Archive for West Bengal

another book on J.B.S. Haldane [review of a book review]

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2020 by xi'an

As I noticed a NYT book review of a most recent book on J.B.S. Haldane, I realised several other books had already been written about him. From an early 1985 biography, “Haldane: the life and work of J.B.S. Haldane with special references to India” followed by a “2016 biographyPopularizing Science” along an  2009 edited book on some Haldane’s essays, “What I require from life“, all by Krishna R. Dronamraju to a 1969 biography with the cryptic title “J.B.S.“, by Richard Clarke, along with a sensational 2018 “Comrade Haldane Is Too Busy to Go on Holiday: The Genius Who Spied for Stalin” by Gavan Tredoux, depicting him as a spy for the Soviet Union during WW II. (The last author is working on a biography of Francis Galton, hopefully exonerating him of spying for the French! But a short text of him comparing Haldane and Darlington appears to support the later’s belief in racial differences in intelligence…) I also discovered that J.B.S. had written a children book, “Mr Friend Mr. Leaky“, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Roald Dahl’s illustrator. (Charlotte Franken Haldane, J.B.S.’s first wife, also wrote a considerable number of books.)

The NYT review is more a summary of Haldane’s life than an analysis of the book itself, hard as it is not to get mesmerised by the larger-than-life stature of J.B.S. It does not dwell very long on the time it took Haldane to break from the Communist Party for its adherence to the pseudo-science Lysenko (while his wife Charlotte had realised the repressive nature of the Soviet regime much earlier, which may have led to their divorce). While the review makes no mention at all of Haldane’s ideological move to the ISI in Kolkata, it concludes with “for all his failings, he was “deeply attractive during a time of shifting, murky moralities.”” [The double quotes being the review quoting the book!]

Darjeeling shortage

Posted in Mountains, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2018 by xi'an

When looking for Darjeeling tea in the recent days, I found out that the summer (or second flush) harvest has been very limited due to a 104 day strike in the region linked with the call for the creation of a Gorkhaland state and the separation from West Bengal. I remember discussing the issue last year in Darjeeling, with guides and taxi drivers, who were calling for the recognition of their cultural specificities, including the use of Nepali in local schools rather than Bengali. What amazes me a lot in this strike is the engagement of the tea garden workers, who have certainly few alternatives if any in terms of income sources. Unless I misread the situation and they were barred from attending the gardens… (Of lesser concern is the rise of the tea prices by a factor of ten for the highest quality leaves.) Hopefully, the tea gardens will recover from being left to grow wild for such a long while. And from workers leaving the region to find work elsewhere.