Ramesh K. Srivastava. Read, Write and Teach: Essays on Learning to Live Together. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2014.Pp.237, Rs.700/- / $18
Dr Atma Ram, Dharamsala (H.P.)
Prof. Ramesh Kumar Srivastava, a well-known creative and critical writer, collects here his 35 essays, which earlier appeared in prominent magazines and newspapers, such as, The Sunday Tribune (Chandigarh), University News ( New Delhi), Indian Book Chronicle (Jaipur) and Indian Express (Chandigarh). These incorporate the author's views on a variety of subjects—reading, teaching, writing, administration as also on general topics and day-today matters.
Some of these are longer essays in the form of papers: Creative Reading, Creative Writing and Creative Teaching; Teaching through Writing Work; Wit and Humour: Indian Life and Indian English Fiction; and What is so Great in R.K. Narayan? A few pieces relate to Srivastava's own convictions—My Idea of Short Story; My Idea of Success, and Lessons from a Crippled Lady. Quite a few concern the writer's life-long experience and experiments in the field of teaching English and administration in higher education: Wit and Humour in University Teaching; Reflecting Teachers’ Accountability; Evaluation of University Teachers, Administering a University, and so on. Then, there are short essays on general and common-place matters of topical interest. Witty and Humorous Road Signs, Through Proper Channel, Unanimity, Come Back Later, Art of Prevarications, etc. Each title points to the gist of the content, and the treatment of the subject is often illustrative and comparative.
The opening chapter of the book comprises the Presidential Address of the writer at the 54th All-India English Teachers Conference at Shri Shivaji Arts and Commerce College, Amravati (Maharashtra) on 14th December, 2009. In each paper, R. K. Srivastava takes up viable topics and examines them in some detail with the help of primary and secondary sources. He thus delves deep into the realms of gold, world literature. This makes the analysis original and plausible and style referential and substantial. Essays on writer’s own concepts are marked by a novel sense of clarity and authenticity. He has to his credit five anthologies of shorter fiction. So his idea of short story is both relevant and revealing. The pieces on teaching and administration are particularly interesting for their depth and wider range. The reader, especially one who is familiar with the field, invariably feels that Dr Srivastava has a point. In the shorter essays he discusses common-place ideas and situation, with a smile lurking on his face. At times everything seems to tingle and jinglewith healthy humour. This is how he presents a glimpse of education-scene in the U.S.: “The students listen to no commentaries of games in schools and colleges, no sweaters are knit in classrooms, and no tuitions and coaching classes are openly advertised or recommended.”
I believe Prof. Srivastava’s hobbies and duties coincide with reading, teaching and writing. He is ever active and agile. In him, every activity becomes creative and enjoyable. His forte is astonishing integrity to himself as to others; his utter candor and humorous turn of mind. The reviewer still remembers his short conversation with a Punjab University teacher at the Himachal Pradesh University campus at Shimla: “You come here;” “What shall I gain here?” “Altitude! Height!” His several personality-traits are finely reflected in the volume.
Beautifully and impressively brought out, Read, Write and Teach, indeed, consists of very interesting and invigorating essays, wherein the writer seems to suggest, with Euripides, imperceptibly, though: “Question everything. Learning something. Answer nothing.