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Date(05-01-2015): “Ye kya uthaaye kadam aur aa gayi manzil, Mazaa to tab hai ke paeron mein kuch thakaan rahey.”

Date(12-01-2015): Mosques across Europe have held prayers dedicated to Parisian victims of last week’s ghastly terror attacks. Fearing a backlash against Muslims, communities in several countries have invited them to be part of candle light vigils and condolence meetings so as to visibly integrate them in the grief and despair over senseless murders in the name of religion.

Date(19-01-2015): Just weeks before Delhi elections, it is fascinating to see how the Aam Aadmi Party has resurrected itself from the ashes of defeat, suffered a mere seven months ago. A crushing loss in the general elections and a devastating fall of its 49-day government before that, Arvind Kejriwal and his motley band of motivated supporters were written off as history. Disheartened members walked away, high profile workers ditched the party and found solace in the BJP that was on a winning spree... but Kejriwal plodded on.

Date(26-01-2015): Nope, there was no ban. They came up with some convoluted statement to pull wool over the eyes of their permanent funders, read America, but Pakistan fooled only rosy-spectacled candle-walas into believing that they had actually banned the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The JuD held rally after rally last week in open defiance to the absurd Pakistan foreign office non-announcement of a ‘ban’.

Date(02-02-2015): Did President Obama really admonish us? We don’t take very kindly to any leader from the Western world telling us how to be. I mean, we know how to be. We have been around since the Bronze Age. Columbus’ great great great granddad wasn’t even born then.

Staying the course 2015  2  9

Date(09-02-2015): It’s always hard for a party, which is on a winning spree to face the fact that the magic formula might not be working with the same effectiveness as before. In fact, the formula might be in need for alteration. That in itself is shocking. Invincibility is a curse. Or the belief in one’s invincibility. The BJP has a thing or two to learn from the ‘Delhi Debacle’. Exit polls indicate the AAP is set to form a government in Delhi. As this column recorded last week, the new kid on the block has clawed its way back into the hearts and minds of Delhites, after seeking forgiveness for its past mistakes.

Date(16-02-2015): I just choke on the term ‘cricket’ diplomacy when it comes to India and Pakistan. Seriously, you need to be in a stadium with Indian and Pakistani cricket fans during one such match to experience the animosity. No, really. This isn’t “sportsmanship” of the extreme kind. It is antipathy bordering on visceral hate. And it comes up most during a high profile cricket match. What diplomacy and what diplomats? The sheer glee on the faces of Indian and Pakistani diplomats when wickets of the other side topple has to be seen to be believed.

Mother Tongue Day 2015  2  23

Date(23-02-2015): On February 21, the world celebrated International Mother Language Day. The UNESCO in 1999 marked the day in recognition of the demonstration where East Pakistani students sacrificed their lives for recognition of their native language, Bangla as one of two national languages. The demonstration of 21st February 1952 led to a nationalistic sentiment in Bengali-speaking Pakistanis and culminated in a freedom struggle that led to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. East Pakistan ceased to exist and a new country was born out of a native-language movement.

Date(02-03-2015): “The world is predicting that it’s India’s chance to fly,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday. Actually, the world has been saying this for years, just that Indians did not believe it. Who really can? We are so busy negotiating the daily hassles of commuting, earning, saving, and paying our taxes. Those damn taxes.

Modi's moti-maala 2015  3  9

Date(09-03-2015): By the end of this week, Prime Minister Modi would have visited Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles, notching up some more brownie points in the Love-Thy-Neighbour (including extended neighbourhood) trend. Within the first year of his tenure, the PM would have visited several neighbouring countries....including stringing his own moti-maala, India’s string of pearls in the Indian Ocean.

Date(16-03-2015): Years of neglect and reinvigorating historical ties...PM Modi was on a mission the past week. The Indian Ocean rim is being seen as a region that has traditionally provided strategic economic and political opportunities but which have not been exploited to their full potential. It took overarching Chinese aspirations for India to get into action. And last week, Prime Minister Modi was in Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka doing precisely that. Not with a clenched fist but with folded hands, being a generous ally, a big brother nudging and chastising, but with an arm on the shoulder. Making it quite clear that cutting the familial chord would have not-very-pretty consequences. Not that any of these countries want to. Moreover, cooperating wholeheartedly would bring in huge benefits to the people and economies of their country. The message was delivered in unambiguous statements and gestures. Mr. Modi brought the chequebook, not just MoUnaamas. There were frigates and radars distributed along with homes for the needy.

While Rahul slept 2015  3  23

Date(23-03-2015): The genius columnist Art Buchwald won a Pulitzer Prize for a compilation of his articles in a book called While Reagan Slept. The sharp stinging articles documented how America watched President Reagan’s inattentiveness, his long vacations, his sleeping through cabinet meetings, forgetfulness and lack of grip over issues and yet nobody lost hope that he would snap out of it.

Amma and Alzheimer's 2015  4  6

Date(06-04-2015): A picture, they say, can trigger a chain of thoughts. True that. It was a photograph of my grandmother reading the morning newspaper. She is 93 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Slowly but steadily she has been losing her memory and control over body functions. It broke my heart when she stopped recognising me. I was her first grandchild; I reluctantly learned to share her with cousins. Now the extended family shares the task of taking care of her. Nothing about it is easy. We have learned to accept the changes that have been happening to the only one constant in our lives: Amma.

Date(13-04-2015): A leader on a three-nation, nine-day tour to Europe and Canada ought to have some time for rest and relaxation. Not so for the Indian Prime Minister. Like clockwork mice, the Modi team rush from one appointment to another in France in the first leg, buying fighter jets, setting up joint working groups on terrorism, cooperating on areas like nuclear energy and marine biology. All in a span of two days in Paris. Oh, and there was more, a visit to a World War-I memorial, interaction with CEOs to invest in India, meeting with the expat community, a boat ride with the French President where discussion was on river cleaning and urban planning.

Keep mum 2015  4  20

Date(20-04-2015): Minutes after the Congress Party’s much touted re-launch vehicle for Rahul Gandhi, columnist Ashok Malik tweeted, “My unsolicited, gratuitous advice to both the Congress party and Rahul is the same: Keep Mum.” Pun firmly intended. And advice bang on target. Rahul Gandhi seemed as disconnected from the farmers as the person he was painting as the villain.

Date(27-04-2015): “Please help bring my son’s body back.” My childhood memories are replete with phone calls that my father received with pleas from relatives and friends who lost family members in natural and man-made disasters in foreign lands. I remember him pleading and cajoling his friends and colleagues in the army, Air India, Prime Minister’s office, anybody who could help bring back a survivor or his/her body. It was traumatic for him when he couldn’t succeed. And we shared his sense of pain and sometimes joy when he could reunite family members.

Date(04-05-2015): Riots in the land of plenty. Somehow it doesn’t make sense. America is rich; it’s people not necessarily so. America is powerful, all it’s people, not really. Inequality and discrimination persist despite years and years of Affirmative Action.

Date(11-05-2015): Everybody had an opinion about Salman Khan’s drink-driving-not-drink-driving case. But almost everybody is silent on whether he/she has ever driven under the influence of alcohol. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) legal limit in India is 0.03% alcohol in 100 ml of blood. So a couple of beers, few shots of vodka or two solid pegs of whiskey and you are simply not equipped to drive on Indian roads, legally and logically.

Date(18-05-2015): My husband does not like kaju-katli (kaju barfi to some) and yet I have stayed married to him. It is one of those difficult compromises you make in life. It takes a lot of courage to make a success of a relationship when there is such a fundamental difference in one’s principles. ‘The love for kaju’ transcends epicurean boundaries. It is a principle for some of us. You are either with us or against us.

Date(25-05-2015): It is time to say Happy one-year birthday to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government this week. Huge celebrations are planned all of this week by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and justifiably so. They have the largest mandate in history and have had a remarkably stress and scandal free one year in office.

Date(01-06-2015): Political activism in campuses cannot be completely or even effectively stopped in functional democracies. Ideally student politics should neither be controlled nor banned in democracies like India. They foster free thought, ideas and perspectives from students of diverse backgrounds.

Date(08-06-2015): To borrow an urban phrase, Bangladesh is turning out to be our BFF (Best Friend Forever) along with Bhutan. India-Bangladesh relations have seen a steady high ever since Sheikh Hasina has been at the helm of affairs. She rebooted ties with India after a disastrous spell under Khalida Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Date(15-06-2015): Can the term urban decay factually be used on Indian cities? Logically, for ‘decay’ to set in there should have been, at some point of time in recent history, a degree of glory. But if you go back a hundred years or so in history, documents of civic planners show a sense of dismay of Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta getting over populated and difficult to govern. The cities have been renamed, foreign rulers sent back packing, glorious slogans and goals been coined. We are going to have a hundred smart cities soon. But not too soon it appears.

Date(22-06-2015): Kyon istifa dia jaaye? Hum Congress party ko oblige karne kay liye sarkar chala rahein hain kya? (Why should they (Sushma Swaraj & Vasundhara Raje) resign? Are we running a government to oblige the Congress Party?) These were Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s words on Saturday, a week after the media unravelled the murky deeds and connections of Lalit Modi with Indian politicians.

Date(29-06-2015): There is nothing smart about our cities. The Prime Minister and his team have a massive task ahead of them if they are going to make 100 smart cities in the time that they have set for themselves. In his address to the nation via #MannkiBaat yesterday, Mr Modi spoke about the ambitious smart city project. He promised homes for all by 2022. Rs 48,000 crore would be spent on creating 100 smart cities across the country. Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for 500 Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities has been launched. This is clearly India’s biggest urban infrastructure mission.

Date(06-07-2015): Should a former Intelligence chief have written a book in which he revealed secrets that were, at best, open secrets but now have been verified as true? Mr AS Dulat was chief of the Research and Intelligence Wing (R&AW) from 1999 to 2000 and post retirement he was advisor to Prime Minister Vajpayee on Kashmir affairs.

Date(13-07-2015):You would have probably missed the news item, buried, as it was in the tumult of LalitGate, Vyapam and Shah Rukh’s boundary wall getting some graffiti-love. Amidst all this hyperventilation was a small news item that ought to be of interest to all of us. The government is planning to put a cap on premature withdrawal of provident fund (PF) money. The move is aimed at ensuring social security for workers in old age.

Date(20-07-2015): If you were to be charitable you would say that India’s Pakistan policy is dynamic, as it changes according to the times. If you were to be hyper-critical then you would say India’s Pakistan policy, regardless of which party is in power, is knee-jerk reactive to events.

All eyes on Bihar 2015  7  27

Date(27-07-2015): Bihar Assembly elections are due in a few months from now so its raining Bihari jokes, and many of them are being cracked by Bihar bhaiyas themselves! There is a lot of curiosity on which way the 13th largest state in the Indian union is going to vote.

Date(03-08-2015): On May 3, less than a month after PM Modi touched down in three cities in Canada the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM after 42 years a gathering of more than 1,50,000 Canadian Sikhs unanimously passed the Punjab Referendum Resolution in Toronto. They called for global support to Referendum 2020: demand for a separate country of Khalistan.

Date(10-08-2015): Former US President George Bush’s brother and Republican party potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked by Fox News, “knowing what we know now” would he have gone into Iraq if he had been President. Megan Kelly was referring to the faulty intelligence on the WMD programme and the Iraq war. It took one week of waffling for Jeb Bush to finally distance himself from his brother’s mis-action... “I would have not engaged, not gone to war with Iraq.” He repeated this last week at the first GOP Presidential debate.

Date(17-08-2015): Balakot is a small town that is situated along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir that witnessed intense shelling from the Pakistani side, which killed six people and injured several others last weekend. Yesterday, the people of the town were asked to take their belongings and leave their homes. Some say that they were too scared to step out of their homes even to pick up the dead bodies because of the constant shelling.

Date(24-08-2015): The Prime Minister was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last week and in the coming months he will be travelling to the US again to attend the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) and also to Malaysia for the ASEAN summit. In his interactions with the Indian community abroad, you cannot but observe the nationalism at display. They identify with the unabashed display of patriotism by Prime Minister Modi. They revel in the fact that Mr Modi is a proud patriot. Hyper nationalism sits easy with the BJP, a party that wears its nationalism on its sleeve, all the time. And then, Modi is from the House of RSS, where ‘rashtra’ comes before everything else.

Date(31-08-2015): The lives of the rich and famous are always a fabulous source of gossip and idle chatter. And prime-time news. After all, champagne and caviar-filled lives must certainly be more exciting than the ones with housing EMIs and parent teacher meetings.

Date(07-09-2015): Last week the picture of a dead Syrian child on a beach shocked the world. In his gruesome death, 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi has become somewhat of an Internet sensation. The toddler, his face dug into the sand, as if sleeping in his bed, has jolted the world into the cruelties of war and the hard heartedness of countries that wont open their door to refugees from failed nations.

Date(14-09-2015): If you think of railways and you imagine Shah Rukh-Kajol in Dilwale Dulhaniya and Chaiyyan Chaiyyan, or if you are slightly older then the classics like Rajesh Khanna singing Mere sapno kii rani kab ayegi tu or Aao bacchon tumhein dikhaen jhaanki Hindustan kii, then STOP. The Romance of the Indian Railways is truly over. You can’t have over 18-22,000 Indians dying in a year in train-related accidents and still associate railways with lovers and loving. It is plain horror.

Zia 2.0 2015  9  21

Date(21-09-2015): He is everywhere in Pakistan. Visiting injured soldiers in hospitals, meeting with corps commanders and being photographed doing it, inaugurating civilian projects, praying with jihadis, and wearing turbans over fatigues. You would be forgiven if you think that elections are on in Pakistan and the Army Chief is campaigning for votes.

Date(29-09-2015): John Chambers, Chairman of Cisco Systems said of Prime Minister Modi, “you (PM Modi) are an amazing ambassador of your country....PM Modi will change the world. He has a global vision, he understands global trends.” Sundar Pichai CEO of Google said of Prime Minister Modi, “He has accelerated India to become the next hotbed of technology and innovation.”

Date(05-10-2015): India made a sharp and strong case for itself last week at the UN when Pakistan raked up the Kashmir issue. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj remained unmoved by yet another jumla from a Pakistani head of government and dismissed the 4-point formula suggested by Nawaz Sharif.

Date(12-10-2015): Political speeches in Bihar and interviews of politicians have transcended the sphere of politics and jumped into the realm of wild and wicked. The language used by politicians is so offensive that Election Commission has had to intervene and advise restraint.

Date(19-10-2015): You can never get it right. Not the list, not the gift. So the first step towards nirvana from stress of festival gifting is to accept this fact. Navratri, Dussehra or Diwali, it is a time for feasting and fasting and gifting, whichever part of the country you live in.

The duty to dissent 2015  10  26

Date(26-10-2015): History has shown that societies benefit with dissent, not conformity. People speak up, they are heard, opinions are formed, laws are modified, norms change for the better, people become more informed... all because we argue and disagree with each other. Discussion is merely another form of dissent. True patriotism is not abject compliance. In functional democracies, it is also protection of dissent arising from minority voices.

Date(28-10-2015): Accusing Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav of lowering the standard of debate during the Bihar Assembly polls, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushil Modi on Wednesday said that the grand alliance was scared of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Date(02-11-2015): It’s the last lap in Bihar and tensions are running high. The stakes have been upped a great degree by both the BJP and the MGB (the mahagathbandhan or grand alliance). The BJP is anxious to bust the “Nitish myth” as they call it, and the MGB sees Bihar as just one step in a country-wide ‘jan andolan’ (people’s movement) to oust the BJP state by state. The BJP, comfortable with the Congress as the main opposition with Rahul at the helm, does not want any leader in the country to emerge as a potential competitor to Narendra Modi in 2019. The MGB and its outside supporters (Kejriwal, Mamata) are hunting for a person with political and administrative experience who can be a rallying point for an anti-BJP alliance in 2019. So, it isn’t really just about Bihar.

Date(09-11-2015): Now that the Bihar election is done and dusted, the PM is ready to travel abroad again. PM could very well be singing that John Denver song, “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standin here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.......coz I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” He will be back, yes, only to go again. Beginning Wednesday, PM Modi will be travelling to UK, Turkey, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore and Russia, before the year is out. He hops in and out of Delhi between these visits.

Feeling unsafe 2015  11  16

Date(16-11-2015): In India there are more chances of being struck down by a speeding car or a train crash than a terror incident. Approximately, one death occurs every four minutes on Indian roads. But that doesn’t strike as much fear in our hearts as being blown to bits by a suicide bomber or gunned down while at a music concert or while sipping soup in a restaurant.

Date(23-11-2015): Actually, nobody quite knows the answer to that question. And presumptions have led to riots, misplaced priorities and disaffection of millions. That’s because Muslims in Kerala do not necessarily want to hear the same thing as Muslims of Kashmir. But by and large, Muslims in every part of the country want the same things as Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists or atheists want: right to life and liberty, a dignified existence.

Date(30-11-2015): It isn’t as if Shah Rukh or Aamir made the Mumbai film industry suddenly wake up to the tolerance debate. It also isn’t true that the culture and literary congregation abruptly felt an exigency situation in the country with regard to secularism. It isn’t as if Parliament too, all of a sudden, initiated a debate on dharmnirpeksh versus panthnirpeksh.

Date(07-12-2015): As the year winds down and I end my innings at mid-day after writing this column every week for several years without a break, I doff my hat to the Spirit of Chennai. Smiling in adversity, Chennaikars stoically and patiently waited for help to reach them in the devastating floods last week. When assistance arrived, they waited for their turn, allowing the underprivileged to first be taken care of. The visuals that have been beamed to our homes from Chennai have left us moved to tears and amazed at the display of compassion and humanity under such trying conditions.

Date(06-01-2014): The electoral contest in 2014 is changing dimensions. With the thundering entry of the newbie in Indian politics Aam Aadmi Party, all calculations have been thrown up in the air. That muffler wrapped face of Arvind Kejriwal is now all over our TV screens. Much more than BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the sitting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Dr Singh, after two uninterrupted tenures as prime minister, has hung his boots when he said last week, “In a few months time, after the general elections, I will hand the baton over to a new prime minister. I hope it will be a United Progressive Alliance-chosen prime minister.”

Date(13-01-2014): Congress deewane mulk mey, raat mey aur dopahar mey, aabodaana dhoondtay hain, ek aashiana dhoondtay hain. Apologies to the makers of the 1970s Hindi film Gharonda, in which Aam Aadmi Amol Palekar and Aam Aurat Zarina Wahab sang the song written by Gulzar which roughly translates to: two enthusiasts in the city, scout day and night, hunting for a nest, hunting for a home. The ordinary struggle of an ordinary urban Indian couple, of finding a roof above their heads. The Congress leaders today are like that desperate couple, hunting for safe constituencies for themselves and Rahul Gandhi. The search is getting urgent. It is bordering on the crazily obsessive.

Date(20-01-2014): Online privacy is dead. Somebody or the other is reading your text messages, your e-mails, your Whatsapp and Facebook status updates, and your BBMs. Take it for granted that nothing is safe anymore other than silence. Either your parents, or your children, your spouse, love interest, employer, or the government or Americans….somebody is reading your online communication.

Date(27-01-2014): And so, one more Republic Day went by. Once more we saw the military parade on TV; once more we marvelled at the cultural diversity on display at the Rajpath in the capital. And once more we battled in our minds whether the display of military muscle is a throwback to Soviet era extravagance or is it a justified celebration of the idea of the Republic of India.

Date(03-02-2014): There was some buzz again last week that Dr Manmohan Singh was contemplating a visit to Pakistan next month, before he hangs his boots. It is one of those rumours which in the past nine years has been neither denied by the foreign office nor confirmed. And the ‘news’ gained ground when a visiting bunch of Pakistani journalists reported that all that was left was a fixing of dates. Meanwhile it appears that the Prime Minister might instead be traveling to Myanmar to attend the summit of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). The interesting grouping consists of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. Look East Sir, look East.

Date(10-02-2014): Recently I attended a lecture by Kishore Mahabubani, the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore where he posed a question: Can India be Cunning?

Date(17-02-2014): It is quite natural for the media to focus on political news in an election year. However, the grand obsession with politics and political news has become quite oppressive. Every news story acquires political contours; grand meanings are read into anecdotal events.

Date(24-02-2014): As we draw closer to elections, politicians are going to talk about religion and its role in society and how they will defend the rights of every religious group of people. For people of religious minorities, this is significant as they look for an affirmation that their rights will be protected as determined by the Indian constitution.

Date(03-03-2014): There is something about arranged marriages in India. It’s like the entire universe conspires to actualise them. There is near panic when families cannot organise one. No amount of personal success at work or happiness in life is acceptable unless a ‘suitable’ match is found. It doesn’t matter if the couple has nothing much in common, and are not even remotely attracted to each other. No, just some random people or a computer thinks that a fit is found and heaven showers blessings.

Date(10-03-2014): A month before the elections kick off, campaigning has turned into a reality show. Move aside Bigg Boss and Satyamev Jayate, there is more drama to be devoured in election coverage.

Date(24-03-2014): A pseudonymous Twitter user, @thecomicproject, posted on Saturday: “Journalists have four designations: Journalist, Senior Journalist, Veteran Journalist, Politician.” He was referring to the recent induction of journalists into political parties, a trend which is viewed skeptically on social media. Nobody is quite comfortable with the fourth estate encroaching upon the political arena. That is because the media’s role includes being a watchdog of democratic processes and supervising the role of political players. But when these roles overlap, a shadow of doubt appears over the journalist’s past reporting: surely she must have been biased in her reporting of events.

Date(07-04-2014): Whoever coined the phrase “the dance of democracy” captured the essence of the electoral process that celebrates democracy. Barely three months after the elections in Bangladesh — and battling against worse odds — Afghanistan went to polls on Saturday.

Date(14-04-2014): The so called ‘Big Fight’ in both these constituencies is all made up to generate excitement for TV. Amethi will go to Rahul Gandhi and Varanasi will go to Narendra Modi. I am willing to stick my neck out on this and call.

Date(21-04-2014): Those who don’t want Modi will have to go to Pakistan, those who vote for Congress want Muslims to rule India like Babar did, those who vote for BSP want upper castes finished forever, those who vote PDP want Kashmir to go to Pakistan, those who vote for CPI want India to become a satellite of Russia/China.

2014 is not 1998 2014  4  28

Date(28-04-2014): With Priyanka Gandhi jumping out in the open into the Congress campaign programme, feeble hopes have rekindled in the Grand Old Party. She smiles, waves, hugs, makes pithy remarks about Narendra Modi without naming him, recalls her martyred father, her family links with Amethi and Rae Bareli and then disappears for a day.

Goodbye Dr Singh 2014  5  5

Date(05-05-2014): “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it,” wrote Sir Winston Churchill.

Date(12-05-2014): After the last vote has been cast for the 2014 general elections today, there will be a sense of catharsis for some. The venomous statements that politicians have made against each other will reduce to a great extent. Many of them have already begun backroom negotiations, just in case they need to forge alliances.

Date(19-05-2014): The new prime minister of India has a fantastic choice before him one that his predecessor did not have in his two terms in office. Not only can he freely choose who he wants to work with, he can even choose which jobs he wants to allocate to them.

Date(26-05-2014): This evening, Narendra Modi and his council of ministers will take the oath of office and secrecy from the President in the presence of about 4,000-odd invitees, who include foreign dignitaries, heads of government, eminent citizens and common Indians.

Feeble old party 2014  6  2

Date(02-06-2014): There is nothing really left of the Grand Old Party, the Indian National Congress, other than ‘old’. But it seems that the electoral shock of a near total wipeout has not resulted in any churning or ‘manthan’. The young brigade, which in Indian politics means those in their forties and fifties, are confronted with a moth eaten fabric. They are unable to come to terms with the new reality.

Date(09-06-2014): It was November 25, 2009, in Washington DC. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was midway through his visit to the American capital, and everything seemed to be going right.

Date(16-06-2014): With a prayer on my lips: It is a privilege to report on a Prime Minister’s maiden foreign visit and Bhutan is certainly on every Indian journalist’s bucket list. But for a queasy flyer, landing at Paro airport is a nightmare.

A Dragon in our room 2014  6  23

Date(23-06-2014): Within two weeks of assuming office, Prime Minister Modi has successfully completed his first tour abroad, to neighbouring Bhutan. He had earlier met the six heads of government of the region during his swearing in ceremony.

Date(30-06-2014): The ‘mountains of death’ that have passes between high peaks that even the troops of Alexander the Great found treacherous are once again the scene of battle. The 800km of Hindu Kush mountains stretch from Central Afghanistan to Northern Pakistan.

Bringing back Indians 2014  7  7

Date(07-07-2014): The rescue of 46 Indian nurses from Iraq last week is the second diplomatic success for the new NDA government.

Date(14-07-2014): From Syria to the border gates of Wagah, the fear of Balkanisation along the lines of religious radicalism and sectarianism poses a threat to the internal stability of countries of South Asia including India.

Date(21-07-2014): The horrors of war and conflict have been overwhelming this past week. Four boys, aged 9 to 12, all cousins, were killed in Israeli bombings in Gaza just minutes after they were playing on the beach, thinking that the sandy shores were safer than their streets.

Date(28-07-2014): First, the disclaimer. I have not read any of Shri Dinanath Batra’s books. Second, I don’t think it is the end of the world if anybody’s books are put on the supplementary reading list, however bizarre they may be.

Blame it on Rahul 2014  8  4

Date(04-08-2014): It is all Rahul’s fault. The lost election, the lethargic opposition, weak monsoon (maybe) and that we had Dr Singh as PM and not Sonia Gandhi. No, seriously how can one man be responsible for all ills when we also blame him for inaction?

Date(11-08-2014): On August 15, 2013, Narendra Modi made a speech at Lalan College in Bhuj, drawing derision from his opponents, especially the Congress party. The speech followed the prime minister’s address to the nation from the Red Fort and was covered extensively by the media. Modi termed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s speech as lacklustre. No one could find fault with that. Not even Sonia Gandhi will say that the former prime minister was a stirring orator. Not one of Dr Singh’s ten consecutive speeches from the Red Fort was inspiring.

Untouched by pain 2014  8  18

Date(18-08-2014): Robin Williams’ suicide shocked us all, though for most of us our only connection to the Hollywood actor was through his films or comic acts. Yet, he was part of our growing up years and brought us immense joy and laughter. On Twitter, Facebook and TV, people spoke endlessly with disbelief that a man who seemed so accomplished and famous could be so lonely, a person loved by millions could feel so unloved and a person who won so many awards could have such a low sense of self worth that he ended his life. A final solution, maybe to frustration, to the inability to make sense of the world.

Date(25-08-2014): Hospital stays in India are traumatic. Nothing less. Just like school life, dating, commuting, train journeys and paying taxes in India. This article is not a guide for survival at a government -aided or -run hospital, because for that you need active intervention of God and fate. Nor is it a survival manual for every hospital run in India. This is just my personal experience at several swanky hospitals in Delhi.

Sau din sauce kay 2014  9  1

Date(01-09-2014): Readers of a certain vintage would recall a ghastly Bollywood film produced in 1980 called Sau Din Saas Kay which had Reena Roy as the rebel daughter-in-law and Lalita Pawar as the archetypal vicious mother-in-law. This film was loud and melodramatic but it was a huge hit because suddenly tables had turned. The daughter-in-law had changed the equation in the Hindu undivided family. Somehow a 100 days is supposed to make a difference. The ‘nice’ period ends. Everybody is open to critical analysis at the end of a hundred days. So here goes the saucy tale of a hundred days.

Palli palli in Korea 2014  9  8

Date(08-09-2014): Travelling to countries that have witnessed partition and wars and managed to move on from that trauma is always an introspective experience. One ends up drawing parallels and experience a sameness of sorts. I visited South Korea last week as an invitee of the Cultural Communication Forum. For three days, 16 delegates from around the world were taken to museums, restaurants and high-tech offices to experience Korean culture.

Date(15-09-2014): I am always a bit flabbergasted reading tweets or hearing people saying “I am proud of being a Hindu” or “Garv sey kaho hum Hindu hain”. It is by accident of birth that one is born a Hindu. One really had no choice in the matter. Converting to Hindusim is not really easy. So how does one claim pride in something that was fate or fortuity?

Underwhelming Jinping 2014  9  22

Date(22-09-2014): Even as the Chinese President left Indian shores, there was a sense of unease that nothing y has really changed between India and China in all these decades. Trade, yes. Suspicion, oh yes. Distrust, most certainly. Same page, definitely not. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the Chinese first couple on a guided tour of Sabarmati Ashram and the Narmada Riverfront with disarming simplicity of purpose. President Xi Jinping also made the right moves, donned a Khadi jacket, smiled at times, and seemed to enjoy the meal. And yet, his army was marching into the Indian territory even while all this bonhomie was on.

Date(29-09-2014): Modi supporters are everywhere. I bet Mangalyaan will find them even on Mars. Here in New York, there are Modi supporters all across Manhattan. They have come in busloads to support their hero. So from Dekho Dekho kaun ayaa... Bharat ka sher aya (Look who has come, India’s lion is here) to Bharat Mata ki Jai to Vande Mataram, every slogan that Narendra Modi the campaigner raised during his gruelling election campaign was repeated over the weekend in the Big Apple.

Date(06-10-2014): I first covered an Indian Prime Minister at the UN when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister in the early 2000s and nobody gave a rat’s posterior of what an Indian PM had to say at the UN. Being part of the Indian media contingent, one could only hope for a passing mention of the Indian PM. And hopefully not hyphenated with Pakistan or Kashmir crisis. But even that was ambitious. In contrast Pakistan’s President General Musharraf was all over the place. He even managed to appear on Jay Leno’s show, which was huge.

Date(13-10-2014): It is more than a week since the prime minister has returned from the US and by norm, reporting should have whittled down, attention should have shifted to the Next Big Story, and follow-up should have been left to the babus of Delhi to do in ‘due course of time’.

Date(20-10-2014): The BJP’s achche din juggernaut rolls on. Tripling its numbers in an assembly election is no mean feat. But Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are on a roll. This partnership has brought in more laurels to the BJP than the Vajpayee-Advani partnership. One victory after another. And nobody is complaining though some, even in the BJP, do seem a bit overwhelmed.

Just a selfie 2014  10  27

Date(27-10-2014): The selfie epidemic is contagious. You will catch it if you have a camera-phone. Nobody is immune from it - from Narendra Modi to Barack Obama to Sonam Kapoor and yours truly. We have all clicked our own pictures eating, posing with family or celebrities or near monuments and during important moments. We document it for posterity, delete it if embarrassing, share with friends and family who are far away, post it on social media for FB likes and retweets. Momentary vanity or embarrassing moment, it is a thrill that you want to relish or keep forever.

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