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7 Must-Read Books to Understand Indian Economics Before You Vote

As the 2024 elections continue, understanding Indian Economics and its issues is key for informed voting. With a complex landscape shaped by rapid growth, persistent challenges, and reforms, Indian Economics is at a pivotal juncture. Understanding its intricacies can empower voters to make decisions as India stands on the brink of significant change. Dive into these seven must-read books, packed with insights to help you make sense of it all and vote wisely for a brighter future.

 

India in Search of Glory
India in Search of Glory || Ashok

India and the Indians have made some progress in 75 years after Independence. The number of literates has gone up. The Indians have become healthier and their life expectancy at birth has gone up. The proportion of people below the poverty line has also halved. But the shine from the story fades when India is compared with that of the East Asian Tigers and China. It looks good but not good enough. India looks far away from the glory it seeks. This issue forms the core subject matter of this book. It tries to argue why India could not achieve more and what all it could have achieved. It paints a picture of its possible future and highlights the areas that need immediate attention.

 

Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India
Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India || Viral V. Acharya

How to maintain financial stability in India? Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India is a classic work to understand this critical subject. In this Penguin edition, with a new introduction, Viral V. Acharya, former Deputy Governor of RBI offers a concrete road map for comprehensive improvement of India’s economy. Authoritative and definitive, this is a must read for the students and scholars of Indian economy, policymakers and anyone interested in India’s finance sector.

 

Breaking the Mould
Breaking the Mould || Raghuram Rajan, Rohit Lamba

India is at a crossroads today. Its growth rate, while respectable relative to other large countries, is too low for the jobs our youth need. Intense competition in low-skilled manufacturing, increasing protectionism globally and growing automation make the situation still more difficult. Divisive majoritarianism does not help. India
broke away from the standard development path—from agriculture to low-skilled manufacturing, then high-skilled manufacturing and, finally, services—a long time back by leapfrogging the intermediate steps. Rather than attempting to revert to development paths that may not be feasible any more, we must embark on a truly Indian path.

In Breaking the Mould, the authors explain how we can accelerate economic development by investing in our people’s human capital, expanding opportunities in high-skilled services and manufacturing centred on innovative new products, and making India a ferment of ideas and creativity. India’s democratic traditions will support this path, helped further by governance reforms, including strengthening our democratic institutions and greater decentralization.

 

Slip, Stitch & Stumble
Slip, Stitch & Stumble || Rajrishi Singhal

Manmohan Singh’s 1991 Union Budget speech made history by altering the course of the Indian
economy, especially its financial sector. His measures took a broom to multiple cobwebs in this sector. What Manmohan Singh started over three decades ago is still a work in progress today, but it does raise some questions: Why did he focus on financial sector reforms? What has motivated continuing these reforms?
This book tries to answer questions like these while focusing on the evolution of financial sector reforms which, oddly, remain incomplete even after thirty years. The fabric of this sector has been fraying and initiatives over the past three decades have resembled hasty, temporary needlework; the patchwork, incomplete reforms make the sector further vulnerable to failure. Hence: Slip, Stitch and Stumble.

 

India's Finance Ministers
India’s Finance Ministers || A.K. Bhattacharya

India’s Finance Ministers: Stumbling into Reforms (From 1977 to 1998) is the second volume in the series of books on some of India’s unforgettable finance ministers. Analysing the role of India’s finance ministers who managed India’s economy during one of its worst phases (post Emergency to the late 1990s), the book highlights the lasting impact they left on India’s political economy. This volume also provides a fascinating account of India’s economic history offering an incisive view of the key events in India’s journey from an closed, agrarian economy to a liberal economy.

 

Economic Sutra
Economic Sutra|| Satish Y. Deodhar, YS Rajan

A general perception exists that ancient Indian literature on economic matters is fatalistic and an admixture of sacred and secular thoughts. Economic Sutra provides a comprehensive perspective on the elements of Indian economic thought leading up to and after the Arthashastra. Economic Sutra is a perception-correction initiative to distil the Indian mind in the realm of economic thoughts and behaviour as brought out by the ancient Indian authors. It highlights the broader spread of economic ideas both prior to and sometime after Kautilya, giving insights into the purpose, actions and vision of our forefathers.

Poor Economics
Poor Economics || Abhijit V Banerjee, Esther Duflo

Imagine you have a few million dollars. You want to spend it on the poor. How do you go about it? Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world’s poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions about the poor and the world that are untested generalizations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo have pioneered the use of randomized control trials in development economics through their award-winning Poverty Action Lab. They argue that by using randomized control trials, and more generally, by paying careful attention to the evidence, it is possible to make accurate-and often startling assessments-on what really impacts the poor and what doesn’t.

Are You Election-Ready? Check Out these 12 Essential Books Before You Vote!

With the 2024 elections in full swing, it’s time to prepare ourselves. We’ve put together a list of 12 essential books that you absolutely need to check out before you cast your vote. These books cover everything from politics to policies, helping you make a well-informed decision when it’s time to hit the polling booth. Let’s dive in and get election-ready together!

Caste as a Social Capital
Caste as Social Capital || R Vaidyanathan

Caste as Social Capital examines the workings of caste through the lens of business, economics and entrepreneurship. It interrogates the role caste plays in the economic sphere in terms of facilitating the nuts and bolts of business and entrepreneurship: finance, markets and workforce. Through this qualitative view of caste, an entirely new picture emerges, which forces one to view the age-old institution of caste in a new light.

 

Price of the Modi Years
Price of the Modi Years || Aakar Patel

Columnist, author and political commentator, Aakar Patel has long been a close observer of the political scenario. In Price of the Modi Years, he seeks to explain the data and facts on India’s performance under Narendra Modi.

Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, had once said that Modi would be a disaster as prime minister. This book shows how. It concedes Modi’s popularity; this is an accounting of the damage he has wrought. It is the history of India since 2014, assessing the damage across the polity from the economy, national security, federalism, foreign relations, legislations and the judiciary to media and civil society.

 

The Essentials of Hinduism
The Essentials of Hinduism || Trilochan Sastry

Hinduism is an ancient religion, philosophy and way of life. Unlike other great religions that are based on a small set of books, there are hundreds of texts in Hinduism, most of which are very voluminous. They span not merely centuries, but millennia. And most importantly, these ancient scriptures are all in Sanskrit which many do not know. Therefore for a beginner with an interest in Hinduism it is a daunting task as you don’t know where to start such a study.
In The Essentials of Hinduism, Trilochan Sastry unpacks all the ancient texts from the Vedas to the epics covering the entire range of scriptures and everything you need to know about them in an easy-to-read and accessible way making it of special interest to Hindus and those from other religions and nations, and even those who are agnostic or atheistic.

 

Modi and India
Modi and India || Rahul Shivshankar, Siddhartha Talya

In 2014, the BJP, under the leadership of Modi, won a clear majority in the Lok Sabha elections. The National Democratic Alliance’s triumph ended a nearly two-and-a-half-decade run of mostly messy coalition governments. In 2019, the BJP further improved its tally, cementing its parliamentary majority and its ability to ring in transformational laws and policies. Most of the initiatives taken by the Modi-led NDA have been aimed at positioning Bharat as a ‘Vishwa Guru’—an exemplar of moral righteousness, a pluralistic democracy led by dharma and drawing sustenance from the wellspring of an eternal Hindu universalism.

Evocative, anecdotal, argumentative and deeply researched, Modi and India: 2024 and the Battle for Bharat chronicles the emergence of, and the battle for, a new republic in the making.

 

A New Idea of India
A New Idea of India || Harsh Madhusudan, Rajeev Mantri

 

A New Idea of India constructs and expounds on a new framework beyond the rough and tumble of partisan politics. Lucid in its laying out of ideas and policies while taking a novel position, this book is illuminated by years of research and the authors’ first-hand experiences, as citizens, entrepreneurs and investors, of the vagaries and challenges of India. This revised edition builds on some of the arguments of the earlier edition and brings things up-to-date.

 

Curfewed Night
Curfewed Night || Basharat Peer

Basharat Peer was a teenager when the separatist movement exploded in Kashmir in 1989. Over the following years countless young men, seduced by the romance of the militant, fuelled by feelings of injustice, crossed over the Line of Control to train in Pakistani army camps. Peer was sent off to boarding school in Aligarh to keep out of trouble. He finished college and became a journalist in Delhi. But Kashmir-angrier, more violent, more hopeless-was never far away.

 

Lyrical, spare, gutwrenching and intimate, Curfewed Night is a stunning book and an unforgettable portrait of Kashmir in war.

 

 

The Politician Redux
The Politician Redux || Devesh Verma

Ram Mohan, an ambitious man in newly independent India, refuses to let his humble origins define him. On a mission to build a political career, he realizes that the only way to live a respectable life is to hold some kind of power.

When the Congress high command vetoes Ram Mohan’s inclusion in the Uttar Pradesh cabinet, Saansad-ji, the state’s chief minister, appoints him as member, UP Public Service Commission, Allahabad. Though non-political, the position has a high social status, and Ram Mohan quickly takes a shine to it. Meanwhile, the JP movement continues to challenge the Congress regime, surging through large parts of India and setting the stage for Indira Gandhi’s downfall.

A sequel to the critically acclaimed The Politician, this new novel, set in the 1970s to 1980s north India, provides a captivating, vivid view of the political battles of that era, and captures the spirit, manners and social conditions of a transformational phase in Indian history.

 

After Messiah
After Messiah || Aakar Patel

‘Everyone bowed to the Big Man. He was glorified, deified even, with temples raised to him, as the embodiment of the nation.’

Now the Big Man is gone, with nobody named as his successor. Into this void is pushed Mira, who is reluctant at first but increasingly interested in the position she finds herself in. Will she use her authority to further her agenda, or will she hold on to her principles? Watched by her political rivals, Jayeshbhai and Swamiji, and guided by well-wishers Ayesha, Prabhu and Du Bois, she marches on and discovers something about power-and about herself.

The Quest for Modern Assam
The Quest for Modern Assam || Arupjyoti Saikia

Definitive, comprehensive and unputdownable, The Quest for Modern Assam explores the interconnected layers of political, environmental, economic and cultural processes that shaped the development of Assam since the 1940s. It offers an authoritative account that sets new standards in the writing of regional political history. Not to be missed by any one keen on Assam, India, Asia or world history in the twentieth century.

 

Another India
Another India || Pratinav Anil

Another India tells the story of the world’s biggest religious minority through vivid biographical portraits that weave together the stories of both elite and subaltern Muslims.

By challenging traditional histories and highlighting the neglect of minority rights since Independence, Pratinav Anil argues that Muslims, since 1947, have had to contend with discrimination, disadvantage, deindustrialization, dispossession and disenfranchisement, as well as an unresponsive leadership. He explores the rise and fall of the Indian Muslim elite and the birth of the nationalist Muslim, and emphasizes the importance of class in understanding the dynamics of Indian politics.

 

Post-Hindu India
Post-Hindu India || Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd pens a thought-provoking critique of Brahmanism and the caste system in India, while anticipating the death of Hinduism as a direct consequence of, what he says is, its anti-scientific and anti-nationalistic stand. This work challenges Hinduism`s interpretation of history, with a virulent attack on caste politics, and also takes a refreshing look at the necessity of encouraging indigenous scientific thought for the sake of national progress.

 

The Politician
The Politician || Devesh Verma

Ram Mohan is an intrepid and ambitious young man in newly independent India, who refuses to be held down by his humble origins. Spurred on by his diehard optimism, he aims for things usually inaccessible to people of his extraction. However, he soon realizes that without political or bureaucratic power, the idea of a respectable life in India is nothing but pretence, and when Gulab Singh rescues him from being insulted by a thug, Ram Mohan becomes persuaded of the efficacy of violence in certain situations . . .

Beginning at the peak of Nehruvian era and ending in the early seventies, The Politician is an enthralling, evocative view of provincial northern India-once the political heartland of the country-and the ebb and flow of the fortunes of its protagonists.

Revolution or Ruin? The Jaw-Dropping Events of ‘The Politician Redux’

Ever wondered what politics looked like in India during the 1970s and 1980s? The Politician Redux by Devesh Verma has all the answers. Join Ram Mohan’s journey as he lands on the UP Public Service Commission, having been denied a cabinet position. Against the backdrop of the JP movement shaking up the Congress regime, Ram Mohan’s story unfolds amidst significant changes in Indian history.​

 

Read this excerpt to experience the political intrigue, societal upheaval, and relentless pursuit of power in this thrilling sequel to The Politician.

The Politician Redux
The Politician Redux || Devesh Verma

***

There had been signs of popular unrest and political turmoil across an enormous chunk of India, and the way it came to grow in scope and intensity was staggering. Ram Mohan was thankful to Saansadji, the Chief Minister, for sending him to the Commission. Handpicked by Indira Gandhi, no Congress CM had the resources of his own to handle a crisis of this nature. It had all begun in the state of Gujarat, this flaring up of popular rage at inflation, where, incensed at their increased mess bill, students at an engineering college assaulted a college official, and put the canteen to the torch, following it up with another bout of destruction of college property. The trouble metastasized to other educational institutions Students were baying for the sacking of the state government led by one of the most corrupt Congress leaders, Chimanbhai Patel, who had procured massive funds for the party through questionable means. That inflamed the situation on the price rise front. Then, Jayprakash Narayan, an esteemed socialist figure, decided to lend his support to the agitation in Gujarat. Having been associated with the freedom struggle, he had once been invited by Nehru to join his cabinet. He had declined and quietly settled down in his home state, Bihar, emerging now and again from his retirement to pick up odd causes. Soon to be known as JP, he hailed the Gujarat students’ angst, seeing it as a force that could bring about the redemption of the country from corruption infesting the Indian polity.

 

With the students’ anger winning public endorsement, the situation in Gujarat became one of pandemonium. Violence and vandalism were rampant. The opposition latched on to the agitation, and Indira Gandhi had had to remove the Chief Minister placing the state under President’s rule while the opposition clamoured for the dissolution of the assembly and fresh polls. She was unwilling. Forcing her hand was a fast unto death to which her old foe Desai, the tallest leader of Gujarat, had resorted. Meanwhile, students in the lawless Bihar had put together their own movement with the opposition in tow, the grievances being the same as in Gujarat: corruption, price rise unemployment.

 

With rioting, arson vandalism becoming the order of the day, Bihar was thrown into anarchy. There was also this strike by railway workers when hundreds of thousands of them stopped work, demanding pay parity with other government employees. A little prior to this twenty-day-long, debilitating strike that had to be broken up by the government, JP had agreed to take up the reins of the Movement. Sensing general discontent, he resurrected his old idea of ‘total revolution’ and, with the opposition rooting for him, took the Movement beyond his home state, appealing to people, chiefly the youth, to rise against the misrule of Indira Gandhi. In the meantime, Saansad-ji’s reputation took a knock when the Congress lost a by-election for Allahabad, the parliamentary seat from which he had resigned to become member of the state legislature.

 

It was against this backdrop of growing bitterness of the Congress rule that Ram Mohan went to see Saansad-ji in Lucknow. He wanted to thank him for the Commission that had inaugurated a delightful chapter in his life ‘This was the best I could do in the circumstances and take my word, it’s one of the most coveted non-political positions. As Member Public Service Commission, you’ll have a term of sixyears during which nobody can touch you, whereas no political
office can be immune to instability.’ ‘Yes, I have a large family to provide for. I need stability. But whenever I’m needed in active politics, you’ll find me standing right behind you.’ Saansad-ji laughed. A listless laugh. His heart wasn’t in it.

 

You’d remember that within four months of my taking over as CM, Jayprakash ji came to UP to campaign for his total revolution. I didn’t try to stop him. I declared him our state’s guest, arguing that not only was he a renowned freedom fighter but a crusader for the good of the common man. This, I did, to restrain the rabble-rouser in him. Look at the response he’s getting wherever he goes! But Indira-ji listens to Shukla-ji’s wily Uncle Uma Kant Shukla and the like. These two things the way Congress was licked in Allahabad by-poll and the welcome extended to JP by my government didn’t go down well with her. There’s something else. She hasn’t taken kindly to my style of functioning . . . No Congress CM is supposed to govern in a manner that casts him as a leader under his own steam. Your only objective as minister or chief minister should be to keep the masses glued to the thought of her person,’ Saansad-ji paused to sip his tea. ‘JP is heading a movement out to undermine the Congress regime, and my action was nothing but a calculated move, a gambit. That’s what I tried to explain to her coterie. Some agreed. What I should worry about most, Ram Mohan, is the misgiving she might have about my motive. That’s why somebody advised me to avoid the trap of going after personal popularity.’

 

***

Get your copy of The Politician Redux by Devesh Verma wherever books are sold.

7 Audiobooks Every Voter Must Listen to for the 2024 Election Season

Informed voting begins with enriched understanding! As we gear up for the 2024 Indian elections, we’ve handpicked seven audiobooks that every voter must have on their radar. From insightful analysis to historical narratives, these audiobooks are your go-to companions for understanding the issues and making your voice heard in the upcoming election season.

 

Ready to cast your vote?

Breaking the Mould
Breaking the Mould || Raghuram Rajan, Rohit Lamba

In Breaking the Mould, the authors explain how we can accelerate economic development by investing in our people’s human capital, expanding opportunities in high-skilled services and manufacturing centered on innovative new products, and making India a ferment of ideas and creativity. India’s democratic traditions will support this path, helped further by governance reforms, including strengthening our democratic institutions and greater decentralization.

The authors offer praise where the Indian establishment has been successful but are clear-eyed in pointing out its weaknesses. They urge India to break free from the shackles of the past and look to the possibilities of the future. Written with unusual candor, and packed with vivid examples and persuasive arguments, this is a book for anyone who has a stake in India’s future.

 

 

The Discovery of India
The Discovery of India || Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote The Discovery of India during his imprisonment at Ahmednagar Fort for participating in the Quit India Movement (1942-1946). The book was written during Nehru’s four years of confinement to solitude in prison and is his way of paying an homage to his beloved country and its rich culture.

The work started from ancient history; Nehru wrote at length of Vedas, Upanishads, and textbooks on ancient time and ends during the British raj. The work is a broad view of Indian history, culture, and philosophy; the same can also be seen in the television series. The work is considered as one of the finest writings on Indian history. The television series Bharat Ek Khoj, which was released in 1988, was based on this work.

 

Savarkar: Echoes of a Forgotton Past, Vol. 1: Part 1
Savarkar: Echoes of a Forgotton Past, Vol. 1: Part 1 || Vikram Sampath

An alleged atheist and a staunch rationalist who opposed orthodox Hindu beliefs, encouraged inter-caste marriage and dining, and dismissed cow worship as mere superstition, Savarkar was, arguably, the most vocal political voice for the Hindu community through the entire course of India’s freedom struggle. From the heady days of revolution and generating international support for the cause of India’s freedom as a law student in London, Savarkar found himself arrested, unfairly tried for sedition, transported and incarcerated at the Cellular Jail, in the Andamans, for more than a decade, where he underwent unimaginable torture.

From being an optimistic advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity in his treatise on the 1857 War of Independence, what was it that transformed him in the Cellular Jail to a proponent of “Hindutva”, which viewed Muslims with suspicion?

Drawing from a vast range of original archival documents across India and abroad, this biography in two parts – the first focusing on the years leading up to his incarceration and eventual release from the Kalapani – puts Savarkar, his life, and his philosophy in a new perspective and looks at the man with all his achievements and failings.

 

The Rise of the BJP
The Rise of the BJP || Bhupendar Yadav, Ila Pattnaik

The Bharatiya Janata Party is an idea that was seeded into the minds of nationalist Jana Sangh leaders when they began to envision India after Independence. Much like the very core the freedom struggle was built on, they saw India as a demographically, culturally and historically cohesive and unified nation—as Bharat.

In this book, senior BJP leader and cabinet minister Bhupender Yadav and leading economist Ila Patnaik come together to trace the BJP’s journey from its humble roots, through ups and downs and to eventually getting 303 seats in Lok Sabha in 2019 and becoming the world’s largest political party. While focusing on the larger economics and political story, the book encapsulates many smaller, yet hugely significant stories of individuals and incidents, which brought the BJP to where it stands now.

For the first time ever, The Rise of the BJP, tells us the inside story of how one of the most powerful political parties makes decisions, implements ideas and executes policy. Meticulously researched and immensely compelling, the book shows us how the BJP fought competing ideologies, political assaults and catapulted to the centre stage of national politics.

 

Our Hindu Rashtra
Our Hindu Rashtra || Aakar Patel

India has taken so sharp a turn in recent years that the very center has shifted considerably. What led to this swing? Is it possible to trace the path to this point? Is there a way back to the just, secular, inclusive vision of our Constitution-makers?

This country has long been an outlier in its South Asian neighborhood, with its inclusive Constitution and functioning democracy. The growth of Hindutva, in some sense, brings India in line with the other polities here. In Our Hindu Rashtra, writer and activist Aakar Patel peels back layer after layer of cause and effect through independent India’s history to understand how Hindutva came to gain such a hold on the country. He examines what it means for India that its laws and judiciary have been permeated by prejudice and bigotry, what the breach of fundamental rights portends in these circumstances, and what the all-round institutional collapse signifies for the future of Indians.

Most importantly, Patel asks and answers that most important of questions: What possibilities exist for a return? Thought-provoking and pulling no punches, this book is an essential listen for anyone who wishes to understand the nature of politics in India and, indeed, South Asia.

 

 

These Seats are Reserved
These Seats are Reserved || Abhinav Chandrachud

Reservation or affirmative action is a hugely controversial policy in India. While constitutionally mandated and with historians, political scientists and social activists convinced of its need, many resist it and consider it as compromising ‘merit’ and against the principle of equality of opportunity.

In These Seats Are Reserved, Abhinav traces the history and making of the reservation policy.

How were groups eligible for reservations identified and defined? How were the terms ‘depressed classes’ and ‘backward classes’ used in British India and how have they evolved into the constitutional concepts of ‘Scheduled Castes’, ‘Scheduled Tribes’, and ‘Other Backward Classes’ in the present day?

The book delves into the intellectual debates that took place on this matter in the Constituent Assembly, the Supreme Court and Parliament. Several contentious issues are examined dispassionately: are reservations an exception to the principle of equality of opportunity? Do quotas in government service undermine efficiency? Can ‘merit’ really be defined neutrally? What is the thinking behind the rule that no more than 50 per cent of the available seats or positions can be reserved?

Deeply researched and ably narrated, this volume is a compelling addition to every thinking individual’s library.

 

 

1971
1971 || Anam Zakaria

The year 1971 exists everywhere in Bangladesh—on its roads, in sculptures, in its museums and oral history projects, in its curriculum, in people’s homes and their stories, and in political discourse. It marks the birth of the nation, it’s liberation. More than 1000 miles away, in Pakistan too, 1971 marks a watershed moment, its memories sitting uncomfortably in public imagination. It is remembered as the ‘Fall of Dacca’, the dismemberment of Pakistan or the third Indo-Pak war. In India, 1971 represents something else—the story of humanitarian intervention, of triumph and valor that paved the way for India’s rise as a military power, the beginning of its journey to becoming a regional superpower.

Navigating the widely varied terrain that is 1971 across Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Anam Zakaria sifts through three distinct state narratives, and studies the institutionalization of the memory of the year and its events. Through a personal journey, she juxtaposes state narratives with people’s history on the ground, bringing forth the nuanced experiences of those who lived through the war. Using intergenerational interviews, textbook analyses, visits to schools and travels to museums and sites commemorating 1971, Zakaria explores the ways in which 1971 is remembered and forgotten across countries, generations and communities.

Yuktahaar: All about Taapsee Pannu’s diet plan

Lights. Camera. Action.

Indian actor Taapsee Pannu’s life revolves around these three words. To keep abreast with her work routine and maintain the energy to sustain an 18-hour workday, an award-winning nutritionist and a celebrated lifestyle consultant, Munmun Ganeriwal, offers her expertise by curating a 10-week diet plan for her. ‘Yuktahaar’ is a holistic programme that encourages a gut-balancing lifestyle, mainly consisting of food, exercise, sleep hygiene, and neural retraining.

That’s intriguing, right?

Now let’s read this expert from Yuktahaar: The Belly and Brain Diet and delve deep into the diet plan suggested by the author, Munmun Ganeriwal, to Taapsee Pannu.

*

Yuktahaar
Yuktahaar || Munmun Ganeriwal

Before I start working with my clients, apart from a few other things, I also ask them to note down their food intake, exercise details (if they are working out) and activities of daily living (referred to as ADLs), and send these details to me. This simple tool provides a great starting point from where both my client and I can take off on the TBBD journey together. On the day before our conversation, Taapsee too had shared her details with me, and this is how a general day in her life looked like.

 

 

Exercise Modifications

Exercise duration and frequency were reduced: This was new to me. I usually had to lecture people on why it is important that they move their butts. I was used to people asking me, ‘bees minute treadmill kiya toh weight loss toh hoga naa?’ or ‘sirf weekends par gym karu toh chalega naa?’. With Taapsee, it was the opposite. With around two hours of workout every single day, she was clearly over-exercising—a reflection of her go-getter attitude in life in general. But when it comes to exercise, more is not better. Exercising appropriately can lessen inflammation and damage done to your gut microbiome, but exercising too much can lead to inflammation and gut (hyper)permeability. The dose makes the poison! Taapsee often got heartburn in the middle of her workout sessions, and she was completely taken aback when I explained to her that the heartburn was exercise-induced.

 

Exercise structure was altered: There are three energy systems in our body—adenosine triphosphate–creatine phosphate or ATP–CP, anaerobic glycolysis and aerobic—that work simultaneously to fuel the body during exercise. However, depending on the exercise duration and intensity, one of the three systems predominates. Taapsee was working out pretty hard, but because her exercise sessions consisted of both squash or cardio (predominantly aerobic) and weight training (primarily anaerobic glycolysis) one after the other, she wasn’t reaping as much benefit as she should have been. An altered regime was planned for her, with aerobic and anaerobic activities alternating with each other. Doing so leads to better fuel utilization, enhanced muscle recovery and greater fat burn without spending hours and hours exercising. Additionally, a day of high intensity interval training or HIIT workout (10 seconds of maximum effort followed by a two-minute rest) that predominantly trains the ATP–CP system was introduced. Targeting each of our energy systems by different types of exercise is important, as it maximizes fitness benefits and results in a leaner, more toned body.

By the time the shoot of Rashmi Rocket commenced in November, Taapsee had gained 2.5 kilos of lean muscle mass, no easy feat by any means. Dressed like an athlete ready to face the camera, her pictures resembled those that had been shown to us as reference. The real test, though, came in December, when she had to shoot for the races in Ranchi. Then, apart from looking like an athlete, Taapsee also had to perform.

It was time to put the months of hard work to the test. The shoot finally began. Taapsee took to the starting block, the director called out ‘Action,’ and she exploded off the block. As she sprinted towards the finish line, I watched her, my heart filled with pride, and in my mind, I said, ‘Stop her if you can!’

**

Read Yuktahaar: The Belly and Brain Diet to understand the science of fitness and art of well-being.

The Absence of Adolescence

Writer – politician Muthuvel Karunanidhi is amongst the most important political leaders India has ever seen. In Karunanidhi: A Life, author A.S. Panneerselvan tells the story of the man who became a metaphor for modern Tamil Nadu, where language, empowerment, self-respect, art, literary forms and films coalesced to lend a unique vibrancy to politics.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter titled, The Absence of Adolescence.

Karunanidhi
Karunanidhi A Life || A.S. Panneerselvan

 

Like many underprivileged children, karunanidhi’s life moved straight to adulthood from childhood, bypassing the phase of indulgent adolescence. The politicization that began with the anti-Hindi agitation and exposure to the literature of the Self- Respect Movement propelled karunanidhi into becoming an activist right from his days in the second form. The police excesses and the custodial deaths of two anti-Hindi agitators, Thalamuthu and natarajan, had a profound impact on the young karunanidhi.

 

The late 1930s witnessed varied crises for all the political players: the imperial government was getting ready for the Second World War; the great Depression and its fallout was taking its toll; Mahatma gandhi’s supremacy was challenged within the Congress by the election of Subhas Chandra Bose as the party president for the second time; and the Left was emerging as a distinct political force with its leaders gaining a hold over decision-making in both the Congress as well as other popular fronts. There was also a shift in Dravidian politics with the leadership moving from the wealthy section among the non-Brahmins to Periyar and Annadurai.

 

The twists and turns of the Left’s mobilization need elaboration in order to understand how, despite its revolutionary aura, karunanidhi remained with the Dravidian Movement’s social reform agenda. in his essay, in the January–March 1984 issue of The Marxist, E.M.S. namboodiripad points out that when the Congress Socialist Party was formed in 1934, the Communist Party of india initially branded it as Social Fascist. With the Comintern’s change of policy towards the politics of the Popular Front, the indian communists’ relationship to the inC witnessed a reversal. The communists joined the Congress Socialist Party (CSP), which worked as the left wing of the Congress. Once they had joined, the Communist Party of india (CPi) accepted the CSP demand for the Constituent Assembly, which it had denounced two years before.1

 

in July 1937, the first kerala unit of the CPi was founded at a clandestine meeting in Calicut. The five persons present at the meeting were E.M.S. namboodiripad, krishna Pillai, n.C. Sekhar, k. Damodaran and S.V. ghate. The first four were members of the CSP in kerala; ghate was a CPi Central Committee member, who had come from Madras. Contacts between the CSP in kerala and the CPi had begun in 1935, when P. Sundarayya (Central Committee member of CPi, based in Madras at the time) met with EMS and krishna Pillai. Sundarayya and ghate visited kerala several times and met with the CSP leaders there. The contacts were facilitated through the national meetings of the Congress, CSP and All india kisan Sabha.

 

in 1936–1937, the cooperation between socialists and communists reached its peak. At the second congress of the CSP, held in Meerut in January 1936, a thesis was adopted which declared that there was a need to build ‘a united indian Socialist Party based on Marxism-Leninism’. in kerala the communists won control over the CSP, and for a brief period controlled the Congress there.2

 

While the Congress in kerala had a distinct leftward tilt, in Tamil nadu it was virtually under the conservative leadership of stalwarts such as C. Rajagopalachari and S. Satyamurti.

 

Thiruvarur became a microcosm of the play of these multiple forces. Smitten by Periyar’s radicalism and Annadurai’s eloquence, karunanidhi began devouring the entire oeuvre of Dravidian literature. Periyar had already published the Tamil version of The Communist Manifesto in 1937; a number of serious political publications were being published from various parts of the state. Periyar’s Kudiarasu (The Republic) was the key vehicle for dissemination as well as articulating new ideas and planning political mobilization towards an egalitarian society.3

 

While Muthuvelar and Anjugam were rejoicing at their son’s tireless learning, little did they realize what he was reading about. Textbooks were last on karunanidhi’s reading list. The extensive literature in politics was revelatory for young karunanidhi. For the first time, he realized that he too had two priceless possessions—his oratory and his pen. His first public speech was a clear pointer. it was a school competition. And karunanidhi decided to make a mark. He looked at some of the redeeming features of the so-called villains within Hindu mythology. karunanidhi spoke at length about the friendship between karna and Duryodhana—a friendship that cut across both caste and class.

 

The speech was well-received, and the teachers developed a new respect for their wayward student. But, what they did not know was the effort that went behind this oratory. karunanidhi worked on the text of the speech for nearly a week; rehearsed the speech frequently before the mirror; changed the words, similes and metaphors to get the rhythm that would alter the art of public speaking in Tamil forever.

 

He also created his own publication—Maanavanesan (Friend of students). A handwritten fortnightly of eight pages in demy size that dealt with a range of issues—from questioning orthodoxy to exploring the poetics of early Tamil. He and his friends would make about fifty copies of the magazine and circulate it for a modest fee that managed to just cover the cost of the paper. Years later, when i met him at Murasoli along with Kungumam editor Paavai Chandran for a short interview for the Illustrated Weekly of India, karunanidhi said the handwritten journal was a great learning experience. ‘We could not afford to make any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. A single mistake meant rewriting fifty copies. The sheer labour of correcting made me write a very clean first draft, without any corrections or overwriting,’ he recalled. He also took pains to mail a copy of the magazine to the leaders of the Self-Respect Movement.

 

But not all of karunanidhi’s icons were happy with the handwritten magazine. Bharathidasan, the well-known poet and a life-long supporter of the Dravidian Movement and karunanidhi, called it a waste of time and effort. He told karunanidhi: ‘The madness of expecting changes from handwritten publications can only be compared to the madness in thinking that development will happen due to spinning charkhas.’

 

Muthuvel Karunanidhi was ardent as a social reformer and unrelenting as an opposition leader. To read more about him, his life and his work, get your copy of Karunanidhi: A Life.

Invaluable dissenters in troubled democracies

What is the value of freedom of speech and dissent in a democracy today, and how does it affect the very pillars of this system of governance? These are difficult questions, often leaving us with no answers. T.T. Ram Mohan navigates these tensions in his book:

 

We don’t like dissenting voices and we don’t like to express dissent. Authority, in particular, doesn’t like to be questioned or challenged. And people don’t like to challenge or question authority because they know there’s a price to be paid for doing so. We are exhorted by wise men and women to ‘stand up for what is right’ and ‘speak truth to fear’. We are careful not to heed these exhortations. Our survival instincts tell us otherwise. It’s far more rewarding to stay quiet, nod assent or, better still, practise unabashed sycophancy.

 

In recent years, we have heard a great deal in India about intolerance and the supposed muffling of dissent on the part of the present government. Governments everywhere do try to stifle or manage dissent in varying degrees and in different ways. But the situation is not very different in other spheres of life, such as the corporate world, the bureaucracy, non-government organizations or even academia.

 

This is truly a sad state of affairs. Dissent is invaluable. We need dissent, whether in government or in the other institutions of society, in order to ensure accountability of those in authority. Dissent is also vital for generating ideas and solving problems. It is only through the clash of ideas that the best solutions emerge. Herd mentality or ‘group think’, as it is now called, is the surest recipe for mediocrity and underperformance. Institutions must be designed to protect and foster dissent.

 

Since dissent is all too rare, it’s worth celebrating dissenters. In this book, I profile seven of them from different walks of life. The personalities I have chosen are not necessarily the most famous or the most effective dissenters. The American linguist and intellectual, Noam Chomsky, would have easily qualified. So would the economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz. But these are celebrities whose ideas are quite well known. I have chosen to write about individuals whose dissenting ideas may not be known to many. Ideally, I would have liked to meet the individuals in person or at least interview them over the Net. Alas, I had no luck, except with Kancha Ilaiah.

 

I have not attempted to be comprehensive in my treatment of these personalities and, indeed, lay no claim to being familiar with all of their works. They are all so prolific that whole books could be written about them. Rather, I have focused on some of their works or themes just to capture the flavor of their dissent.

 

In what ways are these dissenters questioning the mainstream view? What challenges have they mounted to the establishment? How have they managed to shape public perceptions on important issues? These are the questions I have attempted to answer. The impact the dissenters in this book have had is quite modest. Roy has been able to influence policy on large dams and the rehabilitation of displaced individuals. Stone has contributed to the anti-war sentiment in the US and to the conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy. Ilaiah has raised awareness of the inequities in the Hindu order but hasn’t had much luck in stopping the Hindutva juggernaut. U.G. Krishnamurti has got people thinking seriously about spirituality and the pursuit of enlightenment. Varoufakis languishes on the margins of European politics. Irving is a virtual pariah amongst historians and in the mainstream media. Pilger’s journalism thrives mostly on the Net.

 

The value of these dissenters is to be judged by positing the counterfactual: If it were not for the likes of them, how would the establishment have behaved? These individuals may not have been able to change the dominant narrative. But they have, at times, been able to apply the brakes on it. That is a valuable contribution.

 

With the possible exception of Irving, the dissenters in this book have been professionally and financially successful. This suggests that despite the hostility of the establishment, there is room in the market economy for dissent of high quality. Indeed, as I note later, it is the celebrity status of these dissenters that acts as a protective charm and keeps them from being trampled on. The moral in today’s world seems to be that if you want to express serious dissent, make sure that you are rich and famous enough to be able to afford it.

 

Rebels With a Cause does the difficult work of explaining the real value of dissent, and therefore, a democracy. Read it here.

A ten-point look at the evolution of then RSS from 1925-2020

Since its inception in 1925, the RSS has perplexed observers with its organizational skills, military discipline and single-minded quest for influence in all walks of Indian life. Often seen as insidious and banned thrice, the pace of its growth and ideological dominance of the political landscape in the second decade of the millennium have been remarkable

Relying on original research, interviews with insiders and analysis of current events, Dinesh Narayanan’s,  The RSS and the Making of the Deep Nation traces the RSS’s roots and its pursuit for ideological dominance in a nation known for its rich diversity of thought, custom and ritual.

Read on for a look at the evolution of the RSS across a nearly a century of operations.

 

Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a Maharashtrian Brahmin from Nagpur, founded the RSS on the day of Vijaya Dashami in 1925.

The name RSS was hotly contested. Many questioned that if Hedgewar wanted to unite Hindus, how could it be called rashtriya (nation). Hedgewar prevailed. He conceived the Sangh as an independent organization that bowed to no human. It bows to a saffron flag symbolizing the Hindu nation.

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Hedgewar kept the RSS largely removed from radical involvement in the freedom movement in the 1930s though it was seen as a pro-independence organization

Yet, Hedgewar kept RSS politically aloof from V.D. Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha. Aligning with Savarkar politically would have positioned the RSS as a rival to the Congress, which was a more broad-based platform, and Hedgewar did not want to be antagonistic to the Congress of which he was a member.

The RSS || Dinesh Narayanan

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Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, who took charge in 1940 too kept the RSS largely apolitical.

Golwalkar scrupulously kept the Sangh away from agitations and took care to not upset the authorities in any way. His disinterest in politics prompted a large section, including the Bombay province sanghchalak, K.B. Limaye, to leave the organization.

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By the time Madhukar Dattatreya Deoras took over as sarsanghchalak 1973, the RSS had lost a lot of ground, but he undertook a complete turnaround by focusing on work with a ‘social content’.

After he took over, Deoras quickly began deploying the Sangh’s numerical strength and reach, strategically using it to back political movements and agitations. ‘Deoras had seen that a political mind that was distinctly Hindu in character had emerged in the polity. His motto was: seva [service], samrasta [equitability], sangharsh [struggle].

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The anti-Emergency agitation of the 70s galavanized the RSS, laying the foundation for its influential student arm –the ABVP.

The spectacular success of the anti-Emergency agitation and the consequent formation of the first, though short-lived, non-Congress government of independent India, however, demonstrated that agitational politics could be rewarding for organizational growth. There were valuable learnings. Its student arm, the ABVP, the principal agitational instrument in the early 1970s, had 1.7 lakh students and teachers in 1977.

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It could not deeply tap the Hindu political consciousness until the 1980s when it began meticulously planned agitation to mobilize the divided Hindu community around Lord Ram.

The RSS needed a symbol, something potent and with a national resonance, to rally Hindus around. It found it in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, the hero of Ramayana, an epic told and retold in practically every Hindu, and often non-Hindu, household from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

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Strangely, during the economic liberalization of the 1990s the RSS, opposed to globalization seemed more aligned with the left in opposition to its own government.

The Vajpayee government picked up where the Narasimha Rao government had left off and the RSS behaved as if it was still in opposition. It was a curious situation where the RSS opposed several aspects of the economic policy of the government, and in a sense seemed more aligned to the left than to a government of its own.

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As Narenda Modi took charge as Chief Minister in Gujarat, he slowly emerged as the man who would rescue the RSS from the doldrums of the decade of UPA government.

Over the next fourteen years, Modi, the consummate swayamsevak, emerged as someone who could seamlessly merge business and Hindu cultural supremacy, a formula that had eluded the Parivar.

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Although Narenda Modi was initially viewed with suspicion by the RSS, a letter from a friend to Mohan Bhagwat was instrumental in cementing the rift.

Mohan Bhagwat read the executive’s missive with concern. The letter hinted that the rift between the rising star of Hindutva and the RSS leadership was the creation of vested interests within the Sangh. Bhagwat immediately invited the executive to Nagpur for a detailed conversation. In a meeting that went on for hours, the executive further elaborated to Bhagwat how a few leaders within the Sangh and the BJP had created misunderstandings between the RSS top leadership and Modi.

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Destroying all opposition the Modi-led BJP won 303 seats in the Lok Sabha, twenty-one seats more than in 2014, shifting the power balance between the BJP and RSS.

Ideologically, the party and the parivar reflect the Sangh more than ever in its history. At the same time, some RSS leaders who tried to influence political decisions and appointments have been clearly told by the BJP leadership that it was not their place to decide what was in the best interests of the party.

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Soul-keepers

Since its inception in 1925, the RSS has perplexed observers with its organizational skills, military discipline and single-minded quest for influence in all walks of Indian life. Often seen as insidious and banned thrice, the pace of its growth and ideological dominance of the political landscape in the second decade of the millennium have been remarkable.

Delhi-based journalist Dinesh Narayanan is deeply interested in understanding the interplay of politics, society and business and the impact of these on our lives, both as individuals and collectively as a nation.

 

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In June 2018, the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) discussed a proposal to train a million young men and women annually to prepare them for the purpose of creating a disciplined nationalist force of youth. Titled the National Youth Empowerment Scheme (N-YES), the year-long training was proposed to be an essential qualification for enrolment in the army and paramilitary services. The scheme was aimed at instilling values of discipline, nationalism and self-esteem in young people, the Indian Express reported.  The government called the report sensationalizing but did not deny the meeting in the PMO. It said the meeting had discussed strengthening the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and the National Service Scheme (NSS).

Established in 1948, at the instance of then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and home minister, Sardar Patel, in the wake of the invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan-supported tribesmen, the NCC’s stated aim is ‘developing character, comradeship, discipline, a secular outlook, the spirit of adventure and ideals of selfless service amongst young citizens . . . and creating a pool of organized, trained and motivated youth with leadership qualities in all walks of life, who will serve the nation regardless of which career they choose’. The NSS was established to provide ‘hands on experience to young students in delivering social service’. These organizations’ values aligned with those of the RSS although the latter’s definition of ‘secular outlook’ is  different. It contends that India is a Hindu nation, and a Hindu by nature and definition can be nothing but secular. Like the NCC, the RSS also considers itself as a reserve force.

The RSS || Dinesh Narayanan

The N-YES proposal sounded very close to the RSS’s idea of creating a militaristic society. Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat has claimed that although the RSS was not a military organization, its discipline was like that of the army. While the army may require six to seven months to ready a force, the RSS could raise a trained force of its volunteers in three days.

Organizers of Hindus often rue that they are pusillanimous compared to other communities. V.D. Savarkar, one of the early ideological mentors of the RSS, wrote: ‘At the time of the first inroads of the Muhammadans, the fierce unity of faith, that social cohesion and valorous fervour which made them as a body so irresistible, were qualities in which the Hindus proved woefully wanting.’

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The RSS is a close and relevant insight into the current socio-political landscape of our country.

Sadguru Patil and Mayabhushan Nagvenkar answer questions on the life of Manohar Parrikar and the process of writing a biography

Over the last two decades, the exploits of one man, an IIT-Bombay alumnus, changed the way mainstream India looked at Goa and the political goings-on in the country’s smallest state. An Extraordinary Life traces the life and times of Manohar Parrikar through the informed voices of his relatives, friends, foes, bureaucrats and IIT contemporaries. The daily battles of a gifted individual are brought to the fore as he encounters love and vices. But more importantly, it showcases his rise in politics from the son of a grocery store owner in a nondescript town, a sanghachalak in Mapusa town, an Opposition MLA and leader, to a chief minister (on multiple occasions) and, finally, to a defence minister.

Read below an interview with the authors:

 


 

Writing a biography needs an author to write without bias. How difficult is that and how did you make sure of it?
The battle with bias is a constant one. A biography is less about relaying everything about a person’s life. It involves a process of curating a selection of events, personality traits and portrayal of relationships, so as to convey an account of one’s life, which is as accurate as it can get. The key is of course getting the selection right. It’s like a well curated menu, which has the right balance of hors d’oeuvres, main courses and desserts. You simply can’t make do with desserts alone. 

 

Could you share a moment while writing this book which made you pause in awe of Manohar Parrikar’s life?
The account in the book narrated by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary Ratnakar Lele. He talks about a young Parrikar drawing water from a well when everyone else was asleep, using a coir-rope tackle and a pitcher for four hours from 11 pm to 3 am, because an electric water pump malfunctioned at an RSS camp attended by hundreds of swayamsevaks.  After he was told about Parrikar’s feat, Lele even checked the calluses on his swayamsevak’s palms to verify the story. 

 

To make sure you cover all angles while writing biography involves extensive research; could you share with us the research process?
Manohar Parrikar as a subject wasn’t a new one for us. As journalists we had covered developments involving him and the BJP extensively for our respective media publications. There was a blind spot though; his family. We laid a lot of emphasis to weave his family, including all his siblings and children, into the biography’s narrative. Their stories helped add fresh facets of his personality and familial relationships which were rarely discussed before, to the manuscript. 
The discipline of research involved meeting up with Sadguru and drawing up multiple questionnaires for resource persons we had identified. The questionnaires would be constantly updated ahead of second, third visits. Sadguru did a bulk of the information-gathering for the biography. Every time we met, we would discuss the day’s draft which needed to be written which was my responsibility. This research was complimented with both short and long deadlines to complete the daily quota of writing and for finalising individual chapters and eventually the manuscript. 

 

Do you have any advice for writers wanting to delve into the biography genre?
If you are diligent enough, the obvious won’t be missed. But one still has to look for the scattered pearls. And sometimes, you need to know which oyster to shuck open to get to that missing pearl. 

 

The life of a politician involves tremendous sacrifice; which one incident from Manohar Parrikar’s life did you think made him rethink how to balance work and personal life?
Just to set the context right, the word ‘sacrifice’ tends to read with a positive overtone. Something about it does not seem to be in harmony with the word ‘politics’, the way we see it in India in general. As far as Parrikar’s life goes, there appeared to be an imbalance between his family life and his political mission. The latter seems to have overwhelmed his time, leaving little for the former. But there is one incident, where Parrikar, who was rarely known to indulge own sons when they were young, made time during an official trip as Defence Minister to China, to buy a toy excavator and a truck from a shopping mall, for his grandson Dhruv. 

 

Do you think there should be more representation of youth in positions of power?
For the sheer need to break the status quo of stagnant political thought, yes. 

 

 You’ve covered politics extensively over the past years; any suggestions for people of this generation who wish to join politics?
If you are looking for tips from writers vis a vis joining politics, then maybe you don’t have it in you to make it there. If you feel you are cut out for it, just take the plunge. You will either learn to swim or be cast ashore by the tide. 


 

Get your copy of An Extraordinary Life here

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