THREE COMPARISONS, The Telegraph [Saturday, May 21st, 2011]

As the election results started coming in on Friday the 13th, and the spectacular rout of the Left Front in West Bengal became clear, my mind went back to the spring of 1977. I was a student of St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, too young to vote, but old enough to recognize the significance of [...]

 
 
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  NEHRUVIAN INDIANS, The Telegraph [Saturday, April 9th, 2011]

Some years ago, I coined the term ‘Nehruvian Indian’ to describe those who, in their professional and personal lives, ‘transcended the divisions of race and religion, caste and class, gender and geography.’ Viewed cynically, the term was a cloak and cover for my own confusions. Born in Dehradun of Tamil parents, with a Bengali name [...]

 
 
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  RECONCILING GANDHI WITH AMBEDKAR, The Telegraph [Saturday, January 1st, 2011]

Books do not change lives, but books can change the way we look at the world. As a student of economics, I was a high modernist who believed in transforming rural communities through industrialization. Concern for the poor came with a heavy dose of condescension. Those who lived outside cities had to be improved and [...]

 
 
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  REFUGEES AND THE REPUBLIC, The Telegraph [Tuesday, November 9th, 2010]

At a meeting in Chennai that I recently attended, an official of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, herself a Swiss national, remarked that ‘the Indian Government has a very humane atttitude towards refugees’. She was not merely showing courtesy towards her hosts. For, as another speaker at the symposium pointed out, in its [...]

 
 
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  QUESTIONS OF PROPRIETY, Hindustan Times [Monday, October 25th, 2010]

When, in the year 1974, Mrs Indira Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) became bitter political opponents, there was a peculiar poignancy to their rivalry. For JP and Jawaharlal Nehru had been close friends. So, independently, were JP’s wife Prabhavati and Nehru’s wife Kamala. In fact, before starting an all-India movement against the policies of the [...]

 
 
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  NEHRU IN A NOVEL, The Hindu [Sunday, May 24th, 2009]

Arguably the best single-volume study of India’s first Prime Minister is Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate, by the Australian diplomat Walter Crocker. This is a book that I have long known (and admired). However, when I met the author’s son recently, he presented me a copy of a lesser known work by his mother, a novel [...]

 
 
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  CITIES WITHIN A CITY, The Hindu [Sunday, May 10th, 2009]

Delhi is a city I have known all my life. I first knew it from the perspective of a little boy growing up in a mofussil town in north India, who entered a world all too different—and far more sophisticated—when with his parents he crossed the old railway bridge at Jumna Bazaar to reach his [...]

 
 
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  THE GOOD INDIAN, The Hindu [Sunday, February 15th, 2009]

One of the forgotten figures of Indian journalism is a man named Syed Abdullah Brelvi. Google ‘SA Brelvi’ (as I just did), and all that comes up is a road carrying that name in south Bombay. The road was so named in a more enlightened age, when Mumbaikars were free, and willing, to praise those [...]

 
 
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  THE GANDHI-RESERVOIR, The Hindu [Sunday, February 1st, 2009]

For many years now, my principal teacher on the subject of Mohandas K. Gandhi has been a man who is only incidentally his grandson. To be sure, Gopalkrishna Gandhi does respect and honour the memory of his two grandfathers (the other being C. Rajagopalachari). But his own identity is by no means restricted to the [...]

 
 
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  CAMUS AND AMERICA, The Hindu [Sunday, October 26th, 2008]

In the spring of 1946, Albert Camus visited the United States for the first time. He came at the invitation of his American publisher, Alfred Knopf. Like some other French writers he had profoundly ambivalent feelings about this rising superpower. On the one hand, he was attracted to the drive and ingenuity of the Americans; [...]

 
 
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