The page of Gurcharan Das
As stagnant West gets meaner, rising India spells hope but there’s a big if
2016 was a dreadful year and it is a relief that it’s over. The values I cherish most took a profound battering. As a classic liberal, I want equal rights for all; I reject racial and caste discrimination; I revere religious freedom; I seek a free economy based on competition; and I uphold dissent. These beliefs have been undermined by Donald Trump’s election in America, Britain’s exit from Europe, and rising racism, intolerance and nationalism in the world, including in India where Narendra Modi has made his first big mistake with ill-considered notebandi.
When netas see votes in clean air, they’ll cut through the smog
Two apparently unrelated events occured in Delhi in the past few days. In the first, Narendra Modi made a tough, risky move — one of the riskiest in his career — against the long-festering problem of black money. In the second, Arvind Kejriwal was seen floundering as he tried to cope with Delhi’s foul air. What connects the two events is the stark contrast between the decisive action in the case of black money and a sense of helplessness in response to pollution.
Beyond the control of scions in India’s family businesses
Indians have a saying that captures the tendency of family businesses to decline over generations: “The life of a business house is 60 years.” This phenomenon was portrayed by the German writer Thomas Mann in Buddenbrooks, his novel about a wealthy merchant family in the city of Lübeck whose business disintegrates as the children lose an appetite for making money.
Army’s surgical strikes did more than save India’s izzat
The terrorist killing of sleeping soldiers at Uri on September 18 revolted me. It reminded me of Ashvatthama’s night-time massacre of the sleeping Pandava armies, which turned the mood of the Mahabharata from heroic triumphalism to dark, stoic resignation. Soldiers are ready to give their lives in battle but they don’t expect to die while asleep in peacetime. For ten days I felt uneasy and angry.
Saved by the bill? Reform aims to fix India’s medical education
A fresh breeze is blowing in Delhi’s corridors and it could well turn into a squall. It is whooshing about, not in the ministries but in Niti Aayog, which has recently hired 50 professionals, educated at the world’s best universities. The first institution to experience the welcome showers will be medical colleges as part of an overhaul of the (MCI).
Independence Day quiz: Are you a patriot or a nationalist?
It was a rare afternoon in Delhi’s August. The rain had stopped and an occasional nimbus cloud punctuated the astonishingly blue sky. A quiet breeze sent me on a walk into Lodhi Gardens on the way to meet an old friend in Khan Market. Our conversation over chai was halting and uneasy and we kept returning to the ill-fated rise of nationalism in the world.
Mr Javadekar, ask these three questions before you get to work
What was supposed to be a routine cabinet expansion this week turned into a bold shake-up. The big change is at the ministry of human resource development where the affable Prakash Javadekar has replaced the combative Smriti Irani. India has been unlucky in the poor quality of its education ministers. Irani was always the wrong choice and she did not help by picking a fight with everyone. She has moved to the textiles ministry, which is not a demotion as everyone thinks.
Arrogant liberals are doing a big disservice to liberalism
A few months ago, I was at an attractive event in Delhi, surrounded by elegantly dressed, articulate Indians and a sprinkling of foreigners. Into this privileged gathering walked an awkward young man who someone recognized from Hindi television. He seemed to be lost and was mostly ignored until someone provoked him and there followed a loud, ugly argument over the JNU controversy. He put up a spirited defence of the Hindu nationalist position but he was quickly shouted down.
Stay playful: The mantra young India needs to know
A friend from my childhood was in town last month. He runs a successful startup, and as we sat drinking chai in the scorching heat, I was struck by his easy sense of playfulness. He seemed not to take himself seriously nor worry about competence. He was open to surprise and to appearing a fool, and turned all my answers into questions.
Realty doesn’t bite. More homes bring jobs and joy
My friends tell me that happiness is an ‘inside job’ and entails changing my attitude to life. They ask me to slow down, do yoga, learn to meditate, smile a lot and think of God. This spiritual talk usually leaves me feeling grim and inadequate. I have found instead that happiness lies in the small, everydayness of life — in getting absorbed in my work, laughing with a friend, stumbling onto something beautiful. It seems to be here and now, not in a distant afterlife. I could be wrong, of course, as I have not experienced the afterlife.