Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gachar Gochar - the Problems Wealth Brings

Usually we blame our problems on lack of wealth. Gachar Gochar, written by Vivek Shanbhag in Kannada and translated into English by Srinath Perur argues the opposite: wealth brings problems it its wake. Gachar Gohchar manages to make its point very succinctly, in only 115 pages through the story of a Kannada family which goes from lower middle class existence to prosperity following the success of a spice business the family starts with the corpus received from the forced voluntary retirement of its sole earning member.

The narrator, a member of the family, takes you through how the family gradually loses its coherence as wealth comes in. The spontaneous family gatherings stop, the dependence on each other goes, minor differences which had found scant attention earlier start developing into prominent fissures, some of its members scuttle their responsibilities and settle for easier choices money and power can provide; gradually middle class values, which had held the family together earlier,  erode. The narrator makes timely interventions stepping back from the story and giving observations on the happenings to press home the point: that it’s the new entrant money which is behind the changing complexion of the family.

Despite the seriousness of the topic, Shanbhag manages to make you laugh for most part of the book with situations that are common to all middle class joint families. But what impresses you the most is the rootedness of Gachar Gochar into the world that it belongs to. 

Vivek has captured the idiosyncrasies of a middle class family excellently through their day-to-day habits and practices, like a discussion started at the dinner table far outlasting the food and the family members hearing engrossed even as the remnants of the food is caking up on their fingers or a member absent-mindedly picking up grains of rice from his plate and putting them in his mouth one by one as he his listening to what’s being told.

The story is inconclusive, in that the family doesn’t lose the acquired wealth and return to poverty; but towards the end, a sudden outburst by the narrator’s wife, Anita, the only daughter of a professor, and ill at ease in the atmosphere of new money that is her husband’s family, against the patriarch of the family (Chikkappa) who takes care of the spice business and whose authority in the family never suffers a dissent - throws the faultlines into sharp focus: that new money also creates a certain power structure of which others live and to ensure continuity of their vested interests they avoid challenging it, however unscrupulous be its way of ensuring that continuity.  

Following the outburst by Anitha the suffocating silence maintained by the family members on Chikkappa is broken – and in a throwback to the old times, the family gets together again around Chikkappa to hear his stories.

The end is like outpouring of rain following a parched day. Gachar Gochar is another example of the gold mine that is our vernacular literature. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The New Type of Leader in the World of Politics

There is a new type of leader finding acceptability in the world of politics. Political rhetoric has always been one of appropriateness where conventional or traditionally acceptable views are considered safe. Issues change but how they are talked about by the conventional political leader remains the same. 

The new type of leader is breaking this mold. They don’t care about traditional views. They are blunt. They say the unsayable. They often put their foot wrong with their comments and earn all round derision, but get up, shake off the dust and start walking again. They apparently don’t care about their image but end up creating one for themselves. And surprisingly, this new type of leader is finding political success.

With every passing day, Donald Trump is inching towards becoming the Republican candidate for presidency. And as the silver-haired American millionaire spouts one politically blasphemous statement after another, Indians are saying: “Doesn’t he remind us of someone closer home?” 

Conservative French politician, who is now an MP, Marine Le Pen, who is often called xenophobic, is another example of modern day politicians who are not afraid of expressing unconventional (or even unpalatable) views.

A general brashness, though, is not the only attribute characterizing all of them. Some of them, in fact, may appear like a chip off the old block, in terms of general behavior, but occasionally, when an issue warrants, they show scant regard for tradition. Roughly six months ago, David Cameron said ‘it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none.’ And despite the instant disapproval of British intelligentsia, he never apologized or tried to explain himself.

However, if you see beyond the bravado and examine the comments of the brave hearts in the light of current global realities, the brave hearts will appear less foolhardy and more pragmatic. You will realize they are making unconventional statements because they know they reflect the opinion of masses, that even if they are lambasted by the cognoscenti, they will gain politically. And it is working. People feel these leaders are less pretentious, that they say what is obvious but unsaid. When they speak people feel heard. Elections after elections have shown that these sentiments convert into votes. 

This trend is a fallout of mainly two geopolitical realities. One is growing Islamic extremism and global financial crisis – which none of the conventional political leaders and parties have been able to handle very effectively. Growing Islamic terrorism has meant many things – security concerns (as a direct effect of the phenomenon), cultural insecurities (due to immigrants from Muslim countries pouring into Western countries that they culturally share very less in common with), opposition to a common currency in Europe, etc.

To address the fallout of some of these issues, conventional parties have been seen shifting their ideological position. Conservative European parties have shifted towards the left from their right ideological position, and vice versa. Angela Merkel, in a move inconceivable of a conservative leader, opened the gates of Germany to immigrants from Muslim countries. Hollande, the French president, his socialist ideological moorings notwithstanding, has had to resort to war mongering and strict security measures (affecting the Muslims). In Britain, the Conservative Party led by David Cameroon has had to go soft on some of the traditional conservative values. This shifting of ideological position, particularly by the conservative parties, has left a vacuum on the far right, which, many say, has led to the rise of far right leaders.

Although American politics is a little simpler than Europe with only two parties occupying the entire ideological space, America shares some problems with Europe, mainly those related to security and economy. And its conservative party – The Republicans – being an establishment party, has not been able to veer too much off the beaten path on these issues.  Donald Trump is a result of that.  

The number of the new type of leader will grow and the number of people feeling represented (or their views and sentiments reflected by them) by them will increase too if mainstream politicians and political parties continue to be wishy washy when it comes to certain issues that directly affect the lives of citizens. Conversely, it is also true that if these leaders become part of establishments they will acquire a political sobriety which now typifies the conventional politician. Either way the new type of leader will leave the political firmament transformed in many ways.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is my first exposure to Stephen King’s fiction. But not my first exposure to his writing – I read his ‘Stephen King on Writing’ some years ago where he advocates a workmanlike attitude to writing instead of an esoteric approach the other books I had read on writing and related subjects had advised. Does a writer stands stripped before his reader if he reveals the tricks and methods he employs to spin his yarns? Well, King, among the most successful authors in America, doesn’t think so.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, a collection of short stories King has written over a period of time and some poems, marks a re-manifestation of that belief. Every short story - some of them are sometimes not exactly short running into enough number of pages to be a novella - is preceded by an author’s note on the source of inspiration of the following story and sometimes the author’s reflection on the subject the stories are based on. I found these notes very interesting and truth be told sometimes more interesting than the stories. He explains how an incomplete idea, a rough idea, even a thought string - has the potential to be developed into a full-fledged story.  

Some of the gems are. An idea can sometimes remain in the depth of an attic (of your mind) and requires retrieving from there. Another is an idea sometimes come as a cup without its accompanying handle – and the handle can come to you from the most unlikeliest of situations without any outward appearance of being the missing handle to the cup. 

Once, when King was shopping in a departmental store, he was approached by an elderly woman who asked him why he didn’t write stories like Shawshank Redemption. When King said Shawshank Redemption was written by him, the woman refused to believe. Fame can be so limiting!

One of the stated purposes of the book is to show that King’s quiver of creativity has more variety to offer his readers than scary stories to which King owes his fame as a writer. I agree King can offer much more than ghost stories, which is quite evident from the stories, but almost all the stories show a tendency to return to King’s familiar turf: horror, some subtle, some a little gross, but horror. But of course, they have a lot else to them than that.

None of the stories is bald horror. They have properly developed characters with their world explained in detail. And horror is not a persistent theme with most of them. In some of them it’s just a ruse to end a story. In some horror is a plot possibility King slowly builds up towards.  And even those with the express intent to scare have an interesting body of narrative which works without the smattering of horror moments.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Many Threads of Hinduism - Evolution of a Faith

There are many views on Hinduism and Many Threads of Hinduism, essays on Hinduism by Bankim Chandra, the famous Bengali novelist, compiled by Alo Shome, doesn’t contest or confirm them but mainly aims to inform the reader about how Hinduism evolved over time. The earliest texts of Hinduism, their hierarchical order, how different political and historical forces have altered the position of Hinduism in the society, the other spiritual strain of thoughts Hinduism has had to share space with, the thinkers who have influenced it, the concept of one god, all find place in the book.

The essays were written by Bankim Chandra for a magazine and they essentially reflect his views on Hinduism and as it stood vis-a-vis the society and polity of his time, the end part of 18th century. Bankim is one of the most famed Bengali novelists who probably is among the earliest practitioners of the art form in India.  His novels are on social conditions and reforms with some dosage of religion. One of his novels, Anadamath, where a group of militant Hindu monks rise against the misrule of Mir Zafar, dealt with militant Hinduism and earned Bankim the reputation of espousing anti-Muslim views. Alo Shome has argued that the writer was anything but...militant Hinduism came in for criticism in Anadamath towards the end.

There was probably another reason why Bankim Chandra was unlikely to be outrightly supportive of Hindu extremism – his rounded education. He went to a convent school in Medinipur - and had a balanced view of the world.

This balanced view becomes more apparent towards the later part of the book where Bankim Chandra’s own Bengali tutor Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, another iconic figure who contributed to the development of the Bengali language, come in for criticism for his insistence that  the Hindu society be monogamous. Why? Just because our scriptures have no mention to the contrary (taking their silence as their disapproval of polygamy). 

I reread this to make sure I was reading right – that Bankim was in disagreement with his former tutor because of his insistence on monogamy – but later I realized it was not because of his former tutor's insistence on monogamy, which is obviously a more socially acceptable and progressive thing to do, but because of his insistence of a practice just because it was in agreement with the scriptures. In other words, following the scriptures for guidance on how we should lead our lives. 

This, according to me, underlines Bankim’s attitude towards religion. In the essays, he tells several times that Hindus don't follow what’s there in the scriptures nor is it possible to do so – because, he reasons, these books were written based on the existing realities and beliefs of the times in which they were written – and realities change over time. He says the very way the society conducts itself or its hierarchy is structured, is at variance with what’s recommended by the scriptures. And no one is going to change anything to put them in sync with scriptural recommendations.

Bankim Chandra says the idea of one god never and many gods has coexisted in Hinduism without one cancelling out the other. What has helped them coexist is worshipping various gods or powers representing different elements (like vayu, rain etc) has always been seen as a means to reach out to one supreme being. In the Vedas “sometimes the master of universe has been addressed as Indra, at other times he is addressed as Varuna, Agni or Surya”.

Although commonly four Vedas are believed to exist (Rik, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), some ancient books hold that there are only three Vedas (Rik, Yajur and Sama). There is another school of thought on the Vedas, that all of them were once one book – and later they were divided into different parts. The fact that parts of mantras of one Veda are often found in another Veda strengthens this belief.

Each Veda (Rik, Yajur or Sama) is not a separate book, but a class of knowledge. “Actually a Veda contains so much material that each one can fill a library.” However, each Veda has three parts – Mantra, Brahamana and Upanishad.

Through the book, Bankim’s attitude towards faith, in general, and Hinduism, in particular, comes across as tentative and questioning one which is devoid of any rigidity. This is only to be expected given his scholarly temperament which would have led to the tendency to engage with the ideas of faith and reason that were being dealt with by Western thinkers (he quotes John Stuart Mill, 1806 - 73) of his time. 

Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, published in 1859, which argued species evolve through natural selection debunking the god as creator theory forced many Western thinkers to realign their thinking about faith and religion.

However, Bankim didn’t completely throw away his faith in view of Darwin’s theory, although he makes generous allowance for it. “But even if Darwin’s theory is true, it does not prove the non-existence of God. Lack of evidence about something or somebody’s existence doesn’t prove his non-existence.”

The Gita remained his soulful book (a moral navigator) and he had started writing his interpretation of the Gita only to die before he could finish it.

Bankim Chandra lived from 1838 -1894…and for most of his life the Indian society was in a state flux…with big social and political changes taking place. Supoy Mutiny in 1857, a historical event which marked the flashpoint of religious acrimony festering with the natives for several years caused by multiple factors - faiths jostling for space in the society, aggressive evangelism practiced by Christian missionaries, the declining Mughal empire, the administration and governance of India moving from the East India Company to the Queen of England,  the first faint clamors  for independence (which would lead to a nation-wide crescendo with Mahatma Gandhi emergence as a national leader about 12 to 15 years after the death of Bankim) among the educated elite of India.

Understandably, these changes had left the Indian society flummoxed with questions concerning identities (national, religious etc), one’s loyalty to society and nation and a search for a common anchoring (moral, religious, national). These essays, in a way, try to find answers to some of these questions – not in Hindu religious text but from within Indian societies, from past precedents and ideas of foreign origin like nationhood and nationalism (nationalism comes in for considerable criticism because of the example of hostility and warfare it was setting in Europe) which had not reached the Indian mainstream until then.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Another Assembly Election in Bengal

Bengal is going to go through an assembly election very shortly. Before the last assembly election in Bengal, I had visited Calcutta. On my way home from the Netaji Subhas Airport I had talked to two people about the imminent assembly election - the man standing before me in the taxi queue and the taxi driver - trying to catch the mood of the city on the election eve.

It was almost a foregone conclusion that Trinomool Congress (TMC) would come to power, that the days of the Left were over.
From my questions the taxi driver probably guessed I had come to Calcutta after a long time (which wasn’t true) – and may or mayn’t be very familiar with the city’s roads (which is true although I have grown up in the city) – and therefore could be taken for a ride. To confirm it, he asked me which route I preferred taking – and I said any road which would take me home sooner.

After 10 days, while returning to Bangalore, I was driven to the airport by a taxi driver I and my family have known for a long time. When I told him the fare I paid from airport to home, he looked back with dilated eyes: “The bugger fleeced you by a long shot.”

During the 10 day stay, from my discussions with people, I felt the cross currents of opinions and emotions about the political change to come. Everyone I had small talks with was sure that the Left (led by CPM) was on its way out and TMC was coming in, like that man in the taxi queue and the driver (the bugger who fleeced me). But those were the only two things those I spoke to were unanimous about; everything else differed from person to person.

The anticipation abut a new party coming in was natural given two things: (a) the Left had ruled Bengal without any beak since 1977, so many, in Bengal, were going to see a new party in power for the first time in their lives or the first time since acquiring political consciousness; (b) it was the first time TMC would make the transition from a feisty opposition to a ruling party.

Four years later, many would say that they did that transition without an accompanying transformation in their attitude towards politics: which continues to be one of wild belligerence we associate with oppositions and not one of collectiveness and maturity we expect from a ruling party.
The differing parts were truly varied. 

Some said TMC would only bring more hooliganism as the party was nothing but a group of rag tag elements. Some had decided TMC wouldn’t be able to deliver on the changes they were promising. “How can you give jobs to everyone?” They thundered. Some said: “Let them come; things can’t get worse than this.” 

Some I spoke to were unambiguously unhappy about the Left’s departure. They were equally uncomfortable with the possibility of TMC coming in. This group needs taking a closer look at.
Most of them (except one) are not hard core Left supporters in that they don’t have any ideological leaning towards the Left. Their support for the Left chiefly comes from one concern: the belief that only Left is culturally refined enough to represent them – and also that the TMC is a party by and for the uncouth. 

Even after the TMC’s stay in power for close to five years now, these concerns have remained. The economy has not improved substantially (Bengal continues to be a place with very few job opportunities). Maturity and mellowness have continued to be elusive for TMC and Mamta Banerjee (its leader). 

There are many instances where the party cadre and the leader reacted violently to provocations more mature political outfits would have ignored (like a Jadavpur University professor who had drawn a cartoon lampooning a recent political situation being beaten by party goons and arrested). The law and order situation has deteriorated. The government often interferes with the police doing its duty. Recently, in Malda, the government asked the police to go soft on rioters. Communalism has received encouragement in many ways.

But is this reason enough to yearn for a return of the Left? No.

Partly the perception that the TMC hasn’t done anything in the four plus years comes from the bad press the party and Mamta Banerjee have earned due to what were mostly political and administrative indiscretions (at least the law and order situations could have been avoided). And people tend lose patience with any party which comes to power on very high expectations too soon. The Modi Sarkar is a point in case.

A closer look may reveal a streak or two of hope. Calcutta has a better transport system now. The connectivity is much better than before through new infrastructural projects TMC has carried out. The TMC has been shopping for investments for some time now and although nothing much has changed on ground, one needs remember that signed MOUs take time to convert into reality. 

Additionally the Left had left the economy in a shambles and a complete recovery will take its time.
Although the TMC looks like to win, they will surely lose some political ground to other contenders (BJP and of course the Left) due to the mistakes they have made – and that may have a sobering effect on them. And maybe in the second term we will have a better TMC trying to avoid repeating the first-term goofups and working towards taking its unfinished tasks to conclusion.

One of the Left sympathizers I mentioned above asked me a few months ago why they wouldn’t be able to come if they learned from their mistakes. At that time for a passing moment I had felt he had a point. If voted to power, what if a new Left resumed the industrialization agenda of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya sans the mistakes he made?

But the more I thought about it the less plausible it seemed.

The Left can but it won't for a few reasons. Probably it will be able to bring some industrial houses but for a healthy economy you require multiple players in each area. For this to happen, given where things stand today, there needs to be a lot of changes...in government policies... labour laws, tax structure etc. Tweaking them to help business houses will run into heavy opposition from within and outside the Left...a pursuit of market friendly policies will further dilute the credibility of the national anti-NDA front of which the Left is a major player.

 So if we agree that economic revival is the only thing Bengal needs, the TMC, being a less-ideologically constrained party which hardly requires any internal consensus being a one-man show, stands on a stronger ground to deliver.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why Indian train travel still leaves a lot to desire

Whereas a flight travel is an anodyne affair, a train journey is always lively and colorful. Through a train window you see a world constantly receding away.  You strike interesting conversations (and even friendships) with people who were strangers a little while earlier and would be strangers again. You frequently eat things keeping your health concern on hold as long as the journey lasts.

The romanticism of the journey gets rudely interrupted when you visit the loo or look at the litter caused by fellow passengers (us) on the tracks and inside the train. This is the worst part of travelling by train.

Partly the blame goes to us who travel and litter, but partly (and substantially) it’s waste management to blame. When you travel by train you feel there is complete absence of an efficient garbage management system. Either there are no bins in compartments or they are so far from the seats, located next to washrooms, that it takes quite an effort going to them and dropping something. Even if you make that effort (at least while on your way back to seat from loos) there is no guarantee that you will be able to drop anything into the bin: mostly they are filled to the brim; their contents are not removed frequently enough.

So people just chuck things on the floor or out of the window. The latter leads to another problem: filth on tracks. This practice is sometimes even encouraged by train cleaning staff who often ask people to just chuck things out of the window and themselves accumulate litter on the passageway between two compartments and push it into the track. The old Indian practices of defecating on train tracks is very much alive. The poor tracks are also recipients of human waste offloaded by trains.

All these make rail lines unsightly and a source of stench. Imagine being stuck interminably long, it’s hot and stuffy inside the train and you are not able to open the window to avoid being hit by a blast of stink!

As far as discharge of human excreta on the rails is concerned, after doing a Google search, I realized it’s a global problem.  An article reported that in the UK there is a concern over train toilet sewage offloaded on tracks which hamper repairs and cause hygiene concerns. Some other countries, in the West, also contend with the same problem. Restroom Association of Singapore, an association which aims to improve toilet behavior in Singapore, ran a campaign called Let's Observe Ourselves (LOO) to educate users about basic things related to public health, hygiene and toilet etiquette.

The UK article says that the solution to trains having to offload their fecal waste on tracks is putting chambers underneath the toilets; but the problem is old trains don’t have enough space between the axels to accommodate a chamber.

That leaves us with litter disposal. One can say cleanliness comes at a price. Travel in an AC coach and you will not find so many cleanliness issues. But that’s not right. The cleaning staff for both AC and non-AC coaches are same: just that they pay less attention to the non-AC ones, but they collect tips from all the compartments nonetheless.

But the good news is the Indian Railways has outsourced cleaning to private parties. So you can see accountability with the cleaners – towards the end of the journey they come and check if things were all right and ask for tips; but as far as the non-AC compartments are concerned, that’s among the one or two times they appear during, say, a one and half day journey. The non-AC travelers, additionally, are approached by hijras (transgenders) at every station – they don’t contribute to the lack of cleanliness, but surely are one of the reasons why travelling by train in India is an unforgettable affair, albeit for the wrong reasons.

But frankly, on a broader scale, trains have improved a lot since the 80s and 90s. You have fewer people without reservation onboard. Some trains, in fact, don't allow anyone on waiting list on board - and go at considerable length to enforce that. The bathrooms may leave a lot to desire but generally they are much cleaner than in the earlier decades. 

There are more train options nowadays. Getting a ticket is easier, much easier, than before, thanks to the fact that they can be purchased online (and although many still prefer buying tickets the old way, the online option really works). And as my mini online research revealed many problems we traditionally complain about are also to be found in other countries. It's only that things could get better. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Quiet, an Insightful Take on Introversion

Have you ever been told it’s all right if while at a party you like to occupy a quiet corner to avoid socializing; that it’s okay to feel troubled by underrated emotions like doubt and fear; that maybe you were overlooked for a promotion because your colleague had the ‘right personality’ for the role; that there is nothing wrong with you if you feel overwhelmed by some social situations and take time to come to terms with them? Susan Cain argues, in Quiet, all this means you are blessed with the personality syndrome that some of the most creative and revolutionary thinkers have (or had): introversion.

Quiet makes a strong case for introversion (or introverts) by passionately arguing that it’s the introverts who were behind some of the greatest achievements of the human race (like the theory of relativity) and equally acerbically ascribing some of the problems in modern times (like the subprime mortgage issue) to our tendency to overlook introverts and place problems that require deeper insights – which are more likely to come, according to Cain, from introverts - at the service of exTaketroverts.

But is the barrier separating introversion from extroversion so simple? Aren’t we a bit of both? A person who is gregarious while among friends can be reserved among strangers. A person who is generally lighthearted can be surprisingly insightful, in some situations. Haven’t we seen many shy and reserved types excel in professional areas which are considered exclusive domains of extroverts?

Cain doesn’t challenge the theory of Carl Jung who said there is no such person as absolute introvert or extrovert and such a person would have his place only in a mental asylum…She says we share cross traits of introversion and extroversion and your personality type depends on which side of the divide the traits that are intense in you fall. To add nuance to this line of argument, she interviews people belonging to both personality types and also draws from her personal experience as an introvert.

However, Susan doesn’t restrict her research to interviews and personal experience, but delves into the scientific aspect of her subject, too – and establishes beyond doubt that introversion is a biological characteristic we are born with and not something we acquire during our lifetime. Children who are very alive to their environment – high reactive types - turn out to be introverts whereas those with low sensitivity to their environments become extroverts, low reactive types. Although introverts become more outgoing as years go by, they remain introverts at the core.

Courtesy of the high premium we place as a society on extroverted traits, Cain informs, there are many who hide their introversion and masquerade as extroverts only to wake up to their real selves when they meet with a crisis . Not only society at large but even corporations overrate extroverted traits and extroverts are misconstrued as ‘natural leaders’, an error of judgement which caused the subprime crisis where those showing risk taking capabilities (an extroverted trait) where put in positions of leadership and decision making overlooking those less inclined to take risks or prefer taking calculated and thoughtful risks instead of plunging headlong into something they know little about.

Cain interviewed children of migrants coming from eastern cultures and concludes that, unlike in the west, extroversion is not prized so much in the east (especially in Confucian cultures) where silence is considered golden and observation of hierarchies (age-based or social) appreciated. (It reminded me of a Time magazine article which said that one of the reasons democracy doesn’t flourish in Asia is that there is too much insistence on unquestioning respect for people in positions of power - like a teacher, a ruling family or an older person – which runs contrary to the very idea of democracy which bases itself on questioning.)

The introverted children Cain interviewed, in some of the most prestigious American institutions, mostly said they wanted to be extroverts to be more in sync with how their institutes want them to be.

Being an introvert herself and being very proud of being one, Cain sometimes reads a little biased towards introverts. Almost all the introverts she interviewed and mentions in Quiet are either stupendously successful (like Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs etc.) or hold promise for success (like those migrant children) – sometimes reading like a motivational book for introverts rather than an analytical effort on the subject.

Cain looks at cultures other than American but very briefly and broadly – and thus misses a point or two about her subject. For example, in India, as in America, extroverted traits enjoy greater social approval than their introspective counterparts, but the virtues of quiet are not altogether overlooked.

These are the two flaws I found in what is otherwise a spectacular book.

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