History reproduces columns that analyse interesting or important events and controversies of the 19th and 20th centuries.


The Telegraph

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 the [...]


The Telegraph

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 and [...]


The Telegraph

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 uplifted [...]


The Telegraph

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 sixty-year-career [...]

By |2011-11-18T10:32:47+00:00November 9th, 2010|Categories: History|Tags: , , , , , |


Hindustan Times

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 Prime [...]

By |2011-11-08T17:36:51+00:00October 25th, 2010|Categories: History|Tags: , , , , |


The Hindu

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 through [...]

By |2011-11-24T11:05:47+00:00May 24th, 2009|Categories: History|


The Hindu

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 country’s [...]


The Hindu

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 who [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:57:51+00:00February 15th, 2009|Categories: History|


The Hindu

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 genes [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:57:45+00:00February 1st, 2009|Categories: History|


The Hindu

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; on [...]