Times of India

Nasadiya Temper

The recent controversy over Islamic cartoons in Europe is once again testing the boundaries of religious tolerance. Most Hindus, of course, believe that they are tolerant and trace their broadmindedness to their many gods. Some even ask: how did our tolerant pluralism turn into the intolerance of Hindutva?

Why Rani can't read

We are not a cooperative people, and some even accuse us of a crab's mentality—we'd rather bring down the next guy than see the team win. So, when 20,000 volunteers from 700 institutions collaborate to test 332,971 village children in 484 districts at a breakneck pace, within a month that is a victory of sorts. It also says something about our voluntary movement. Where civil society begins to flourish democracy has taken hold, says de Tocqueville, and this is worth celebrating on this 57th birthday of our Republic.

Religious narcissism

Last month I visited the 'post-secular world'. I found myself sitting next to a group of white Americans on a train from Washington to New York, who told me blandly that I would go to hell because I believed in abortion and evolution. I had heard that Bush's America had turned religious, but I could not imagine how much till that morning. I was their captive for three hours, and they decided to do their good deed and try to convert me to their faith.

A guide to clear thinking

We live in unusual times. Who would have imagined in 1991, when communism died and our reforms began, that fourteen years later the Indian republic would become hostage to the extraordinary influence of the Left? For almost two years now, it has been instructive to observe the mind of the Indian Left. And if one compares it to the Chinese communist mind, the result is a guide to clear thinking.

Metro's discrete charm

Sheila Dixit may be one of our best chief ministers, but Elattuvalapil Sreedharan will do more to knit the vast and disparate people of Delhi into one wholesome community. I rode in his Metro the other day and I came away convinced that we are about to create a new public culture in the nation's capital. The Metro was clean, quiet, and efficient, as I had expected, but I also felt a sudden bond with strangers. For twenty-two minutes, as I rode in the comfort which the Mughal Emperor would have envied, I observed people recover some of the grace and friendliness that they normally reserve for relatives and friends. I felt connected to every person on the train. It was the same feeling I had as a child when I first rode on Mumbai's suburban train in the 1950s.

Ghastly coalitions, away

Nitish Kumar's victory in Bihar reminds us what a young country we are. The young look to the future, not the past, and Laloo's appeal to caste had to fail ultimately because it sought to undo the wrongs of the past. The young want to make something of their life, and they look to the government to enable them to do so. Congress learned this lesson painfully in the winter of 2003 in the west central states. The difference is that to bijlee, sadak, pani, the young Bihar voter has added padhai and naukari.

A new social contract

I was deeply embarrassed last week before a distinguished audience of sophisticated investors abroad—they virtually called me a liar. A year ago I had reassured them that our stellar reformers–Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Montek–would not only ensure that our economic reforms would continue but they might even accelerate. A year later, the reforms are stuck and they were angry. I could not pretend that the reformers had become victims of coalition politics, for insiders tell me that the problem is with the Congress Party itself, which has lost the will to reform.

Everyone needs an address

When I was growing up in post-Independence In

Amoral familism

Nothing quite captures the imagination as these two facts: whereas three out of four members of China's politburo are technocrats, one out of four members of India's parliament has a criminal record. This explains a lot our depressing governance, stalled reforms, creaking infrastructure, and the absence of reasoned debate in parliament.   Ironically, as our economy becomes stronger, our polity seems to grow weaker. Just when our companies are breaking out of the shackles of family control, our politics is going the other way.

I am a Hindu, but …

The confident, handsome friend of our son's gave a telling reply to a visiting Englishwoman the other day in Khan Market.   “I am a Hindu, but …”, and he went into a winding reply about his beliefs. He hastily added that he was an Indian first. It was a perfectly honest answer, and any other person might have made it about Islam or Christianity. But I sensed an unhappy defensiveness–the 'but' betrayed that he was ashamed of being Hindu.