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


The Hindu

In a delicious paradox that can only be Indian, the man who best embodied the spirit of the holy Hindu city of Banaras was a Muslim. Although he was born in Bihar, Bismillah Khan moved to Banaras as a young man, and lived there until he died, spending some seven decades in an old, crumbling haveli, [...]


The Hindu

John Kenneth Galbraith, who died recently, was an economist of capacious interests and controversial views. His many works of scholarship were widely read, acclaimed by some and dismissed by others. I am not an economist, and thus not in a position to judge the merits of Galbraith’s writings on the modern corporation or the free market. [...]


The Telegraph

In a little over a year’s time, the term of the current President of India will come to an end. Good man though he is, Abdul Kalam is unlikely to get a second term, a privilege thus far accorded only to the first holder of the office, Rajendra Prasad. Who will succeed him? In political circles [...]

By |2011-11-17T13:41:57+00:00April 14th, 2006|Categories: Biography|


The Telegraph

The day the Mumbai crowd booed Sachin Tendulkar after his failure in the third Test against England, another Indian legend was formally, finally, leaving his field. This was Dr Verghese Kurien, who announced that day that he was resigning as Chairman of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation. This coincidence got me thinking—when, and in what [...]


The Hindu

Many years ago, while doing research on the life of the anthropologist Verrier Elwin, I found myself in the library of the great old publishing house of John Murray, on Albemarle Street in central London. Elwin had once been a Murray author; and so had been some far more distinguished people. One such was the poet [...]

By |2011-11-30T19:30:24+00:00March 26th, 2006|Categories: Biography|Tags: , |


The Hindu

Many years ago, the anthropologist Triloki Nath Pandey told me a story featuring Jawaharlal Nehru and the poet Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’. The Prime Minister had just returned from a visit to the People’s Republic of China. He was addressing a public meeting in his home town, Allahabad, where Nirala then lived and where Triloki Pandey then [...]


The Hindu

While Mahatma Gandhi was alive, not many intellectuals would willingly identify themselves as ‘Gandhian’. Writers and thinkers treated him, at best, with a kindly indulgence; and, at worst, with unremitting hostility. The first group admired the Mahatma’s asceticism and personal integrity and, were they Indian, his ability to move the masses and draw them into the [...]


The Telegraph

Shelley once claimed that poets were ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. In the decades and centuries since he said this, it has been scientists rather than poets who have been the world’s legislators, and acknowledged ones, too. The power and prestige of modern science is colossal indeed. The prestige comes from science’s manifest successes in [...]


The Hindu

In the first week of February 2002, I got a call from the writer Mahasweta Devi. I had met Mahasweta only once—in a boarding house in Delhi where we both happened to be staying—but knew, of course, a great deal about her. I had not read her novels—I don’t read much fiction—but had been profoundly moved [...]


The Hindu

A book I cherish greatly, and which I bought in the great Sunday book bazaar in Delhi’s Daryaganj—since closed by a philistine police force—is a 75th birthday tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. Four hundred pages long, beautifully bound and printed (at the Karnatak Printing Press, Bombay—also probably by now a victim of history), it assembles essays by [...]

By |2011-11-16T11:20:56+00:00October 23rd, 2005|Categories: Biography|Tags: , , , , |