,”–the queenliest flower that blows.

Explanation ….. d. Love came to Flora and asked for a flower that would have the elegance and charm of the red rose. Moments later, she changed her mind and opted for the fresh white lily. Still undecided on her choice, she asked Flora to give her a flower that would have the best of the both, the red rose and the white lily.
e. Flora quickly conceived the Lotus that had the attributes of both the red rose in colour and the majesty and towering stance of the lily. Love was greatly delighted as the Lotus was both red and stately in appearance.