Kaw Caw Silly Point: A wonky look at contemporary India by M K Kaw, New Delhi: Konarak Publishers, 2014 Pp xx+270. Rs 250 (Paperback)
Reviewed by Omkar N Koul
A book of essays on diverse topics with full of wit, wisdom, humour, and satire is what you have under the title Kaw Caw Silly Point by M K Kaw. The title in itself is a combination of two feature columns, Kaw Caw serialised in Naad, a community journal of Kashmiris under an umbrella of AIKS, and Silly Point in G-files, a journal devoted to governance. A teacher of English grammar has to scratch her head hard to explain the combination. That is Kaw, a master craftsman in English who is capable to combine words and phrases in a unique way and make them meaningful!
Kaw is an author of numerous books related to fiction, poetry, plays, spirituality, philosophy, sociology, official reports in the form of monographs, satire on bureaucracy and autobiography written in English and Hindi. He presents in his writings his multifarious experience in administration, keen observation of events, incidents and characters, and above all his creativity. His book Bureaucrazy: IAS Unmasked and its second edition under the title Bureaucrazy Gets Crazier became bestsellers. This title is another successful innovation of the title Kaw invented for the book. His autobiography with a catchy title An Outsider Everywhere documents all prominent incidents of his personal life, family, achievements and challenges he faced in carrying out all the responsibilities at different positions.
In the book under review, Kaw covers wide range of topics from administration, politics, society, and personal and social life. He is not restrained by professional compulsions or obligations and exercises total freedom. In the selection of the topics, he is usually prompted, inspired and stimulated by events and incidents faced, experienced and observed in person, or by news items on the current issues reported in press. Of course, he uses his wide experience to convert the event or incident into an essay using his favourite tools of wit, humour, and satire. The sixty-three write-ups are classified in eight sections (0 to 7) on the basis of connected themes followed by a postscript. We can mention briefly some of them as follows.
Kaw is prompted by a comment made by the Supreme Court for CBI as a “caged parrot”, and makes passionate plea to the court to “uncage” it citing various examples in support of it. In the section devoted to politics he deals with several issues. With the change of government from the BSP to SP, Kaw seems to worry about the fate of millions of elephants Mayawati has left behind. He toys with a hypothesis of relating the fatness of a leader to his/her being corrupt. He finds a relationship between corruption and GDP. He relates politics to cricket believing that politicians can learn a lot from the managers of cricket; suggests a five-point agenda for political parties and electorates to follow before the election. He teaches Rahul the intricacies of administration and how to deal with files, if he had a chance to become the PM. Unfolds the double-speak of the politicians. He provides advice to BJP and Modi, which both the party and its leader couldn’t take as a result of huge win unexpectedly. He talks about the rise and fall of Team Anna and aspirations of Arvind Kejriwal.
Steel Frame of IAS is projected as Still Frame tracing the reasons for the decline. Using his experience in bureaucracy, he illustrates a hard fact that promotions to higher and constitutional positions do not depend on merit but on the contacts. He puts forth reasons for destroying Air India, and advocates for rescuing the Kingfisher from dying. He portrays the problems in education. He praises the rare species of upright officers who have made significant contribution, and sees a ray of hope. He expresses genuine concern on the interference of politician and bureaucrats in the armed forces.
He has quite a few write-ups on Kashmiri Battas (as he would like to call them), related to their migration at different times, etymology of their surnames and nicknames, their identities, their position after the migration, with some advice too which he knows for sure will not be followed by the community seriously. He lauds the moments when Vaakh, a literary journal in Kashmiri in Devanagari script was launched. He has interesting write-ups on marriage, social relations, husband-wife, mother-in-law, new incomprehensible slang and pranks children use in conversation, marital discord, shoe theft, hard replacements etc.
Keeping pace with new technology including computers, ATMs, telephones, flight frights, car driving, internet and gadgets pose challenges to older generation. Old age brings unannounced agonies one after another, Kaw projects the advanced age as bonus years one can enjoy. There are personal experiences in the family, in neighbourhood, maintaining social relations, food habits, including a miracle cure Kaw shares with us. Last section deals with new experiences with terms, age old etiquettes, rigid rules and amusing activities of a laughter club.
The book makes an interesting and enjoyable reading. Well, if others’ opinions matter, pick up the book and read the words of praise and comments on it by the masterminds and reputed editors, authors and statesmen. Manas Chakraverty thanks Kaw for “the laughs, the chuckles, the sniggers and the smiles”. Francois Gautier calls it “Wonderful book!” Keshav Malik says, “The author of the book is so unusually live, that he shakes the smug out of their Kumbhakarna dope.” J P Das calls it “Kaw-wow! This book is even Bureaucrazier!” and Prabhat Kumar calls it “An excellent collection of vignettes of the world around; some irreverent, some bitingly satirical, but always disarmingly humorous. A treat to read.”
In this brief review, it is not possible to comment on or discuss the wide-range of topics covered in the book. What makes the presentation of the write-up interesting is the unique style of expression using abundant wit, humour and satire. The contents and the form of these personal essays, you may like to call them, are gripping and captivating.
Having miserably failed in extending his help in the kitchen, Kaw uses endscript designating himself as the prime minister of his house with a resolve to keep just one portfolio of writing his columns Kaw Caw and Silly Point. I trust he does justice to the sole ‘portfolio’ and provides us many more essays to read, which can be incorporated in the second edition of his book.