The truth about Nehru and new India’s tryst with fake propaganda

That Jawaharlal Nehru’s life has been narrated through a huge body of apocryphal stories isn’t a big surprise. For, the story of his life be...

Politics and theatre: A story of the oppressed in Bengal

"I was murdered today. Ye...

Chained to misery, bonded labourers in Tamil Nadu’s brick kilns

The once bright coral pin...

Getting the story right: How some wounds are finally healing

The oral tradition of storytelling which is entwined with culture has several applications — corporates are banking on them to convey messages to their workforce, while counsellors are finding ways to help clients speak their mind or help overcome addictions when others’ stories mirror their lives.

Cop drama in the Capital: Inside the broken policing system

While the efficiency of the police force — or the lack of it — remains debatable, the common man was at his wit's end when the Delhi police personnel took to the streets on November 5 seeking protection.

Celebrating 60 years of movie magic that’s Kamal Haasan

For his millions of fans across the world, Kamal Haasan is a man of few words. But once he starts to talk, he is certainly not afraid to speak the ugly truth. So much so that in the recent past, especially after his plunge into active politics, his words have become a little too much for many to digest. But for the past six decades, the actor ta...

Campuses under siege – Saffronising education, suppressing dissent

A number of top universities in country are witnessing an increase in communalisation of campuses, loss of autonomy among teachers, students, panels, and recently, a distortion of and demand to change history.

Is Manipur’s ‘government-in-exile’ a smokescreen to hide a ponzi sc...

From a ginger farmer to a business tycoon to a founder of a 'government-in-exile', Narengbam Samarjit is an enigma that Manipur is trying to come to terms with. The bespectacled man in his late forties with a penchant for flamboyant black attires with traditional regalia shocked and awed the state in equal measures when he and his lesser-known com...

Why women saddled with caregiving need support, breaks

Rajini K, a 63-year-old homemaker, barely steps out of her house. She is so caught up with taking care of her ailing mother-in-law (87) that there is with no time left for herself. Rajini's life revolves largely around  her mother-in-law — from ensuring she is fed on time to getting her to change her clothes after she is given a bath and making her...

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Retail inflation increases due to rising food prices

The all-India general Con...

SC sends Sabarimala review pleas, other religious practices to larger bench

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thur...

What led to the review petitions on the Sabarimala temple case

In a landmark judgement delivered last year, the Supreme Court had allowed entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 into Sabarimala temple. This was challenged by a bunch of petitioners who sought review of the decision.

Political parties in Kerala welcome SC decision on Sabarimala

Thiruvananthapuram: Political parties in Kera...

India may again attempt soft landing on Moon next November

Bengaluru: After an unsuccessful bid...

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Indian cricket: From barren lands to powerhouse

With Virat Kohli & Co. steamrolling South Africa 3-0 in the recent three-match Test series and the BCCI having established itself as one of the important members of ICC, India is on top of the world, like never.

We shall overcome: Sounds of protest blowin’ in the wind, again

For decades, many indigenous groups have been struggling to protect their identity, land, culture and resources, which they feel are threatened by insensitive and unsustainable development. And songs have become a medium to express their angst.

Revolution interrupted: The cult of George Reddy

Nearly five decades after his death, a biopic is now ready on the life and times of student leader at Osmania University, George Reddy.

In la-la land: How Kollywood harvested farm life

The special connection between Tamil cinema and farming has remained strong through the ages even as it dealt with other issues such as dowry, caste atrocities, female foeticide and water scarcity.

Eco-friendly crackers: How green is your Diwali?

At one point of time, the bursting of tens of thousands of firecrackers during Dussehra and Diwali turned several cities in the country into virtual “gas chambers”. It’s time that changed now, with the use of green crackers.

Why the Deepavali buzz is fizzling out in Kollywood

Once upon a time in Kollywood, high profile face-offs was the norm during Deepavalis that included clashes between films of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, and Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. Cut to the present day, the buzz has fizzled out over the years.

Section 498A – Misused or underused?

In September 2019, a group of men’s rights activists conducted a special puja at 50 different locations across the country to end the ‘cancer’ of feminism in India. Organised by Save India Family Foundation, which works on promoting ‘gender equality and family harmony’, the puja was called Feminism Pishachini Mukti Puja. According to the men’s r...

Why the fate of Sivakasi cracker workers is clouded in smoke

At 5 o'clock on an October morning, a scrawny man in his late 30s hops onto a bus. Behind him, a young woman carrying a tiffin box calls out to wait for her. She is just in time before the bus hurtles past tiny lanes with rain puddles left by the previous night's downpour — the air reeking of a sour odour of sulphur and sadness. As the bus stops...

Fadnavis: How the ‘new kid’ on the block upstaged Maharashtra stalwarts

While his political opponents have lost out because of their own doing, making it easy for him, Maharashtra Chief Minister Fadnavis has made it difficult for anyone to point fingers at him.

The real Savarkar: A British stooge, Hitler’s admirer or a Bharat Ratna?

Several years ago, a puny little man, who was fond of wearing round black caps and perfumed jackets, thundered at the princes of India: “But anyone who might have actively betrayed the trust of the people, disowned his fathers, and debased his blood by arraying himself against his Mother — he shall be crushed to dust and ashes, and shall be looked ...

A first gay novel, a poor Tamil Brahmin and an unequal world

For a teacher and Sanskrit scholar in Tamil Nadu of 1970s, talking about sexualities that resist social definitions was not quite the norm. Nor was the temple town of Kumbakonam — otherwise also known as the hub of modern Tamil literature — used to such 'digressions'. Yet homosexuality found a voice in Karichan Kunju's writing. Like his celebrat...

NBA makes a giant leap to the final frontier, India

India’s population of 1.3 billion, when last counted and certainly already much higher, and its economy, despite the recent slowdown across industry, are just too tempting for any global operation to ignore.

Special needs: How parents are coming to their own aid

When her two-year-old son was diagnosed with autism, Radhika was in a state of shock and denial. "Why me?" she kept asking herself. After several rounds of consultation with child psychiatrists and neurologists, she decided that brooding over the situation wouldn’t help. Instead, she began meeting parents of other children with autism. After enr...

How China turned the tide and fired its economy

Seventy years ago, India and China stood at the crossroads of change. Freed from the shackles of imperialism — British and Chinese — India in 1947 went the secular democracy way, while China in 1949 embarked on the road to Communism "with Chinese characteristics". Now, China is a veritable superpower and has lifted a humongous 850 million people ou...

How China’s education system produces world beaters

For the past several years, China has maintained a high rate of growth in their GDP. From around 400 billion dollars in the 1990s, its GDP has grown to over 13.6 trillion dollars. Compare that to India, from around 320 billion back then, it has grown to only about 2.7 trillion. Despite having similar populations, China has galloped on the dollar...

Chinese love learning Tamil, just like ancient times

The Chinese are learning Tamil and imbibing the culture, especially by giving themselves adopted Tamil names. That they speak the language as fluently as natives here is no secret.

Endangered Indian languages face threat of extinction

On the banks of Burhi Dihing river, a tributary of Brahmaputra in eastern Assam, resides a group of tribals called Phakials. Originally from south China, a small section of the tribe had in 1775 crossed the Pat Kai hills of Myanmar and settled in Assam. More than two hundred years later, there are just about 150 families left of the community in th...

NRC: Once bitten, twice shy – Hindu immigrants in West Bengal

A sense of anxiety and déjà vu hung like a dark cloud over Cooper’s Camp, one of the oldest refugee settlements in India. Hunched over a rickety table on the verandah of a small brick house, overlooking the marshland, stretching east towards the 2,216-km Bangladesh border, Ashok Chakraborty was busy rummaging through old documents. A paltry g...

Spoils of an India-Pak ‘war’, the legacy of a Nizam long dead and his man...

It is a case that brings back memories of the embers of Partition fire, the whiff of deviousness of the retreating Raj and of the last Nizam of Hyderabad, profiled by the Time magazine in 1937 as the world’s richest man who wanted to remain independent or join Pakistan. What has come to be known as the 'Hyderabad Fund Case' is a heady cocktail of ...

Are vaccination fears hurting immunisation efforts?

Experts too blame the ‘anti-vaccination movement’ for the huge drop in immunisation. WHO, earlier this year, too has pointed out that the anti-vaccine movement is one of the worst health threats in 2019.

Mughals to Mamata and now BJP: Politics at the heart of Durga Puja

Attempts to ride piggyback on Durga to make inroads into the Bengali hearts have a long history. From rulers during the Mughal times to the British after the Battle of Plassey to freedom fighters during the independence struggle, Durga could morph with élan from Queen Victoria to 'Mother India' and to Balakot airstrike and NRC.

Joker: Why we love a creepy megalomaniac more than a superhero

We all love a little bit of chaos in the lives we lead and the movies we watch. Why wouldn’t we love the Joker then? He’s everything you shouldn’t be – a megalomaniac, a destroyer of world peace, and a sociopath. He isn’t good at maintaining relationships, and, on top of that, he kills people for fun. While his presence in the comic books — he f...

India’s traditional products need more than just GI tags

Dalavai Kulayappa, a fourth-generation leather puppet maker from Nimmalakunta village in Anantapur district, is unsure about the future of the craft. Clearly, the Geographical Indication (GI) tag has not helped a lot of artistes in India, who keep centuries-old tradition alive, market their products.

The ‘no land’s men’ in Munnar’s tea estates

With each passing day, Chinnathai — a third-generation tea plantation worker of Tamil origin in Munnar — is reminded of her approaching retirement in two months. And with that, the fear of becoming homeless.

With bank mergers, end of an era in South Canara

Six principal banks, including Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, Corporation Bank, originated from the South Canara region which was called 'The Cradle of Banking in India'. According to reports, between 1880 and 1935, 22 banking companies were established in this region.

NRC: Fear and dismay at ‘India-Bangladesh border’ in Bengaluru

“That side of the road is Bangladesh, this side is India. We don't go there and they don't come here,” says Jamaal Hassan (43), sounding panicky. “The police should go after them, not us. We are Indians, it’s our birthright to live and work here.” Hassan is one of the 5,000 Bengali-speaking Muslim labourers who live in a confusing maze of tarpau...

Difficult to diagnose: What doctors say, what patients hear

When 50-year-old Chandra from Chennai was diagnosed with a cyst in one of her kidneys, she expected her nephrologist to give her a detailed account of the prognosis or the likely course of her treatment. But her doctor only suggested dietary changes and told her to take it easy. "I learnt from friends that it could lead to dialysis. However, my ...

Keeladi excavation raises more questions than answers

A famous Tamil folktale speaks about a prince who is able to draw a life-like portrait of a princess based on a lock of her hair. Keeladi — an archaeological site in Tamil Nadu's Sivaganga district — today is like the princess of the folktale. Recent findings about artefacts from the site have thrown up several 'princes' vying with each other to dr...

Quite a stir: Science and serendipity behind the new liquid magnet

Xubo Liu of Beijing University of Chemical Technology and Thomas Russell of the University of Massachusetts Amherst made a new material that is liquid and magnetic.

Online gaming addiction: How much is too much?

On the morning of September 9, residents of Kakati village in Karnataka's Belagavi district woke up to murmurs about a cold-blooded murder of a 61-year-old retired policeman. Early in the morning, a neighbour heard screams coming from the house of Shekarappa Kumbar and called the police. But by the time the cops reached, Shekarappa was dead -- h...

Vlogging: Making a living and living their dreams

Perched on the middle of an open field in Theni district in Tamil Nadu, an elderly man wearing a white shirt and dhoti, readies a patch of land to cook a Christmas special dish. With a camera focused on him, 62-year-old Arumugam wishes his viewers and starts skinning a turkey. He then seasons it liberally with a paste of butter and chopped coriande...

In ‘sanskari’ India, abortion continues to be a big deal

When Girish (name changed) and his partner approached a gynaecologist for abortion at a renowned multi-specialty hospital in Chennai, he was horrified at the reaction. “She asked if we were married. When we said no, she said she won't perform without a husband or parents of the woman being there.” While gynaecologist clinics should be space...

The journey home, to a tomorrow of hope and promise

This August, Bijoy Harpal, a resident of Bolangir, Odisha, received a call from Chennai’s Little Hearts Home with news about his long-lost aunt. Maya (45), a distant relative, had gone missing from her home in Jharkhand's Jamshedpur almost 13 years ago. “She was living with her father and brother in Jamshedpur in 2006 when she went missing. We h...

Kashmir to Kohima: The muddied pathway to peace talks

On August 14, 1947, a day before India made her tryst with destiny, the Naga National Council (NNC), then an omnipotent political organisation of the Naga people headed by Angami Zapu Phizo, declared Independence for the Nagas. However, the world outside did not immediately get to know about the development as the NNC’s telegram addressed to lea...

How Arunachal woke up to Hindi and joined the heartland

Back in the 1980s, every August 15 and January 26, residents of Anini, a small town in Arunachal Pradesh, would wake up to the call of "jaagte raho" by T Mello, a kotoki (government-appointed interpreter). Although the words "jaagte raho" in Hindi is used as a command of sorts, asking people to stay awake and alert, in kotoki Mello's limited Hin...

Drought to deluge: The growing threat of climate change

Various studies project possible linkages of global warming with the change in frequency and intensity of weather. Frequency of heavy rainfall events (rainfall exceeding 15 cm in 24 hours) has increased over parts of central India at the rate of 6% per decade.

In Tamil Nadu, Hindu Munnani project rests on Ganesha’s shoulders

On September 1, when M Muthupandi, an IT employee working in Chennai, reached his nondescript village of Old Silukkuvarpatti, for a moment he thought he lost his way in a maze of saffron flags and pandals. “The place looked like a sea of saffron — the village entrance festooned with saffron flags, pandals in saffron hue and devotional film songs...

Indians love football. Then why are local clubs struggling?

At Indira's Nagar's Doff pub, a group of four young men are conspicuous by their presence. Dressed in co-ordinated outfits — stonewashed denims and bright red Manchester United jerseys — they are among the regular customers frequenting the popular sports bar in Bengaluru every time there is an English Premier League (EPL) match on TV. One of the...

David and his slingshot: How Isro customised rocket science

From the launch to the landing attempt on the moon, Chandrayaan-2 took 48 days. While the Soviet and the US seemed to have taken a jet plane to travel to the moon, we were doing so on a bullock cart.

Being a Kashmiri outside Kashmir, inside India

When 21-year-old Rifat Wani (name changed) arrived in Bengaluru from Srinagar in July to study management at a private university, she expected to have a regular college life. Instead, she was greeted by classmates who sometimes called her an ‘anti-national’, sometimes a ‘Pakistani’. But the worst was yet to come. On August 5, when the BJP governme...

Why do humans want animals to be like them?

Imagine this scenario: a woman wakes up naked in an abandoned building and eventually goes to the nearest dumpster to find something to cover herself with. But a pack of ferocious stray dogs get territorial and one chases the woman across the street, into a parking lot, where there’s a building, and sits outside the toilet that she manages to lock ...

Bengaluru’s theatre circuit is experimenting with intimate spaces

For a millennial growing up in Bengaluru, one of the earliest exposures to the creative arts was perhaps watching a play at Ranga Shankara, attending a concert at Chowdiah Memorial Hall or going for an exhibition at Chitrakala Parishath. These are some of the city’s most iconic cultural spaces. Today, the city’s theatre culture has evolved subst...

From generic to customised: How gene editing may change the face of healthcare

Imagine that you are a kid sitting with your friends on the ground having a good time talking. Then everyone decides to go and play a game of hide-and-seek. You find yourself struggling to get up and your legs are not able to lift you. When you finally do slowly stand up, you find yourself struggling to keep up with the others and you are constantl...

NRC: The pain and struggle that never ends

At the crack of dawn, on September 1, Shehnaz Begum, 27, held her six-year-old daughter Soniyara's hand and trudged along the muddy lanes of Batarbari village in Assam's Barpeta district. The mother and daughter then got inside the autorickshaw of a family friend, Soyeb, and set out on a journey to the Public Health Centre in nearby Daulasal in Nal...

eSports in India is turning nerds into millionaires

Twenty one-year-old Bhavin Kotwani is a professional athlete who starts training at 8 in the morning and continues till 10 at night. The intense regime begins with three hours of individual training, and moves on to team training and strategising to play in international tournaments. He gets one day off — Sunday. However, in India, Kotwani isn’t...

Are de-addiction centres the solution to drug problems?

It is around 11 am on a weekday when a group of youngsters walk into a room. After a minor argument, the nine boys, all aged between 14 and 18, sit down for a game of carrom. One of them hits the coin arrangement with clinical precision and jumps with excitement as a white piece slips into a pocket. The de-addiction centre meant for boys below t...

Buried tales of Dalit discrimination in Tamil Nadu village

Narayanapuram, Vellore: The block paved lane that leads to the Dalit colony in Tamil Nadu's Narayanapuram village is dotted with shabby mud huts. In one of those huts, where S Chinnathai lives alone, there is a small patch of dry land — all of 64 square feet — which the 55-year-old widow likes to call her courtyard. It is in this courtyard where Chinnathai's husband and f...

Music festivals in India are slowly turning green

Every year, as the searing summer starts giving way to fall, the music scene in India begins to heat up. With more than 20 music festivals — both indoor and outdoor — taking place every year, these events are not just about popular bands and some great music. While cavorting sweatily to some rip-roaring, toe-tapping and head-banging music, fans als...

Soothsayers see an uncertain future with saffron surge

Madurai: At 10 pm, men dressed in black coats and saffron dhotis, with saffron turbans resting on their heads, walk into a village burial ground. Carrying cloth sacks filled with their bread and butter — cowrie shells, a mat, damaru, picture of their deity — they pray there till midnight, before walking the streets of the village telling fortunes. They s...

On Madras Day, a tale of the first election and ‘funny politics’ 

Much before India attained Independence, Madras Presidency  was a large swathe of land that included the present-day states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Karnataka and Kerala (the Malabar region). It, however, excluded the princely states of Puducottai, Banganapalle and Sandur. The capital of this diverse and rich presidency was...

Gender diversity: What anime taught the 90s kids that school books didn’t

In 2003, when Pokémon was first aired in India, it flooded classrooms with trading cards and tazos of Pikachus, Charizards, and Bulbasaurs. Surprisingly, even an anime as innocuous as Pokémon bucks gender norms as we are taught to understand them. Vinay, a 25-year-old photographer, remembers how anime shaped his thoughts on gender and queerness ...

How millennials are reviving traditional tattooing in India

The Mer community of Gujarat has a proverb that says even if one is deprived of all things in the world, no one can take away their tattoos. And this, and not materialistic wealth, is what they take with them to the afterlife. Traditional Mer tattoos are done using a single stick and pigment made from soot and tannin from the bark of trees. Howe...

Why India must keep chasing its space dream

Why do we spend millions of rupees on space explorations, say for example mission Chandrayaan-2? What is the urgency to know how and when the Moon was formed when a sizeable chunk of the Indian population struggles to get clean drinking water and enough food to eat? There are many of the view that astronomy and space exploration have no direct rela...

Indian comics are choking and it’s not funny

In 1968, Tamil actor and political satirist Cho Ramaswamy directed a satirical play ‘Muhammad bin Tughlaq’ and played the title character. The play was a parody of India’s political situation at the time. It remains as one of his best works to date. Buoyed by its success, Ramaswamy went on to start a Tamil weekly magazine by the same name in the 19...

Yesterday, today and tomorrow: The India story

In the early 1980s, if you lived in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, and wanted to commute within the city using public transport, it would have taken hours to negotiate a few kilometres. The city buses would halt at designated stops and continue to stall endlessly until they found enough passengers to fill the seats. They wouldn’t move until...

HS Doreswamy: When the quest for freedom continues

August 15, 1947. At the stroke of midnight, when the world was sleeping and India awoke to life and freedom, 28-year-old Harohalli Srinivasaiah Doreswamy, like many of his fellow Indians, dreamt of a country free from the shackles of poverty and inequality — a great nation built by its 'honest', 'hardworking' and 'compassionate' citizens. Seven dec...

Your freedom, our struggle, and nothing to celebrate

Why exactly should we celebrate a day earmarked as a country’s Independence Day? You’ll argue it’s a celebration of freedom. But, freedom has nothing to do with countries, societies or cultures. It is primarily a private pursuit based on man-made constructs and individual philosophies that aim to extend the boundaries of human will. There isn...

Freedom and integration: A swaraj of the Mahatma’s dream

Security measures beefed up across the country ahead of the 73rd Independence Day celebrations, read some of the headlines. But does every part of the country celebrate freedom in equal measure? Many would like to avoid answering that question since such deliberations may invite action under a more stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,...

GM crops: How farmers are ploughing the field of frustration

‘Chor Bt nahin, hakkache Bt (Not by stealth, Bt by right).’ ‘Tantragyan swatantra amchya hakkachi, nahin kunyacha bapache (Technology freedom is our right, not anyone’s father’s).’ These are a couple of slogans farmers in Maharashtra have been raising as they fight for the right to use genetically modified (GM) crops. Unhappy with the slow pa...

Why India is banking on nursing mothers to save preemies

Namitha, a mother in her 20s, has been donating her milk to the human milk bank at the Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust Hospital, Chennai, ever since the birth of her daughter. Her daughter, a preemie, is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the hospital. Namitha pumps milk to feed her daughter, and the excess milk expressed by her is stored a...

What Modi 2.0 means for India’s federal system

"It is a matter of great concern that the federal structure of our Republic has come under increasing strain, contrary to the spirit of our Constitution, merely to suit the whims and fancies of the rulers in Delhi." — Narendra Modi That was 2012. The Indian Republic, according to the then Gujarat CM, was being run in the form of a "family-run co...

The shock, awe — and sound of jackboots marching in Kashmir

Zodingliani, 35, grew up listening to horror stories of the 1960s in Aizawl, the capital of now picture-perfect state of Mizoram. Stories told by scarred souls, ageing relatives, of lost parents, orphaned children, burnt limbs and rice fields, of screaming jet fighters raining bullets and bombs, gutting hopes and homes. Back in 1966, the Indian ...

Why south Indian films can’t shake off the queer phobia

Early last year, Tamil movie 'En Maghan Maghizhvan' (My Son is Gay) was in the film festival circuit and won the Best Film Award at the Second Indian World Film Festival. With a U/A certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), compelling performances from its talented cast and positive reviews right from its premiere, the film w...

How the humble PCO booth saved many a job and heartbreak

When Chennai-based banker Aparna Bera was growing up in her hometown Kolkata, there were many small booths painted in bright yellow that randomly dotted the lane leading to her house. She had often seen people cramming the booths as they waited for their turn. There also used to be one 'lucky' caller inside a tiny cabin, almost always lost in a dee...

Menstrual cups: Why India is so uncomfortable with this bloody brilliant idea

When American actor Leona Chalmers invented the menstrual cup in the 1920s, most Indian women hadn’t even heard of disposable sanitary napkins, let alone used them. Almost a century later, more than 336 million girls, women, transgender and intersex people in India are still trying to come to terms with the idea of inserting a budget- and eco-frien...

Coffee sans Siddhartha will not taste the same

A rare industrialist who let his creation do the talking, Siddhartha has ensured that we can never again talk of coffee without remembering him, even if fleetingly.

Where did the family doctor disappear?

Dr S Saravanan, a general physician in North Chennai, doesn't look like any of those cool doctors from the medical dramas on Netflix. He rather resembles doctors from old Bollywood movies — the ones who would come rushing to a patient, even on a stormy night wearing a white coat and the stethoscope hanging around the neck. Of course, the brown leat...

Why sandalwood farming is losing its essence

A few months after sandalwood smuggler Veerappan's long reign of terror ended in 2004 with his killing in a police encounter, Chinnalu Chinnegowda began his tryst with the trees famous for their fragrance. Unlike Veerappan, however, Chinnegowda was on the right side of the law. The farmer from Kiragavalu village in the old Mysore region purchase...

Why brewers of craft beer are on a high in India

Toit brewpub in Bengaluru is not an easy place to enter on a weekend. With walk-in reservations only, the waiting time at the microbrewery is 30-45 minutes on an average. The popular pub is one among the 50-odd microbreweries in the city that offer a variety of craft beers. Microbreweries, which popped up in cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mum...

The science behind igniting young minds

As you enter PCKG Government Higher Secondary School in Chennai, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, about 75 years ago to be more precise. Look at it from the outside, its narrow verandas and towering blocks, and one might mistake the grey buildings for another old school frozen in time. But looks are deceiving. The school is part of the...

The true ‘religion’ of Dravidian politics

On a searing summer afternoon in April, DMK president MK Stalin passionately defended his party's stand on god and religion. "The DMK is not anti-Hindu or against any religion, caste and god," a visibly upset Stalin told a motley crowd in Tirunelveli, where he was addressing an election rally. The reason behind Stalin's anger was the BJP's "deliber...

Enduring the river fury: Living and losing in Assam

The gushing waters from an overflowing Brahmaputra had slithered up into Tajuddin Ahmed's house in 2014 while he and his family were asleep. Ahmed, a resident of Digirpam char (sandbar) in Barpeta district, was not new to the annual ritual when the raging waters would swamp his house year after year. But that year was different and particularly bru...

Libraries are shutting down — but not because of dearth of readers

Located at the heart of the city, Cubbon Park in Bengaluru attracts many visitors on the weekends. It is the perfect place to sit on the concrete benches beneath a thicket of evergreen trees or on lush green lawns and read. While most bring their own books, a few walk over to the mobile library parked nearby and borrow an interesting read. A bus...

In a not so brave new world, the price that everyday heroes pay

Two years ago, on a cool July night, head constable Senthilkumar found himself chasing a thief at the Coimbatore Junction railway station. The policeman shouted to civilians at the station to help him nab the culprit but none were willing to lend a hand. Thankfully, four auto drivers decided to help him and caught hold of the culprit. They were rewarded and lauded for their act of bravery. We see heroes on screen frequently. We know there are heroes guarding our borders. But it’s not often that we get to see such overt acts of bravery in our daily life. While it goes right at times, there are instances where these heroes have paid with their lives. What, then, happens to their dependents? Click to read more.

Chandrababu Naidu’s Capital failures

A few days after losing power in the 2004 Assembly elections in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo N Chandrababu Naidu was in an introspective mood during an informal chat with a group of senior journalists at his residence in Hyderabad. “What should I make of this verdict? Despite earning a nationwide reputation for deve...

Delimitation bid in Jammu and Kashmir reopens festering wounds

Voices from Kashmir valley echo the same narrative when asked about delimitation. The mood is of marginalisation and upholding the spirit of Kashmir’s centuries-old spirit of indigenous secularism, better known as Kashmiriyat. “What difference does it make for us? We only hope for a better tomorrow. This has to be done with the people’s will; de...

Remembering K Kamaraj: The man who shaped the dreams of Tamil Nadu

One evening more than five decades ago, K Kamaraj — the third chief minister of Tamil Nadu — was touring the countryside. As was his habit, he got down from his car and walked up to a group of agricultural labourers in a paddy field. He noticed a few children working alongside the group of men and women. When he asked why were the children not i...

Understanding asexuality: ‘There is nothing wrong with me’

“I’ve never been sexually attracted to or aroused by anyone. When I was in school, I thought it was normal, that I’m still young. But when my feelings didn’t change in college, I thought there was something wrong with me,” says 24-year-old Shravya (name changed). In our hypersexualised world, it is unsurprising that Shravya felt out of place when s...

One nation, one ration card, many voices

The problem of hunger, they say, is not because of the shortage of food, but because of the inequality that manipulates food distribution. India, like many countries across the world, subsidises consumption of certain food and non-food items for its poor through a network of ration shops across the country. For the purpose, ration cards are prov...

Beaten Rahul stoops to conquer, but will it work?

Exactly a century after his great-grandfather Motilal Nehru took over the reins of the Congress party, it’s ironic that Rahul Gandhi, the fifth generation leader of the Gandhi-Nehru family, has stepped down as the president of the Grand Old Party. Being Rahul isn’t enviable and being in his boots in 2019 is something most, even inside the Congre...

Chennai police’s use of facial recognition technology can do more harm than good

India unfortunately doesn’t have a privacy protection law as many democracies do. Digital technologies are double-edged swords. It is more likely that the design and use of data and digital technologies can potentially be intrusive and erode human rights. Traditional police watch-towers and other surveillance methods had only a limited reach and...

What people expect of the Union Budget

“Whatever budget they table, it will only benefit the corporates. Small shopkeepers like us won't get anything out of it,” says Selvakumar, a provision store owner in Chennai. Similar sentiments hang in the air as the economic growth sank to a five-year low of 6.8 per cent the previous year. As Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gets ready to p...

The joy ride is over for Ola-Uber drivers

In 2014, 38-year-old Devaraj KJ from Mandya, a town about 100 km from Bengaluru, joined Ola. When he quit his job at a small travel company to join the giant ride aggregator, he thought a bright future lay ahead. Buoyed by the earnings of his peers, who had earlier moved to the fleet, Devaraj decided to take a chance on the tech start-up. It was...

The long walk towards education for migrant children

It’s a Saturday, when many children are out playing on their day off. Six-year-old Kajal (name changed), from Odisha’s Koraput district, is revising her language lessons in Odia with her teacher Gulnaar at a small work site centre in Perumbakkam, Chennai. She isn’t the only one in the small room. Uday (name changed) from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh i...

These millennials prefer spending. Investment, what is that?

“Time is precious. I look at time (combined with my passion for what I do) as an investment, and it’s the only kind of investment I plan to make,” says 27-year-old Ramesh Thuthan, an artist at Cuckoo Forest School in Singarapettai, Tamil Nadu. For the past six years he has lived in a small, one-room mud hut on the grounds of the school, painting, c...

When Bengaluru, the Garden City, fell prey to mindless development

Bengaluru, one of the first cities in India to have an urban development plan, has grown into an unwieldy, badly planned mess. Once the ‘garden city’ and ‘pensioner’s paradise’, it has acquired labels like ‘garbage city’ and is the butt of all jokes on traffic jams. What happened to Bengaluru’s urban development plans? The city notified a green ...

Chandrayaan-2: How ISRO plans to use earth’s gravity to land on moon

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s GSLV Mk-III rocket will carry Chandrayaan-2, weighing 3.8 tonnes, towards the moon, in the wee hours of July 15, and mark the beginning of a new era in the history of Indian space exploration. When the lander, named Vikram (short for Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme), and Prag...

Brought to its knees, Chennai united by the water crisis

A resident of Medavakkam in Chennai, Jaya’s daily routine begins at 5 am — she quickly gets ready to travel almost 16 km to reach her workplace in Thyagaraya Nagar. Until two months ago, her biggest concern was getting on the bus at the right time to reach her workplace on time. Now, she has a more pressing issue to worry about — making sure she ha...

A broken education system that produces the smarts

Tamil Nadu, along with the other southern states, is known for its focus on the education sector. Aside from stereotypes of churning out software engineers, it is one of the best performing states in elementary education and its schools are known for being accessible to children, especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. However...

Modi’s new India is inspiring closet casteists to come out

He smiled, she nodded. It was Abha Das's first day at B.Barooah college in Assam's Guwahati. The pair of hazel eyes that smiled at Abha belonged to Nayan Sarmah, her senior in political science department. The year was 1998. As a group of 'seniors' waited for the 'freshers' to get 'introduced' to, a so-called ritual about which Abha was warned of b...

FarmVille comes alive: Contract farming a boon to farmers

When tech giant Facebook was getting popular over a decade ago, the online virtual farming game FarmVille kept internet users across the world hooked to the social networking platform. The game allowed users own a piece of virtual land and cultivate crops. Millions of Facebook users logged on to the platform to sow seeds and water their crops daily...

Govt apathy is the epidemic that’s killing Bihar children

Exactly two years ago, Muzaffarpur made national headlines after finding a place in the exalted Smart City list. The much-touted Smart City Mission was launched by Prime Minister Modi in 2015 with the promise of changing urban lives and living experience in 100 Indian cities within five years. Of course, the original deadline was later extended to ...

Can a data push help IRCTC book higher IPO valuation?

In February 2017, then finance minister Arun Jaitley said in the budget that the government planned to float an initial public offering of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), among other state-run companies, in the financial year 2017-18. Two years hence, the online rail-ticket booking company may finally hit the market in comi...

In K’taka, aspirations are rising and govt school education changing

Nearly four decades ago, Arjun Singh went for his first job interview. A village bumpkin, Singh had cleared his intermediate (Class 12) exams and was looking for a job in the city of dreams Mumbai. When the interviewer asked him about his qualifications, Singh proudly said he was a village topper. The manager then asked if he spoke any English sinc...

Between faith and fraud: Why Islamic banking is back in focus

Bengaluru: Until two years ago, Mahaboob Shaik (name changed) owned a garment factory that employed 53 people. But the government’s shock banknote ban in November 2016 and the July 2017 implementation of the Goods and Services Tax wrecked his business. In late 2017, Shaik shut his factory in Bengaluru’s Peenya industrial area and laid off all the workers. The...

Flyovers: High-speed development or wasteful expenditure?

In 2008, the then Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi recalled an incident that had happened when he used to live in Chennai's Thyagaraya Nagar (T Nagar) decades ago. His son Stalin, then a young child, had swallowed a safety pin one day. The agonised parents — Karunanidhi and wife Dayalu Ammal — could not rush him to the doctor in nearby Kodambakkam as th...

India vs Pak: A rivalry that brings the world to a standstill

In a country of 1.3 billion people, it is estimated that when India's national cricket side plays a big game, such as India versus Pakistan, around 400 million people watch the game on television. And that was according to a survey in 2014. That figure is higher than the current population of the United States at 329 million. If we add the populati...

Retirement homes not a relief for senior citizens anymore

Coimbatore: Located on the foothills of the Western Ghats, Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu is a pensioner's paradise. It is the first city in the country to have a ‘retirement community’ set up way back in the late 1990s. Today it has numerous senior citizen homes run by private players. There is a difference between ‘old age homes’ and ‘senior citizen homes’. Whi...

Hindi a choice, not imposition for many in Tamil Nadu

45-year-old Ganesh Kumar, founder of a restaurant called Just Orient in Chennai, was mercilessly bullied by friends for his poor Hindi. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He says, “That is why today I am able to hire staff from Bihar and Jharkhand at my restaurant and I am able to work with them well, speaking a language they underst...

River linking: Good in logic, bad in science

The idea to link peninsular rivers dates back to the late 19th century, when the acclaimed British-era engineer Arthur Cotton drew up plans to connect them

How IPL helped football, kabaddi get rich but not grow roots

The IPL model, when applied to other sports, will definitely find some success, but it cannot be considered a solution in the long run.

5G and H: The Huawei hitch

On a busy Monday morning on April 1, S Thangavelu, a youth in his 20s, tried to download a movie at Katpadi railway station in Tamil Nadu. Waiting for his next train to Bengaluru, Thangavelu connected to the ‘free’ Wi-Fi network and tried downloading the movie on his 4G (fourth-generation)-enabled smartphone. In the first half hour, he couldn’t eve...

HIV +ve babies could do a U-turn and test negative

Chennai: A baby's HIV status can change until it is 18 months old, as new research has found. Seven-month-old Kalai, who tested +ve, could see a different result.

Target tribals: the BJP’s strategy in Jharkhand

In Jharkhand, anecdotal evidence shows that many tribals vote for the BJP. The saffron partys vote share has been increasing over the years.

When the caregiver locks up the patient: How the mental hospital becomes a prison

The Federal visited the IMH and found that the institute has many patients with criminal records, including murder charges, and no one wants to take them.

Tribal, not primitive: Where it’s easy for women to step up

Kanchana says she has completed all her duties, and that she has gotten both her sons married. But the weight of debt hangs heavy over her head. “In our narikurava community, dowry is not given by girls. It is the boy's family that should give money. That's how I ended up with a debt of ₹4 lakh,” she says. At 45, she runs a household of five mem...

Who is Smriti? Not a feminist icon, not a docile bahu

Unless women claim equality in funeral rites, Smriti Irani's act of being a pallbearer for her friend will remain commendable, not exceptional

From wacky and pseudo to cutting edge, Indians probe the limits of science

Most engineers his age have settled down at mid-level positions in companies. Tabrez Ahmed of Chennai quit his job eight years ago and initiated a startup. His company is a one-man show and its aim is not to make money. It seeks to disprove the second law of thermodynamics. It’s a project that engineering students sometimes imagine in the second...

Where do mental health professionals go when they need help?

For Dr Pramila (name changed), a psychiatrist with nearly 15 years of experience, a counselling session with her friend once a month is a must. But it is a session with a difference — Pramila is the client here, and she just seeks company to vent her emotions or talk about professional problems. Mental health professionals deal with emotional ex...

Elections are over, a campaign is set to begin

Despite the rout of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, the last holdout for the party in the country, BJP leaders feel there is a space for the party in the state. Quoting nationalism and Indian pride, the BJP decimated CPM in Tripura and  put Mamata’s TMC on the backfoot in West Bengal. The party might repeat and implement similar political strategies for Tam...

NOTA: When caste mars the protest vote

The Adanjiamman temple had been closed for several years. In 2013, a group of Leftist and dalit activists forced it open to ensure that dalits be granted entry. Things were smooth for nearly a year before the temple at Nathanallur near Wallajahbad, in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu, shut again. In the villages of Tamil Nadu, it is common to...

Tamils are like this only — contrarian, rebellious and standing alone

Chennai: As reports of the Left’s near-total decimation in the elections came, a Leftist intellectual muttered, “You have to give it to Tamil Nadu. Must be Periyar and his innate rebelliousness…” and trailed off. Also read: Why Tamil Nadu remains a tough nut to crack for the BJP Leftists from Kerala used to poke fun at Dravidianism. They called it a f...

Election results can’t help badly managed companies with connections

The stocks markets have been on a roll after seven of nine exit polls predicted that the ruling alliance would return to power.

Why do exit polls in India lack credibility?

Since the early 1990s, the conduct of public opinion surveys on various issues has been in vogue.

Regional pollsters tell a different tale from national counterparts

Chennai: The results of various exit polls that were released on May 19 left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) elated, the Opposition squirming and the general public confused.

Exit polls confound, crown Modi king

Chennai: Unlike opinion polls, which are conducted after the last ballot has been cast and before the counting of votes, exit polls are done on election day outside the polling station.

Self-made street fighter: Mamata’s political journey without a mentor

Lok Sabha 2019 has witnessed an aggressive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trying to stay in power for a second term. Even as the Congress has attempted to fight it, the saffron party’s most bitter opponent this time around has been a woman from the east. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) Chief Mamata Banerjee has matched the BJP...

Lowest voter turnout in India: Why young Kashmiris didn’t vote

Pulwama: While Jammu and Kashmir as a whole recorded 45 per cent voter turnout (lowest in the country) in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, three Lok Sabha constituencies — Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag — recorded 34.29 per cent, 14.08 per cent and 8.78 per cent respectively.

Is the UK’s central bank ready for the Raghuram Rajan effect?

Recent news that former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan is one of the top contenders for the Bank of England (BoE) chief caught the attention of top economists, RBI officials and general citizens alike. Pundits in the world of business, finance and economics are closely following the developments to see if Rajan, ranked second i...

MK Stalin: Does he measure up to his father Karunanidhi?

Chennai: For long, Karunanidhi was known as Tamil Nadu’s Chanakya.

Grey to saffron: The BJP is quick to create social media sentiments

Chennai: As internet penetration in India swells — to 627 million users, or nearly 50 per cent of the population by the end of 2019, according to market research agency Kantar IMRB — an increasing number of people are relying on online sources for news. This translates to a better relationship between the internet and politics, which is constantly finding w...

Do Muslims vote on communal lines?

During elections, big parties try to ally with smaller parties who can push them past the first past the post system. Muslim parties are favourite pickings for those scounting for alliances since it is believed Muslims vote en bloc for parties claiming to represent their community. Booth level data of three Assembly constituencies (Ambur, Nagapatti...

Is the govt passing the buck on taking care of mentally ill patients to private playe...

We’ve all interacted with people who suffer from mental illnesses, whether it’s that friend who’s struggling with depression or that ‘crazy’ person who wanders the streets everyone avoids. Yet, as a society, we hem and haw when it comes to addressing the issue of mental healthcare. The stigma around mental illness remains severe, thereby creating a...

Varanasi faces an assault on its carefree ethos. Will it survive?

At Varanasi’s Dashashwamedh Ghat, a middle-aged man covered in sandalwood paste is gazing at the Ganga, unmindful of the goings on around him. The world-famous 'aarti', the ritual of offering prayer to the river, has just ended. The people, largely tourists, have begun to empty out, but the man stands still. He isn’t wonderstruck by the beauty of t...

All-out effort in TN: RSS union helps BJP reach out to poor

Chennai: In Karaikudi, where BJP's national secretary H Raja is contesting as the AIADMK alliance candidate, an auto stand sports a saffron flag with the BJP lotus on it. In Tamil Nadu, where auto unions are typically affiliated to the CPM’s CITU, DMK’s LPF or even the AIADMK, a RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Janata Mazdoor Mahasangh (BJMM) auto stand is certainl...

Ground report: Paying the price for ‘free-and-fair’ polls at Pulwama

Pulwama: There’s a chill in the air as midnight descends on Kangan village in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on April 29. Two youngsters — 21-year-old Danish Ashraf Dar and his 14-year-old cousin, Shahnawaz Ashraf Dar — are fast asleep in their home. Fourteen others, including two children, are also curled up in the house. Anantnag: the economic h...

Namakkal’s topper producing schools were once the rage, not anymore

A few years ago, a day like Monday, April 29, would have been a busy day in Namakkal, Tamil Nadu. The state board Class 10 exam results had been released and that would have meant frantic phone calls and personal inquiries at the schools here. But this year, Namakkal streets showed little traces of any buzz and the schools wore a deserted look. ...

Ceaseless coal mining turns future black for Gonds in Chhattisgarh

The Parsa coal block, one of 30 in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand region, is a step closer from getting environmental clearance. This will be the third mine to open, after Chotia and Parsa East and Kete Basan (PEKB), in what was once a ‘No Go’ area for coal mining in the state. Opening another mine in the core forest area could have deleterious conseq...

With Hyderabad snapping at its heels, Bengaluru may lose ‘IT capital’ tag...

The Hyderabadis started with big dreams in the 1990s. They had a mascot in Chandrababu Naidu who claimed a tech-savvy image for himself when most politicians thought the mouse was an animal. They had a generation of friends and relatives working in the IT industry in the US, which meant all the spinoff could possibly come to them. But the hard real...

For waterman, Ganga is so holy yet so unholy

During elections, river pollution is not a serious issue for Indian politicians, especially when there are bigger problems to milk such as joblessness and farmer distress. But for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who began his 2014 campaign with “Mujhe toh Ma Ganga ne bulaya hai (Mother Ganga has called me),” the very same river may prove to be his un...

Why Tamil-speaking Muslims in Sri Lanka broke away from Tamil identity

While the international dimensions of the Sri Lankan blasts – ISIS link, Christchurch revenge – are being probed, a purely local angle may hold the key to understanding the terror surge on the day of Easter in the island. As Sri Lankan security forces launch an operation to flush out terror groups and neutralize them, several videos have emerged...

Killing for kinship: Rise and fall of gangsters in southern TN

Chennai: The fine print in the opening credits of the movie, 'Gangs of Wasseypur 1' contains a reference to 'Subramaniapuram' — a landmark Tamil film that showed the rootedness of gangsters in southern Tamil Nadu and the sense of kinship that spurred their violence. 'Subramaniapuram' was a period film. Released in 2008, it captured the era of Madurai, and b...

For this dalit family in Pune, fear follows shame as law fails it

Pune: Sunil Pawale and his family were all over the media in March. Newspaper headlines screamed at how he was made to eat faeces by his employer because he had argued with him. Pawale and his family did not have a healthy employee-employer relationship with their tormentor. They were modern-day slaves earning ₹100 a day at a brick kiln near Pune. More t...

Tamil Nadu fishermen: Netting plenty, living in poverty

Chennai: Data can often look strange. For instance, the Central Marine Fisheries Institute (CMFRI) estimates that the export component of the fish catch from Tamil Nadu’s 13 coastal districts fetched a total of nearly ₹30,000 crore as foreign exchange to the country in 2017. This means each fisherman generates ₹25,000 worth of export catch a month, and this...

How Indians will harvest science Nobel prizes in the coming years

Chennai: Only a few from India such as CV Raman and Venkatesh Ramakrishnan have been awarded the Nobel Prize for physical sciences. For long, India did not have a highly developed science system to truly merit a greater claim to the prizes. But with economic progress the science system has improved in the country. India is now at a point when cutting edg...

How some politicos fare poorly on Internet and others top the charts

Chennai: In Tamil Nadu, Vijayakanth is an actor-turned politician whose electoral performance has dipped considerably in recent years. He has been practically written off as a contender for power. Seeman, who heads the Tamil Nationalist Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), attracts impressionable youth with oratory but his pro-LTTE stance and extreme positions make h...

Bharat: Swacch for thousands of years

New Delhi: India’s earliest sanitation systems date back to 2600 BC, during the Indus Valley Civilisation as excavations have shown. Yet the country and its citizens knowingly or unknowingly propagate the ideologies of British India when it comes to eradicating open defecation. That is, until recently. Sacrosanct in ancient India From the time of the I...

Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu: not a bumper harvest for tenant farmers

Hyderabad: When the NDA government unveiled in its last budget the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi — an investment support scheme for farmers — the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) lost no time in taking credit for pioneering the idea in the country. A flurry of statements followed highlighting how the central government ‘copied’ the Rythu Bandhu sche...

Gau raksha strips TN’s leather industry to the bone

Chennai: It is 9 am, the busiest time of the day, and Munuswamy is busy sharpening his knife at the Pernambut slaughterhouse. It is one of the four licenced slaughterhouses in Vellore where cattle (excluding cows) are killed for meat. Forty-five-year old Munuswamy is one among the many dalits in the district who eke out a livelihood by skinning cattle at th...

Ambedkar: The man from Manhattan

Ambedkar, whose 128th birth centenary was observed on Sunday, April 14, has become the elephant in a game of blind men and the elephant. Hindutvavadis see in his virulent criticism of Islam and the role of Muslims in Indian history a vindication of their own political agenda. Dalit intellectuals and politicians see in his political activity and int...

How Facebook upends statewide lottery bans

On the Tamil Nadu vs Kerala Lottery Guessing Group on Facebook, 28-year-old Vijay from Coimbatore goes by the name ‘Vijay Loki KL.’ He doles out the last three digits of the 6-digit Kerala lottery numbers on WhatsApp, guaranteeing a bumper prize. “I am an agent and I will help you win,” he says on the group, displaying his number and the picture of...

Between rock and religion: The story behind world’s tallest natural Shivling in...

Back in 1996, when a rumour of a miracle led millions of Hindus in India to believe that idols of Ganesha were drinking milk, a temple on a hilltop in a small town of Arunachal Pradesh too witnessed an overnight rush of devotees. Many in the picturesque town of Ziro in Lower Subansiri district rushed to witness the miracle and started claiming t...

In Karnataka, a model for social media smear

Bengaluru: It’s 2.30 in the afternoon on April 4. A political rally by Karnataka Chief Minister’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy is about to take place in Mandya’s Thimmakoppalu, a village about 120 km from the state capital. Sitting outside the house with his grandmother and a dog in tow, 22-year-old Abhishek TD, a farmer’s son, browses videos on his smartphone. ...

Caste inequations: Is the AIADMK coming apart?

Coimbatore/Tirupur: Two huge life size banners of Jayalalithaa overlook the AIADMK headquarters at Royapettah in Chennai. A woman in her 50s staring at the banners with folded hands mumbled: “Amma, en dheivame … ivanga aatatha ellam paakringala?” (Amma, My God… Are you watching them play the game?) “Who are playing the game?” I asked. “Who else, the two who are ...

Naveen Patnaik: The Greta Garbo of Indian politics

At 11 pm, on a routine day in the early 2000s, the land phone at the residence of the chief medical officer of Capital Hospital rang. It was a call from the chief minister. On a lonely stretch of the Khurda-Bhubaneswar highway, the CM’s convoy had come across two men dragging a young woman along. Seeing the fleet of cars, the men had fled, leavi...

Abhinandan’s folk: Jains who are Tamils but don’t eat onions

When Indian Air Force fighter pilot Abhinandan Vardhaman was held hostage by Pakistan a month back, support for his release and pride over his nativity swelled in equal measure in his home State of Tamil Nadu. Abhinandan didn't quite sound like a Tamil name. Was he from Kerala? they wondered. Abhinandan Vardhaman comes from the community of Tami...

Paying for NYAY scheme: The painless way

In the run up to the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the Indian National Congress has announced a flagship scheme to uplift the economically weaker sections (EWS). Under the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), the Congress has promised to give ₹72,000 annually to the poorest 20% of Indian families. The announcement has triggered a discussion on whether such sc...

In Tamil Nadu, hazy histories make good politics

The Dravidian movement owes much to history, or to a particular reading of history, as some critics would say it. It has constructed an identity politics based on the premise that Tamils are historically an ethnic group quite apart from Hindu India. Since then, it has become a practice for groups and parties to invoke history — real, hazy, writt...

As threats loom, here’s how SPG guards Modi

As electioneering picks up and campaigning goes on in full swing, protecting the leaders becomes a key issue for the nation’s security establishment. The four most protected people are Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Of them three are candidates in the Lok Sabha election. Modi’s security ha...

Why is this 88-year-old historian riling Stalin and other Dravidianists

The door was ajar. When this reporter was about to knock, a family member ushered him in. A man was sitting shirtless on the sofa with his sacred thread visible across his chest, poring over some papers through a watchmaker’s lens. His ash-smeared forehead glistened as he stood up to wear a shirt before talking to this correspondent. It was a re...

Tea tribes: How Assam’s chaiwalas may spoil Modi’s cuppa

On a balmy afternoon in early February, as a bunch of middle-aged men engaged in a discussion about the coming elections and the foreigners’ issue in Assam at a roadside tea stall in Guwahati, the conversation suddenly veered to the “badly made” cup of saah (Assamese for tea). One said it was too sugary. Another complained it was totally xereka (to...

How Jaya is showing the way for Stalin

For the first time in nearly three decades, there was no change of government after the 2016 elections in Tamil Nadu. There were clear signs of anti-incumbency across Tamil Nadu under the AIADMK regime but the DMK seemed just unable to take advantage. The DMK-Congress alliance lost the election narrowly and the vote difference was just two percenta...

Swachh Bharat a success? Not quite

Chennai/Hyderabad/Bengaluru: The iconic Gandhi glasses were etched on the door of what looked like a wardrobe — a two feet by two feet enclosure. It had no running water although it was a toilet — among the 54 constructed recently as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission at the narikkurava (gypsy tribe) settlement, near Poonamallee, of Thiruvallur district near Chennai. “It is too...

One-third tickets for women: Naveen Patnaik’s salvo against BJP

It was a conclave attended by more than a lakh women drawn from among the poorest sections of Kendrapara and Cuttack districts of Odisha. The speaker read out from an Odia text written in English. His accent, though foreign, was familiar to the crowd and did not hamper his ability to connect with them. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told the women b...

TN tops in Mudra; BJP woos Tamils with loans

Parimala, a resident of North Chennai, has been running a wholesale medicine business for over a decade. Unable to come up with collateral that would satisfy bankers, she couldn’t raise money to expand her business. Two years ago, however, she got what she wanted: ₹25 lakh as soft loan under the Mudra scheme. Sivaramasubramanian, a milk vendor o...