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Articles in the ToI Columns Category

Corruption in India, Politics and Governance in India, ToI Columns »

[23 Sep 2014 | 3 Comments | 144 views]
On Anna, Selfishness & Corruption..

Last week I chanced on an interview of Anna Hazare in which he talked “about the inspiration behind his social activism, his philosophy and his vision for India”. The interview was from last year, a few weeks before AAP’s spectacular debut in Delhi. It had a quote that caught my eye.  It was Anna’s response to the question, “In your opinion, what is the root cause of corruption?”
“The root cause of corruption is selfishness; the selfish nature of human beings”, Anna said.  “They go to any lengths to pursue their self-interest…Second, there is …

Indian History, ToI Columns »

[7 Sep 2014 | 14 Comments | 319 views]
“A country without a memory…”

On facebook last week a reader, in response to my recent series on the Taj, asked, “Kyun Gadhe Murde Ukhadane main time waste kar rahe ho…?”.  That comment set me thinking. The phrase “Gadhe Murde” had hit the nail on the head. It summarised the way most Indians feel about history. “History is boring; It merely digs up the past; It is unnecessary; It serves little purpose”. No wonder, few Indians have a strong sense of history. And the more “educated” you are, the less acquainted you are likely to be, …

Debates & Discussions, Indian Architecture & City Planning, ToI Columns »

[22 Aug 2014 | 2 Comments | 214 views]
The Motifs, The Design, The Features – Was the Taj Mahal really built to be a Tomb?

In the earlier part of this series, I mentioned how there were now enough reasons to warrant a deeper investigation and a fresh look at the whole “history” of Taj. The list of reasons included the mention of an extant palace (‘manzil’) on the very same site where the Taj stands today, the implausible pace of construction, the lack of eye-witness accounts, the lack of details in Badshahnama and the extensive leaks in the structure which puzzled the ‘master-builders’.
In this concluding part, I will outline evidence & incongruities regarding design …

Current Affairs, Global Terrorism, ToI Columns »

[15 Aug 2014 | 7 Comments | 136 views]
The Yazidis, the rage, the silence of the Ummah..

Less than a week back, the world witnessed a remarkable series of coordinated demonstrations. In Washington, in London, in Paris, in Sydney and tens of cities around the world, protestors marched to express solidarity with the people of Gaza in what was widely labelled as a “Day of Rage”.

Yet, even as these protests were happening, another tragedy was unfolding less than a thousand miles north-east of Gaza. Hundreds of women and children were being summarily executed, some buried alive.  Hundreds others were being captured, branded as slaves & sexually assaulted. …

Debates & Discussions, Indian Architecture & City Planning, Indian History, Medieval Indian History, ToI Columns »

[7 Jul 2014 | 4 Comments | 411 views]
Re-examining History: The Making of the Taj

*** CAUTION: Long Post ***
This article is the first in a series in which I intend to probe some of the odd “facts” about Taj Mahal – the iconic structure that has become symbolic of grandeur & beauty in medieval Indian architecture.  This series will largely draw on the seminal research and study of primary sources & contemporary accounts by Dr V S Godbole during the years 1981 – 1996, condensed in his book, “Taj Mahal: Analysis of A Great Deception”
In the first part, a closer look at the effort …

Indian Culture, Arts and Music, ToI Columns »

[3 Jun 2014 | 4 Comments | 159 views]
The Rashtrapati Bhavan: Would this relic of the Raj better serve as a Museum?

Long after the visuals of the swearing-in ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan had faded from the TV screens, one thought kept nagging me: Why can’t this relic of the Raj be put to a better use? How about converting it into a National Museum?
I know we already have one in New Delhi. But did you know it does not have enough space and can only showcase about 15,000 of its over 2 lakh artefacts? Forget about showcasing, the museum does not even have enough space to store these …

Current Affairs, Politics and Governance in India, ToI Columns »

[28 May 2014 | One Comment | 276 views]
The fall and fall of Arvind Kejriwal..

So Arvind Kejriwal finally decided to furnish a bond and get bail. Good for him. Frankly, the drama had dragged on a bit too long. And the “Sorry Sabhas” did not seem to be having any impact either (excuse the pun). I guess people are tired of apologies – and excuses.
They wish to see something positive. Something constructive. Something exciting. Something that grabs the imagination.
Like a pledge to make New Delhi the safest Indian city for women, with the lowest crime rate to boot.  Or a pledge to ensure that …

India & Its Neighbours, ToI Columns »

[26 May 2014 | No Comment | 197 views]
At NaMo’s swearing-in, Chanakya’s Raja-Mandala on display

For students of statecraft and history, the invitations to SAARC leaders for the swearing in ceremony of PM-designate provide a fascinating example of Acharya Chanakya’s Raja-Mandala doctrine at work.  In Kautilya’s Artha-Shastra, in Book VI, “The Source of Sovereign States”, Acharya is quoted as saying;
“The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror’s territory is termed the enemy….The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror).”
This of course, is part …

Political Ideology, ToI Columns »

[15 May 2014 | 3 Comments | 230 views]
On Hindutva & Liberalism..

In Lutyen’s Delhi hushed tones speak of a new bugbear in town. Such is the fear that even ardent & otherwise proud Hindus will try & avoid uttering the word – lest they be shunned and ridiculed. The word is ‘Hindutva’.
But fear was not what prompted this post. It was a question triggered by an email from a friend (who shared this fear). He asked, is Hindutva really appropriate in a liberal context? That question pretty much summed up all that is wrong with our understanding of the word. It also …

Indian History, Islamic Rule in India, Medieval Indian History, ToI Columns »

[9 May 2014 | 2 Comments | 238 views]
An uneven battle, the heroes of Haldighati & forgetting history

Today happens to be an important date in Indian medieval history. It marks the birth of one of India’s true heroes – a man whose life exemplifies valour, courage, fierce pride and self-respect - MahaRana Pratap Singh of Mewar*.
Unfortunately most of us have only the foggiest idea of his exploits, thanks to our “education”.  The MahaRana is largely ignored in the history textbooks of early years in India. Yesterday, as I was browsing the Class VII History Text Book prepared by NCERT, I noticed it did not have any mention of …