Yearly Archives: 2010

Binayak Sen has just received a life-term jail sentence for sedition or waging war against the state. The specific crime, according to the judgement, was that he conveyed three letters written by a Maoist leader to a Calcutta-based trader. This was supported by a broader claim that Binayak Sen and his wife Ilina have known Maoists, and that Binayak even had Maoist literature at his home! Callous evidence The evidence presented for the critical claims of the case have been disputed. He met Narayan Sanyal several times in jail, under the supervision of jailors and was searched before and after […]

Why even those who oppose Naxalism should support Binayak Sen

A recent survey says that Dalits of Uttar Pradesh have started using toothpaste and hair oil more regularly. Will it have an impact on democracy? Economic and Political Weekly recently carried the report of the survey by Devesh Kapur and others (Kapur et al. 2010). The paper argued that there have been important changes in grooming, eating practices and ceremonial consumption patterns of Dalits, and in general a rapid erosion of discriminatory practices that stigmatised the Dalits of Uttar Pradesh. This interesting survey draws attention to perceived discrimination, and how it has changed since the 1990s. The authors draw attention […]

Toothpaste, hair oil, and democracy

In a world that is deeply worried about extremism I have learned to love it. In fact, there is nothing as entertaining as it is. Whenever I am bored and need a diversion, I find extremism and its close cousins: insanity and craziness, to be extremely reliable means of getting out of my boredom quickly. That’s insane, you must be thinking. Or perhaps not, if have a YouTube view of the world, as I do. All I need to do is to go to YouTube and start typing “extreme” or “insane” or “crazy” and it will give me an assortment […]

Nothing as entertaining as extremism

The 2010 Bihar election clearly reflected people’s voice, but sustained engagement by all sections of the society would be required for these voices to shape the government. In a press conference following the massive victory in the election, the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar remembered the massive changes that have happened in the electoral atmosphere of Bihar. As soon as the election got over, we would visit hospitals or families of dead people. It did not look like an election; it looked like war, he recalled. He also characterised erstwhile strategies of political parties during elections as logon ka kayal kam, […]

Has the Bihari citizen spoken?

Love needs surveillance, and nothing escapes the eyes of Dr. K. She has the uncanny ability of retracing my day with telltale details. Within minutes of returning from work she normally recounts whether I ate, napped, read, did the laundry, etc. Normally her account is accurate. So, when she came home and declared that I did not go swimming as I had promised, I was surprised. “But I did go swimming”, I told her. She looked puzzled and asked me what towel I used and I pointed out the brown towels that we regularly use in the bathroom. “You don’t […]

A nightmare abut towels

Shiva looked comfortable. He was resting his back on a pile of bags and threw his legs on another pile in front of him, his foot going as high as his head on the other direction. With his head resting on his clasped palms behind him, and the face sporting an elaborate smile, he looked like he was resting on a hammock, and not a jeep full of people and things. Our jeep was loaded with stuff, after all, it was carrying the baggage of nine people who had travelled for a seven day trip to Rajasthan. Two hours down […]

Travelling with Shiva

A few days ago I was listening to a biologist who recounted a philosophic conversation. In it the philosopher asked a man who had gone to the market why he was there. “To buy vegetables”, the man answered. “Why do you want vegetables?”, the philosopher continued. “So that I can eat” “Why do you want to eat?” “So that I can be healthy” “Why do you want to be healthy?” “Because I will be unhappy if I am not healthy” “Ah, you are in the market so that you can be happy”, said the philosopher and stopped his round of […]

Where questions stop

Ever since I got interested in foreign policy issues during my high school days, there has been one strident demand by India’s Ministry of External Affairs: to get a permanent membership in the Security Council of United Nations. Today, India re-entered the Security Council by being elected as a non-permanent member, a post it will hold for the next two years. This has been greeted with euphoria in the country, and some are hoping that the clout of this position can help India to bargain for a permanent seat in the Security Council with its veto power. India has consistently […]

Should India seek a position in the Security Council?

A few months ago, I got the criticism that my work is not original, and that most of what I have to say has already been said, and that my arguments are evident to the point of being tautological. When I got the criticism, I felt that there is a ring of truth to it, in a sense that there is practically no argument within my scheme of things that has not already been made by others. At one point, I even started questioning if there is any value to the work I did. Since it is a feeling that […]

The place of originality in academic writing

I discovered that the papers that I had written with a lot of hard work were cited only once in the last four years. A note on the academic peril of working hard in writing what will probably be never read by any one. To publish is to perish. Read on.

Publish and perish

With 15 minutes to go for the Jaipur-Delhi bus, I decided to give the toilet a try. I was directed to dark and damp room with an Indian styled pit-toilet. After finding the only dry spot to stand on, I precariously balanced my pants on my shoulders with nowhere else to hang them. Just when I was to get into business there was a loud crashing sound on my door, and the sound repeated itself in every five seconds along all the doors in the toilet complex. It was a muscular man in a hurry. “Are you mad”, shouted my […]

All in a day’s trip

This is a desperate attempt to create a story where none exists. As a young man who has freshly returned from the United States after announcing his white girlfriend, I expected some fireworks when I got home; but all was calm on the eastern front. I thought, perhaps an announcement that I will be moving to LA with her could create excitement; that did not help. Will it help if the cause if I make it clear that we have not decided to marry? That did not either. I am sorry to tell you, my reader, that I have no […]

Creating history

Death needs preparation. Preparation, especially for those who will be left behind, and I have started preparing for the death of a close one. She has been my bedside companion for many years, and the holder of my most intimate thoughts. She has been a part of my conversations with friends, my work and my leisure. She is the one I turned to when I woke up, and she put me to sleep for many a year. It looks like she may die soon. When she dies, she will take with her a part of me – naturally. A friend […]

Preparing for the death of a close one

There is almost an invariant formula for a Tamil television serial: a catchy title song with an amateurish dance, three units of sentiment, one unit of crying (with joy or sorrow), and one unit of suspense towards the end. The formula gets repeated at least ten times a day across television channels. Where is imagination? — The schizophrenia of the production houses between producing movies and television is fascinating. Women in Tamil television come through as strong, thinking, acting characters. The woman of the movies is typically a diva in trouble dependent on the hero to be rescued. Heroes have […]

Thoughts on Tamil television

Grandma reminds me of the “grandma proof” Lenovo ad these days. She uses my laptop screen as a prop when she wants to lean, and sprinkled water all over my screen earlier today. I am not sure if this laptop is going to survive my summer… — It’s summer and my cousins have been playing Thayam a lot (a dice based game) with grandma. I am surprised at how smart her moves are at 83. She would be a force to contend with if she remembers which coins are hers. — Grandmother believes that attack is the best form of […]

Grandma diary

For the purpose of this post, I’ll call her Dr. K. She is not one of those real doctors, the kind that I will be. She is the kind that deals with medicines and treats people one-by-one. Her speciality, I am led to believe, involves slashing people’s throats regularly and whipping people’s faces into shapes that she desires. In fancy words, she is an ENT and facial plastics surgeon. She is an avid reader, a pilot, compulsive shopper and (to borrow her friend’s words) her sunscreen budget rivals the GDP of small nations. Despite her sunscreen budget and a thousand […]

Dr K