Shiv Visvanathan


Shiv Visvanathan

Gujarat and 3 dastango

In the annals of storytelling, a lot has been written about the survivor.Survival is always a story of courage, of vulnerability. Survivors hold on to memories like warm pebbles, squeezing them to feel they are still there, still real.

The availability of intolerance

One of the strange things about democratic India is that democracy has become a label which tells us little about its contents.

An old-fashioned look at cricket

Years ago, the psychologist Ashis Nandy observed that cricket as a game was an Indian invention accidentally discovered by the English. There was something about cricket that made it a national obsession. It was not just a sport but a way of life. Like Hinduism, cricket was a framework of values. However, IPL-5 as an event has caused ripples about the nature of cricket that I want to explore.

The many flavours of goodness

As children, we waited everyday for the newspaper. It was a magic well creating a circle of conversation. With my father, it even became an ethical and philosophical exercise.

Public policy in a knowledge society

Imagine you are a citizen racing across newspapers rapid fire.

The legend of Paan Singh Tomar

It is not often that Hindi movie creates a new myth out of the fragments of history. It is not often that Hindi film goes beyond the sentimental and create a lean fragment of a different era. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar is a tribute to two genres of the social — the dacoit as rebel and the other unacclaimed hero, our forgotten sportsmen, especially our athletes.
At a time when cricket feels empty or hysterical, when cricketing legends even from small towns feel fat and restless, this is a movie about a steeple chase runner, a national champion, eventually shot down in the ravines of Morena. The sportsman as a hero has never been the toast of Indian history.

The power of dissent

Politics in India is full of ironies played out at several levels. At one level, we are watching the Uttar Pradesh election unravel itself as a festival of democracy. At another, the very politicians we are voting for are threatening our fundamental freedoms of speech, information and knowledge. It makes one realise that electoral
politics cannot be the sole measure of democracy.
Let us take a roll call of events. The human resources development ministry seeks to control networks, especially social networking sites, which are disrespectful of politicians and communities. It demands a censorship of these structures violating our freedoms in the very name of politics.

Godhra, meet me at Gulberg

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Godhra massacre in Gujarat and of the riots that followed. The questions I want to ask are simple: What do we commemorate? What do we remember?

Ascetic prince, dalit duchess

Uttar Pradesh is not just a geography, a state having the largest number of parliamentary seats, it is also a metaphor for political style. Its political characters are larger than life and none is larger than Mayawati.
Mayawati is a creation of electoral democracy and its arithmetic. She was raised within the electoral numeracy of Kanshi Ram, where alignments were pragmatic. She has had alliances with the BJP and the Congress, and yet as an electoral Machiavelli, she has a permanent interest in herself. She understands politics as markets and knows that she controls the formidable dalit market.

The emptiness of literary protest

The Jaipur Literature Festival saw the long shadow of The Satanic Verses displace any other controversy or literary debate. Four authors read out sections from the book to protest against Salman Rushdie’s absence, triggered in part by a threat to his life.
The spectacle of the reading created an empty drama that left me oddly dissatisfied. Let me be clear. The ban on Rushdie’s work is not justified. Freedom of speech and creativity are vital issues when the state like a giant termite is eating up our freedom. But as writers, we have to ask what our responsibility for the riots or deaths that might follow the lifting of the censorship, is. I think Rushdie is a fabulous writer. But he was unfair to himself when he saw the protest at the festival as a defence of his work.

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I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.