“No food,” says the ticket collector, shaking his head for emphasis, “You’re not going to get anything to eat until your destination.” Seeing the astonishment on my face, he then mumbles, “Try at Koraput”. So, here we are, three adults and two children, on a 7-hr train journey covering 200km of beautiful terrain – some … Continue reading Train to the heart of India
My earliest childhood memory has to do with food. It is fitting that this flashback, which I can recreate as if it happened yesterday, has nothing to do with flavors, textures, smells – the usual associations with food. I have a deeply political moment. I am five years old, probably six, and am in Calcutta … Continue reading Why hatred is cooking in India
By Imlifactory A Delhi businessman negotiated over many tense months to sell a large residential plot in West Delhi. Finally, the deal was struck. As is the norm in many parts of India, part of the proceeds was to be delivered in cash. So, the buyer deposited Rs 10 crore ($1.5m) to a house in … Continue reading The Sinister Edge Behind Notebandi
India Inc's answer to Royal Ascot is the big business awards night. Fronted by the country's largest-selling pink paper, the Economic Times, it is our business icons' Oscar moment. As page after page of cloying coverage in the ET today reveal, it's an impressive gathering of big business and politicians. But do these much-vaunted awards … Continue reading Don’t map the economy by business award nights
A lifetime ago, one hot and dusty May evening in 1991, I kick-started my green Bajaj scooter and headed out to a friend's place in Delhi's Moti Bagh, a residential area for government officials. The plan was simple: knock back a few rums and watch (on a video cassette recorder) a movie that the local … Continue reading Let’s not hide behind TINA
Should India strive to be a superpower, after all? Or are we getting it all wrong with the idea of India? These provocative questions were posed by Mark Tully, the veteran former BBC man in India, at the Indian Express Adda in Delhi on September 24. As an old friend of India, Tully is not … Continue reading Who wants to be a superpower? India?
It's that dreaded Delhi question. Where do you stay? The query comes in many forms. It could be that horrible 'Where are you putting up?' which the scion of a prominent business family, hand outstretched, blurted out to me at the birthday party of his four-year-old daughter. Smarter people try to couch it. "Terrible traffic. … Continue reading So, where are you putting up?
In the Fall of 2008, bang in the middle of those crazy days that are now dubbed as the global economic crisis, I interviewed British historian Niall Ferguson. When I asked him whether the global economic crisis marked the end of the "American Century", the counter-factual historian was dismissive. "I wouldn’t really believe in the … Continue reading Beyond Doklam, it’s really Digital India vs China
Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chair Niti Aayog. Pic: Livemint The new boss at NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar has set the swadeshi cats among the pigeons. Days after taking charge after the choreographed exit of economist Arvind Panagariya, Kumar hit out at the proverbial "foreign hand". He said the days of foreign-trained economists driving Indian policy were numbered, … Continue reading NITI Aayog new chief’s smooth U-turn on IMF
Geoffrey Bawa is Sri Lanka's most well known architect. Public buildings and private homes designed by Bawa (who passed away in 2003) dot the island. He is famous for subtlety, lines, and working with nature. I have never stayed in a Bawa hotel, but have previously visited his brother Bevis Baba's home "Brief" (which is … Continue reading How I was seduced by the fine lines of Bawa
Most visitors to Galle reach the city by means of an expressway from Colombo. It's a short journey -- 120 km -- but the expressway is like any other expressway: boring. A much better option is to catch the express train to Galle. Soon after landing in Colombo, we reached the Fort train station to … Continue reading Sun, sea, and rail
I have an issue with cities (or enclaves within cities) that exist solely for the purpose of tourism. Like Venice. For many, it's a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit, but I found Venice empty and boring (not so if you like sipping wine next to a smelly nalla.). There are no "normal" people, going to work … Continue reading Galle Fort is not a ‘real’ city! So, why is it so much fun?
Not a day passes when one isn't reminded about the honour and responsibility of being Indian. Drive around the city you live in, chances are you will soon spot a massive fluttering Indian flag; go to the cinema hall and you now have to stand to the national anthem; catch the evening news on TV, … Continue reading Perils of India’s Parachute Patriotism
There has been a raging debate on the recent #NotInMyName protests in multiple Indian cities, against the lynching of 15-year-old Junaid Khan on a Mathura-bound train a few days before Eid. My entire family was at Jantar Mantar that evening. It was smallish gathering, no doubt, a couple of thousand people at most. It was … Continue reading Some lessons from the highway of hate
To mark the Modi sarkar's third anniversary of acche din -- which was feted by the country's business summit media -- the government laid out a day of "Raid Raj". Two key players in the Opposition -- Bihar politician Lalu Prasad Yadav and former Home Minister P. Chidambaram -- faced Income tax and Central Bureau of Investigation … Continue reading Where the Swamy vs Chidambaram war all began
It's heartening that we are having a roll-up-the-sleeves debate on Aadhaar, with views, counter-views being shared in the courts, media and elsewhere. For, whichever way this goes, history will record that India's civil society made a spirited attempt to tackle disturbing issues that affect us all -- the government's open defiance of the highest court of … Continue reading Innocent Dangers of a post-Aadhaar World
A little over 100 days ago, I was having a cup of coffee with the worldly-wise editor of a daily newspaper. This was a few days before Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president. Naturally, we talked about the prospects of dramatic change in the US – and what all of this would mean for its media. … Continue reading Trump, Modi, and the media
India's middle class is quick to stand up for the national anthem, rail against the "lal batti", cry along with the families of martyred soldiers. But ask about their domestic help -- maid, servant, ayah, bai, guard, bhaiyya, didi -- and a stony response is all you will get. None of your business. We take good … Continue reading Why India’s middle class feels the domestic maid has “literally bought us”