The Politics of Culture (Book Review)

2 10 2011


G P Deshpande, The World of Ideas in Modern Marathi: Phule, Vinoba, Savarkar, Tulika, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 120. Rs. 240.

G P Deshpande, Talking the Political Culturally and Other Essays, Thema, Kolkata, 2009, pp. 127, Rs. 150. Read the rest of this entry »

Democracy and the Small Car

5 04 2009

This is the draft of the edit I wrote for the EPW issue dated 04-11 April, 2009.

[The political role of the small car is as important as its environmental impact] Read the rest of this entry »

Why Padma Awards?

9 02 2009

Should the Indian State continue to confer national awards that have been devalued by lobbying and favouritism?

The following is the text of the draft I wrote for the EPW edit on this topic. The final edit can be read here. Read the rest of this entry »

The Zanjeer on Devdas

9 09 2008


The idea for the present column first came to me after I watched (again) the 1975 Bollywood cult movie, Zanjeer.  As most would know, Zanjeer is the story of the angry-young-man-Amitabh Bachchan who is witness to the traumatic twin murders of his parents which orphans him as a child and how he takes revenge for that in his youth. Zanjeer established the hegemonic genre of “angry young man” films and put Amitabh Bachchan firmly on the road to superstardom. So domninating was this genre that it rapidly led to the eclipse of the romantic hero and forced everyone with “heroic” aspirations in Bollywood to enact “dhishoom – dhishoom” roles. In the post-Zanjeer era of Bollywood, only the angry-young-man character could deliver blockbuster hits. Exceptions like Love Story or Ram Teri Ganga Maili were precisely that – exceptions. Almost all other genres and characters were confined to niche audiences or forced to become supporting characters to the angry young man. Other hero-aspirants quickly learnt the new rules of the game and moulded themselves into similar screen personas. Read the rest of this entry »

A brief history of nagging

26 08 2008

The nagging wife is the universal villain of married life. From the earliest pages of human history there is perhaps no literature and folk tradition where the character of the nagging wife is not found widely. Along with the sacrificing mother, forsaken lover, tragic hero and evil lord, the nagging wife will be found in all societies and cultures at all times in history. Even in today’s world, irrespective of the differences of race, wealth, religion, culture, language and social reform, the character of the nagging wife is universal. She keeps popping up in jokes, films, songs, novels and other cultural cultural creations.

Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, is supposed to have had a nagging wife who drove him to spend his time in the city squares and gymnasia, much to the benefit of philosophy. The figure of the nagging wife finds mention in the Bible, (indirectly) in the Quran and is a crucial moment in the story of the Ramayana. She is to be found in renassaince Italy, in medieval England, on the expanding border of America’s “wild west”, in the bedrooms of colonial India and in the sit-coms of post-modern Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greatest Genocide in History (Part III): The Way Ahead

6 05 2008


In the past two weeks, this column has tried to understand why is it that China and South Asia (historical India) account for a 92 million out of the 100 million “missing women” of the world. Patriarchy is common to all historical societies yet it is the civilisations of these two regions which have developed this ghastly tradition and not others. While the reasons may be numerous, it seems that there was something common in particular forms of feudal culture which developed in these two civilisations which have promoted this particularly vicious and murderous form of patriarchy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greatest Genocide in History (part II): India, China and Femicide

29 04 2008


Last week this column had spoken about the fact that there are about 100 million women less on this earth than there should be. Women who are “missing” since they are aborted, burnt, starved and neglected to death by families who prefer sons to daughters. This column had also identified the countries of South Asia, East Asia, West Asia and Saharan Africa as the main regions which were missing most of these women. The estimated number of women who are missing are 44 million in China, 39 million in India, 6 million in Pakistan and 3 billion in Bangladesh. This is the single largest genocide in human history. Ever. Some researchers have coined a word for this phenomenon: Femicide, or the killing of the human female because she is female.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Greatest Genocide in History (Part I)

22 04 2008


It is estimated by historians that about 72 million people were killed during the second World War. Of this number 25 million died in combat, as much as 11 million were killed in the Nazi Holocaust and another 20 million perished in war induced famine. But this is not the single event with the largest killing of human beings in history.

Demographers and economists estimate that today over a 100 million women have been killed globally by societies which prefer sons over daughters. Read the rest of this entry »

The Battle of Valentine’s Day

26 02 2008


What is it about Valentine’s Day that gets so many people so riled?

The past decade and more has seen the growing popularity of Valentine’s Day in South Asian countries as a festival of romance, specially for the urban youth. And it has also attracted significant opposition, often violent, from religious groups and conservative opinion which have attacked it for destroying our religion(s) and culture with its Christian, Western and commercial character. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto III (Technology: The Universal Solvent)

10 10 2007


Irrespective of the particular religious affiliation we profess, all of us are in reality worshippers at the temple of technology. From the Osama bin Ladens in the Tora Bora caves to the Christian fundamentalist Bushies ensconced in arrogant Washington, from the smug liberal to the all-sacrificing communist, there is hardly a person in our world who does not bow down in reverence to the all powerful deity of technology and its omniscient promise of providing a solution to all our troubles in this problem-ridden world. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto – II (The Need for Speed)

3 10 2007


The two week absence of the Left~write column was caused by the sudden death of my brother-in-law in a road accident in the city of Baroda (India). A young man of 42, he leaves behind an uncomprehending daughter who is not yet seven, a distressed wife and distraught parents. It is difficult to come to terms with the hurt and loss this has caused, especially since it seems so avoidable and inexplicable. ‘Why?’ is the question in everyone’s mind. But even in our moment of sadness it is sobering to realise that close to a 100,000 people die in similar road accidents in India each year. Each death a catastrophe for the family. Globally close to 800,000 people die annually in road accidents, a figure that is expected to touch a million by 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

The Inevitability of Piracy

8 08 2007


We are all pirates today! Specially those of us who live in what is called the Third World. One would be hard pressed to find a person who has not bought an “illegal” copy of either music, films, books or software. But these are only those who can afford the luxury of both surplus income to spend on entertainment and the luxury of surplus time to partake of leisure. Even the poorest of the poor would have sustained “piracy” when they bought medicines which infringed patents drawn in the First World or similarly, bought seeds to cultivate their half acre plot. Read the rest of this entry »

Authenticity: Hypocrisy’s Evil Twin

1 08 2007


The mark of industrial society is the mass produced commodity. The abiding motif of the factory is the assembly line, the heartless whirring machine that works relentlessly to produce thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions of the same product with dependable regularity. Regularity both in manufacturing a certain quantity in a given time as well as in the quality of the product – its attributes.

One pair of shoes will be identical to the thousand others of the same model, one piece of paper will be of the exact same texture, size and colour as the million others, one spoon will be the exact replica of all others from the same factory. One bar of chocolate will be identical to the million others in colour and taste, a McDonald’s burger claims uniformity of taste in all its global outlets, while the authentic Coke (Coca Cola) aspires to the same tang anywhere in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

In Defence of Hypocrisy

25 07 2007


On first reckoning this would seem a truly indefensible proposition. Not only does it fly in the face of the most basic common sense, it is an idea so seemingly audacious as not to even merit consideration. Hypocrisy, in contemporary life, has been raised to the status of the seven deadly sins. What could ever be the defence of an action that goes against the very principle which it professes? Read the rest of this entry »

Soap Opera View of History (Understanding India 1)

1 06 2007


One of the greatest impediments to peace in our region is the skewed understanding of history that we generally carry in our heads. Popular understanding seems preponderantly skewed in favour of understanding India’s history in terms of individual rulers and leaders or in categories of Hindu and Muslim. We perceive our past in terms of either great deeds done by equally great men (and notice that these are always men, usually great, but also often its opposite, evil) or in terms of the Hindus and the Muslims playing out a historical soap opera of epic proportions. Read the rest of this entry »


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