Colour of India

Colour of India

Saturday, July 30, 2011



Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.  -Pablo Picasso

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.  ~Leonardo da Vinci

Painting is silent poetry.  ~Plutarch, Moralia: How to Study Poetry

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.  ~William Faulkner

Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail.  ~Theodore Dreiser, Life, Art, and America, 1917

William Hodges (1744- 97)

Most of the English painters and artists who came to India in the second half of the 18th Century and the first half of the 19th Century were all amateurs. Quite unlike all of them, William Hodges (1744- 97) was a professional painter and a member of the Royal Academy.


He came to India in 1780 and stayed on for 3 years till 1783. Even though his stay in India was only for three years, he showed a great understanding of India and her people.


William Hodges, was born in London in 1744. He managed to gain some instruction in drawing whilst working as an errand boy in SHIPLEY'S DRAWING SCHOOL, and it was here that William Hodges first attracted the attention of the famous Welsh landscape painter Richard Wilson (1714-1782)

RICHARD WILSON (1714-1782)
First mentor of William  Hodges

Richard Wilson (1714 –1782) was a Welsh landscape painter, and one of the founder members of the Royal Academy in 1768. Wilson has been described as '...the most distinguished painter Wales has ever produced and the first to appreciate the aesthetic possibilities of his country. Wilson is considered to be the father of landscape painting in Britain. Wilson’s landscapes influenced the works of Constable and Turner. Wilson was himself influenced by the French classicists such as Claude Lorrain.

Richard Wilson took William Hodges to be his assistant and pupil, and during the three years that he studied under him (about 1763/1766) he made rapid progress. By 1772 his style was so close to his master's that it was very difficult to distinguish between the two and, in fact, Hodges probably became the most accomplished painter of fake Wilsons.

On leaving Wilson in 1766 he resided in London, and also for a time at Derby, where he painted some scenes for the theatre. Also this year he exhibited at the Society of Artists a view of London Bridge and another of Speldhurst, Kent, followed in 1768 with two views in Wales and other views in 1770 and 1771. In 1772 he submitted some views on the Rhine and Switzerland. However, not meeting with much success in London, when the opportunity arose that same year to join Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Seas, which was to dispel the existence of Dalrymple's Southern continent once and for all, he gladly accepted. Upon his return in 1775, he was employed by the Admiralty in finishing his drawings and superintending the engraving of them (by Woollett and others) for the published account of the voyage. Some of his paintings of the voyage are still exhibited at the National Maritime Museum for the enjoyment of the general public.

William Hodgese’s first exhibition at the Royal Academy was in 1776 when he submitted a view in Otaheite, followed over the next two years of some views of New Zealand and elsewhere.

I have already referred to the internship of William Hodges with the landscape Painter Richard Wilson from 1758 to 1763. Later he also attended the drawing and sculpture classes of G B Cipriani and Joseph Wilton at the Duke of Richmond's sculpture gallery. Duke of Richmond was a great art collector and he played a very important role as a patron of William Hodges and his paintings.

Duke of Richmond

In 1772, probably recommended by a member of the Admiralty Board, Hodges sailed to the Pacific and Antarctic on the Resolution as landscape artist on Captain Cook's second expedition to Australia and New Zealand. Hodges's taste for sublime light effects and the ethereal atmosphere of the unknown and untamed edges of civilization were put to particularly successful use in his 'View of the Cape of Good Hope', and the pair of 'Monuments on Easter Island' and 'View in the Province of Oparee, Tahiti'.


In 1779 he sailed for India, where he travelled and painted extensively. He returned to England in 1783 and began to exhibit Indian subjects, as well as publish 44 prints of 'Select Views in India' (1785- 88) and an interesting memoir of his travels there in 1793. His 'Travels in India, during the years 1780, 1781, 1782 and 1783', published in 1793, grew out of the trip he made to India as a professional artist under the patronage of Warren Hastings, who was then Governor General of India. Rather like a modern photographer, Hodges came to do a 'Series' on India and a number of his drawings were included in the book on his travels published in 1793. A French translation of the journal relating to his travels in India was published in Paris in 1805.


Happily for all of us in Chennai, William Hodges first encounter with India was the approach to Madras from the Bay of Bengal in 1780, and the pleasing impression was vividly brought out by Hodges in his memoirs. William Hodges recorded in his journal his impression of the approach from the sea to Fort St George in the following words:
'The clear, blue, cloudless sky, the polished white buildings, the bright sandy beach, and the dark green sea, present a combination totally new to the eye of an Englishman, just arrived from London, who, accustomed to the sight of rolling masses of clouds floating in a damp atmosphere, cannot but contemplate the difference with delight: and the eye being thus gratified, the mind soon assumes a gay and tranquil habit, analogous to the pleasing objects with which it is surrounded'.

The English Settlement rising from within Fort St George, presented 'a rich and beautiful appearance; the chunam-covered handsome houses shone like marble, and their flat roofs, open porticoes, and long colonnades made him think that perhaps this was what a Grecian City in the Age of Alexander looked like'. For Hodges, it was an exhilarating experience.

He described the people of Madras as he saw them soon after his landing in 1780 in highly original phrases. It was an encounter in which a European felt 'the great distinction between Asia and his own country'. There were 'long muslin dresses', 'black faces adorned with very large gold ear-rings and white turbans', the 'rustling of fine linen, and the general hum of usual conversation' momentarily suggesting 'an assembly of females', strange modes of salutation, 'delicately framed men with feminine hands and with manners mild, tranquil, and sedulously attentive'.

A painting by William Hodges depicting
the procession of a Hindu woman to
the funeral pyre of her husband
near Madras in 1780.

Let us hear again the words of William Hodges on the Madras of 1780: Some 'were wholly naked, others so swathed that only the face and the neck could be seen'. There were women carried in palanquins on men's shoulders and men riding on horse back, 'clothed in linen dresses like women: circumstances which, together with the novelty of the face of the country, excited the strongest emotions of surprise. Nature, architecture, the outward signs of a new life-style appropriate to the climate, all contributed to the enrichment of the newcomer's mind'.

Outside the fortified area of Madras, Hodges was greatly delighted by 'the spacious and magnificent country houses on Choultry plain as they appeared in the cool of the evening at the end of a very hot day'. He captured the radiant nocturnal beauty of the tropical environment:
'The moon shone in its fullest lustre, not a cloud overcast the sky, and every house on the plain was illuminated. Each family, with their friends, were in the open porticoes, enjoying the breeze. Such a scene appears more like a tale of enchantment than a reality, to the imagination of a stranger just arrived from London'.    

Hodges was a direct witness of political events of great importance in Madras in 1780. On 18th July 1780, he saw, with a great tinge of sorrow, 'refugees streaming from villages in Chengalpet district into Madras, fleeing the men and guns of Hyder Ali as they swooped on the plains of the Carnatic '. It was estimated by him that about 2,00,000 refugees sought shelter in the Madras Black town within 3 days. Hodges saw the multitude, bearing on their shoulders the small remains of their little property, mothers with infants at their breasts, fathers leading their horses burdened with their young families, others sitting on the miserable remains of their fortunes on a hackery, and dragged through the dust by weary bullocks.

Unfortunately, Hodges' plans to explore South India in a more intensive and extensive manner were wrecked by the Second Anglo-Mysore War. Hodges left Madras in a hurry and went to Calcutta. He later visited different parts of Bengal and Bihar. Just as he had given a graphic description of the common people in Madras, he also gave a fascinating description of the people in Calcutta City.

According to him, in the European part of Calcutta the streets were broad, the houses large and detached with flights of steps and great projecting porticoes which reminded him of 'Greek Temples'.

View of Calcutta from Garden House Reach, 1781-3
Manchester City Art Gallery


The street scenes of Calcutta, with the curious mixture of European and Asiatic manners, passing Hindu ceremonies and a variety of Fakirs, formed 'a sight perhaps more novel and extraordinary than any city in the world can present to a stranger'. As he travelled through rural Bengal and Bihar, he was fascinated by the roadside scenes. He went by boat on the Ganges river in the company of Warren Hastings from Calcutta to Rajmahal and he encountered 'a series of scenery perfectly new on the Ganga-Scape'.


He referred to the Ganges River as 'this immense current of water, more ocean than river, where the largest boats appeared in midstream as mere points. Ganges makes the rivers seen in Europe like Rhine, appear as rivulets in comparison'. It is not surprising that in tune with his surroundings in Bihar, he could not think of a more pleasant amusement than sailing down the Ganges in the warm season with the beautiful river breeze, so tempered as to feel delightfully refreshing, particularly after sunset. All nature appeared in utmost luxuriance to his sharp and imaginative eyes.

William Hodges, View of part of the City of Benares on the River Ganges, in the East Indies, ca. 1781

Hodges was deeply impressed by the decorous and civilized public behaviour of the Hindu masses and their courtesy to foreigners:
'The simplicity and the perfectly modest character of the Hindu women, cannot but arrest the attention of a stranger. With downcast eye, and equal step, they proceed along, and scarcely turn to the right or to the left to observe a foreigner as he passes, however new or singular his appearance. The men are no less remarkable for their hospitality, and are constantly attentive to accommodate the traveller in his wants. I never met with imposition or delay in any part of India I visited, but always experienced an uncommon readiness to oblige, and that accompanied with manners the most simple and accommodating'.

In perfect opposition to the manners of the Hindus was the Musalman character: ‘haughty, not to say insolent, irritable and ferocious'.

Fatehpur Sikri, October 1785

Hodges was deeply moved by the mutability of human fortunes and artifacts in India. He was a great admirer of the political achievements of the Mughals, especially of Akbar. Hodges was very proud that the British had inherited “an Empire which he felt to be the greatest and the richest empire, perhaps, of which human annals can produce an instance, and which was adorned by many really great characters in politics and in arms.”
Ayodhya, in 1783
Courtesy British Library :
This painting is from William Hodges' book 'Select Views of India'. Hodges visited the ancient city of Ayodhya, then known as Oudh, at the end of 1783. This view shows the Lakshmana Ghat on the banks of the Ghaghara ( Sarayu) river. The mosque at the top of the hill is the Babri Masjid, constructed by Babur, the first Mughal king of India, who ruled between 1526 and 1530.

William Hodges was in India from 1780 to 1783. Returning to England in 1784, he settled down in Queen Street, Mayfair, where he built himself a studio and exhibited his views in India.

In 1786 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy and the following year became a full member, continuing to exhibit at the Royal Academy until 1794. He made a tour of the Continent in 1790, collected some sketches on the Rhine and also visited St. Petersburg. However, his best productions are the views he brought from India and a view of Windsor from the Great Park. In 1793 Hodges published an account of his "TRAVELS IN INDIA" with plates from his drawings, and this was later translated into French.

In the last few years of his life, a collection of 25 of his paintings were exhibited in Bond Street, which did not receive adequate public support and on its close he retired from his profession. Many of his works were then sold by auction but produced only an inconsiderable sum. The last few years of his life were plagued by financial worries, disappointments and sorrow. He died shortly afterwards at Brixham, Devon, on the 6th March, 1797.
This bridge was on the road from Madras to St Thomas Mount

Handmade oil painting reproduction of View of an Indian Village with a Man Seated in the Foreground,by William Hodges

Art is a creative effort of which the wellsprings lie in the spirit, and which brings us at once the most intimate self of the artist and the secret concurrences which he has perceived in things by means of a vision or intuition all his own, and not to be expressed in ideas and in words-expressible only in the works of art. Perhaps that is why John Ruskin (1819-1901) in his great work ‘Modern Painters’ (1843-1860) Volume III wrote as follows: “Great Art is precisely that which never was, nor will be taught, t is pre-eminently and finally the expression of the spirits of great men”. This is the kind of emotion that I get when I look at the immortal paintings of William Hodges. In his art, there are tears that do often lie too deep for thoughts.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) in his immortal work Remembrance of Things Past: The Past Recaptured (1913-1927) paid this tribute to art: “Thanks to Art, instead of seeing one world, our own, we see it multiplied and as many original artists as there are, so many worlds are at our disposal.

The true artist recognizes, however dimly, the existence within us of a double world of thought, and his object is, by subtle forms, tones, colours, words, allusions, associations, to establish a connection with the unconscious sphere of the mind, and to make us feel a mysterious upsurge of energy there in the hidden soul.

Colour without light is no colour, and the colour is not the light. Experience without meaning is no exoerience, and the experience is not the meaning. When the experience comes into the meaning, you are no longer”the experiencer”, you are not the shifting subject of experience, you are at the starting point.

Simplicity is not the denial of the complex, but its meaning. Unity is not the denial of multiplicity but its meaning. It looks as though we shall have to discard the language of denial, in our attempt to articulate the starting point. For ‘not-this’ implies, by a necessity of language that this’ come first. Can we think of a denial that does not bear on anything but that bears all things, carries them in the womb of being? Perhaps we can’t, but that is where we start.

May I conclude by interpreting, in the sense of the forgoing, some lines of T.S.Elliot?

We had the experience, but missed the meaning
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness

When you are there, when experience has been transfigured with meaning, you who experienced are no more. THERE IS HAPPINESS WITHOUT ANYONE TO BE HAPPY. Yet to live there is to be happy beyond any conception of happiness. Such emotions rush to our minds, hearts and souls and take us to a state of inexplicable ecstasy when we see the paintings of WILLIAM HODGES. That is why Swami Vivekananda, addressing the ‘Parliament of Religions’ in 1893 said: True human feelings, passions and emotions are4 indeed the gastric juices of the soul”.

Sunday, July 24, 2011



“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

“The power which makes a man able to entertain a good impulse is the same as that which enables him to make a good gun: it is IMAGINATION”G.K.Chesterton (1874-1936)

“Imagination is a Warehouse of Facts with poet and liar in joint ownership”-Ambrose Bierce (1884-1911)

"All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination."-Carl Jung (1875-1961)

"It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."- Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

A A MILNE (1882-1956)

I wanted to have a bracing change from the dirty and murky world of Indian politics on which and about which I have been writing  in profusion during the last several months.  Recently I found myself in a second-hand book shop in Moore Market and I was delighted to lay my hands upon a fantastic book by that famous writer of children’s books A.A. Milne (1882-1956) titled Winnie-the-pooh, with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard. My mind immediately flew back to my school-days in Simla in the early 1950s when I had the splendid good fortune of being introduced to A A Milne’s Classic Quartet:  “Winnie-the-Pooh, The House At Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six”. A A Milne was famous for his Plays and these four children’s books.  However, these four children’s books became very popular among the larger general public.  Winnie-the Pooh is the engaging story of a Teddy Bear and his friends, continued in a sequel, the House at Pooh Corner.  When we were very young and Now We Are Six, were two volumes of light-hearted verse. His Winnie-the-Pooh character has delighted children throughout the world. Even college students, considerably older than the target audience, responded with Pooh Societies. His legacy has lived on in the form of animated movies, songs, and merchandise for infants and adults alike. Translations of his famous four books were produced almost immediately after Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in 1929. The little honey bear had firmly established itself as an enduring classic.

During the last three days I have been re-reading the precious copy A.A. Milne’s The House At Pooh Corner with tremendous delight and enthusiasm after a lapse of 56 years.  And what a refreshing change I have had, giving me a new sense of wholesome well-being! 

I can see how very right was Sir Winston Churchill (1872-1965) when he wrote: “Many remedies are suggested for the avoidance of worry and mental overstrain by persons who, over prolonged periods, have to bear exceptional responsibilities and discharge duties upon a very large scale.  Some advise exercise, and others, repose.  Some counsel travel and others retreat.  Some praise solitude, and others, gaiety.  No doubt all these may play their part according to the individual temperament.  But the element which is constant and common in all of them is CHANGE. Change is the master key.  A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it, just in the same way he can wear out the elbows of his coat.  There is, however, this difference between the living cells of the brain and inanimate articles: one cannot mend the frayed elbows of a coat by rubbing the sleeves or shoulders; but the tired parts of the mind can be rested and strengthened, not merely by rest, but by using other parts.  It is not enough merely to switch off the lights which play upon the main and ordinary field of interest; a new field of interest must be illuminated.  It is no use saying to the tired ‘mental muscles’ – if one may coin such an expression – ‘I will give you a good rest’, ‘I will go for a long walk’, or ‘I will lie down and think of nothing’.  The mind keeps busy just the same.  If it has been weighing and measuring, it goes on weighing and measuring.  If it has been worrying, it goes on worrying.  It is only when new cells are called into activity, when new stars become the lords of the ascendant, that relief, repose, refreshment are afforded”.

 Book Cover

Reading Milne’s book has given me necessary relief, repose and refreshment.  A A Milne legitimately belongs to the great literary tradition in the field of fantasy established by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), Edward Lear (1812-1888), J M Barrie (1860-1937) and Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932). Between 1865 and 1930, these four writers and A.A. Milne who could not grow up transformed their longing for childhood into a literary revolution. Indeed there is no doubt that these five writers stand at the centre of a golden age of Victorian and early twentieth-century Children’s Literature. From the vibrantly imagined stories of Alice in Wonderland to the enchanted, magical worlds of Peter Pan and Winnie-the-Pooh, these five writers made the realms of fantasy they envisioned an enduring part of everyday Western Culture. We return to these classics again and again, for enjoyment as children and for the consolation and humour they offer to adults.

Alan Alexander Milne was born in London on 18 January 1882. He was educated at Westminster School in London. Later he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge BA in Mathematics with Honours in 1903. Upon completion of his studies, he immediately began his long career in writing, contributing light essays to several magazines. His first novel, Lovers in London (1905), was published when Milne was twenty-three. In 1906 he joined the staff of Punch as an Assistant Editor, contributing a weekly essay. His work as a dramatist began a decade later, during his service in the British Army in World War I. His first play, Wurzel-Flummery, appeared in 1917, and his one unqualified success in the theatre, Mr Pim Passes By, was completed and produced in 1919. By the time of his death in 1956, more than two dozen plays by Milne had been produced in London or New York. However, there is no question that Milne’s most lasting monument lies in four slim volumes of children’s literature: two books of poems and two books of the adventures of Christopher Robin’s friend Winnie-the-Pooh. He also wrote two mystery novels; his Red House Mystery (1921) is considered a classic in the genre.

In 1924, Milne published a book of children’s poems entitled ‘When We Were Very Young’, with drawings by Punch illustrator, ERNEST SHEPARD. This book includes a poem about a Teddy Bear who ‘however hard he tries grows tubby without exercise’. This was Pooh’s first unofficial appearance in A A Milne’s writing. ‘When We Were Very Young’ proved to be an instant success and sold over 50,000 copies within eight weeks. Ernest Howard Shepard  was an English artist and book illustrator. He was known especially for his human-like animals in illustrations for The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne.  It will not be too much to say that A A Milne’s classic books for children became world famous after 1926 mainly on account of the decorations and illustrations of Ernest H Shepard. 

Illustrations of Winnie the Pooh by Ernest Shepard (1879-1976)

In later years A A Milne lived a rather uneventful life in London, answering questions about the mythical bear of his stories and trying unsuccessfully to fend off the label “whimsical.” He travelled in the United States in the fall of 1931 and continued writing mostly unnoticed books and plays until he reached the age of 70 in 1952.  He died on 31 January 1956. 


A famous critic has observed that Milne wrote in the tradition of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) but without the harsh cutting edge of Oscar Wilde; he wrote in the style of Noel Coward (1899-1973), but without his sophistication; he wrote in the mood of his mentor, J M Barrie (1860-1937), but without the same firm grip on theatre and staging. He even occasionally wrote in the problem-play tradition of Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), but without Shaw’s piercing wit.  Some critics have dismissed A A. Milne as suffering from a ‘heavy effort to be insistently light.’ Novelist James Hilton, reviewing one of Milne’s later autobiographical books, appropriately summed up: “A A Milne has perfect vision out of a small window; and even when he looks through a bigger one the slight distortion can be very charming.”

The following two poems of A A Milne have always haunted me ever since 1952 when I first read them in School in Simla and they continue to haunt me even today.


Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You’d sail on water as blue as air,
And you’d see me here in the fields and say:
‘Doesn’t the sky look green today?’

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
‘It’s awful fun to be born at all.’
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
‘We do have beautiful things to do.’

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
‘That’s where I wanted to go today!’

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.


No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes...
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.


E.H.SHEPARD (1879-1976).

E.H.Shepard was born in St John's Wood, London in 1876 Having shown some promise in drawing at St Paul's School, Shepard enrolled in Heatherleys School of Fine Art in Chelsea. By 1906 Shepard had become a successful illustrator, having produced work for illustrated editions of Aesop's Fables, David Copperfield, and Tom Brown's Schooldays, as well as an illustration for Punch. Throughout the war he had been contributing to Punch. He was hired as a regular staff cartoonist in 1921 and became lead cartoonist in 1945.  

Shepard was recommended to A.A.Milne by another Punch staffer, E. V. Lucas in 1923. Initially, Milne thought Shepard's style was not what he wanted, but used him to illustrate his book of poems When We Were Very Young. Happy with the results, Milne insisted Shepard illustrated Winnie-the-Pooh. Realising his illustrator's contribution to the book's success, Milne arranged for Shepard to receive a share of his royalties. Milne also inscribed a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh with the following personal verse:

When I am gone,
Let Shepard decorate my tomb,
And put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone:
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven,
And Pooh and Piglet walking (157)…
And Peter, thinking that they are my own,
Will welcome me to Heaven.

Shepard's original inscribed copy of the book Winnie-the-Pooh was bought by investor Luke Heron for £34,850 at a Sotheby's auction in December 2008.
E.H.Shepard’s Winnie the Pooh work is so famous that 300 of his preliminary sketches were exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1969, when he was 90 years old.

Shepard wrote two autobiographies: Drawn from Memory (1957) and Drawn From Life (1962). In 1972, Shepard gave his personal collection of papers and illustrations to the University of Surrey. These now form the E.H. Shepard Archive.

An E.H. Shepard painting of Winnie the Pooh is the only known oil painting of the famous teddy bear. It was purchased at an auction for $285,000 in London late in 2000. The painting is displayed at the Pavilion Gallery in Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

 UK has honoured Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger with 10 postage stamps in 2010. I am presenting below the postage stamps  containing the timeless illustrations of E,H.Shepard. The honey-loving bear was created by A.A. Milne for his son, Christopher Robin in 1926. I am presenting below two photographs of A.A.Milne with his son as a child and his son as a child surrounded by Winnie the pooh and other characters in the book.


When the above Postage stamps were realeased, Philip Parker, Royal Mail Stamps Spokesperson, said: "At nearly 90 years old Winnie-the-Pooh is looking incredibly good for his age, thanks to the imaginative writing of A.A. Milne and the timeless illustrations of E.H. Shepard. We’re delighted that through this wonderful collection we will bring a new adventure for Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends as they travel on letters to millions of homes across the UK and beyond."

Disney’s new full length animated feature film starring Winnie-the-Pooh and friends will bring back the original storytelling and art style essence of this beloved character in April 2011. The film re-tells the stories from the original books and is set to delight families across the world.

Friday, July 1, 2011


This book was published in 1993 by Sir.William Jones Institute of Indological Studies, of which I was the Founder Chairman. This Institute has since been wound up on account of financial stringency.

This book was released at a public function at Chennai on 30th October 1993. the Book was released by Late Father Lawrence Sundaram, Former Principal and Head of the Department of English Loyola College, Chennai. The first copy of the Book was received by Bharat Ratna M.S.Subbulakshmi and T.Sadasivam.

M.S. Subbulakshmi and Sadasivam receiving the first copies of the book 'Es­says and Reviews' from Fr.Lawrence Sundaram. Director, Alumni Association, Loyola College, Madras, Author V. Sundaram, looks on.

Shri.T.V.Venkatraman I.A.S. who was Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamilnadu in his Preface to V.Sundaram’s Book observed as follows in 1993:

The finely crafted collection of ESSAYS AND REVIEWS places the reader at the crossroads of the best that can be had on twentieth century history, oriental literature, Tamil Literature and the cultural dialogue between India and the liberal West. For these essays and reviews range across different cultures and disciplines in order to highlight some of the sociological, literary and cultural factors which have helped to shape the modern sensibility.  In fact   some  of Shri V. Sundaram's historical  essays are a   timely response for   making   sense   of   contemporary   affairs,    from   a   truly   international perspective. Again readers have cause to be grateful to Shri Sundaram for his precise documentation of literary activity in the relatively inaccessible areas of Tamil literature. Furthermore, Shri Sundaram has lucid prose style and chronicles the lives of great men like Sir  William Jones,  Jawaharlal Nehru,   Alfred Marshall,   Lord Keynes,   Schumpetter,   Sir  Winston  Churchill, Srinivasa Ramanujam and Sir M. Viswesvaraya, with sympathy and in detail. Actually,   the structure of this volume is essentially historical.  And in the interstices of his chronology are secreted some meaningful pieces of cultural

 “I would claim three main merits for Shri V. Sundaram's collection of Essays and Reviews. First, he has a sense of history. For intellectual questions draw not only upon the present but also upon the past, recalling the pleasures afforded by the celebrities who are gone, tracing their influences -whether in matters intellectual or in subject and style. Indeed, in any discussion of style Gibbon and Macaulay are bound to figure as prominently as Winston Churchill, G.M. Trevelyan and Barbara Tuchman. Second, it gives me great pleasure to commend Shri V. Sundaram for maintaining the tradition of the scholar - civil servant. For eminent judges and civil servants like Sir William Jones, Sir Charles Wilkins, Vincent Smith and Hilton Brown had contributed to a tradition, which is worth emulating. Finally, Shri Sundaramfs volume is an inter-disciplinary emphasis on the freedom to inquire and question and to ask the right questions. And this inter-disciplinary approach to life and literature lends a wholeness to the variety of Shri Sundaram's 'Essays  and Reviews'.

                                               T.V.  VENKATARAMAN

Late Shrimati Mathuram Bhoothalingam, noted writer in English and Tamil, wrote as follows in her perceptive Forward to Shri.V.Sundaram’s Book in 1993:

“Sundaram is a man of many talents, in several of which he excels, displaying a fervour rarely seen. He is a topclass administrator; a savant in art and music and possesses an unrivalled curiosity to delve into the history of every interesting subject he comes across. There is about him a wonder, an innocent joy when he recounts some of his discoveries or displays the findings of his search for archaeological treasures.

This book is a collection of essays on many such searches, adventures and satisfying rewards. They mirror his poetic spirit, his trueness and zeal for more and more happy states of mind. Such states — in his own words are — "I feel I am released from gravity though not raised to any inconvenient height-----so released from my body, I feel in the grip of a melodious sequence of sound-----oblivious of my environs and indifferent to everything around me, I feel encased in a capsule of a motionless bubble". Apart from poetry, I can feel some such spirit emerging from most of his essays on history, biography and literature. In social and economic subjects he reveals a sure grasp of fundamentals and broad vision. But even here he does not lose sight of the human element with which these subjects have to be approached — pragmatic as he is.

Such inherent keenness to take active part in whatever he undertakes has given him an overall view of the socio-economic situation in our country which is explicit in these essays. They are penetrating with a sure sense of the future…… “

This book was first reviewed by my revered School Teacher Dr.Indira Parthasarathy in NEWS TODAY in 1993. Dr. Parthasarathy was decorated with the title of Padma Sri by the President of India on the eve of Republic Day on 26 January, 2010. As an outstanding novelist, he has written several novels in TAMIL which have been translated into several Indian and world languages. He has carved a special niche for himself in Tamil literature --- his characters, mostly urban intellectuals, speak very openly and analyze deeply what others say. Most of his novels are set in Delhi, where he lived during his working years, from 1955 to 1986 or in Tiruchirappally or Thanjavur District in Tamil Nadu, where he spent his childhood. He has won several awards including the Sangeeth Natak Academy, Sahitya Academy and Saraswathi Samman Award. He is the only Tamil writer to have won both the Sangeeth Natak and Sahitya Academy Award. He won the Sahitya Academy Award as early as 1970. He is now more than 80 years old.


I am presenting below Dr.Indira Parthasarathy’s Review done in 1993:


“What strikes me most after reading this modestly entitled book "Essays and Reviews", is the immense versatility of the author. He is totally at ease dealing with marbles and well as metaphysics.

This anthology features articles on wide-ranging subjects such as, history, biography, literature, social and economic development and also a few autobiographical sketches. The recurring theme in all these topics is what appears to me Sundaram's nostalgia for the past and his anxiety about the future; in short, he is obsessed with what he describes as 'Madame Time' Let me quote him: ‘Time haunts me like a nightmare. The past with never a beginning, the future going on for ever and ever and the little present in which we live for a second, twinkling between these two black abysses. And the whole trouble with me is that even the present eludes me. I don't know what it really is. I, can never catch the moment as it really passes. I am always for ahead or far away behind, and always somewhere else. My life is all reminiscence and anticipation'.

The above passage, quoted from his 'introduction' to the book, sums up Sundaram. He is Proustean in his objective approach to the past, as golden moments gone for ever; Carlylean in glorifying heroes of a bygone era as men of a nation's destiny and Hegelian, in elevating history to replace God. To him, it appears, history is the arbiter of all values and rightly so.

Sundaram is a poet at heart. It is reflected in all these writings. If poetry is a 'style in thinking', as Elliot says, there is ample evidence in this anthology that Sundaram has his own distinctive and imaginative way in approaching his themes. To quote Sundaram: ‘As important as the art of thinking is the art of imagination. Imagination enlarges vision, stretches the mind, challenges the impossible’. In such diverse subjects as chasing a rogue elephant and a scholarly dissertation on dimensions of poetry, Sundaram brings to bear upon them all his rare talents of encyclopaedic knowledge, imagination and a natural feel for words.

All the essays in this anthology announce the arrival of multi-dimensional scholar and also a poet — could this be a contradiction in terms ---- with an instinctive genius, for discovering the 'astonishingness' in the most common place things which Mrs. Mathuram Bhoothligam aptly describes as 'The Spirit of Wonder'.

In an era of 'aesthetic abundance' unfortunately ushered in by democracy and technological explosion looking for needles in haystacks has become the full-time occupation of a conservative reader, who still clings to the old- fashioned belief that quality is all, I don't feel ashamed to confess that I am a conservative in regard to my reading habits and I am immensely happy, now that I have found a needle.”

Dr.Sridharan, a profound scholar in Hindi, English and Tamil, and Formerly Head of the Department of Hindi in Presidency College in Chennai, also reviewed my Book in November 1993. He has authored several outstanding books in English and Tamil. I have great pleasure in presenting Dr.Sridharan’s Review below.

SUNDARAM'S ESSAYS & REVIEWS - An Appraisal and Appreciation by Dr. N. SRIDHARAN

With apology to Francis Bacon, I classify books into three kinds. Some books are feast to the eyes, others are feast to the intellect, and some few are feast to everything that we are — body, mind and soul. However, there is bound to be some overlapping in the case of books by certain authors who are artistic in outlook, intellectual by training and sensitive by temperament. Books by such gifted writers cannot be cabined, cribbed and caged in water-tight compartments. Mr. V. Sundaram's "Essays and Reviews" is one such book which is a feast to the eyes, a feast to the intellect and a feast to the soul in as much as it is visually pleasing, intellectually teasing and aesthetically satisfying.

Mr. Sundaram's book is pot-pouri of essays encompassing a vast region of knowledge. His abilities in this exploration of knowledge appear to be formidable. He wields a facile pen and he is quite at home in writing on diverse topics — literature, philosophy, economics, politics, personalities, books, education, gender justice, history, art and so on. He is an excellent raconteur too when he relates his impressions of places and people. A kaleidoscopic presentation of a vast range of human feelings and foibles, this book indicates that Mr. Sundaram is endowed with a sensitive mind which dictates to him to write suitably in response to specific persons and events which have aroused his feelings. There are moments of hilarity cheek by jowl with spells of solemnity. Like an aircraft which runs at the ground level for some distance before taking off, some of the essays in this collection start with deceptive simplicity but some sour into rapturous mood with the help of the viewless wings of poetic prose.

If any person wants to wear the mantle of a writer, he must necessarily have something, in fact, a lot of things, to say. There are two main sources of knowledge — direct experience and through books. Mr. Sundaram has taken full advantage of both these sources.

As an officer of the Indian Administrative Service, Mr. Sundaram has had an unlimited opportunity to mingle with all kinds of people — from the rulers of the land to the tillers of the land, from extraordinary persons to the eccentrics. Though one can gain knowledge of human nature by daily concourse with the people around, it will be only scratching the surface. People, whether illiterate or intelligent, do not reveal themselves so easily. All are acting or pretending. There is not much to choose between acting the parts on the stage of a theatre and acting them on the stage of life. Hence, to get acquainted with the subtler shades of the human psyche, one must browse among books. Mr. Sundaram is, in his own words, "an avid collector of books, antiquarian and new for many years" and he has "the instinct and wish to collect books". Reading has made him a full man. Perhaps he acquired more knowledge as a book collector than as a District Collector. As a result, there is an indescribable quality of something evocative, about his work.

To have knowledge is one thing, to be able to communicate it is another. If one is endowed with skills of communication, he can write about anything under the sun —from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Of shoes, and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings,
An why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings.

All people have something worthwhile to say. But only few people can effectively communicate it. Mr. Sundaram is one of the chosen few. He knows how to say what he has to say any better than many writers. Sometimes, to suit the solemnity of the theme, he weaves his sentences in a spiralling fashion, connecting them with great skill. Some other time he employs what is called a staccato style, in which each sentence stands out clear and detached. His command of words, which are at his beck and call like the spirits of Prospero, is a delight to discerning readers. In each essay one can see that all the words are studied and placed with as much care, as a statue of a saint in his niche. I refrain from making an analytical study of each essay for fear of mutilating them in that process.

To sum up : "Essays & Reviews" by Mr. V. Sundaram is a good book for the writing table, a good book for the library, a good book for the fireside too. In a nutshell, it is 184 pages of undiluted enthrallment. I hope Mr. Sundaram will not nest on his oars and will not consider this book to be the end of a beginning or the beginning of an end but the beginning of a beginning.

If any person wants to wear the mantle of a writer, he must necessarily have something, in fact, a lot of things, to say. There are two main sources of knowledge — direct experience and through books. Mr. Sundaram has taken full advantage of both these sources.


I am beholden to my friend Dr. Prema Nandakumar for doing me the honour of reviewing my book. When I was studying in St.Stephen’s College in New Delhi in my final year M.A. Class, in 1962, one of my friends invited my attention to the study done by Dr. Prema Nandakumar of Shri.Aurobindo’s epic poem ‘Savitri’. Ever since then, I have been an avid reader and admirer of all her writings in English and Tamil. As a literary critic and translator of several great works in Tamil and English, she remains unsurpassed. Though I had the good fortune of reading Professor K.R.Sriinvasa Iyengar’s Classic Work on Indian writings in English in 1964 itself, yet till 1975 I was not aware of the fact that Dr.Prema Nandakumar was his daughter! It is a privilege for me to present Dr.Prema Nnadakumar’s Review dated  21ST APRIL 2011 below:


“A rather forbidding dustcover with the firm-jawed Winston Churchill as centerpiece serenaded by eight great personalities (Ramanujan, Visveswarayya, Lenin and Keynes among them) issues a challenge for the reader in Essays and Reviews. But we melt as soon as we move to the foreword by Mathuram Boothalingam. A maternal description of the author as possessing “a wonder, an innocent joy when he recounts some of his discoveries” launches us into seeking the unfamiliar facets of familiar persons.”

“We have here a book for all tastes as we get flagged off by Sir William Jones. We read of his translation of Sakuntalam in ‘A Dramatic Discovery’ also. These foreign friends of India include Lord Curzon.  Warren Hastings not only loved the Gita but spoke prophetically that India’s literary heritage would “survive when the British dominion in India shall have long ceased to exist, and when the sources which it once yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance.”  There was Tipu whose “supreme passion was to oust the British from India”.  For us who have suffered much inconvenience throughout the remodeling of the Central Station, ‘The Madras Rail Terminal’ assures us that it was worth the trouble.”

“In spite of the helpful sectional headings, you never know what you are in for in the next page.  We sit serious and sombre in the Madras Legislative Council to hear the great freedom fighter Satyamurti lustily defending Subramania Bharati’s patriotism and suddenly it is time to grin:

“On the Coast of Coromandel
Where the early pumpkins grow
In the middle of the woods
Lived Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.”

“Sure it is Edward Lear offering us a feast of pelican pie to be eaten under a lotus tree.  Biographical notes on well known personalities like Rajaji and Churchill hold hands with educative flares directed at economists like Joseph Schumpeter, Alfred Marshall and Lord Keynes.  For the lover of history there are four essays on ‘Revolutions & Counter Revolutions’ beginning with the storming of the Bastille. More than two hundred years later, we seem to be looking over an abyss, with Libya as a warning.  Are we going to opt for such revolutions or would we find a peaceful way to transformation?  Sundaram makes a thought-provoking statement at a time when Indians are verbalizing a possible revolution in the light of the terrifying scams at the highest level and the way our motherland is in the suffocating grip of   a couple of families:

 “The basic question before all of us in the world is whether we can take advantage of increasing awareness and knowledge to act together and in time before global problems overwhelm our capacity for dealing with them in an orderly and peaceful manner.  In other words, we are living in one world whether we like it or not and we have to generate institutions capable of regulating and guiding that world.”

John Donne put it well long ago:

            “No man is an island, entire of itself
            every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
            if a clod be washed away by the sea,
            Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
            as well as if a manor of thy friends or of  thine own were
            any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in
            and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
            it tolls for thee.”

That brings me to the section of poems which has a fine inversion of Rabindranath Tagore’s prayer for waking into

the land of freedom; and I would recommend the reader to go through  ‘Sectionalism in India’ a couple of times and heavily underline passages for ready reference in his library. Yes, Essays and Reviews is re-readable for it sparkles with a radiant gladness, the need of the hour in the gloom of the present.”


Note: Those interested in buying the book Essays and Reviews, are requested to send their Order/Request to the following email ID.

The cost of each copy is Rs.750/-+ cost of Postage. The Demand Draft for this amount may be drawn in favour of Ennappadam Educational Publishers and payable at Chennai . The Draft may be sent to the following address:

Shrimathi Padma Sundaram
Flat 2 D, ‘Cedar Park’
No.9, 4th Main Road Extension,
Kottur Gardens, Chennai-600 085

LANDLINE 4208 7746