Why Indian mangoes are better than Pakistani ones

(This article has previously appeared in Scroll, Quartz India, The Express Tribune and Dawn in the summers of 2014 and 2015.)

Photo credit: Prabhav Shandilya

I am telling nothing but the truth when I tell you that Indian mangoes are better than Pakistani mangoes. It infuriates me when Pakistanis don’t agree. That makes mangoes an India-Pakistan dispute just like Kashmir. Like a good Indian, I don’t think this needs a referendum. Of course our mangoes are better. How could anyone even think that isn’t the case? Continue reading “Why Indian mangoes are better than Pakistani ones”

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Nepal is the best

Published in The Express Tribune, 15 November 2013.

Bitter political differences, pre-poll violence, lack of consensus over just what and how the political system of the country should be — that is the impression you would get if you were to follow the news from Kathmandu ahead of the elections next week. These are the second elections for a constituent assembly, after the previous constituent assembly could not finalise a new constitution for Nepal after four years of deliberations. The picture may look grim. Continue reading “Nepal is the best”

Abolish the District Magistrate

For The Express Tribune, 1 May 2014

It is India’s fortune to have a voluntary human rights watchdog as fabulous as the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which goes around selflessly struggling for human rights in a country where human life and liberty have little value. But I felt the PUCL was being a little silly in approaching the Supreme Court of India to allow voters in the Indian elections to have a right to go to the polling station and vote for nobody. Continue reading “Abolish the District Magistrate”

The digital divide bogey

For The Express Tribune, 12 June 2014

I first set up a blog in 2004, or was it early 2005? I had been so impressed by a blog some people had put up about the Indian Ocean tsunami that I wanted to understand what was then called web 2.0, and is today called social media. Since then, I have been given the identity of a blogger and internet evangelist. I get called to a few talks, workshops, seminars, conferences, and a lot of TV shows. Continue reading “The digital divide bogey”

Bollywood and the moral compass

For The Express Tribune, 1 July 2014

I recently saw two Bollywood films, both very different and yet very similar. Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain is more like a standard Bollywood film, with good-looking people, a lot of romance, music you’d love to play in your car, and dishoom-dishoom from the first to the last scene. Hansal Mehta’s City Lights is, by Bollywood standards, serious cinema. The real difference between the two is about the budgets, I suppose. Yet, the two films are very similar. Both are set in Mumbai and are about men who are transformed by circumstances — birth, upbringing, migration, love, luck and urban life — into bad men doing bad things to innocent people. The women are passive victims of this violence. Continue reading “Bollywood and the moral compass”

Indian iconophilia: Why icons matter in Indian politics

For The Express Tribune, 4 October 2013

Foreigners are often flummoxed to see Hitler’s Mein Kampf sell so widely in India — sometimes even on red lights. Foreign journalists have written the usual stories about this: find and interview a Hitler fan, talk about the RSS and how its founders were influenced by early twentieth century European fascism, get a quote about the growing Hindu right in India.

Sexy copy as it makes, I always thought this was an incomplete story. For one, the Hindu right wants to cause no world war and it doesn’t want to exterminate Muslims from Indian soil. Its idea of those following religions that did not originate in India is to make them second class citizens. Abominable as it may be, it can’t be compared with what Hitler tried with Jews. Continue reading “Indian iconophilia: Why icons matter in Indian politics”

Tarun Tejpal wants a media trial because it’s the only one he can win

(First published in The Express Tribune on 21 February 2014 under the headline ‘The editor’s media trial’.)

t is a test of the fairness of a country’s criminal justice system if it applies the same standards of justice, mercy and efficiency to the rich and the poor. A criminal justice system that works better for the rich is not a just one. To the extent that the rich can always hire the best lawyers, we’re never going to have real equality before the law. But we must still try. Continue reading “Tarun Tejpal wants a media trial because it’s the only one he can win”

The rise and rise of Arvind Kejriwal

(This article by me first appeared in The Express Tribune on 26 December 2013.)

Arvind Kejriwal is the new Sachin Tendulkar. You throw him the most difficult googly and he sweeps it to add runs for his century. In 2011, he started a national anti-corruption movement with the specific aim of setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal. The movement’s public face and leader was Anna Hazare, a respected social leader, who like Gandhi, believes in fasting for politics. The critics said Anna is just a puppet and it’s Kejriwal’s movement, and that such sophistry showed Kejriwal (who takes oath as chief minister of Delhi tomorrow) had sinister motives. Continue reading “The rise and rise of Arvind Kejriwal”

T’hell’ka: of men in power

(First published in The Express Tribune on 22 November 2013.)

The most shocking thing about the revelation that the iconic editor, Tarun Tejpal, had sexually assaulted a woman journalist his daughter’s age, was that nobody was shocked. In the Indian media, we know these things happen. Through word of mouth, those in the fraternity know which editors have a ‘glad eye’. Some are more infamous than others. Continue reading “T’hell’ka: of men in power”