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From a teacher of midnight's children

By Anita Joshua


Interesting Times in India: A short Decade at St. Stephen's College, Daniel O'Connor, Penguin, Rs. 295.

HAVING arrived in admission season, Interesting Times in India: A Short Decade at St. Stephen's College probably has a captive audience among all those school-leaving students eager to get into what is still regarded as one of the top-of-the-line institutions of the country. After all, there is that "interview" — where anything under the sun can be asked — to be cleared which West Bengal Governor and alumnus of St. Stephen's, Gopal Gandhi, talks about in his afterword.

Setting foot on Indian soil in the twilight days of the Nehruvian era, Daniel O'Connor offers a C.F. Andrews kind of Britisher's account of a country battling with the uncertainty of the following decade. Beginning with a nation coming to grips with a post-Nehruvian existence, O'Connor's decade in India saw two wars, the Bihar famine of 1966, and the emergence on India's map and lexicon, a word called "Naxalbari".

Since the students of St. Stephen's also got caught in the momentum of revolutionary activities under the influence of Maoism and the Naxalite movement, O'Connor reflects at considerable length on the politics of the time. Though the book belongs to the genre of a personal memoir, the author set out on this journey primarily because the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, Bangalore, wanted him to put on record whatever he remembered of the Naxalite episode.

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