• Narendra Modi ended his three-day fast Monday evening with a speech rich in promise and rhetoric. By proclaiming his mission had just begun, he confirmed everyone's suspicion that he wants to be prime minister in 2014, when the next parliamentary elections are due.

    The fast was a Modi show rather than a party gala. Of course, senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu was around, and obliged Modi by saying he was prime ministerial material. But the fast likely upset party patriarch L K Advani by stealing his rath yatra thunder.

    Modi's high-profile demonstration, which he said was in the cause of communal harmony, did many things at many levels: put the Congress on the defensive, showed up the cracks in the National Democratic Alliance, and, within the BJP, revealed who was in his camp.

    If he wants to rise in national politics, Modi will have to erase the shame of the 2002 communal riots that claimed over a thousand lives. That's not going to be easy, and he hasn't apologised for it yet. Even

    Read More »from Narendra Modi yearns for a saintly halo
  • ‘Falsified’ Beauty

    The title's a bit of a misnomer, actually. Beauty queens, by definition, are false in the strictest sense of the word, for the most part. There's not much under that gown, or indeed, under the bikini, that's au naturel, let alone the award-winning answers of noble aspirations of feeding the poor and the hungry.

    So why the big hue and cry about Miss Universe's crown princess of this year? Allegedly, this year's Miss Universe Leila Lopes used falsified documents to gain entry (Gasp! Who woulda thunk?) and win the contest (Double gasp! Sacrilege!) To be precise, she obtained documents that suggested she was a student of a British business school, even though she's never lived outside her home country, Angola, to enable her to participate in the beauty contest.

    Beauty pageants, even those that have garnered a loyal following over decades now find themselves mired in scandals and controversies, thanks to overambitious aspirants who will not let a small thing like their citizenship, risque

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  • The scenic, boulder-strewn seaside village of Mahabalipuram was the backdrop for a firsthand experience of Sunny, Nissan’s premium sedan for India. Home to cave temples, sculptures and monolithic carvings, Mahabalipuram stands testament to the architectural excellence of the Pallava dynasty. Like the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, the Sunny catches the eye with well-sculpted exterior; every line is carved to perfection.

    Attractive and sleek, featuring Nissan’s signature grille and jewel-like headlamps, the Sunny displays a pronounced high running beltline that slopes from the headlamps, with the roof inclined elegantly to the rear, giving it the appeal of a coupé. Out back, the trunk offers a healthy 490 litres of luggage room but doesn’t look bulky at all. Thanks to the flowing lines and tail lamps that sweep back into the rear fender, you might even mistake it for the luxury model Teana at a quick glance.

    Inside, the Sunny’s USP is space, especially in the backseat. You can cross your

    Read More »from Nissan Sunny: Road Test and Review
  • Are Personal Affairs ‘Current Affairs’?

    If Omar Abdullah isn't in the news for his tweets on current affairs, he's in the news for his tweets on his, well, current affairs.

    Sorry about that.

    J&K's flamboyant chief minister has had to quell rabid rumours about his personal life via his chosen mode of communication, Twitter, as breathless speculation continues unabated, as is its wont, in the media, given to Page 3-ness, as is its wont, about his remarriage to someone who, well, might not really exist.

    Meteoric rise of stupidity, one would think.

    I guess it's pointless to ask what gives us the right to sit in judgement on the personal lives of public figures. Because, you know, the time-tested argument of 'the moment people choose to be in the public sphere, their personal affairs become issues of national importance' continues to hold sway, sometimes taking precedence over all other issues that continue to plague the nation. Right?

    Speculation and theorising are not new to media houses, honour-bound that they are to

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  • Voices from Japan: Six months on

    This piece should really be called mera something hain Japani? After all, what is that talking point that runs off, just skirting our headline radar in a heavily mediated world? Something that often eavesdrops on our collective cynicism with its quieter can-do-ness. Leaving one with an exasperated wow from the confines of a busy day. Or reminding the journalists that a human interest story often begins with one  human, struggling to be so.

    The September 11 date, with its spate of  quiet and graphic remembrances, converged on another more recent anniversary. 6 months since Japan's March 11 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear situation. While the media megamart chronicled it with a powerful sense of the phenomenal from ground zero (remember  NYT's before and after satellite imagery), I turned my distant empathy from Indian shores to a different sense of the interactive soon enough. Japanese voices that spoke compellingly of their own tribulations through these six months.

    There was a Osakan vegan

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  • Fast, Narendrabhai, deliver us unto Sadhbhavana!

    Vinutha Mallya

    After reading Narendrabhai’s letter to the citizens of his state, via his blog, I want to say: such expression is rare in a CEO of any state.

    It was 2004, not long after the riots. I remember alighting in the Ahmedabad station at 4:30 am, waiting for my usual defense mechanism to come up. It didn’t. For the first time in my entire life, in which I’d by then lived in four cities as an adult, and that includes London, here was a city where I didn’t feel the instinctual fear of being attacked because I was a woman.

    Gujaratis are usually warm, nice, well-meaning people, who look out for each other, and show far more respect to women in day-to-day life than I have seen in any other part of this country.

    So how did an entire state, in the capital city of which I’ve walked alone after midnight without any fear, become so full of hate one fine day?

    Maybe it was a temporary, collective loss. The loss of sadh-bhavana. This was in its karma.

    When the prime CM and prime

    Read More »from Fast, Narendrabhai, deliver us unto Sadhbhavana!
  • Muhammad Ali never left the ring

    September 15 marked 33 years since Ali brought down Leon Spinks to become the first and only boxer to win the lineal world heavyweight championship title three times.

    Before Parkinson's disease quieted Muhammad Ali, he made great copy. He still does, apparently, in retrospect.

    His taunting, his prophesying, his racist jibes, his questionable patriotism, his refusal to kowtow to Americana. He was a photographer's talisman: He made menacing eyes that popped back at the mob of flashbulbs with orchestrated, theatrical malice. His acerbic tongue inflicted damage equal in insult and injury to the blows that his padded fists delivered. He became, effortlessly, the most recognizable sportsperson in America, more than Joe DiMaggio, more than Michael Jordan and, arguably, more than Tiger Woods. Forget America, he is perhaps still the most recognizable sportsperson in the world, representing the glorious sunshine moment of a sport that has now fallen on dim days.

    September 15 marked 33 years since Ali brought down Leon Spinks to become the first and only boxer to win the lineal world heavyweight championship title three times. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr

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  • The arrest of an action hero for domestic violence has triggered a bizarre string of events in the Kannada film industry.

    Darshan, who stars in blood-and-gore revenge dramas, took his macho image too far when he assaulted his wife Vijayalakshmi and threatened to kill their infant child with his licensed revolver.

    The moment he was jailed, influential people in the industry rushed to the hospital where Vijayalakshmi was admitted, and succeeded in getting her to dilute her police complaint. She is now saying she sustained injuries after a fall, and not because she was battered by Darshan.

    Something inexplicable happened simultaneously: The Kannada Producers' Association banned actress Nikita for three years, saying she had created a rift in her co-star Darshan's marital life.

    For many, the action exposed the male bias in the industry, and a complete disregard for fair play. How could they ban Nikita without giving her any notice or seeking an explanation, especially when there was no

    Read More »from Darshan spat exposes moviedom’s male bias
  • 9/11 special: Is racial profiling wrong?

    "Racial profiling refers to the use of an individual's race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement (e.g. make a traffic stop or arrest)" is how Wiki defines the term. I haven't travelled much, so I cannot speak for all those who've been subjected to intrusive interrogation and security checks, but I do wonder sometimes - why does the term invoke a violently negative connotation whenever it's mentioned?

    Loathe as I am to cite the example of overbearing film stars like Shah Rukh Khan who kicked up his trademark fuss when he was detained at Newark airport in 2009 while on a promotional run for My Name is Khan, that is the most identifiable instance that comes to mind. The fact that it seemed more like a rather staged attempt at garnering publicity for the film aside, (I still don't believe his name/profile could turn up in an alert list - for hamming, maybe) that is when we actually sat up and took notice of the practice of

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  • 9/11 in verse

    In the early aftermath of whatever struck you about 9/11, the life math itself action replayed mind-numbingly. The body count, the bangs through the buildings, and the private and public aches of a stunned America. And the united colors of breathless TV studios. Shedding nationalistic heat on a moment that may have needed some light and a balm instead.

    One had to take a deep breath and find other ways of seeing.

    Thus, poetry.

    Wislawa SzymborskaWislawa Szymborska

    At that time, much of the poetry I read vacillated between American school assignments in cathartic mode to quick-fire book-length poems; all of them, of course, having their own coming-to-terms story. And then there was Wislawa Szymborksa's poem PHOTOGRAPH FROM SEPTEMBER 11.

    'They jumped from the burning floors—
    one, two, a few more,
    higher, lower

    The photograph halted them in life,
    and now keeps them
    above the earth toward the earth..'

    Wislawa Szymborksa. I did not know this Polish 1996 Nobel Laureate until then. She had continued to study underground during

    Read More »from 9/11 in verse


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