/Biography

Biography presents word-portraits of a range of fascinating or forgotten individuals in India and beyond.

A MAN TO MATCH HIS MOUNTAINS, The Telegraph

The importance of the India International Centre (IIC) in New Delhi is gauged, in part, by the number of armed security men who pass through its portals. These come to accompany—and, one supposes, protect—the big shots, the fat cats, the Ministers and MP’s and Ambassadors and Generals who wish to be seen at a place located, [...]

LOST IN THE WOODS, Hindustan Times

In August 2010 — that is, exactly a year ago — Rahul Gandhi told a group of tribals in Orissa that he would be their soldier in New Delhi. There is no record of his having acted on that promise. The Dongria Konds of Niyamgiri forgotten, his attention has more recently been focused on the Jats [...]

By |2011-11-17T13:24:42+00:00September 15th, 2011|Categories: Biography|

A PATRIARCH FOR THE NATION?, The Telegraph

About twenty years ago, I found myself in the same room as Anna Hazare, at a meeting organized by the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. Mr Hazare was becoming known in environmental circles for the work he had done in his native village, Ralegan Siddhi. His successful programmes of watershed conservation and afforestation [...]

By |2011-12-28T10:50:20+00:00August 27th, 2011|Categories: Biography|Tags: , , , , |

THE THOUSAND BINAYAK SENS, The Telegraph

Last week, the Supreme Court granted bail to Binayak Sen, the doctor and civil rights activist who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Raipur on the charge of sedition. Dr. Sen was charged with being a Naxalite sympathizer, and of acting as a courier for the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The [...]

By |2011-11-16T17:16:40+00:00April 23rd, 2011|Categories: Biography|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

THE REAL OFFENDERS, Hindustan Times

Narendra Modi may never have banned Joseph Lelyveld’s The Great Soul had the books editor of the Wall Street Journal been as discerning as his counterpart in the New York Times. The Manhattan dailies carried reviews on the same weekend, but these could not have been more different in style or substance. The Times reviewer, who [...]

FAITH CYNICAL AND SUBLIME, The Telegraph

In the spring of 1907, the London publisher John Murray published a book on Persian mystics by one F. Hadland Davis. The book appeared in a series called ‘The Wisdom of the East’, whose editors desired their publications to be ‘ambassadors of good-will and understanding between East and West, the old world of Thought, and the [...]

THE LIVING LEGACY OF SANJAY GANDHI, The Telegraph

The only time I have been less than sorrowful at a premature death was when Sanjay Gandhi perished in an air crash. He was truly a nasty piece of work. Having dropped out of the Doon School, and then dropped out of an apprentice scheme in the Rolls Royce factory in the United Kingdom, he used [...]

By |2011-11-30T19:43:20+00:00September 11th, 2010|Categories: Biography|Tags: , , , , , , |

THE ECUMENICAL MARXIST, The Telegraph

The great German sociologist Max Weber once made an important distinction between universities on the one side and religious seminaries and political parties on the other. Seminaries and parties upheld a particular ideology, and made it mandatory for their members to believe in it. Howewer, universities were emphatically not centres of indoctrination. Its professors could not, [...]

MERCHANDIZING GANDHI, Hindustan Times

In twenty years of studying Gandhi, I have had, as friends and advisers, three brothers who grew up in a flat in Connaught Place owned by the Hindustan Times (of which paper their father was then the editor). They all went to the same school (Modern) and college (St. Stephen’s), and all had a deep scholarly [...]

THE ABSENT CELEBRANT, The Telegraph

It is well known that when India became free on the 15th of August 1947, Mahatma Gandhi declined to join the festivities in New Delhi. While his follower Jawaharlal Nehru spoke in the Council Hall about India’s tryst with destiny, and the crowds danced on the streets outside, Gandhi was in Calcutta, seeking to restore peace [...]