"Incarnations: India in 50 Lives," freely downloadable BBC Radio 4 series by Sunil Khilnani

“Incarnations: India in 50 Lives,” a BBC Radio 4 series by Professor Sunil Khilnani, author of “The Idea of India,” is an interesting and freely available series of historical talks aiming to link the past with the present. It “takes listeners on a journey from ancient India to the 21st century through the life stories of 50 of India’s major figures,” according to the series producers. “The series aims to explore how these ancient historical individuals have been ‘reincarnated’ in modern India and continue to impact and inspire life.”

Twenty-five of the 50 programmes have been broadcast so far and they can be downloaded from iTunes:

and also from the BBC Radio 4 site:


Perspective on the outcome of Sri Lanka’s 2015 general election, The Hindu, August 19, 2015

“The Sri Lankan electorate has voted to reject polarisation and reinforce the process of democratisation…The new UNP government will have to quickly address a range of concerns from prosecution of corrupt politicians to providing a credible process to address war-time accountability.”

Together, these analytical articles provide a rounded perspective on the significance, potentialities, and hope held by the outcome of Sri Lanka’s 2015 general election.

A pdf of the whole Perspective page is attached.

1) “A vote for continuing change,” by Jayadeva Uyangoda, The Hindu, August 19, 2015, Page 11:


2)”Defeat of divisive politics,” by Ahilan Kadirgamar, The Hindu, August 19, 2015, Page 11:

pdf icon Perspective-on-Sri-Lankas-general-election-outcome-The-Hindu-August-19-2015-Page-11.pdf

"A bank account for Mary," Jayshree Venkatesan, The Hindu, August 17, 2015, link & pdf

Narendra Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), launched as a national mission for financial inclusion, “celebrates success on its website [], but thousands of Marys remain outside the banking system. There won’t be change unless the scheme alters both design and implementation.” Jayshree Venkatesan, a scholar at the Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, looks into why the scheme has failed to deliver what was promised, on the basis of her field research:

pdf icon A-bank-account-for-Mary-Jayshree-Venkatesan-The-Hindu-August-17-2015-page-11.pdf

Outrageous Challenge to Freedom of Expression

Outrageous Challenge To Freedom Of Expression

N. Ram

“The show-cause notices sent by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to three television news channels, NDTV 24×7, Aaj Tak, and ABP News, for so-called violations of the programme code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 in their coverage of the serious issues arising from the execution of Yakub Memon are a flagrant attempt to stifle constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech and expression. The grounds cited – exploiting the central government’s power of licensing, and the claimed authority to ‘regulate the content’ of private satellite television channels – are specious and patently arbitrary and unlawful. In the latest instance, regulation under the guise of enforcing the programme code has become indistinguishable from crude censorship.”

NYTimes: ‘Sea Slaves’: Forced Labor for Cheap Fish

“Labor abuse at sea can be so severe that the boys and men who are its victims might as well be captives from a bygone era. In interviews, those who fled recounted horrific violence: the sick cast overboard, the defiant beheaded, the insubordinate sealed for days below deck in a dark, fetid fishing hold.”

“The harsh practices have intensified in recent years, a review of hundreds of accounts from escaped deckhands provided to police, immigration and human rights workers shows. That is because of lax maritime labor laws and an insatiable global demand for seafood even as fishing stocks are depleted.”

Justice Lodha Committee Final Opinion and Order on BCCI-IPL

Justice has been done — and has been seen to be done. An edifying message goes out to the cricket world that corruption will not be tolerated. Read the just-released Final Opinion and Order of the Justice Lodha Committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India with clear and powerful terms of reference.

pdf icon Justice-Lodha-Committee-Final-Opinion-and-Order-BCCI-IPL-14-07-2015.pdf

Dr Ambedkar and re-imagining & building an India rid of caste, TISS Convocation speech, N. Ram, May 12, 2015

As democratic India prepares to celebrate the 125th year of his birth, Dr B. R. Ambedkar stands taller than he ever did before. This is essentially because the deep-seated problems spotlighted by his life and work remain very much alive while the bold and often profound questions he raised about Indian society remain unanswered.

It is not without political significance that the Hindu Right is currently attempting, against the grain of history, to appropriate Dr Ambedkar’s legacy. In this situation, his uncompromising analysis of the caste system, of chaturvarnya and sanatana dharma, of notions of pollution, of unalterable or rigid social hierarchy, and of the implications of the hegemony of the shastras must be read, re-read, and made part of a national debate.

Dr Ambedkar’s outstanding intellectual contribution to re-imagining and building a new India free from the debilitating, indeed soul-destroying, system of caste as an institution of social oppression and discrimination incompatible with democracy must be ranked on a par with his justly celebrated contribution to the making of India’s Republican Constitution.

from N Ram, Convocation speech, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), May 12, 2015 (pdf file attached)

pdf icon TISS-Convocation-Speech-NR-May-12-2015.pdf

Water: the weirdest liquid on the planet

Water breaks all the rules. Since the 19th century, chemists have developed a robust framework to describe what liquids are and what they can do. Those ideas are almost useless at explaining the weird behaviour of water.

The Wonder that was Victor Trumper: The Jack Marsh History Lecture 2015, by Gideon Haigh

Victor Trumper (November 2, 1877-June 28, 1915) is one of the most romantic figures in the history of cricket. In his Jack Marsh History Lecture 2015 in Sydney, Gideon Haigh, writer and cricket historian, brings alive the wonder that was Trumper, offering in the process rare insights into the nuances of sports photography. (“When he came he opened the windows of the mind to a new vision of what batting could be…In composition and content, it is a very great photograph. It is both the first and last word in batting, insofar as batting consists of making instinctive what begins as a set of quite unnatural motions.”) Listen here to the lecture, in three parts, on YouTube; read the text, attached as a pdf file. George Beldam’s iconic picture of Trumper leaping out to drive is also attached:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Other resources on Trumper:

Cricinfo (statistical summary):

Official site:


Trumper & Don Bradman:

Select bibliography:

Australian sport’s most memorable photographs:

pdf icon JackMarshHistoryLecture2015.pdf

Fight the ban, expose the slander

Fight the ban by the Government of the film “India’s Daughter,” and expose the slander against film-maker Leslee Udwin (a curious case of convergence between Hindutva and people who should know better).

Read N. Ram’s comprehensive analysis of the case today, Parvathi Menon’s interview with Leslee Udwin, and Jason Burke’s exceptional 2013 article on the issue:

pdf icon NRam-NoLegToStandOn.pdf
pdf icon ParvathiMenon-InterviewWithLesleeUdwin.pdf
pdf icon JasonBurke-HowIndiasOtherHalfLives-2013.pdf

Playing In The Temperate Zone | N. Ram

Playing In The Temperate Zone | N. Ram.

“The  schedule, format, and playing conditions of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 have been justly criticised: too long, too many gaps between matches for some leading teams, too loaded in favour of batsmen and teams winning the toss, batting first, and making 300-plus; and too geared to maximising TV ratings and revenues to the detriment of sporting value.”

“But why should teams be allowed to absorb losses and still progress? Why should the leading Test teams be given so many chances to make up for poor cricket or after losing to lower-ranked or less fancied opponents who played better on the day? It is time cricket lovers round the world issued a showcause notice to the ICC, and to the Big Three—the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the England and Wales Cricket Board, and Cricket Australia—who control the fortunes of the game.”

Diverse perspectives on Charlie Hebdo attacks — from Tariq Ali, the Guardian, the New York Times, and others

Tariq Ali, writing in the London Review of Books, looks incisively into key issues that arise from the atrocity, the horrendous murder of 12 people at the headquarters of the French satirical magazine. A Guardian editorial and the New York Times Editor and Public Editor explain why the two newspapers with a global reach decided not to re-publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons targeting the Prophet. The New York Times fields a debate on whether satirists can sometimes be ‘too provocative and outrageous’ and whether they ‘should hold themselves back’.

‘Short Cuts’ by Tariq Ali:

Guardian editorial view: ‘show solidarity but in your own voice’:

New York Times Editor Dean Baquet in fiery, touch-me-not Facebook attack on critic of newspaper’s decision not to reproduce Charlie Hebdo cartoons:

New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan on how the decision not to re-publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons was made:

‘When Satire Cuts Both Ways’:

‘Victims of the Terror Attacks in Paris’:


A case of faux-valorisation of security preparedness? Praveen Swami on the so-called ‘terror boat’

Praveen Swami’s hard-headed, upstanding investigation in The Indian Express challenges the Government of India’s claim that the Coast Guard destroyed a Pakistani ‘terror boat’. The Defence Minister, claiming that there are intercepts, has promised more information. Meanwhile, read these articles:

Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics | Science | Smithsonian

Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics | Science | Smithsonian.

“Experimental evidence is the final arbiter of right and wrong, but a theory’s value is also assessed by the depth of influence it has on allied fields. By this measure, string theory is off the charts. Decades of analysis filling thousands of articles have had a dramatic impact on a broad swath of research cutting across physics and mathematics.”

Hilary Mantel on her new short story collection, BBC Radio 4 and The Guardian

Hilary Mantel, one of the world’s finest novelists, talks to Tom Sutcliffe on BBC Radio 4 about her wonderful new collection of short stories, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher and Other Stories” (Kindle edition: Fourth Estate, 2014). Asked how she came to write the title story, she provides fascinating insights into a writer’s mind and the writing process. The title story can be read at the second link below:

BBC Radio 4 interview (audio):

“The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher,” title story (a Guardian exclusive):

Guardian interview:

Author’s reply to critics:

Damian Barr defends Mantel: