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Recent Posts
Feature writers wanted
Vagrant thoughts
Why I haven't written much about John over the yea...
The Bridge
Godawful Poetry Fortnight - Year Eight
A Walk
Two-year-old child
From left field
Mumbai Press Club's Red Ink Awards: short-listed a...
Subtle sexism

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Thursday, November 26, 2015
Feature writers wanted 

After seven years at Forbes India in Network18, I've just moved to The Hindu. I'm part of the team launching the new Bombay edition that comes out for the first time this Saturday.

Part of my brief is to source great feature stories.

My immediate focus is the city of Bombay* and all its myriad facets (though later I will be looking for work from and about other parts of India and the world as well, so bookmark this and come back later if Bambai* isn't your thing). I'm looking for freelance feature writers who know the city intimately and write with skill, passion and insight, who can inform and entertain the intelligent reader. I'm looking for stories about the arts, culture, entertainment, sports, city life, education, business, politics.. anything and everything that makes Mumbai* tick, really. And if it's in some way linked to current events, so much the better.

If you don't know me, please check out my bonafides on LinkedIn, but don't message me there please; I rarely check that godawful site. And then email me (my name at Gmail) links to a few (not more than four) of your best pieces of writing and a reasonably detailed pitch that includes your credentials to do the piece. You could also tweet at me.

* I don't care what you call the city, as long as you don't get uptight about me calling it Bombay, as old friends can.

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Monday, September 28, 2015
Vagrant thoughts 

(I live in a quiet neighbourhood. At least it’s quiet 355 days of the year. But during the days of the Ganesh festival, evenings and nights are cacophonous. There is a visarjan pond one lane away, where all of Vashi seems to converge to immerse their idols. I’m sound-sensitive, and find it difficult to even think straight when there’s a racket going on, so it means ten days of headaches for me. But it's also always a great time for people-watching, with the masses being present in no uncertain terms.)


This evening, gazing at the silent moon rise through the mango tree branches actually drowned out the visarjan drum-synth racket.


Speaking of drum-synth racket, was out watching the processions, and I see that there’s not a single ‘traditional’ drum there. The only traditional element: hand-cymbals. Otherwise just kettle drums, big bass drums, and over that pounding rhythm, the synthesisers.

My lane is where the music has to stop, for some reason. So what we get is the drummers giving it their all, really pounding the drums.


Two lanes away, the two kirana guys are open way past their usual time. There’s a brisk trade in water and soft drinks. The Maharashtrian chap who runs the local hole-in-the-wall restaurant has an extra counter selling vada-pav & bhajias; Rs 15 per bhajia-pav. The Sikh whose tandoori and kabab joint is usually open late (lots of drinkers pop by for oily protein) isn't selling today. Instead he has set up a counter to give away free tea. He, his family & staff are brewing it up in huge vessels, filling plastic cups, handing them to passing processionists. The proffered cups are taken without as much as a thank you and, chai drunk, discarded on the road, though the Sikh family has put out open cartons as dustbins. The wee commercial compound next door (garages & stuff) has a counter giving away water which is also grabbed by those passing by without thanks. Some gargle & spit first. The road is a wet mess.


Three political parties have set up elevated platforms; party dignitaries and family members sit there. Every time a big idol passes, one of the worthies takes to the microphone & greets them, loudly. Between idols, their kids shriek into the mic instead. The Congress Bhavan is next to the visarjan pond: their platform occupies prime position. The Shiv Sena is at the top of the road, the beginning of the final straight stretch. Between them sits the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, in front of a hospital. Their loudspeakers are tied to a lamppost, under and over a sign that says, "Hospital: Silent Zone."


Older neighbours, gentle middle-class folk from many communities, have brought out chairs and are chatting, watching the processions. This spot is where the band-boys are paid off, where they break into absolute frenzy to ensure they get tipped well, I guess. A young(ish) woman is standing next to the group currently thundering away on its drums. Younger family members are grooving to the beat. The young(ish) woman is wearing skin-tight jeans & blouse, high heels. And, incongrously, a Gandhi topi over her poker-straight hair. Her figure is.. Kardashianesque. The elderly gentlemen sneak quick looks. The elderly ladies murmur to each other, but not disapprovingly. A little girl comes running up to the young(ish) woman, excited, pigtails bouncing, and is borne aloft. Everyone goes Awwww. The young(ish) woman & her little girl walk away, towards the pond, accompanying their idol. I follow. To see the immersion, you understand.


Stray observation amidst many stray observations, Every singke one of the idols I saw this evening had its skin painted some shade of pink. And that's a skin tone I've seen in Indians only in Kashmiris and people from Garwahl.


The pond is just off the road, accessed by a narrow lane, just wide enough for a lorry. Two landing areas have been prepared, at opposite ends. A makeshift pier, rafts made from sealed plastic drums with a platform tied on top: four of them, two large, two small. Young men, dripping wet, man the rafts. The big ones are attached to ropes, which are pulled from a point midway around the pond's shore and added momentum is provided by the boys: some paddle with their feet, sitting on the platform, others swim, pushing the raft.

The area is a little miracle in crowd-management. Somehow the cops keep everything moving smoothly. The lorries queue up next to the pond. Even as they wait, the lorry crews are dismantling the decorations around the idol. Drapery and support columns are taken apart. Flowers are gathered and deposited in huge fibreglass dustbins designed to look like urns, and in the waiting municipal dumpster. The queue inches forward. A forklift navigates the throng, miraculously not impaling anyone with its extended claws. It shambles up to the lorry and sticks its claws under the huge idol’s platform. Men on the lorry push the idol forward, inch by inch. Then, with ease (the idol is twice its height) the forklift lifts the idol off the flatbed, backs up, does a slow, sharp U-turn, and trundles the twenty-odd feet towards the slipway. It lowers the idol, platform & all. Men slide it down to the raft. It is steadied and then its seven-manpower engine churning the water, it glides out to the middle of the pond.

The smaller idols are decanted with some dignity. A swimmer receives it into his arms, and he lets it gently into the water, submerges ut once, then up to the surface once, then he and idol slowly sink below the green water. He then comes up, is pulled on to the raft, and all paddle back to shore.

With the big idols, the crew just shoves mightily, tipping them off. They fall in sideways, upside-down even. The hollow plaster interiors fill up, their unfinished surface visible. (Many of the idols are elaborately painted and decorated in front, but the backs are unfinished too; sometimes you see unpainted plaster.) The boys raise themselves off the sinking idol, pushing it downwards, and it disappears into the murk.

One idol proves tougher to deal with. It is an equestrian Ganesh. The horse is in the ‘salient’ pose (or is it 'rampant?' I'm not sure; but it's the one with front hooves in the air), but the sculptor’s skills did not extend to making the idol stable in that position, so a green mountainish surface support the horse's midriff. (The horse in this position in statues, if I recall correctly, indicates the rider died in battle. I guess the sculptor wasn't too concerned with that. Also, this steed kind of resembled the horses you see in merry-go-rounds. Kind of cute rather than martial.) The equestrian Ganesh was particularly unwieldy. When they finally managed to get it off the raft, it sank upside-down. Rather an undignified departure for the noble-but-cute animal and its divine rider.


At midnight, the throng is still dense, with no end in sight. But the cops have enforced the rules: no more frenzied drums and synths. The processionists, though, are still raucous, dancing away without music to dance to, just their own whistling and yelling. And the police whistles are plenty loud too. There’s a long night ahead for our guardians of the law.

At the pond, one more large idol is being ferried to the middle. As the raft drifts out, the people who brought the idol raise their hands to the sky. Not in prayer; the older people are singing their bhajans, sure, but the raised hands are holding cameras-that-also-make-calls and the glowing devices are bearing witness, recording videos of their Ganesh’s last voyage.


Time to stroll back home, through the sea of plastic cups and other trash. Tomorrow, the municipal trash collection folks have extra work. But my sleepy little neighbourhood will be quiet again, as it is 355 days of the year.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Why I haven't written much about John over the years. 

I've been asked, recently, both by people who haven't known me for long or who don't know my family and by people who have known us for decades, why I haven't written about John.

The reasons are not that easy to explain. But I'll try.

(I speak only of places we've lived in and we've visited with John: Visakhapatnam, Secunderabad, Madras, Bombay and New Bombay, Ooty. Other people's mileage may differ.)

John's disabilities are cerebral palsy, mental retardation and a heart disease. The heart condition doesn't manifest visibly, but the palsy is, of course, clear to see. His legs are stick thin, bent a little. More so his right leg, which thanks to muscle atrophy and a hip joint which disintegrated, is bent a little more and cannot straighten. Because he has the use only of one hand, he has been unable to support his body evenly when sitting, so his spine has curved to the right. His right hand is small; he has very limited control over it: just a little movement at shoulder level and the ability to twitch two fingers. It mostly would just be folded, palms and fingers hanging. When he was younger, before the curvature became pronounced, he could manipulate his own wheelchair by propelling the left wheel and then reaching over to propel the right wheel. Later, this became impossible, and he needed extra support on one side whenever sitting up.

Other manifestations of the palsy are in slurred speech. He had a pronounced gagging reflex, so we were never able to clean his teeth properly, and he couldn't gargle, so he wound up losing all his teeth eventually. There is a slight squint in one eye. He can't wink, though he does 'wink his eyebrows' as he says, which is basically a very big blink when he tries to wink. One side of his face is more mobile than the other, so except with a wide grin, his smiles have always been a bit lopsided.

The retardation is not immediately evident in conversation, in the subjects he can talk about. He was always coherent within those, though sometimes approaching topics from very different perspectives which needed deciphering. We tried to teach him to read and write, but he could not. He could count up to three.

So yes, long story short, he is visibly disabled.

Wherever we've lived, in public spaces John attracts curiosity. At best it's mild double-takes, sometimes, often, a nudge to a companion asking companion to gawk as well, sometimes open pointing. I've heard, often, in different places, the local lingo for 'mad.' This made me furious as a child. It still gets to me, even though I tell myself that this is just a result of poor education in this country about mental disability, that you can't blame individuals for culture they've imbibed.

In closer interaction, he's often talked at or talked around or talked about rather than talked to. Sometimes this is awkwardness: people don't know if he understands and ask us, his caregivers, about him. Mostly these questions are 'what is wrong with him' and 'was he born like this' and the like. This would inevitably then go to pity. They see the disability, recognise that it handicapped him, but they so very rarely look beyond the condition at the person

(All John's favourite people always talked to him, never condescending or dumbing down, but adjusting the topics of their conversation to him, as some people have the gift of doing naturally with children. You know who i mean: that favourite aunt or uncle who you were hugely fond of as a child and who will always be special to you, the one who always talked to you straight, never made you feel like a child.)

Over time, you reach a point where you don't want to explain any more. You don't want to be angry. You definitely don't want concessions. All you want is acceptance, for your loved one, for your family. That this is just their normal, that it doesn't need pity, or sorrow.

Another reason I haven't spoken publicly (by which I mean on some public platform; of course I've spoken to friends) is kind of related. You don't want to be seen as seeking attention, seeking pity or concessions.

You don't want the attention. You're not brave, you're not extraordinary. You're not a saint, heaven knows. This is just your life. This is his life. This is our life. You would do the same, but these just don't happen to be the circumstances of your life.

From where I sit, your fight against the financial circumstances you have risen above, or the loss of a parent early in life or of a child, or a bad marriage or broken heart or rebellious children, they are all strange to me, perhaps. Are you a hero? I don't know; perhaps you are. But it could be just that you are playing with the cards you have been dealt. There is no divine plan, I'm sure.

This isn't happening to you or me "for the best."

It is what it is.

You live the life you find yourself in, the best way you know how.


When I re-read this, perhaps I'm not clear. So let me try again, with a little help from a friend who I won't name, for reasons that, I hope, will be apparent.

This is mostly unedited from a Twitter DM chat a couple of years ago.

My daughter goes to [school name]. She is learning disabled. We deal with a lot of discrimination, so didn't want to make it public :-) [school name] is the first school where she is welcomed. And treated as "normal". For parents, that alone is good enough.

My brother has cerebral palsy and what was called retardation when he was diagnosed. So I know to some extent what you mean when you talk about dealing with discrimination.
Friends know, but I don't usually talk about it publicly. Different reasons than yours. Don't want it to be seen as sympathy-seeking.
Because it's really not something I want. Sympathy, I mean. It's just a fact that he has a child's mind & a body that has big limitations.
And that he needs care to take care of even basic needs.

Same here. I totally understand. All parents like us want is acceptance. No sympathy or special favours.

Autism, from what people have told me, is a really tough disability to deal with. The kids have no outward signs of any disability.

Yes. That is correct. My daughter is borderline autistic. But if you see her, she's like the most intelligent kid. Hence, untrained teachers can't deal with such kids. That leads to even more conflict between student and teacher. Ultimately results in low self esteem.
Same with ADHD.
The discrimination in the previous school was heartbreaking. We finally pulled her out last year when she was in [schooling year]. Short of beating her up, they did everything possible, including humiliating her every day. So much that she refused to go to school.

This is all we want, the families and caregivers to people with disability. (I deliberately do not try to speak for people with disability, because I do not know that world.) To not be 'special.' To not be a symbol for courage. To not be the disability.

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Monday, August 24, 2015
The Bridge 

When Mum died eight years ago, I tried to help John understand, to get it to him that she would not be coming back. In the roundabout way that conversations with him would go, we finally got around to him telling me that he knew mum was in pain of some kind and that she had been coughing and then she wasn't so she must not be in pain any more. Across the bridge, he said. Since he never used metaphors, I wondered what he meant. Then slowly it came to me. He loved Jim Reeves's soothing baritone, so Jim Reeves got played in the house a lot. And there's a song of his that has a chorus that goes like this:

Across the bridge there's no more sorrow
Across the bridge there's no more pain
The sun will shine across the river
And you'll never be unhappy again

I asked him whether that was what he meant, and he told me "that's what I said," as he often did when I finally managed to nail down something he was approaching in his own way.

If you know me, you know I have no religious faith. And that John's conditions were the thing that first started me doubting, when my prayers for his becoming 'normal' never got answered, when this boy without evil in his heart still stayed helpless and dependent.

But today, I wish, how I wish, I could believe those lyrics.


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Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Godawful Poetry Fortnight - Year Eight 

Godawful Poetry Fortnight was founded in 2008. It starts on the 19th August and runs up to the 31st August. This blog is its literal and spiritual home. All previous posts on the subject here are tagged thus.

Our Patron Saint is William Wordsworth.
And he gets this signal honour for saying that poetry "is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Way too many aspiring poets have rallied behind that banner, too few going so far as recollecting those emotions in tranquillity, let alone reading the rest of the preface to Lyrical Ballads (which can be found on Bartleby, for those interested).
Godawful Poetry Fortnight isn't a competition. But we do invite all poets—beginners, much published, academics—to have a bit of fun and deliberately write bad poetry. As opposed to, you know, writing it accidentally.

The True Believers Challenge: post thirteen Godawful Poems, one on each day of the Fortnight.)

For those who need them, I'll post prompts here, or on Twitter, one for every day.


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Sunday, August 02, 2015
A Walk 

Out for a walk. We stop near a little stairway that leads to the highway, to watch the busses. These stairs wouldn't deter a motorcyclist wanting to ride up — it's a gentle gradient, long steps, more terraced than steps actually — which is, I guess, why it has steel stanchions at the top and foot of it, spaced wide enough to let pedestrians through (unless magnificently obese), but not a scooter or mobike. Or a wheelchair. John doesn't mind staying at the bottom, as long as he can see the bustle. So there we are, him intent on the traffic, me thinking to myself how our pavements and roads are so fugging wheelchair-unfriendly and why the fug did the powers that be want to stop two-wheelers from using this perfectly sensible lane anyway.

People pass by, intent on their thoughts and lives, some chatting in pairs and trios, in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, English. Mostly the middle-class folk that live in this neck of the city, returning from weekend visits to family, perhaps. Some pause to gawk, in a way that still irks me after all these years, but doesn't bother John at all.

Then an elderly gent, slim, white-haired, impressively moustached, slightly grubby dhoti and kurta, stops and asks in Marathi if we we want to go up. No, I said, we're good. He carries on his way. It suddenly strikes me that he was offering to help. (This had not occurred to me, since it would be a three-person operation: one to carry John, two to lift the chair over, then the same at the top of the stairs.) I call out a thank you to him as he walks away. He turns to smile.

A few minutes later, a young man, talking on his cellphone, passes by. Again, not in the newest or cleanest of clothes. He pauses, mumbles to his interlocutor, lowers the phone, and asks me, first with a movement of arms and shoulder, and then in Hindi that has a feel of the north to it, if we want to go up. This time I get it immediately. I thank him and say no, we're just sitting.

Then we head home. I'm smiling.


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Thursday, July 16, 2015
Two-year-old child 

He almost died several times in his first few months. Gran made Dad put his finger in that tiny palm, and that tiny hand clung on, and that tiny hand's owner clung on too. And they took him home.

Several more times, convulsions, extreme emetic episodes drained him and took him to hospitals and almost took him away.

When he was around eight, a cardiologist refused to operate on his heart, a surgery that would have given him better health. He's a vegetable, he said; he won't live into his teens; put him in an institution and forget about him; have more children. Mum and Dad were horrified. He was a smiling, laughing little boy who would always stay a little boy in his head, always need to be taken care of like a little boy, but also always stay smiling and laughing. It was unthinkable that he would be anywhere else than with them.

It's true that he almost died several more times in the years to come. Those occasional convulsions, that rare vomiting episode, the possible ulcerated colon, the curved spine that caused internal problems, that hip that dislocated and disintegrated without anyone noticing. He's had several stints in hospitals. He loves the damn things. All the attention from all the staff! His perpetual smile and easy laugh are magnets.

Mum and Dad never planned for a life for him after they were gone, because he was so fragile it would be silly to expect a normal lifespan for him. It worried Mum no end in her later years.

The little boy turned 51 today.


Why do I want to tell his story? There are many reasons. For now, just one. He's here. he defied the odds. He's still smiling.

Maybe I'll write later about the anger that boils up in me when I hear the suffix '-tard' as an insult. And how that makes me never want to talk to you again.

Maybe I'll write about how little this world, this country, this city, does for those whose bodies aren't 'normal,' whose minds will stay, always, childlike.


Not today.

But here, there's this. An attempt to let you look into his world. Some years old now, and neglected. But here.


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Sunday, June 28, 2015
From left field 

My mother told me that as a little girl in school, she would instinctively do things with her left hand. But apparently that was not considered 'right' in those days; kids would be beaten for being left-handed, and forced to write with their right hands. She wasn't thrashed, but she was forced to use her right hand, and it became her dominant hand for most things. But toss her something without notice - a key or something like that - and she would instinctively catch it with her left hand.
By the time I was in school, the belief, the superstition (or whatever it was) that left-handedness was bad had long vanished. Lefties were still a minority and still are and will continue to be (statistically we are a right-handed species: only about 10% of people are left-handed).
The world is more hospitable to right-handed people on seemingly trivial things like the hand we use to for handshakes, through any number of utensils and tools, computer keyboards and mice, even for potentially dangerous power tools.
The bias against lefties remains in our language (in Latin, left is 'sinister,' in French, 'gauche,' and left itself meant, in Old English, weak, while right, as I've used it several times here, is correct), and in some customs (for instance money, in some parts of India, I have been told, must be handed over with the right hand, and parts of some religious observances must be performed with the right hand) but we no longer think left-handedness is evil or against the way of god. We accept that some people just ARE lefties. They don't choose it, they aren't tempted into it by bad company or decadent western morals or whatever someone's pet bias is. People aren't refused jobs if they're left-handed; we're okay with our kids associating with them, or, heck, even being lefties themselves. Lefties are 'normal' members of society in every way, even though the world we make around us is, quite literally, not always 'designed' for their needs.
All of which is to say, I wonder when we'll reach the same societal consensus on people who are sexually attracted to the same sex as themselves. (The stats are roughly the same, if I remember right: around 9% to 10% of humans are same-sex oriented.)
Oh, I'm right-handed, for the record.

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Monday, May 04, 2015
Mumbai Press Club's Red Ink Awards: short-listed and winning stories 

Not endorsed by or asked for by the Mumbai Press Club. This is just me and Google doing our thing. List reproduced from a Mumbai Press Club document I had access to because I was helping them out with live-Tweeting the event. The short-lists were displayed to the audience t at the event, so no secrets are being leaked.

P.S. No links for some print stories because I couldn't find them. And none to the TV stories because, ditto, I gave up after the first few. (Comment, tweet, or text me if you have them?)


Print Shortlist

Rigged, Krishn Kaushik, The Caravan Magazine

Why The Jackfruit tree had Everything & Nothing to do with the CEO'S AS Murder, Anuradha Sharma, Yahoo Originals

Inside the network 18 takeover, Ashish K Mishra, Mint

Infy after Murthy, Goutam Das, Business Today


A Shah Overthrown, Dinesh Narayanan, The Caravan Magazine

Television Shortlist

MQ2- Ground Report : Jan Dhan Yojna, Lakshman Roy, CNBC awaaz

Chinese bullet train, Dibang, ABP News

Shah Commission Report on Illegal Mining - Operation Loot , Santosh Kumar & Deepak Upadhaya, Zee Business


China ke achche din kaise aaye, Dibang, ABP News


Print Shortlist

Why the Andaman Islands are headed for disaster, Madhusree Mukerjee, Grist Media & Yahoo Originals

Beware you could be next inmate at Beggars home (Series), Vinod Kumar Menon, Mid Day

Buddha's Orphan, Sohini Chattopadhay, Open Magazine

Budaun won PM award, Pritha Chatterjee, The Indian Express


Blood in the water, Salil Tripathi, The Caravan Magazine

Television Shortlist

Children of war, Jugal Purohit, TV Today Network


Koi Laut De Mere - Syed Wasif Haider - Series, ShaTahir Khan, Aaj Tak


Print Shortlist

Irregularities in cement nala bandh construction series, Tushar Kharat / Govind Tope, Sakaal Media Group

In the Mahatama's Footsteps, Niranjan Takle, The Week


RSS 3.0 - Mohan Bhagwat a resurgent Sangh to the cusp of political power, Dinesh Narayanan, The Caravan Magazine

Television Shortlist

Gujarat Loksabha Election - series, Alka Dupkar, IBN Lokmat


Kashmir Ki Kashmakash, Jitendra Dixit, ABP News


Print Shortlist

Western Ghats Series, Anahita Mukherjee, Times Of India

Far Valley, Anosh Malekar, Caravan

The Oppressed Ark, Allia Allana, Fountain Ink

Battle Over oil, coal &; forest, Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Down to Earth


Danger Factories Ahead / Mumbai's Ticking Bombs, Sharad Vyas, Mid Day

Television Shortlist

Marathawada Ki Haqeekat, Umesh Kumavat, ABP News

Save Aravali or Delhi will become a desert, Rajat Singh, Aaj Tak


Print Shortlist

Haryana IAS officer daughters national champ in Absentia, Saurabh Duggal, Hindustan Times

How Germany pulled off its football renaissance, Sopan Joshi, Grist Media and Yahoo Originals

The Wind in his willow, Devendra Pandey, Indian Express

Gopichand Factory, Lhendup G Bhutia, Open Magazine


Beyond the Boundary, Rahul Bhatia, The Caravan

Television Shortlist

Arjun Award story for Manoj Kumar, Rakesh Saran, Zee Media

Little Wonder, Subodh M Mayure, Jai Maharashtra


Story of Rajkumar Tiwari India's First Gold Medal Winner, Suprita Das, NDTV


Print Shortlist

The Poisoned Land, Narendra Bisht, Outlook Magazine (Not sure if I have the right link)


Indian Museum ship Vikrant, Hemant Padalkar, DNA Newspaper


Where would you go if you were dying?, Hari Adivarekar, Yahoo Originals


Print Shortlist

The Revivalist, Thanuleho Hakokip, The Caravan Magazine

The Orewellian State, Shreevastva Nevatia, Blink

The Pleasures and Horrors of the digital afterlife, Lhendup Gyatso Bhutia, Open Magazine

Reeling in th Raj, Thanuleho Hakokip, The Caravan Magazine


The colourful and disturbing world of Guddu Rangila , Tanul Thakur, The Big Indian Picture

Television Shortlist

Love story season - Jiah Khan, Yaseer Usman, ABP News

Interview Vishal Bhardwaj, Pragya Tiwari, The BiG iNdian Picture


Art Talk : Pandit Jasraj, Jujhar Singh, News X


Print Shortlist

Maha FD A writer to NPPA, Shardul Nautiyal, Chronicle Pharamabiz

The Neglected version Of Drowning, GBSNP Varma, Fountain Ink Magazine

Carcinogenic banned chemical used to ripen mangoes APMC market vashi, Vinod Kumar Menon , Mid-Day


Life after liver transplantation, Johnson Poovanthuruth, Deepika

Smokescreen, Nikita Saxena, The Caravan


Print Shortlist

Hell on the high seas, Madhavankutty Pillai, Open Magazine

Andheri Man's Daring Escape From Human Slavery Mafia In Malaysia, Bhupen Patel, Mid Day


The Believer, Leena Reghunath, The Caravan Magazine

Dangerous new drug hits Mumbai market worst it is not covered under NDPS Act unless exposed by Midday (series), Vinod Kumar Menon, Mid Day Infomedia Ltd

Television Shortlist

Moin Qureshi - Operation Hawala, Tarun Nangia / Dipu Rai, Zee Business

Phoolan Devi Murder, Vikas Mishra, ABP News


The Mirror Man, Srinath Perur, Mosaic

Snow Business, Peter Griffin, Forbes India

Why is Hari Chasing a lizard in the Andaman's, Deepika Sarma, Yahoo Originals

Game changer Lifesaver, Mini P Thomas, The Week Magazine


How a wasp won the great papaya war, Shamsheer Yousaf, Fountain Ink Magazine


Truth vs Hype, Sreenivasan Jain, NDTV


Arnab Goswami, Times Now


Prannoy Roy, NDTV

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Sunday, February 01, 2015
Subtle sexism 

Hello Genderlog fans :)

I'm doing a stint behind the wheel at @genderlogindia on Twitter next ^this^ week.

The topics I plan to focus on are women in the workplace in professions that on the surface seem to have a fair amount of gender balance, but which nevertheless see discrimination happening. From conversations I've had, this can be of a more subtle nature than what one would see in more traditionally chauvinistic work areas, but it exists all right.

The professional areas that came to mind:
Journalism including broadcast journalism, photojournalism, criticism, opinion, editorial cartooning, and design and tech in their journalistic avataars
Publishing including writing, art and design in their book avataars, aside from the business of publishing
Advertising, Marketing, PR, including social media handling, Event Management
Art commercial, creative, design
Technology (yes, there is quite a decent ratio at least in the younger age groups, and then many women seem to drop out, and examining why that happens is part of that discussion) and Science
Academia and Education
Entrepreneurship across categories
• Maybe Banking and Financial Services too, since so many women are at the top of this field
Edited to add:
Entertainment, including cinema, music, stage, stand-up

I was wondering whether (a) you have any suggestions for things I should read on the topic, and link to, connected with gender and these area of work and (b) whether I can call on you to chip in on the discussions when they happen?

Let me know, and also do please pass the word?

Leave suggestions here, or tweet me at zigzackly or email me.

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Monday, December 29, 2014
What did you read in 2014? 

This is just for fun, and completely random, but I think we can get some interesting insights together. No, I can't track you and steal all your personal information (this is a Google Drive form, so maybe Google can), but if you prefer, you can take this poll in its own page, here.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014
Jo mera hai, woh mera hai 

Hello. This is Cartel, one of those lovely companies who came into the electricity-providing business when the government opened it up to the private sector.

When we started out, all of you were using incandescent bulbs and tube lights and stuff like that. Achche Din, right?

Now many of you are using power-saving CFL bulbs and even LED bulbs. This has cut into our revenue.

Yeah, yeah, sure, you're also using our electricity a whole lot more because now there are so many more electricity-powered devices available, but basically we resent you terribly for being subversive and using our bijli less for lighting. So, henceforth we will be charging you more money to provide power to your other devices, like ACs, TVs, computers, cellphones, electric vehicles and suchlike, to make up for what we're losing to the advance of technology, which we hadn't really accounted for in our business plan. Who knew, right?

How do we know what you're using the power for? Well, let's just say we have ways of looking into your home and seeing what's, heh, charging.

Why? Heck, because we can.

Written for Nikhil Pahwa, who is out there leading the good fight.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Daycation: A really short holiday.

Naycation: A holiday taken by someone who hates holidays, and spends the entire trip saying no to whatever her/his travel companions suggest.

Flaycation: An S&M couple's holiday.

Laycation: A holiday with an explicitly focussed agenda.

Gaycation: A holiday in LGBTQ-friendly destinations.

Greycation: Senior citizen holiday.

Hey!cation: Basically, Goa, where you meet everyone you went there to get away from.

Décation: Shobhaa takes a break.

Feycation: A doomed holiday.

Yaycation: Whoopie! A holiday at last!

Fraycation: A nervous holiday.

Jaycation: An exotic holiday, something one immediately posts pictures of on Facebook to provoke jealousy. Also: Saycation: a holiday you take just so you can talk about it later.

Veycation: Oy! A kosher holiday.

Wheycation: No milk solids, please.

LostYourWaycation: Look at the damn map, will ya?

Lehcation: Ladakh is wonderful around now.

Praycation: Most of India's tourism.

Quaycation: Sittin' on the dock, strollin' the promenade..

Quakation: Disaster tourism.

Raycation: Take me somewhere sunny!

Fakation: Where you tell everyone you're going out of town, but you stay home and watch lots of TV and don't bathe.

Playcation: A holiday where the kids get taken care off while Mummy and Daddy get drunk and get some sexy time.

Maycation: If that leave application gets approved..

Mehcation: "How was your holiday?" "Meh."

Sleighcation: Dashing through the snow..

Slaycation: Where serial killers go.

Weighcation: Eat like pigs all day.

Imprecation: Eff-all holiday.

Intoxication: Eff it. let's stay home and drink.

Inspired by a bit in World Wide Words, a newsletter I subscribe to, in which a reader riffed on the neologism 'staycation.'

Vacation blues. A cry of linguistic distress arrived from David Rosen: “The Boston Globe of Saturday 16 August carries a picture of a golfer in the buff and describes taking a naked vacation as nakationing. I suppose, like staycation for those who do not travel for vacations, it is a variation on vacation. What's next? Will the equine set take neighcations? Those who like the sea take baycations, and will fresh water enthusiasts take lakeations? Will those who do not have vacations as a work benefit envy those who have paycations? The possibilities are limitless.”

Have I left any alphabets for you? Enjoy.


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
"You'll never work in advertising again, Griffin" 

I once made a living writing ads
As livings go it wasn't half-bad
'Cept for the suits
Who to tell you the truth
Often severely lacked gonads

Suits & creative: always antagonistic
"You guys are SO unrealistic!"
That's MBAese;
What it really means
Is "Creative are all bloody pricks"

Account Planning is (pause to wink)
A serious ad agency funtcionk
They do the stuff
That wasn't happening enough
I.e., occasionally think

Art directors are easy to find:
Their shoes are always well shined
Even if the work
Shows no signs of quirk
The attire? ALWAYS well designed

Ad film makers are (if 1 may bitch)
Always very very rich
Their lives are quite flash
They make lots of cash
I hope their undergarments itch

Media planning is a serious chore
Numbers & spreadsheets galore
Planners get paid
Though not often laid
'Cause sleeping with them is a snore

Copywriters wear capes & masks
They do all the crucial tasks
Save the planet?
"I'm on it!"
(Why yes, I wrote copy; why'd you ask?)

Clients hire MarComm double grads
Give 'em big cars & luxury pads
To write strat docs
Think out-of-the-box
But their mummies approve the ads

[The numbers link to the original Tweets that this post collects.]

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Thursday, July 17, 2014
Wee, the Media 

He wanted to make a big stink
About a politico-big biz link
His editor liked it
But the owner spiked it
And that's why journalists drink

At 9 pee em, with elation
We wait for today's sensation
We watch as he shouts
Waggles his fingers about
Heck, you wanted to know, O nation!

A young one with visions of glory
Filed an investigative story
"Let truth prevail!
Evil must quail!"
The editor laughed till he had a coronary

Oh you journalist chaps
With your idealistic crap.
The real world-changers
Aren't facing danger;
They're working with Team Apple Maps

The first draft of history, they said
As they put the paper to bed
Then polished their CVs
& sent feelers to TV
If only the world still read

The web is killing us, they say
Good content, but no one will pay
They mutter & splutter
Foul oaths they utter
Then they go surf Pirate Bay

On Twitter, they mourn the loss
Of journalism's ethos
"You no longer aspire
To truths that are higher"
Then they go back to watching BigBoss

His friends were worried: "I say,
Don't say that in public! No way"
His lips he pursed
As he wrote another verse
Nobody reads poetry anyway

In newsrooms home & away
One topic du jour holds sway
Not Ukraine or Gaza
It's something more taaza:
Which editor quit today?

NRI columnists are upset
They praised Modi skyhigh & yet
They're waiting & waiting
Pupils dilating
Waaah! No call to join his cabinet

When Big Media barons meet
Do they exchange fact sheets
Of mockers & blighters
& joke-making writers?
I hope they're not reading this Tweet

The Emergency: you may recall
Told to bend, they crawl.
Now we'll do better, yes?
Politician can't fetter us!
'Cause big biz has us by the..

[The numbers link to the original Tweets that this post collects.]

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Sunday, July 13, 2014
The itsy bitsy teenie weenie song 

She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was as nervous as she could be
She was afraid she’d land up in the lock-up
She was afraid of the Goa Pee Dubyu Dee

“One, two, three, four! Showing body? Thoba! Haw!”

It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, symbol of her own agency
It was her body, so she thought it was okay
An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, ordinary flash of whimsy
But Mantriji said it would make men prey

“Two, three, four! Two-piece? Shee! Must be a whore!”

She was afraid to come out in the open
Sex crimes were because of her, see?
“Poor men can’t help gawkin’ and gropin’
And next thing they’ll do Ar Ay Pee Ee”

“Two, three, four! They raped because of what she wore!”

It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, symbol of her own agency
A garment she wore ’cause she felt fine that way
An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, ordinary flash of whimsy
But now Goa’s gorment was saying “No way!”

“Two, three, four! Western nangapan on our shore!”

Now she’s afraid, this new India’s daughter
“She asked for it I say, what to do?”
What if Muthalik was prowling and caught her?
The Ram Sene would beat her black and blue

“Two, three, four, patriarchy is the law!”

It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, symbol of her own agency
That she thought she had a right to display
An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, ordinary flash of whimsy
“Shut up woman! It’s our world! Obey!”

(First the lock-up then a blanket ban)
(No more women on our sea shore)
(We learnt it from the Taliban)

Yes, there isn’t any more


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This is the end
Hold your scalp and count to ten
Feel your comb move, and then
Hear my hair fall again

For this is the end
I've combed and brushed this moment
Comb-over time, can't grow more
Taken away, it's stolen

Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
As hair falls
As hair falls

Hairfall is where we part
Our hair but then it parts
From us and clogs the drain-hole
Got a trichologist's number?
Can you give me a name?
Yes I'll give the devil my soul

Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
As hair falls

Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald

There it goes, it goes
On its way out to sea
I know I'll never be thin
But the lack of keratin's
Lovely strands atop my crown
Makes me feel really down
Gimme a hat my friend
And we'll stand....

Let the hair fall, when it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall, when it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
As hair falls

Let the hair fall
We will stand bald
As hair falls

(Sorry Adele)


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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Vote. For my sake. 

I was going to title this post 'Vote. For Me." But then, I frequently 'stand for office' in some way on Twitter every now and then, and I didn't want anyone to think this was another of those larks.

I posted this on Facebook last week:
After a bit of running around the last week, I finally found neither Dad or I are on the rolls, and we can't re-apply until the 27th, election commission cards notwithstanding. Therefore can't vote. I have not been so angry-sad-disappointed in years. 
Yeah. I'm not on the rolls. I can't vote. So, if you weren't going to vote, do me a favour? Go anyway? For me? I don't care who you vote for, just vote.

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A vote in time.. 

The participatory Web, Web 2.0, as it was called for a while, what we now call the Social Web, doesn't have the power to change the course of an election in India yet. Heck, I've said so myself, in a recent set of articles.

But consider this.

Way back in January 2007, I wrote this in a piece in the Indian Express:
On the other side of the planet, during the run up to the recent elections to the US Senate, an incumbent Republican senator, considered pretty much a sure thing for re-election, made a racist remark about a young Indian-American Democrat who was taping his rally. Footage of that remark rapidly found its way on to YouTube (a video-sharing site), where it was adopted and promoted by some prominent American desi blogs. The wider blogosphere joined in too, as did US media. Digging into the senator’s past revealed more signs of a racist streak. Slowly, the Republican’s lead in the polls began eroding. And come counting day, guess which sure-shot Republican seat backfired and swung a very slim majority the Democrats' way?
I guess, what I'm trying to say is this. What if this election yields a hung parliament? What if, in the cobbling together of alliances, it's just a seat or two that makes the difference between your party coming to power or not? What if your constituency could have swung the other way if a few more people had voted?

So, go vote, please?

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Monday, April 21, 2014
My Kumble moment 

An unusual thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. A story I worked on made the cover of Forbes India.

My portfolio was and is the non-business features at the back of the book, and ForbesLife India—which I no longer work on—but it was still gratifying. I don't cover politics, or business in general, and while I'm interested in technology, it's not my beat either. And I'm by no means a good reporter. I fancy myself more a backroom guy, thinking up the stories and angles, matching them to the right writers, working on the stories once they come in, to make them sing, that kind of thing. So this found me way out of my comfort zone. And it was a wonderful challenge.

The metaphor I thrust on a few people was Anil Kumble's test century. It wasn't expected of him. He was a useful bat now and then, but would never have got picked for his batting alone. Nevertheless, his joy as that ugly shot cantered off to the boundary was pretty darn good to see.

I won't stretch that analogy further—I hope it's not near the end of my career in journalism!—but I would like your opinion, either here, or at the links (it's a package of several stories, two of them co-written with colleagues). Please do not worry about being harsh. As I said, I don't think of myself as even a decent reporter or business writer, so you won't be demolishing my dreams if you diss these.

e-Lections 2014: How Political Parties Turned Tech-Savvy

Case Study: The Dynamics of Mumbai South

Elections: Spawning Business Opportunities

Vote for... Start-ups!

Social Media: Limited, but 'Liked' in Indian Elections

And this interview with Nandan Nilekani, which is where the story started, which was online-only.

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We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce a masterpiece. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
~ Eyler Coates

to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and never stop fighting
~ e e cummings

In three words i can sum up everything I've learned about life.
It goes on.
~ Robert Frost

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
~ Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

I fell in love – that is the only expression I can think of – at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy.
~ Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet, short-story writer, and playwright, "Poetic Manifesto" in the Texas Quarterly, Winter 1961

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
~Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

The world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger.
~ W. Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)

In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
~ Al Rogers

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
~ Henry Winkler, actor (1945- )

Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.
~ George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), novelist (1819-1880)

Either you think - or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

There is no remedy so easy as books, which if they do not give cheerfulness, at least restore quiet to the most troubled mind.
~ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, author (1689-1762)

Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.
~ Satchel Paige

Fake it till you make it.
~ (Heard on West Wing)

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