The page of Gurcharan Das
Indians grapple with a Dickensian dilemma of growth and secularism
Some of us remember from our schooldays the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” This is not only the most famous beginning of an English novel but it also captures the contradictions in our present-day life in India. Let me illustrate with two recent events.
Was voting for the BJP a risk worth taking? Three years on, jury’s out
hree years ago, I took a risk and voted for BJP for the first time. And today I ask myself, was it a risk worth taking? At the time, I had been worried that India had a narrow window of opportunity called the ‘demographic dividend’. If we elected the right candidate, prosperity would enter crores of lives, and in course of time India might become a middle-class country. Our opportunity came from being uniquely young; if those in the productive age got jobs, there would be gains in prosperity far outweighing the burden of supporting the old and the very young.
Triple talaq must go, but for real change India needs to become truly modern
Triple talaq is in the news again, and mostly for the wrong reasons. It represents a Muslim husband’s right in Islamic law to dissolve a marriage simply by announcing it to his wife; today, he even does it via an SMS over the cellphone.
Why Trump’s pro-war aide quotes the Gita
Most Indians are unaware that Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist and member of his national security council, is not only the most powerful person in the White House today but he is also a great admirer of the Bhagavad Gita. Bannon is militarily inclined and believes in waging a holy war against Islam “to establish dharma in the world”. His long-time collaborator Julia Jones says, “He used to talk a lot about dharma — he felt very strongly about dharma… one of the strongest principles throughout the Gita.”
Why classic liberals don’t win elections, and populists do
We are in the midst of another election season in India, and each time a poll rolls around, I get depressed at the thought that we are about to elect criminals, corrupt populists, and members of political dynasties rather than upright, independent, reform-minded liberals.
The Budget will tell if aspirational Modi is now a populist Modi
The question on our minds is: has the Prime Minister changed? Is Narendra Modi turning populist? We shall have the answer on Wednesday when the finance minister presents the Budget. The nation elected Mr Modi on an aspirational platform of creating jobs, containing inflation, and stopping corruption. Indeed, in the first half of his term, he has pursued responsible policies to meet these goals.
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.