Photo: Harikrishna Katragadda
POLITICS AND ECONOMY
Much of my political writing has appeared in the form of opinion pieces: in the New York Times, on the UN’s inaction on Sri Lanka; in Foreign Affairs, on the BJP’s myopic mid-life crisis; in Foreign Policy, on the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India; in the Far Eastern Economic Review, in the form of reviews of books by Kishore Mahbubani, Martha Nussbaum, and Adrian Levy & Catherine Scott-Clark; in The New Republic, on bad foreign correspondence from India.
Reported pieces for Mint include articles from Pilibhit and Sriperumbudur, key constituencies during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections; from Bhilwara, assessing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act on the ground; from Varanasi, in a three-part series examining the failure of the government’s Ganga Action Plan to clean up the river; and from various cities, on the economics of Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, of the Indian Premier League auctions, of comic-book art, and of vernacular book-selling. For Caravan, I wrote a long profile of Subramanian Swamy.
I also covered the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, as well as the first anniversary of those attacks; some of those articles can be found here, and a piece for The New Republic blog here.
CULTURE AND SOCIETY
As a part of a thesis project at Columbia — later published as an article in The National — I profiled the Patuas, a rural Bengali community of artists and musicians who have moved from their traditional depictions of the epics towards telling the stories of Godzilla, Titanic and 9/11. In the Huffington Post and Newsweek, I wrote about the Indian Premier League and what it told us about today’s India. For Caravan, I profiled Lalit Modi, the founder and impresario-in-exile of the IPL.
For Mint, I tracked down the sole pond in Bihar from which all shehnai reeds are made, following along the way the stories of the instrument’s decline and of Ustad Bismillah Khan’s early youth; told the story of Woodstock, 40 years later, from the unique vantage point of Ravi Shankar’s stand-in tambura player (Hendrix chases chickens!); met an unlikely YouTube star in west Delhi; asked questions of the Indian family that asks the best questions; profiled the people who make your potato chips taste like sour cream and onion. In Caravan, I followed up spam real-estate text messages to investigate the properties behind them. In Port magazine, I wrote about Thums Up, India’s favourite soft drink [PDF]. In Conde Nast Traveller India, I wrote about mahseer fishing on the Ramganga river in Corbett National Park.
I also wrote Raagtime, a fortnightly column on Carnatic music, for nearly three years for Mint Lounge — a column that is less about the technical aspects of the music and more about the process of enjoying and listening to it. Some examples are here, here, here and here; the entire index can be found here. An obituary of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, for the Wall Street Journal Asia, is here.
As a subset of my writing interests, I am fond of using journalism as an entry into the histories of people and communities. My pieces on the Patuas and on the shehnai are examples, as are some of the essays in Following Fish. Others include an article in Mint published soon after Norman Borlaug’s death, visiting the very first plot of land in India where the Green Revolution’s trial seeds were planted, and rediscovering the near-desperate, famine-struck climate in which the country turned to Borlaug’s seeds; and a profile of the family (now divided) that invented the commercial clay tandoor. I write the Long View column for the New York Times’ India Ink blog, which looks at current events through the lens of history. A full index of my Long View pieces is here.
A selection of my book reviews: In the New York Times, of Siddhartha Deb’s The Beautiful and the Damned; in The Daily, of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers; in the Guardian, of Llewelyn Morgan’s The Buddhas of Bamiyan and of Pico Iyer’s The Man Within My Head; in Mint, of Bhairavi: The Global Impact of Indian Music by Peter Lavezzoli; in The Hindu, of Better by Atul Gawande, The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien, Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski; in the Far Eastern Economic Review, of Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux, Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.