It is not his job! On politicians, development and development agencies

From a recent report that we prepared for an NGO, a reader asked “What is that MLA’s incentive to push for proper/improved drinking water system” referring to a small case study on a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in a constituency who was trying to help the drinking water crisis in his town. So here […]

Absurdity of fasting as activism (or fancier still – social intervention)

Here is a crude joke which sums up whats happening at this place I attend. An ageing philanthropist, a promising young mountaineer and an activist are flying in a small plane. Half way in their journey the plane develops a snag. The pilot declares that the plane will crash soon, grabs a parachute and jumps […]

Categories of Art (1) – Primitive, Classical, Vernacular, Modern, Contemporary and More

Categories of Art is a 6 months course in arts that I begin this month. My earlier training is in biotechnology and that has always left me feeling a bit deficient in my understanding of arts. This course as I see it might help me in identifying and articulating my perception and experience of art […]

Railfanning – A traveler’s gaze on railways & rail travel

Between 2010-2012, I was a frequent traveler on Chennai-Bangalore rail route. Quite often I traveled on an unreserved ticket and invariably standing by the door of the coach. The door side of an Indian railway coach (for those who aren’t familiar) is quite a vantage point for the tribes of sociologists, anthropologists, aimless wanderers, intrepid travelers, mendicants and […]

Modernists – Then & Now

This morning a discussion on life, work and legacy of Raja Rammohun Roy and Syed Ahmed Khan led to a question on why did they call for ‘modern’ education in India of the mid 19th century (around 1840-1890 period)? How different was the Indian education system before the onset of colonial period and post? What did […]

A trek into human imagination

“Asti kaschit vaak vishesh?” asked Kalidasa’s wife when he returned home after long years away from her and home. This question in Sanskrit means “do you have anything to say?” Inspired by each of the four words (of the question) Kalidasa is said to have written four epics of the medieval Indian Sanskrit literature – […]

From that midnight ‘tryst’ to the high noon – Indian democracy

The recent gangrape in Delhi and the government’s response to the demonstrations in the city has been the most disappointing sight for me. Corruption, scams, policy screw ups… all that was fine with me. But stifling such a protest wasn’t what I thought one would see in India at least (like shutting down metro stations […]

The proverbial India – China comparison

There is this obsession with Indians about Chinese cities, their outrageously large engineering projects, their ventures in Africa, the Chinese people and other things Chinese. Especially in my neighbourhood which is a rather insignificant south Indian town where a private university (happens to be my alma mater too) has been admitting hundreds of Chinese students in its […]

Holy cow, armchair anthropology & attraction of the ‘exotic’

A paper I recently read and which I had never known about (although some argue that it has been one of the most well known papers on culture & ecology) amazes me in its method and for the art of stating the obvious. Marvin Harris’ paper The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle ‘attempts’ to talks of […]