Why The Dalai Lama May Be India’s Noblest Resident, Hindustan Times [Sunday, January 31st, 2016]

Unlike the airport in my home town, Bengaluru, or the airports in two cities I visit often, Mumbai and Delhi, the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport in Kolkata is run not by a private firm but by the Airports Authority of India. This must be why, unlike in Bengaluru, Delhi or Mumbai, as one approaches [...]

 
 
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  Searching For Saints In Songs And Pictures, Hindustan Times [Sunday, January 3rd, 2016]

I have a decent head for names, dates, places, events, but can remember few snatches of poetry. Truth be told, there are only two pieces of verse that I have committed to memory. Both are very short. The first is this Kabir doha that I learnt in my junior school in Uttar Pradesh some fifty [...]

 
 
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  Why Bengal Is To India What France Is To The World, The Telegraph [Tuesday, December 29th, 2015]

In a book published some years ago, the sociologist Rabindra Ray observed that Bengalis were so obsessed with intellecual pursuits that even their swear words reflected this. In other parts of India, the most common form of abuse dealt with incest—you accused someone you disliked or were quarrelling with of sleeping with his mother or [...]

 
 
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  A Green and Pleasant Land, The Telegraph [Saturday, November 28th, 2015]

Some twenty years ago, my wife and I called on Nirad Chaudhuri at his home in Oxford. The great little writer was happy to see us, but less pleased with my wife’s apparel. ‘That [chooridar kurta] is an Islamic dress’, he barked, ‘in Bengal we [Hindu men] would never allow our women to wear it’. [...]

 
 
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  Why Gandhi Would Have Been Appalled By The “Gandhi-Mandela Trophy”, The Telegraph [Saturday, October 31st, 2015]

India and South Africa have just concluded a five match one-day series for the ‘Gandhi-Mandela Trophy’. Next week, they will commence the first of four Tests for a trophy carrying the same name. When, back in August, this new trophy was announced, a friend said it was a case of small men wishing to look [...]

 
 
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  The Enduring Charm Of Independent Bookstores, Hindustan Times [Sunday, September 27th, 2015]

For many years now, I have spent much of my time, and most of my money, on books bought in stores owned by individuals rather than corporations. Within India, I had four favourite bookstores; Premier’s in Bangalore, Fact & Fiction in Delhi, Ram Advani in Lucknow, and Giggles in Chennai. The store I knew best [...]

 
 
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  Why Canada May Be The World’s Most Underrated Country, Hindustan Times [Sunday, September 13th, 2015]

The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. This is why every Presidential campaign attracts such wide attention, both the primaries of the two main parties and then the election itself. The campaign for the 2016 election is in its early stages. A candidate who has made a striking [...]

 
 
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  Why I’m Not Nostalgic For An Undivided India, Hindustan Times [Sunday, August 16th, 2015]

Sixty-eight years is a fairly advanced age for an individual, but a small span of time in the life of a nation. This must be why, every so often, a book or article appears lamenting the Partition of India in 1947. These blame the Congress, the Muslim League, Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Patel—sometimes one, sometimes several, [...]

 
 
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  Dreams Of Bat And Ball, The Telegraph [Saturday, May 30th, 2015]

When I was young, many of my dreams were about cricket. I was then obsessed with the game, which I played quite seriously at both school and university. My college eleven may have been the best in India: two of my team-mates went on to play Test cricket, while several others played in the Ranji [...]

 
 
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  Homage To A Birdman, The Telegraph [Saturday, May 2nd, 2015]

The Urdu word ‘shareef’ has many meanings. An online dictionary offers ‘noble’, ‘gentlemanly’, and ‘civilized’, to which one can add: ‘refined; courteous; honourable; civil; civilized’. Among the most shareef men I knew was the conservationist Zafar Futehally. Raised and educated in Bombay, Futehally’s early interest in birds was furthered when he married Laeeq, niece of [...]

 
 
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