Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You

That Proud Staff

In his column for The Telegraph, Gopal Krishna Gandhi talks about the eternal charm of “the walking stick”. History is replete, he says, with examples of leaders, writers and poets who were known to always have their specially-crafted walking sticks by their sides. And while newer innovations like the machine-made sticks of today have come to rule the market, the old, wooden ‘lathis’ will always have a charm of their own.

"That walking stick, a thing of beauty and utility, is in retreat, being replaced by the vastly more efficient, firmer, lighter metal tube with ‘features’ like extensions, straps, adjustable grips, lights, wheels, and, most importantly, four feet. But great as these appliances are, in terms of practical use, they are devoid of personality. Each is like the other, manufactured by a machine, mass-produced, steel-cold. The walking stick, on the other hand, is part of the user’s personality. And it acquires something of that, itself. Some of the fancier ones used to have secret recesses to hold a peg of alcohol, tobacco, perfumes, all reflecting the owner’s personality traits and, withal, their hidden indulgences. Good for the user!"Five Steps To Nirvana

In this week’s column for The Indian Express, P. Chidambaram tries to tackle the much-talked (and meme-d) about problem of the depreciating rupee. Chidambaram asserts that external events are impacting the economy and that the government has been unwilling to change its position to react to these externalities. In light of this, he offers five measures that may ‘boost the rupee’. If some financial charcha is what you fancy on a Sunday morning, then this piece is a must-read.

"The objective of the five measures is to enhance the inflow of foreign currencies (up to USD 10 billion) to balance the outflow of foreign currencies and prevent the depreciation of the rupee. The catch is that foreign investments do not flow into or out of a country at the command or whim of the government of that country. They follow the command of their owners or managers who will make their own judgments about putting their money in a country."Modi’s Future

Writing for The Indian Express, this piece is Lord Meghnad Desai’s eulogy (of sorts) for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his just-concluded 68th birthday. Desai looks at Modi’s life in installments of 17 years. The first three installments are the years he’s lived while the last 17-year-installment talks about what Modi might achieve if he were to come back to power in 2019. And just because that is an eternal question we are all asking ourselves these days, this piece is probably what you’d like to start your Sunday with.

"To be India’s prime minister is an ambition many politicians have had. But you need a long apprenticeship for that unless you are from the Nehru family. Indira Gandhi became the youngest prime minister at 48 after just about 18 months in the Cabinet. Rajiv Gandhi did better by getting there at 40. Both these events however were preceded by tragic deaths of the incumbent prime minister. Only V P Singh managed it at 58 in normal times. The median age for Indian prime ministers is 64. Modi managed to get there at just hundred odd days short of 64."Birthday Wishes For Mahatma Gandhi

As a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 149th birthday to be celebrated on 2nd October 2018, Ramachandra Guha talks about the rather “unusual” tributes that the Father Of The Nation has received over the years. For example, on his seventy seventh birthday, Gandhi received many letters from many famous people- but the one Guha describes as “most beautiful” is a letter from an unknown American where the writer said that “small towns, like Forty Fort in Pennsylvania” (where he lived) have been made better because of the way Gandhi lived his life. To know about many such “gifts” that Gandhi received on his birthdays over the years, this piece from The Hindustan Times is the kind of history lesson you wouldn’t want to miss on Sunday morning.

"On the 2nd of October 1939, Gandhi turned seventy. To mark the occasion, the philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan edited a volume on Gandhi’s life and work, with essays by, among others, the scientist Albert Einstein, the poet Yone Noguchi, the novelist Pearl Buck, and the philosopher Gilbert Murray. These Gandhi admirers were all globally renowned; here, they rubbed shoulders with the Mahatma’s close friends, such as C. F. Andrews, Rabindranath Tagore, Mirza Ismail, and Henry Polak. I own a first edition of the Radhakrishnan volume myself. My favourite essay is by the South African politician Jan Smuts, who describes, with a mixture of admiration and exasperation, his dealings with Gandhi the agitator."Inside Track: Sangh Song

What is the meaning of Mohan Bhagwat’s recent, ‘liberal’ speeches? While the most obvious explanation would be a fall-out with the BJP’s central leadership, Coomi Kapoor says that might not be necessarily true. Why? Because it is unlikely that a grand RSS event would be allowed to take place in a government auditorium like the Vigyan Bhawan had it not been cleared from the very top. So, what subliminal message is Bhagwat trying to give out? Kapoor tries to decode in her weekly column for The Indian Express.

"For the first time in its history, the RSS sarsanghchalak has spoken in a more liberal vein than its political wing. Bhagwat countered Amit Shah’s ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ with ‘Yukt Bharat’. The facile explanation is that the Sangh and party are not on the same page. But the RSS would not have been given permission to hold its grand show with giant screens in Vigyan Bhawan, which is actually meant only for government and semi-government events, without clearance from the very top. Amit Shah visits Nagpur every three weeks and reportedly has a good equation with Bhagwat. Some surmise that this is the RSS chief’s way of asserting his individual authority. Though the BJP may have ensured appointments of RSS people in key slots in government and Parliament, the selection process was not necessarily left to the sarsanghachalak himself. (Interestingly, Dattatreya Hosabale, the RSS joint general secretary, was missing on the first day of the meet). Yet another explanation is that Bhagwat is simply keen to establish that the RSS has evolved and should not be penalised by future non-BJP governments. It should also be in a position to attract a younger generation with a more liberal mindset. The key question is whether Bhagwat discussed the content of his speech with Narendra Modi."We May Be On The Cusp Of An Enlightened Hindu Consensus

In his column for The Times Of India, Swapan Dasgupta offers a different take on Bhagwat’s speech. Dasgupta says that in an India where “political debates on ideas and ideologies” are relatively uncommon, Bhagwat’s speeches seek to assert the ideological engagement that the RSS has with 21st century Indian politics. The speech, he says, straddles three crucial strands in India- politics, social institutions and the Hindu samaj.

"It is to the credit of Bhagwat that he had the sagacity and the self-confidence to be the much-needed revisionist and clarify the terms of the RSS engagement with 21st century India. That he implicitly repudiated Veer Savarkar’s definition of Hindutva and M S Golwalkar’s view of nationhood is apparent. Hindutva as an ideal has been maintained but made non-doctrinaire to embrace three unexceptionable principles: patriotism, respect for the past and ancestry, and cultural pride. This, coupled with categorical assertions that different modes of worship and different lifestyles does not exclude people from the Hindu Rashtra, is important in reforging the RSS to confront the challenges of an India more exposed to economic growth and global influences than ever before. There is a difference between conservative and reactionary and Bhagwat spelt it out bluntly."A Politician’s Health Must Be Made Public

From Jayalalitha to Karunanidhi and now Manohar Parrikar - the health conditions of Indian politicians have always eluded the public. In his column for The Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar asserts that as citizens, we have the right to be informed about the health of our politicians, and more importantly, how much the exchequer is spending on their treatment. While this practice is followed in the West, Thapar says it’s high time that the media in India uses its resources to inform the public on the well-being of their leaders as it could potentially have a huge impact on governance and polity.

"Now, if India was a western democracy our media would have thrown all the resources it could muster to find out the truth about Sonia Gandhi and Manohar Parrikar and ensure it was fully revealed to the public. They would also have found out or accurately estimated the cost and published that as well. The reason is simple: in a democracy the people’s right to information about their leaders, which can and does affect their politics and governance, takes priority over the individual’s right to privacy. This is because the stability of UPA-2 or the present Goa government is contingent upon the healthy functioning of its most important leader."Why China Can’t Win The World With Easy Money

In his weekly column for The Times Of India, Swaminathan Aiyar, talks about China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to finance and build massive infrastructure projects in 78 countries. While China believes (and India fears) that this might lead to the Chinese domination of the 21st century, Aiyar says there’s not much to worry. At worst, he says, the BRI might become a debt trap for borrowers. And while Indians fear that this will make many borrowers “Chinese puppets”, or offer some strategic help to China, he contends that most borrowers will turn against an “overweening China” and the whole project might possibly blow up in the country’s face.

"Asia needs a lot of infrastructure. India itself is a partner with China in the New Development Bank and Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. But BRI is far more ambitious, planning giant projects. Many are turning into white elephants. This is sparking a financial drama in Pakistan.In worst-case scenarios, BRI will become a debt trap for borrowers who cannot repay Chinese loans. Indian diplomats fear this debt trap will make borrowers Chinese puppets, or at least give China strategic footholds (like naval bases) in these countries. Maybe so, but I suspect most borrowers will turn against an overweening China, not to it. Indeed, an over-ambitious BRI could blow up in China’s face, causing such massive loan defaults that China’s own financial system staggers.  "A Day In The Digital Desert

Ruchir Joshi’s piece for The Hindu this week is probably what you should be reading every Sunday. If not everyday. Joshi talks about a day in London, when his friend left town with his laptop charger and his phone died while he was on he was in the tube. What followed next was a day without invasive digital technology, and believe it or not- he survived! While the nostalgia with which Joshi talks about landlines might make you feel a little old (or not, depending upon whether you know what a landline is), we’d recommend finishing your Sunday reading saga with this piece. And don’t forget to toss your phone away once you’re done!

"Till I gave in to the mobile phone persuasion just past 40, I had made all my appointments via landline. Many of you may never have experienced this kind of thing but it went like this: you called a friend, or they called you, and you agreed to meet somewhere. You then went there and waited, or they did, looking around to try and spot each other. You people-watched, you noted crowd patterns, you noticed odd behaviour, overheard conversations, noticed which shops were attracting what sort of customers, which ones were the most popular — stuff like that. If you or your friend missed the appointment, your level of annoyance (save in the case of repeat offenders) was minimal – anyone could fall victim to unforeseen circumstances and there was no way to let the other party know, so what to do? My rickshaw broke down, my aunt landed up just as I was leaving, I called you but you’d already left your house were among the acceptable reasons for keeping someone waiting or ditching them."

From The Quint:

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