Thursday, May 28, 2009

My favourite word, attached to my favourite country. No one says it like Ashis Nandy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

sirens in cities

there's something both
comforting and horrific,
about how
life
goes on,
oblivious
to someone's private tragedy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Election results

22.19: Shekhar Gupta's last thought for the day: two emotions are on the rise in the world today - anti-Americanism and Islamophobia. The election results suggest that both are on the decline in the Indian electorate.

21.41: Sometimes you think you're the beleaguered voice of reason and actually millions of people are thinking the same thing with you. That is humbling.

11.47: The elaborate division-of-labour dance begins. Sonia: Manmohan will be PM; journo: what role for Rahul? Sonia: that is for the PM to decide; journo to Manmohan: what role for Rahul? Manmohan: It is my wish that he should be in the Cabinet, but I have to persuade him.

I've always thought it was good for different people to occupy the posts of head of party and head of government. It's an improvement over the Indira days when a Ceaserist figure towered over the party. Rahul recently acknowledged that he was a beneficiary of the system but wanted to democratise it. I am guessing this means things like intra-party elections, etc. It's entirely likely that if elections were held to the party leadership, Sonia or Rahul would win with Manmohan trailing a distant third. Whatever one thinks about dynastic politics, this is a dynasty that is democratically kept in place by the verdict and sentiments of the electorate.

Weber came up with typologies of authority - charismatic, bureaucratic, etc. - which were exactly what he said they were: 'ideal-types'. In reality, ideal types are combined in all sorts of interesting ways. Indian politics is the classic exemplar of charismatic authority continuing to operate within the bureaucratic structures of a modern nation-state. 'Traditional' notions of hereditary authority survive within the shell of new structures.

11.42: I can barely hear Manmohan Singh speak. Frankly, Sonia Gandhi is a better speaker; people are actually keeping quiet and listening to her.

11.39: Varun Gandhi calls Barkha live in the NDTV studio and she takes the call. Wtf??!?

11.30: Vir Sanghvi uses the word 'gobsmacked' in reaction to the DMK's performance in Tamil Nadu.

10.54: I want to say Karnataka is a bizarre place for voting for the BJP, but there are probably things going on that need to be understood rather than dismissed.

Shashi Tharoor won his seat in Thiruvananthapuram. Not bad for a plummy NRI. (There's so much hope for me.)

9.58: Jyotiraditya Scindia is a smarmy sycophantic shit for wanting Rahul Gandhi to be PM now. The better this party does, the more it behaves like a family trust. It's almost as if everyone in it thinks they deserve absolutely no credit for any of its achievements.

9.44 GMT: We only have trends, very few results, but they are looking - forget about good - they are looking astonishingly CLEAR. Right up until yesterday, the TV debates were saying this was going to be a very fractured mandate. The counting trends so far suggest that this may not be the case. Astonishing. Yesterday, I was praying that President Pratibha Patil would have the brains to make sense of the khichdi that she would be presented with. Today it looks like she just has to be able to count. As for the likely results, this looks like the Congress's best result in decades. After a full-term in power. Whatever happened to the anti-incumbency factor? And its gamble about going it alone so as to command more leverage over the allies seems to have paid off.

It will be interesting to see which way the BJP goes next. This is probably Advani's last election as leader. Does that mean Narendra Modi next? Perhaps not. This election was already his coming out moment. He campaigned in over 300 rallies all over the country. He's not the best face for the party when it comes to winning allies. The BJP probably misses Vajpayee very much today. The good news is that they were absolutely trounced in Orissa. I'm very glad Naveen Patnaik's BJD made the decision to break with them before the election over Kandhamal. I'm still not sure how they've done in Karnataka.

The Left results in West Bengal are very disappointing. I wonder if this is because of Nandigram.

In 2004, MM called me, woke me up, yelled in my ear - that's how I knew the results. She would be so pleased today.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

schadenfreude of a comparativist

The British Parliament is a complete shambles these days. The nadir came yesterday, when the Speaker rounded on members for talking to the press, as if the LEAK were worse than the EXPENSES. What is he smoking? But this was exactly the reaction of the political classes in India when Tehelka did its sting operation on defence deal kickbacks: kill the stinger rather than the stung. I'm glad to see that developed country parliaments can also look like a pile of shite.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

JJ

If you ever wanted to bury or burn me with something that would give me comfort in the hereafter, let it be A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It is the only novel I have ever re-read and it is astonishing to me how something that could be set in a place and time as different as my own could have everything that I would put into my own bildungsroman: my childhood repressions, my school (albeit Protestant), my politics, my love for and rage against family, religion and country, even my most minute and trivial obsessions: 'every Tuesday, as he marched from home to the school, he read his fate in the incidents of the way, pitting himself against some figure ahead of him and quickening his pace to outstrip it before a certain goal was reached or planting his steps scrupulously in the spaces of the patchwork of the pathway and telling himself that he would be first and not first in the weekly essay (81, 1965 Penguin edition). This was me on the way to and from school: if I overtake that man before he reaches the lamp-post, I will beat BM in Maths. Can I go through an entire day without putting my foot outside a tile? As I child, I was obsessive and compulsive and almost never disorderly.

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