• Consider this man: He runs a village in rural Maharashtra as if it is his personal fiefdom, like an authoritarian feudal lord. He is a fan of Shivaji, and admires him for once chopping off the hands of a man who committed a crime. In that vein, he passes an order that anyone found drinking alcohol will be tied to a pole in front of the village temple and publicly flogged. Several men undergo this, one of whom, a vice sarpanch of the village, says: "I was drinking. I was ... tied to the pole and flogged two-three times. It is normal. [He] will try to make you understand once or twice and thereafter, he will beat you badly." He believes in "rigid implementation" of family planning, including forced vasectomies. Male labourers in his village are paid Rs 50 a day, while female labourers get just Rs 30. He supports Narendra Modi, and is politically active, routinely resorting to a form of blackmail known as threatening to fast unto death until his demands are met. He believes that corrupt Read More »from The Rorschach Effect in Indian Politics

  • Five Easy Ways To Get Suckered

    It used to be fashionable for men to show each other their scars, and demonstrate that they had suffered more than the other guy, even if it involved a quick trip to the restroom to illustrate their end of the story. In the currently squeamish situation of children not being allowed to get any scars, with the threat of the Public Flogging of the Dad, I believe it will soon be fashionable to discuss how one got suckered buying various things. Here are five ways that you can build your database of stories that will be told one day.

    Asking your banker where to invest

    This is like asking a barber if you need a haircut. In fact, if you asked your banker if you needed a haircut he would likely say yes, and then work out a deal where the barber pays him 6%.

    There was a time when bankers were staid, honest, hardworking people who would know who you are, remember your birthday, and know enough about your finances to give you proper advice. That breed has retired or been upgraded into

    Read More »from Five Easy Ways To Get Suckered
  • Until we are clear what is source of the problems Pakistan poses to the world, we are unlikely to get anywhere near solving it. The source, I would submit, is an multi-faceted entity that I call the military-jihadi complex---a dynamic network of military, militant, radical Islamist and political-economic structures that pursues a set of domestic and foreign policies to ensure its own survival and relative dominance.

    It has captured the 'commanding heights' of the Pakistani state and subordinated the Pakistani people to its ends. It exploits Pakistan's geopolitical position to promote its own interests, passing them off---often quite successfully---as Pakistan's national interests, thereby becoming the primary beneficiary of international assistance that ought to have accrued to the peoples of Pakistan. Having total control over a nuclear arsenal has emboldened it to pursue ideological-territorial ambitions in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Nuclear weapons do not secure Pakistan, as much as

    Read More »from Understanding Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex
  • Fellow columnist, friend, and editor of this space, Amit Varma, hit the button when he wrote last week that corruption is a manifestation of too much power vested in our politicians. Now Anna Hazare and his mob want power over the corrupt mob, by virtue of their self-proclaimed virtue.

    I have no reason to doubt their squeaky cleanliness, or even their good intentions. But then, I didn't doubt those very attributes of the good doctor, Manmohan Singh. And we all know how that played out. Now the custodians of our nation and the custodians of our virtue are sitting down to draft a bill that will make us a less corrupt nation. Hah!

    Meanwhile — and I love my food too much to fast for the right to shove this into parliament - here are the first three points on my bill to free our nation from the arbitrary powers of governance:

    1. The premise that natural resources are the property of the state is like motherhood, or virtue — it seems impossible to attack. But this convenient iteration by

    Read More »from The Many Routes to Corruption
  • I recently had the opportunity to experience Bengaluru for the first time through the eyes of a resident. It is a city of many delights - the easiest on the eye among all Indian metros, the advantages of a modern lifestyle (though only until 11 pm, more on that later) without losing out on a certain old-India charm, and a climate that gently, smilingly urges you to forgive the city's idiosyncrasies, generally with a very respectable success percentage.

    My new job having given me the opportunity to escape the bullying, brutal Mumbai summer, and the relatively easy pace of Bengaluru cushioning the impact of being separated from the great things I love about about Mumbai(my family, functioning public transport, nightlife and, most importantly, home delivery.), I was able to approach life in my new home with a cool, breezy confidence not unlike that shown by Duke Nukem on learning that aliens had invaded Earth, and were planning to steal away our babes. (I read that as 'babies' when

    Read More »from Rickshaw drivers and vampires in Bengaluru
  • Decades ago, while browsing at a bookstore on Park Street in Kolkata, I came across a novel by P.G. Wodehouse with the most un-Wodehousian title of Sunset at Blandings. Upon examination, it turned out to be the novel he was working on when he died. The unfinished manuscript was subsequently published, padded out with the addition of Wodehouse's notes on the plot and an introduction by Richard Usborne.

    I put the book back on the shelf. It remains one of the few by the novelist that I haven't read, simply because I'm sure I'd be stricken by an awful sense of melancholy on every page, however sprightly Wodehouse's sentences.

    Clearly, not everyone would be as melancholy when it comes to a favourite author's last words, as exemplified by the continual publication of unfinished manuscripts. The latest case in point is David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, which he was working on at the time of his suicide. It was published last month to — so far — glowing and respectful reviews.


    Read More »from Unfinished, Not Unpublished


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