WTFJH: The BHU edition

Back in 1998, in course of covering the national elections of that year, I ended up in Baramati. The object was to find out why Sharad Pawar has such a hold on that constituency that he does not even campaign, and yet in every single election anyone who opposes him loses his deposit.

Pawar is known to reach Baramati late night on the penultimate day of campaigning. On the last day, he drives to a few select areas where he holds public meetings; just before campaigning officially ends, he holds a large meeting in Baramati town.

I spent three days traveling around Baramati, talking to people, trying to find out the reasons behind his political success. And very early in the morning of the last day, I went to Pawar’s home hoping to get time to ask him a couple of questions. Talk of early birds and worms — he had just finished breakfast and was about to drive to his first meeting; he told me to get in the car, and to travel with him through the day, and ask whatever I liked.

The entire transcript would fill a decent-sized book — Pawar was in a loquacious mood that day. The interview that was finally published is sizeable enough and covers a wide area of politics.

Among the many themes he spoke to that day one, in particular, has resonated a lot in recent times as serial unrests roiled educational institutions ranging from the FTII to JNU, Delhi University, AMU, Hyderabad, and most recently Benaras Hindu University. Here is that portion, in full:

Continue reading

Some wit, some wisdom

From the inimitable Viru Sehwag:

There is a very thin line between success and failure. If you ask Virender Sehwag, it is a matter of how you look at things. “Half empty or half full,” he smiles. “A cover-drive for four or disaster,” he explains.

“When I play a cover-drive, I play it to score runs. I don’t play a shot to get out. So, if the cover-drive ends up in a catch at slip, I am spared criticism. If it ends up in the hands at covers, I am slammed. The shot attempted has remained the same, only the mode of dismissal is different.”

Write lines

A magazine section to produce for India Abroad; an interview to write up for Rediff — and a Bhim episode looming in the immediate future, on which I have as yet not been able to spend a moment’s thought, let alone put a word down on paper. All of that primed me for this passage in a Vikram Seth interview on Outlook magazine:

You are the first Indian writer to have got, and continue to get, a big advance, in a way professionalising writing, making it possible to earn a living from it without resorting to a day job?

I never thought that would happen.

If you look at my first two novels — The Golden Gate and A Suitable Boy — no one would have thought they would get a decent advance — and of course, The Golden Gate didn’t. That (money) was never my initial motivation. But I am very grateful that it actually gives me the time to concentrate on writing and other things that interest me, rather than being tied to some other kind of job. Or worse, a job involving words which I think depletes one of a particular kind of energy.

Not even remotely wishful of using my name and Seth’s in the same sentence — or even the same planet — this is the one problem more than any other that I’ve grappled with during this Bhim thing: after spending an entire day reading words, editing words, playing off words for work and for occasional pleasure, it is damnably hard to go back home and grapple with more words.

It’s a nice interview — read it for your pleasure. Also from Outlook, another Seth interview — this time, about the High Court judgment on Article 377, and the personal implications for the writer. And from the archives, this link I had saved from the time that doorstopper of a novel Seth is now planning to sequel first came out.

And since I’m in a mood to have you amuse yourself rather than expect me to amuse you, further, unrelated reading matter: Rana Dasgupta in Granta magazine on Delhi, and from The National: The New York University of Abu Dhabi.

Oh, and while on Delhi, read this. Take the thought to its natural conclusion, and in time every building in New Delhi will become a monument to the pol who once lived there, no?



An occasional series on stuff I’m reading [You’ll find more of these on the ‘Reading Matter’ sidebar]: David Usborne of The Independent talks to Malcolm Gladwell ahead of the Britain leg of the journalist-author’s promotional tour.

For those few who blink-ed and missed him, a recent article on Vivek Ranadive and the innovations he brought to basketball coaching via his work with daughter Anjali’s team. Much more here, at his New Yorker home. And a video on problem solving, facing challenges and more, here.

And tangentially related, this essay on the relevance of books — the kind published by leading universities — in today’s McNuggets age:

First, books remain the most effective technology for organizing and presenting sustained arguments at a relatively general level of discourse and in familiar rhetorical forms — narrative, thematic, philosophical, and polemical — thereby helping to enrich and unify otherwise disparate intellectual conversations.

Second, university presses specialize in publishing books containing hard ideas. Hard ideas — whether cliometrics, hermeneutics, deconstruction, or symbolic interactionism — when they are also good ideas, carry powerful residual value in their originality and authority.