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MP assembly polls: Of frogs, scales and upper caste equations

Driving down from Indore to Bhopal, my driver Roop Singh gave me a lesson in sociology and politics when I asked him about the elections. The lesson I learnt from Roop Singh was quite instructive in understanding the post-poll scenario. “You see, sir, upper castes are like frogs in a taraju (scale), and each of them jumps habitually to disturb the scale,” he said while talki

The Master Sahib effect

During his stint as BJP general secretary (organisation) and in-charge of Madhya Pradesh affairs in the late 1990s, Narendra Modi had acquired a new nickname. He was called “master sahib”, because of his persuasive way of running the party’s organisation and reshuffling the support base.   Of course, in 1998, Madhya Pradesh emerged as a strong ba

Why the bureaucracy needs to re-learn to work

“You will soon be talking to a new foreign secretary,” said prime minister Rajiv Gandhi announcing the sacking of the incumbent at a televised press conference in 1986. Foreign secretary AP Venkateswaran was a distinguished diplomat with 36 years’ service but was not getting along with Gandhi on various issues. Hence the swift and clinical retribution. Venkateswaran resigned

Science and art are not separate: Jayant Kaikini

Jayant Kaikini was recently honoured with the Atta Galatta-BLF Prize and Lifetime Achievement Award Kannada for 2018. Born in Gokarna in Karnataka, Kaikini is one of the prominent young writers in Kannada. He is also a poet, playwright and lyricist and received the Filmfare Award for the best lyricist in 2009.  Your first Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award was when you were 19

MP voters want to bake bread on the other side

Sharp, funny, vicious and raucous as the political discourse is on social media, it is no match for rural India`s pithy street wisdom. A few kilometres away from the Datia constituency in a rural setting, a villager gives me a taste of this when I enquire about which way the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election is headed. “Roti dono taraf se senkna chahiye. Ek taraf jyada senkne se jal ja

MP assembly polls: Closed sugar mills spell trouble for Shivraj Chouhan

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is in the reckoning for a record fourth term in office. In the middle of his hectic campaigning, it will do him good to snatch a few hours of rest to watch Saudagar, a 1973 Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan. Saudagar is a great story around the issue of making jaggery. A widow, played by Nutan, is skilled in m

Language Bar

I heard this interesting anecdote from a dear colleague in Lucknow, late Tahir Abbas. His father had attended a meeting addressed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Lucknow before Partition and returned quite dismayed at the great leader’s anglophile conduct. But the maulvis who attended the conference were quite impressed and heard saying, “Mian, Angrez bhi aisi angrezi nahi bol paate (Ev

Here and now: Life lessons from Adi Shankara

The mind often goes blank – no thoughts, no sense of self. This does not last long; we ‘wake’ up and get back into the normal mode with the first-person-singular in the role of protagonist, thinking of the past or the future, planning, fantasising, imagining dialogues. Or the incessant background noise in the head, if nothing else. That blank state, the one without the weight

Making Mumbai trains efficient and economical

MRVC is executing a number of suburban rail improvement projects in Mumbai to reduce over-crowding and meet future traffic requirements. The corporation is also involved in the planning and development of a Mumbai Suburban Rail system. With new foot-over-bridges and AC trains planned, MRVC CMD RS Khurana talks about the slew of initiatives being undertaken.     

Nature vs. human nature

A shocking sight greets the visitor in Rishikesh: At the main ghat, the Ganga spans no more than 10 feet with less than a foot in depth. A larger stream, though, flows on the other side, in full spate, but a sizeable island of sand and stones lies between the that Ganga and the ghat. It was not many years ago that a pilgrim would prefer Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh over Har-ki-Paudi in Haridwar

With Sardar statue, Modi builds a legacy and dwarfs Congress too

Before he laid the foundation for the world’s tallest statue of India’s first deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on October 31, 2013, Narendra Modi (then chief minister of Gujarat), used to keep a small-scale prototype of the proposed statue on the desk in his office. When hosting foreign dignitaries in the office, he would spend considerable time in explaining the sig

The making of the Banana Republic

 In political discourse, the term ‘Banana Republic’ defines a state with a high degree of political instability, societal violence and oppressive inequality. American author O Henry, describing the central American country of Honduras in his ‘Cabbages and Kings’, coined the phrase and it stuck. It gained currency in India in the mid-1980s, when some commentators jok

CBI chief’s delusions of grandeur harmed the agency

Tumse pehle jo shakhs yahan takht-nashin tha Usko bhi apne khuda hone pe itna hi yakeen tha (The man who sat on this throne before you was equally convinced of being God)   Urdu couplets often have a unique way expressing baser human impulses. This particular couplet quite aptly describes the persona of CBI director Alok Verma who

A Triumfant meet

Prime minister Modi and president Putin’s meeting at the 19th Indo-Russian summit in New Delhi on October 5 has set a new pace for a ‘special and privileged strategic partnership’ between the two nations. This has come in the aftermath of the Modi-Putin informal meeting at Sochi on May 21. With the 19th summit, India and Russia have eventually inked an agreement over lethal

Migrants at a crossroads

For the past fortnight, Gujarat has witnessed an exodus of migrants from Hindi-speaking states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The migrants, mostly of the labouring classes, have been attacked by locals after a 14-month old girl was raped, allegedly by a Bihari whom the police have arrested. The rape survivor is from the Thakor community, an OBC group which has in recent decades gained a great de

#MeTooMuch?

The long-awaited arrival of #MeToo in India has received two kinds of receptions: cathartic yet celebratory cacophony and uncomfortable silence. The first comes from most working women and many men – on Twitter mostly. The second stems from many men and some women – in most newspapers so far. (Must be modesty; they prefer not to talk about themselves.)  

“He was my best friend’s husband, as well as a good friend”

Among the first to speak up about rape in Bollywood in the #MeToo India campaign is Vinta Nanda, filmmaker, and writer of film and TV scripts. She recounted her gut-wrenching story of being raped by actor Alok Nath as part of the campaign.    You are a big name in the industry. Why did you hold back from speaking about the incident (the rape by A

Mobiles are replacing big screen: Pankaj Parashar

His films Chalbaaz and Jalwa were box-office hits. The TV serial *Karamchand*, with Pankaj Kapur as the detective of the title and Sushmita Mukherjee as his assistant, is considered a cult classic. Pankaj Parashar, known for the twists in his film plots as much as the kooky angles of the shots, has some firsts to his credit too: computer animation for the titles of Jalwa,

“Changing things is not rocket science. But nobody cares”

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has chosen Atishi as its candidate for the East Delhi constituency in the 2019 elections. The activist known for the transformation she wrought in state government-run schools in Dehi talks about why she thinks voters should choose her as their MP.     What are the major challenges of the East Delhi parliamentary co

Gandhi@150: St Gandhi in Orwell’s maze of reflections

Forget sainthood. Mahatma Gandhi has been put through the whole gamut of deification. From lurid calendar and poster art to austere and sublime works by great artists, every genre has painted a halo around him. There are images of him blessing the nation. He is depicted in the dashavatar of Lord Vishnu as the ninth avatar, a place otherwise given to Lord Buddha. There is even a calendar art p

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