G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Did Workers Let Indian Textile Industry Down?

Roger Cohen said (The New York Times March 31, 2008):

“…Everything passes. In the 17th century, China and India accounted for more than half the world’s economic output. After a modest interlude, the pendulum is swinging back to them at a speed the West has not grasped.

It’s the end of the era of the white man; and, before it even began in earnest, of the white woman, too.”

A lot of India’s economic output was generated by its textile industry, once as “sexy” as its today’s IT industry.

Hendrik Weiler observed: “India had the most advanced steel and textile industries at the beginning of the 19th century. Britain pirated India's technology, shut much of its advanced industries and forbade its exports, forcing it to buy second-rate British products in a closed market. Fertile land was stolen from Indian food farmers and converted to growing opium, which was then forced on the Chinese.”

I found the word “piracy” most interesting in above analysis.

But there is another viewpoint.

Susan Wolcott, Gregory Clark claim:

“Between 1890 and 1938 Japan experienced rapid economic growth. India stagnated. This national divergence was reflected in the performance of both countries' leading modern industry, cotton textiles. The parallels between national and industry performance suggest the problems of the Indian textile industry may have been those of India as a whole. Weak management is widely blamed for poor performance in textiles. An analysis of managerial decisions in Bombay shows, however, that on all measurable dimensions Indian managers performed as well as they could. The problem instead was one factor they could not change-the effort levels of Indian workers.

“Why Nations Fail: Managerial Decisions and Performance in Indian Cotton Textiles, 1890-1938” (The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 397-423)

Jared Diamond asked in his classic “Guns, Germs, and Steel/ The Fates of Human Societies” (1997):

“Was there anything about India’s environment predisposing toward rigid socioeconomic castes, with grave consequences for the development of technology in India?”

I don’t know about castes but is it possible that India’s oppressive hot weather and polluted drinking water may have had something to do with its workers’ low productivity?

When I read social history of late 19th / early 20th century Maharashtra, as presented in contemporary literature*, I see death - in the form of typhoid, plague, TB, influenza, pneumonia, cholera etc.- stalking young working Indians, our great and great-great grand-dads.

[* One such excellent source for the period of 1860-1920 is Laxmibai Tilak’s लक्ष्मीबाई टिळक classic Smritichitre स्मृतिचित्रे (Memory-pictures) 1934]

Artist: Leonard Dove The New Yorker 28 March 1931