The man with many faces

He had gone from our midst long before his appointed departure, an insistent, genial, and very often brilliant presence shrivelled to the irreversible demands of time, defying expiry yet relentlessly fading away behind the high barricading of his bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi. The last most of us saw of him was in a photograph from 2015, being conferred the Bharat Ratna by Pranab Mukherjee, no more than his eyes and a lock of his fabled wavy hair visible. For quite a while now, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had existed not as himself but as a notion, become a memory in his own time, almost as if he were casting his last trick as an artist of the floating world, an orator of a long silence.
Sankarshan Thakur Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

A newer kind of violence

Human beings, like most other species, can be violent when faced with a threat that could hurt or even kill. The instinct of self-defence is common to all animals. However, human beings are the only species that kill one another not only in self-defence but also for gain or advantage. There is a long human history of war and strife on a macro scale, as well as more intense violence by an individual through murder, torture or rape. 
Anup Sinha Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Softer glow

Vajpayee's fulsome praise of Nehru on the latter's demise will be remembered both for its oratorial flourish as well as genuine admiration. It was this ability to transcend differences, political or otherwise - a trait that is, unfortunately, rare in contemporary Indian politics - that made Vajpayee the statesman that he was. Little wonder then that he excelled in keeping his flock together: he was the first non-Congress prime minister to serve a full term. There was, arguably, even a touch of Nehru in the policies of Vajpayee as prime minister. The BJP leader sought a transition of India's faltering social indices on a scale that matched that of Nehru's plans. The scheme to universalize the access to free, elementary education, one of the hallmarks of Vajpayee's reign, is an example. Again, when it came to India's restive provinces, Vajpayee preferred soothing diplomacy to brute force. He sought to untie the Gordian knot that is Kashmir by invoking an inclusive doctrine.
Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Calf love

Is Uttarakhand showing the way for the whole country? Invoking the principle of parens patriae, the Uttarakhand High Court has declared itself the legal guardian of all bovine creatures in a reported ruling which suggests that concern for the cow is uppermost. The decision is fascinating. The doctrine of parens patriae applies to those cases where the State steps in to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Evidently cows, and not any group of vulnerable people in the state, are in need of official protection through a legal principle possibly formulated with human beings in mind. But this need not be seen as an inversion of values. The high court had indicated its preferred direction on July 4, when it declared all creatures, including flying and swimming ones, legal entities. So the latest decision is just the next logical step.
Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Beyond binaries and boundaries

Soumen Mukherjee Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

In the shadow of the peak

THE HIMALAYAN ARC: JOURNEYS EAST OF SOUTH-EAST Edited by Namita Gokhale, HarperCollins, Rs 699
Sudipta Bhattacharjee Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Shedding new light on a dark past

In August 1791 began the uprising that paved the way for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Unesco commemorates this mutiny with the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition with the aim of "inscrib[ing] the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples". But retelling traumatic events can prove to be challenging, more so if the audience is young. One of the easiest ways of imparting difficult lessons is perhaps through stories. Yet, as two recent picture books about slavery show, this is no easy task either. Both A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington have a similar premise - American slaves in the kitchen - and the objections against both are much the same too - the depiction of the slaves as happy and, more importantly, as smiling.
Srimoyee Bagchi Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Travel as an escape

• LESS (Abacus, Rs 499) by Andrew Sean Greer, at its core, is about a man trying to escape his feelings, his failures and himself. But like all great novels it says many things in the course of a middle-aged gay man's frenetic travelling across the globe. On the one hand, Greer exposes the blind spots of the white gay experience by exploring the "plights" of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, past-his-prime "twink". At the same time, it is a witty and hilarious lampooning of the literary world - the insecurity of authors and the vanity of the self-absorbed industry in the face of its growing irrelevance in most people's lives.

Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Risky taste; Perilous trend; Political colour; Parting shot

Risky taste

• Sir - None can account for the quality of the raw material used to make s... | Read»

Perilous trend

• Sir - The Supreme Court has the authority to condemn the actions of the g... | Read»

Political colour

• Sir - One fails to understand why the Mughalsarai railway station has bee... | Read»

Parting shot

• Sir - The fact that the 96-year-old, Karthiyani Amma, appeared for the li... | Read»

Aug 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Lessons from the past

Over the next year or two, we could witness the emergence of a rancid, angry Britain: a society riven by domestic divisions and economic difficulties, let down by its ruling classes, fetid with humiliation and resentment. Any such country is a danger both to itself and to its neighbours.
Timothy Garton Ash Aug 16, 2018 00:00 IST

A spectacle of amazing resilience

From the Indian perspective, judging the merits of Donald Trump's foreign policy is problematic, as it has elements that favour our interests (such as recognizing China's challenge to American power and steps to curb its ambitions) but also expose us to unwelcome consequences. Trump takes bold initiatives, such as opening dialogues with North Korea and Russia. These make good sense but also raise questions because they are highly personalized, lack adequate preparation and are prematurely pronounced by the president as hugely successful contrary to any realistic appraisal. The stakes in both cases for the United States of America are high, but if the initiatives fail, Trump's options are unclear. Given his volatile nature, would he revert to war threats against North Korea and impose additional sanctions against Russia?
Kanwal Sibal Aug 16, 2018 00:00 IST


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