S K BOSE (ed), ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF DR. GYANCHAND: HE THAT BLAZED THE TRAIL, People's Publishing House, New Delhi, Rs 55.
GYANCHAND, now approaching ninety, is full of years and honours; it was an excellent idea for some of his admirers and former students to put together a volume in his honour. Unfortunately, between the idea and its execution, a shadow has fallen. Gyanchand was a major inspiration, in the 1930s and the 1940s, for those few in the country who ventured to enquire into the premises •±- and promises — of socialism; with him in the fore, Patna College beckoned many bright, young ones to its campus, much in the manner of Luck-now University under DP Mukerji. However one might, in retrospect, assess Gyanchand's contributions in the fields of population and public finance analysis, there can be no question that, as a teacher, he was of a rare breed; democratic to the core, catholic in his preferences, always keeping an open door for his students. In our environment, feudal and semi-feudal attitudes permeate practically each and every sphere, not excluding the academic. Particularly in the northern parts of the country, given the retarded nature of the base, even academic pursuits have to fit into the feudal, quasi-authoritarian mould. In this milieu, Gyanchand was a dazzling exception. He encouraged students to look into new propositions. He also encouraged them to challenge old propositions. He urged students to formulate premises on their own — and question premises formulated by others. There was — and is — a certain charm in his personality — a charm directly attributable to his loyalty to the radical spirit. The serendipity which allows a teacher to discover nuggets of exciting new ideas in the scribblings of a fledgling under-gra-duate is virtue of a very fine order indeed. This virtue Gyanchand possessed in large measure; he was also able to transmit to his students and admirers the enthusiasm for far-out causes which conventional wisdom would warn them to leave severely alone.
The editor of the volume certainly did try to put together a worthwhile volume and he cannot be wholly blamed for the disappointing result. Many of those invited to contribute were perhaps otherwise engaged. A number of them preferred to fulfil their obligation by allowing the editor to reprint, in some form or other, papers published elsewhere or which bear the mark of a certain pastiche. A heterogeneity is inevitable in such collections — a heterogeneity not