Showing posts from 2016

Citizen Goswami

Amidst the fireworks which were burnt during the Deepavali week, the nation received a bombshell. The editor-in-chief of Times Now and ET Now Arnab Goswami announced his decision of quitting the Times Group to start his own venture. The bombshell in the literal sense led to shock across newsrooms even as Twitter and social media went into a tizzy trying to speculate the reasons for quitting and wondering what next for the fiery anchor. For some, the exit from Times Now also spelled relief since he is seen as the key anchor responsible for oversimplification of TV debates. The nation wondered whether if Arnab’s blazing guns will silent and whether if there will be no more noise at 9 pm. It was as if viewers had been orphaned at a crucial moment and we were left to fend for ourselves to find alternative sources of entertainment to keep ourselves entertained at 9 pm.
There is little doubt about the severe credibility crisis that most journalists in India face today. Most journalists ar…

Karva Chauth: Regression vs Choice

It is finally that time of the year when social media goes into a tizzy as women often accuse each other of being shrill ‘feminists’ or declare themselves as slaves to patriarchy. Today is Karva Chauth, a festival where married women observe a fast for a day to pray for the long life of their husbands. While routine one day fasts must not create so much of a problem, it is rare for anyone to come across chatter on social media and websites which seek to promote ‘independent’ opinions on how Karva Chauth is ‘patriarchal and repressive’.

Observing the fast or not, must remain an individual choice. The relationship she shares with her husband will dictate her choice to abide by tradition or break free from it. With much chatter being generated online on the patriarchal and repressive aspect of the festival, it does not take much time to realise the anguish that some women go through for choosing to observe the fast. We are subjected to discourses on free speech, independent choices and …

The Big Talk:

Much commentary, often bordering near speculation, had been dedicated to a pattern of loose talk which rotated in a circular manner of ‘will he, won’t he’ guesswork. Raghuram Rajan announced an end to needless speculation by expressing his desire to return to academia after his responsibility as India’s central banker comes to an end. While his decision shocked many and with certain sections of media behaving as if we had been sucked into an apocalypse, the government finally announced that it was Urjit Patel who would succeed Rajan.
There is no doubt that Raghuram Rajan’s proximity to the media led to the creation of an invisible halo around him. One often wonders whether if a routine exercise such as the appointment of India’s central banker would have triggered so much speculation and interest. Surely, there is no denying that Raghuram Rajan’s frequent media appearances, widely covered lectures and a highly relatable personality often led to a debate whether if he has succeeded in…

Kinder Ploy

I recently signed up for a short course on children’s literature. In one of the course modules, the facilitator asked us to ruminate on the constructions of childhood through images in recent times. Interestingly, one of the images I found was this picture of Kinder Joy, a popular chocolate based snack for kids by Ferrero which among other things makes things like Nutella, Tic Tac mouth fresheners etc. The colours in which the egg-shaped chocolate snack appears is part of a larger malaise. The egg-shaped snack appears in two distinct colours: blue and pink and yet, it is one of the most popular chocolate based snacks due to the plastic toys that come along with it. The blue eggs are for boys and have ‘brave’ toys like an aircraft while the pink eggs for girls have ‘domestic’ toys like doll accessories.
With the kind of toys Kinder Joy offers, it baffles me about the exact ways these toys are considered ‘suitable’ for boys and girls. By reducing children to a prop, Kinder Joy promotes u…

How Blue is my Sapphire

‘I am late, I am late. Excuse me, please give me way, I’m late,’ I murmured while running for my life. ‘I am really late,’ I kept murmuring as I kept pushing against people, trying to find space to board the Howrah Mail. I boarded my coach, on time even as the engine gave a sharp hoot indicating departure. I noticed the time on my watch 22:00 pm sharp. The summer vacations were coming to an end and I was returning to Mumbai. I occupied my seat and I plugged in my headphones to drown out the noise and pretended to sleep in the upper berth.
I woke up the next morning when the train reached Mughalsarai. My co-passenger was reading a newspaper while I was reading ‘The Overcoat’ by Nikolai Gogol. When the train reached Manikpur, a book seller boarded the coach and I was overjoyed. It was a pleasure to browse through his collection. I tried my hand at attempting small-talk. ‘Manohar,’ he announced his name. Finishing his evening tea, Manohar flung the paper cup out of the window with an extr…

Mumbai Untravelled: Banganga Tank

God with wives from across caste lines, a temple aided by Muslims, a burial ground for Hindu ascetics and a fresh water tank surrounded by the sea in Mumbai, sounds impossible? Welcome to Banganga, one of the oldest continuously inhabited neighbourhoods of Mumbai. 
During the 30 minute ride from Mumbai CST to Walkeshwar Depot, I kept wondering about the origin of Malabar Hill. At the depot, I recounted an earlier conversation with a conservation architect, who explained that the hills that mark the area, are not known so because they have anything to do with the Malabar region of Kerala. Devotees from the south of Konkan would visit the Banganga and in those days, anyone coming from the south was known as a Malabari.  
As I landed at the Walkeshwar Depot and looked around, I was prepared to be surprised. The beginning of the walk at Banganga led me to initially believe that it was a walk for the spiritually inclined. While it does help if you lean towards history, mythology and spiritua…

Hawa Mahal: A Natural Cooling System

A strong wind blows, stops at the closed windows in mock surprise. It then rushes through the tiny orifices, quietly rising through the narrow spiral staircases and stopping at the other side. The cylindrical balconies now appear stacked upon one another, like a set of different-sized flutes when tied together. From the chaotic crossroads at Badi Choupad in Jaipur, the road slopes down as it goes past the Old Legislative Assembly and Town Hall and the Hawa Mahal appears on the left, in a self-repeating fractal pattern spanning five floors in a series of smaller pyramids. 
The Hawa Mahal in its fundamental design resembles a honeycomb structure. It has also been equated as a symbolic representation of Lord Krishna’s crown. The Hawa Mahal was designed by architect Lal Chand Ustad for Maharaj Sawai Pratap Singh.  The original function of the building was to allow women watch processions on the streets below, through the intricate jharokhas, without a threat to their modesty.

Counter Narratives: Murty Classical Library of India

In a finely written opinion piece, Ananya Vajpeyi from the Centre for Developing Studies in New Delhi, argues that online opposition demanding Professor Sheldon Pollock’s dismissal as the mentor of the Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI) is based on mere ‘right-wing propaganda’. In this article, I take objection to the term ‘right-wing propaganda’. Social media has taught us that anyone who challenges an intellectual by arguing on facts is sidelined and labelled for furthering a ‘saffron’ agenda. While arguing for Professor Pollock’s retention, Ms. Vajpeyi passes a value judgment of the 132 principal sponsors of the online petition by denouncing them for ‘not having the knowledge of Sanskrit and other classical languages, literature, history or the humanities.’ The stand chosen by her is not surprising given that she defends Professor Pollock because she was his doctoral student. Therefore, anyone who criticises an eminent personality is deficient in understanding and therefore, d…