Reboot, once more

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Those words are from Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. And they are as relevant for our today as they were when King wrote it, in context of the civil rights movement, in April 1963.

India, today, is caught up in that “inescapable network of mutuality”; we are all in it together, no matter how hard various sections — politicians, pliable media personalities, trolls — try to make this about Muslims, or about a few troublesome students, whatever. And it looks like the message, that this concerns all, has gotten across, as witness the massive turnouts for anti-CAA protests not merely in the metros, but also in the small towns and cities, and even villages, across the country.

I spent a large part of December traveling in Kerala, in Tamil Nadu, in Delhi, and in Bangalore where I now live; I attended protests, hung out with people, engaged in conversations aimed at trying to discover what the common thread was that was bringing people together in numbers that far exceed in size anything I have ever seen before — including at the time of the Emergency, when I was a young student activist.

I wrote two pieces based on my experience. The first, for Rediff, was an impressionistic account of 72 hours spent at various protest sites around New Delhi. The second one, for The Wire, was an attempt to look at how one act of the government triggered a chain reaction that has exposed the multiple fault-lines that till then had lurked just beneath the seemingly placid surface of the country.

I then asked Twitter what I should be writing about next — and the replies serve to illuminate nothing so much as the wide range of questions that people are grappling with.

To write with any clarity, though, you need to start with a clear image in your mind of what is happening, what the implications are, and where all of this is heading to. In these fraught times, that is like being in the midst of a sandstorm and trying to focus on one individual grain of sand.

So I figure on doing it another way. Each day starting tomorrow (I really should have started at least a month ago), I’ll collect and collate the individual dots, the happenings around the country, into a post. And as the dots build up, and begin forming pictures, I’ll write longer pieces about what those pictures are telling us.

I could use some help — it is humanly impossible, given the speed with which events are unfolding, to keep track of everything. So if you see something, read something, hear something you think is worth commenting on, or including in this composite picture, please ping via the comments section.

I’ll leave you with this thought — which in a sense mirrors conclusions I had come to in both my pieces linked above. These are words spoken by Robert F Kennedy, in June 1996, at the University of Cape Town, South Africa; a speech (full text) that has resonated through the ages:

“Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they stand for a tiny ripple of hope and, crossing, each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build the current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and injustice.”

What I hope to chronicle — and occasionally reflect on — in the coming days is the daily manifestations of the “tiny ripple of hope” that, in these fraught times, all of us cling to as to a desperately needed lifeline.

See you here tomorrow.

Crowd-sourcing a column

So, I need some help.

I’ve been asked to do an essay on demonetization, as we on November 8 mark one year of the announcement.

It is a subject that has produced an endless stream of analysis and opinion, seemingly leaving no room for a fresh take on the topic. I’d appreciate help in thinking through this one, hence this request: could you guys provide your take on demonetization, in the comments field? The pluses, the minuses, your thoughts on how the issue polarized the country and why, how informed you feel on the subject and where you think there is a lack of specificity…

It’s an open thread, so please feel free to post whatever thoughts you have, without feeling the need to adhere to the questions above.

Which reminds me, I owe some of you responses to your comments on the media in response to my question here. I’ll get to those now, before I disappear back into work. (PS: Struggling with a few deadlines, so blogging will be somewhat sporadic for the rest of the week).

Bangalore Lit Fest, and a question for you

The 6th edition of the Bangalore Lit Fest begins tomorrow, at the Lalit Ashok. Here is the full list of speakers and performers, and here is the schedule. If anyone reading this is from Bangalore and attending, do come up and say hi — I’ll be there both days.

This also means that starting now, the blog is on a break till Tuesday morning (I have to record a podcast on Monday). I’ll post snippets from the more interesting sessions on Twitter, though, for those interested.

On my way out the door, this: A couple of conversations yesterday revolved around “the media” and its many sins of omission and commission. Both times, there was considerable dissatisfaction with the way the media functions; both times, however, the dissatisfaction was vague and non-specific; the goalposts kept shifting and it felt to me when trying to respond that I was dancing on quicksand.

So, a specific question for you: What is your take on the state of the media today? When you say “media”, who exactly are you referring to, and what is your specific grouse(s)? What specific examples have you seen that dent a particular media outlet’s credibility? Appreciate your responses, and there is no restriction on length. The reason for asking is, I want to work on an essay-length piece on the current state of the media once I am done with this weekend, and your inputs will help give it a focus and direction.

Thanks much, look forward to your inputs. (I won’t have the space to respond to each individual comment over the next three days, but I’ll find the time to read, and I’ll post considered responses once I am back).

Be well, all.

Back at base

The Kerala trip, which involved the better part of three days wandering around the fraught Kannur/Kasargode region and two days in Calicut indulging in the biriyanis of Paragon and Rahmath, was interesting in ways I hadn’t predicted. There’s a ‘great game’ being played out in the Kannur area — a deadly dangerous political game pitting the Left, led by the CPM stormtroopers, against what it perceives as the “encroachment” of the hard Hindutva sponsored by the RSS/BJP/VHP and allied organizations. It’s the sort of story that merits a deep dive, in the form of a series of essays — for which I have to make a longer trip, most likely in late November. So more on that later.

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“The presstitutes deserve it”

Responses to my previous post, about the MS Dhoni presser, have been illuminating. I’ll just say thank you to the positive responses — and to my surprise, there have been many such — without elaboration.

On the negative side, two responses — or rather, two types of responses — surprised me. One view, expressed in different ways by a few people, said in sum that “presstitutes” deserve that kind of response. On a related note, someone suggested that public figures should stick with one word responses in future.

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Because it is Sunday…

…Open Thread, folks.

Toss in links to stuff that is worth reading.,

Talk of what is top of your mind — the things you feel strongly about and don’t think is being discussed enough.

And in passing — because this blog is now here to stay — tell me what works, what doesn’t, what you want to see more of, what you expect to see on here but don’t…

Like I said — open house. Meanwhile, I am off to spend the day with Ramesh Srivats and Mahesh Shankar

Their plans for the spanking new fantasy sports site Fandromeda will feature on the agenda (Check it out, if you haven’t already — this is a beginning, the team has a lot more coming up, sign up and come along for the ride). So will beer. Lots more of the latter than the former.

See you back here tomorrow morning.