The Kargil cliffhanger

For his devastatingly critical book on the South Asian Subcontinent and its peoples, Nirad Chaudhari chose an intriguing title: The Continent of Circe. Who or what was or is Circe? When I bought the book many years ago, I found Circe was an enchantress who lived on the island of Aeaea in the Aegean Sea. When fog and storm took Odysseus to her island lair, she caused his companions to lose their human form, and thus began one more of the many ordeals of Odysseus. This is Greek mythology and, for Nirad Chaudhari, an interesting allegory for the subject of his book.

Myths and allegories apart, even a cursory survey of the major political events of South Asia during this century does suggest in one's mind an image of a Subcontinent that is, indeed, under some kind of spell that inhibits good and promotes evil. It is, however, not a spell cast by an enchantress. It happens to be wholly self-induced and fostered by a kind of death-wish such as the one that drives lemmings to the sea.

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Himal Southasian