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Ramesh K. Srivastava’s Read, Write and Teach: Essays on Learning to Live Together by Anupama Chowdhury

The book under review consists of 35 amazingly well written essays on a wide variety of subjects. It presents a. gallery of prismatic experiences culled from various fields: reading, writing, teaching and administration. Indeed, here is God's plenty! A reputed scholar and an academic, Ramesh K Srivastava is also well known   for  his  creative  and critical writings in English. His painstaking but powerful   handling   of the genre  is   clearly  perceptible  in  his   wide selection of these topics. Srivastava's versatile genius is manifested in his originality as is evident from his narration and from the apt examples he cites to prove his point. No doubt, he is well known for his erudition and scholarship both in India and abroad. The book begins with Srivastava's critical insight into the "distinctive natures" of "Reading; Writing and Teaching.”  His mastery of the language and poetic expressions grab the attention of the readers from the very beginning:

Creative reading is an act of unfurling one's mind while going through the text, allowing it to spread around like the light from the filament of an electric bulb rather than like that of a glow worm which barely lights its own path. (l)

According to him, books are the essence of "one's observation, imagination, ideas, conclusions" and words "carry within them the crystallized essence of one's experience" (2). Hence, they reflect the amount of   teaching experience,   creative   power and are   undoubtedly the    milestones   in the academic    profession. The author adds that "Creative   reading"   involves     understanding,   thinking,    imagining, associating, selecting and evaluating.   Srivastava aptly comments that   for creative reading, one should keep in mind Gestalt psychology. He begins the book appropriately with this introductory chapter in which he sets the tone for the rest of the discussion. Though it is informative and scholarly, the best part of this essay   is that it comes out naturally. It is very well-researched with incisive comments and references to other critical books and articles.

The second chapter entitled "Wit and Humour in University Teaching" gives insight into academic life. It both instructs and delights-—such is the magic of this versatile author. This chapter exudes his intense sense of humour which is not only contagious for the readers but instructive as well. Srivastava's pertinent observation on the "dull" literature classes raises peals of laughter: "Throughout the entire period the students sit as gloomily in the class as if they were in a prolonged condolence meeting" (20). We too agree with the author when he says that humour is a god given gift found among the people with the purity of heart and soul and we feel that with his inimitable sense of humour, Srivastava is one such person. His spontaneity makes his anecdotes immensely enjoyable. His; lucid expression free from literary jargons and the conversations between the teacher and the student frequently cited by him as examples make this book unique. One example will suffice:

 

Student: When are you going to take up Bacon and Lamb?           (English Essayists)

Teacher: I don't know. I am a vegetarian (23).

 

In the next chapter the author aptly sums up that teaching without writing work• is like food without salt which may fill the stomach but leaves the body deficient in vital nutrients. In Srivastava's writing, images shape up from different areas—sometimes culinary as well. In the fourth Chapter the author emphasizes the need for crossbreeding in Indian Universities. His final observation, no doubt, raises our awareness: "For the healthy functioning of a university, crossbreeding of teachers from other states and countries is as essential as it is for plants, animals and other species" (45). How true the author sounds when in the next chapter he says that to evaluate the teacher merely on the basis of his classroom performance would be utterly callous and illogical! His observations are pertinent and perceptive. No doubt, the book bears the interior signature of an erudite scholar. Chapter Six states that teaching of English can be fun too. He concludes this essay with a pertinent comment:

"There could be a thousand ways of arousing interest of students in English, but much depends on the imaginative and innovative methods which can be devised by an English teacher" (59).

In Chapter13 entitled "What is So Great in R K Narayan?" Srivastava argues that Narayan "lacks comprehensive vision, a right perspective or a philosophy of life embracing the whole universe" (125). Thus, all the chapters offer fresh delight. While "The Wonderful Indian Art of Doing Nothing" offers an enjoyable read, "Why senseless Higher Education?" is packed with sarcasm and genial humour. This book really sums up Srivastava's views and reflections on the given subjects wonderfully well. In the process of writing, the author has poured out his mind and soul into it, incorporating his scholarship and his reflections. Being a scholar of rare merit, he reinforces his viewpoint with apt quotations and adorns it with choicest illustrations. Srivastava's clarity of thought and precision of language will endear him to the readers both at home and abroad. It is hoped that the book will be well-received by both the research scholars and the general readers. Beautifully bound with an excellent collage of cartoons on the cover page that speaks volumes, the book is indeed well produced. Thanks are due to the publisher for keeping the price reasonable. Read, Write and Teach: Essays on Learning to Live Together is an invaluable contribution to the field of teaching, learning and administration. The impressive printing and the attractive blue jacket are the readers' delight. This review is just the tip of the iceberg and one who dives deep will surely get much more. No doubt, the book will be a valued addition to University libraries.