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.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

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."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

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