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   River Dog
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
05 Apr 2013
in this part of the world could be as magical as the mighty Brahmaputra, the father of all rivers in the sub-continent, an amazing labyrinth of treacherous cross-currents, whirlpools and ever shifting sandbanks. Flowing along it are lives, lifestyles and livelihoods of myriad cultures belonging to diverse religions and tribes entrenched within the ever-changing meanders of the river. The river not only gives life but it takes it away too. But no one blames the river. It is their destiny!

Tipped as the ‘last great Asian adventure', Mark Shand's journey on boat sweeping eighteen hundred miles through three countries could only act as a frontrunner to those (like this reviewer) planning to undertake a portion of the journey in the floodplains, from Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh to Guwahati in Assam. But it belies promise as the author invests better part of the otherwise interesting narrative in search of a 'river dog', and less about the river he had set out to explore. Since the Chinese didn’t permit him to travel through the Tsangpo in Tibet, what would have been an exhilarating travel through the international border could not be accomplished. Nonetheless, the author provides edge-of-the-seat excitement in his search for one of those five hundred specially tagged logs that were thrown upstream of the river in Tibet during late nineteenth century to establish once and for all whether the Tsangpo flowed into the Brahmaputra after it disappears into the mountain gorges.

Though informative and entertaining, Shand's travel through the mighty river in India doesn't offer adequate tips to those who may wish to traverse this enormous water course on boat. Yet, it is perceptive travel writing that is loaded with eccentric excitement. Without doubt, the river is unique as it embraces the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam and nurtures hundreds of tribal beliefs along its treacherous course. At another level, it offers an amazing treatise on local, sub-regional, regional and global implications of the somewhat contentious flow of the river on communities, institutions, states and beyond. Having been on the footsteps of Mark Shand, though partially, one can safely suggest that if current trans-boundary imbroglio on harnessing its waters is any indication, there is nothing less than a status of ‘global heritage’ that can sustain its flow for future boat journeys of this kind.

River Dog: A Journey Down The Brahmaputra
by Mark Shand
Abacus, UK
338 pages, $16.95

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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