Times of India

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.

Ten ways to save demonetisation and stop the economy from choking

After almost three weeks of demonetisation, there is visible pain in the lives of ordinary people, a noticeable slowdown in economic activity, and reports of job losses in many sectors. The economy may contract by as much as two percentage points over the next two quarters — a colossal loss in national wealth. However, there can be no rollback. The gains from a cleaner, whiter economy are far bigger in the long run. Here’s how Narendra Modi can save demonetisation.

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.

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. On September 29, India retaliated with surgical strikes against terrorist camps across the border in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

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. We wished for a world with more patriots and less nationalists like Donald Trump. Both of us had grown up on this distinction, made by one of our school heroes, George Orwell.

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. He felt humiliated and left hurriedly.

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. Between the search for truth, and the possession of it, there is a comma, and he had a distinct preference for the comma. I was in a state of agitation when he arrived but I was smiling calmly when he left.

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.