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3: Chidanand Rajghatta author of Gauri Lankesh and the Age of Unreason
3: Chidanand Rajghatta author of Gauri Lankesh and the Age of Unreason
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Available Episodes

EPISODE 262

"The mango truly is a natural obsession, like cricket or Bollywood or politics. Every Indian is an expert on the mango. Perhaps there's no other country in the world which has a co ... Read more

"The mango truly is a natural obsession, like cricket or Bollywood or politics. Every Indian is an expert on the mango. Perhaps there's no other country in the world which has a comparable relationship with a fruit. But the excitement of the mango doesn't come from the fruit. It's an ancient thing and the reason the mango is so central to all matters of culture is because settlements across most of India had mango groves close by. They were not planted just for fruit. Fruit was one of the benefits. Primarily, the mango grove was infrastructure. It was where all manner of communal activities happened. That's the reason the mango was central. In India's many calendars, spring was the beginning of the new year and the mango was central to all spring festivals too. That's the reason it is so deeply enmeshed in our psyche. Because we've become deracinated and lost connection with all that, now the only discussion is about the fruit" - Sopan Joshi, author, Mangifera Indica; A Biography of the Mango talks to Manjula Narayan about everything from the loss of mango groves to creating flour from mango kernels, and Jesuit and Mughal experiments in horticulture. Read more

EPISODE 261

"In the Indian-Chinese context, food is one of the battlegrounds. It's often the first thing that triggers parents of the couple. Both Indian and Chinese societies are patriarchal ... Read more

"In the Indian-Chinese context, food is one of the battlegrounds. It's often the first thing that triggers parents of the couple. Both Indian and Chinese societies are patriarchal so the girl is considered as property and she is the one who has to face the most difficulties. However, in general, perhaps because of the single-child policy, women in China are quite empowered and their participation in the workforce is much higher than that for women in India. Much as we would like to think that these kinds of relationships break cultural barriers, break stereotypes, new types of stereotypes may also be formed. In the end, though, so much of our differences are individual and not attributable to stereotypes" - Shivaji Das and Yolanda Yu, co-authors of 'Rebels, Traitors, Peacemakers' talk to Manjula Narayan about love and conflict within Indian-Chinese marriages. Read more

EPISODE 260

"Last year, when Anita Mani of Indian Pitta Books contacted me and asked if we could update Snakeman (1989), which was about Rom Whitaker and his exploits with reptiles and about o ... Read more

"Last year, when Anita Mani of Indian Pitta Books contacted me and asked if we could update Snakeman (1989), which was about Rom Whitaker and his exploits with reptiles and about our life after we got married, I had to laugh a little bit. I said, "You know, it's a bit odd for a divorced wife to be singing the praises of her ex husband even though we continue to be colleagues and work very closely together because we are both committed to the projects that we started". Rom said there is a lot to write about and we have done a lot together after the divorce so why don't you write about all that. So the idea was to rewrite parts of Snakeman and then add the diaries of the years after that and up to the present. It's a valuable account of the conservation projects we've been involved with in the last 20 years. It was difficult on many levels. When you've lived with someone and been their wife for 20 years and then you are something else, there's a constant renegotiation of the tone. I was very happy when a friend said you've got the tone right. I still admire Rom - he's done so much for conservation in this country. I felt the follow up should also be written from my perspective. It's probably the most difficult writing I've ever done" - Zai Whitaker, author, Scaling Up talks to Manjula Narayan about her life at Chennai's Crocodile Bank, a crocodile called Jaws III, the Irular tribe, why snakes are important, and the many projects she is juggling at the moment. Read more

EPISODE 259

"The history of drinking spices is older than the history of drinking tea, which is more recent in India. Drinking spices in hot water and in milk comes from the Ayurveda. As to w ... Read more

"The history of drinking spices is older than the history of drinking tea, which is more recent in India. Drinking spices in hot water and in milk comes from the Ayurveda. As to when the marriage of these two happened, that's lost in history somewhere. In the West, people's palates are getting more accustomed to spices so there are more chai spice brands coming about and a lot of the blends are getting richer in spice. About the recipes, I really wanted to come up with ones that were simple to make, simple to bake. The idea was to put spices in everything. When you spice up cakes, they taste amazing to then why not put in the whole concoction of the tea? Masala chai cake makes so much sense," says Mira Manek, author, The Book of Chai that includes a history of chai drinking in India, stories of her own family's migrations from Gujarat to East Africa and the UK, and a range of recipes of regular Indian teatime favourites like chilli cheese toast and bhajias as well as fusion treats like Parle G cheesecake, chai fudge, and of course, Masala chai cake. Read more

EPISODE 258

"The general greater acceptance of reservations in India as compared to the US comes from the acceptance of a karmic world view, the principle that you can't escape the consequence ... Read more

"The general greater acceptance of reservations in India as compared to the US comes from the acceptance of a karmic world view, the principle that you can't escape the consequences of your actions. Therefore, if your actions have been evil, then it is better to own up and do something to correct it and make amends. You find this idea of the karmic in the Manusmriti too. Yes, there's also a lot in the Manusmriti about jatis and marriage and caste, which is not appealing to a modern mind. But at least 40 smritis have been known to exist. The Manusmriti was just the one chosen by the British when they were looking at Hindu law. The smritis were a way of updating legislature, as it were, with changing times. It wasn't set in stone and there's an awareness within the tradition about this. In the end, we have to apply our judgement to both tradition and modernity." Arvind Sharma, author, From Fire to Light; Rereading the Manusmrti talks to Manjula Narayan about the amorphousness of religion in India, Ambedkar and Buddhism, the text's pronouncements about women and oppressed castes, and the context in which the Manusmriti was written. Read more

EPISODE 257

"The problem of studying history is that we often think of history from today's point of view. When we look at history we must always look at the physical reality that existed at t ... Read more

"The problem of studying history is that we often think of history from today's point of view. When we look at history we must always look at the physical reality that existed at that particular time. The main reality of Nehru's time wasn't the threat from Pakistan or China or India's relations with the Soviet Union or the US. The biggest physical reality was hunger. Food is a strategic commodity as we see even now in Gaza and Ukraine. The Indian people did not create the Indian food crisis. It was a creation of the Allied war effort. Food had to be acquired. Nehru tried very hard to deal with the food security issue and reached out to many countries. India's first diplomats were actually food diplomats. This was the reality of that time" - Kallol Bhattacherjee, author, 'Nehru's First Recruits; The Diplomats Who Built Independent India's Foreign Policy' talks to Manjula Narayan about his compelling study of the Indian Foreign Service, the many individuals from varied backgrounds who formed part of it in the immediate post Independence period, the first evacuation of Indians during an international crisis, the evolution of the idea of Panchsheel, the 1962 war with China and the birth of Indian realism, the role of stenographers in the IFS, the battle of Surabaya that could have had an impact on Indian independence, and the many dynamics that were crashing against each other in the early days of the Indian republic. Read more

EPISODE 256

"It's very easy to criticise the BJP government or the Mamta government for censorship. What we don't realise is we are doing the same thing on social media without allowing a cert ... Read more

"It's very easy to criticise the BJP government or the Mamta government for censorship. What we don't realise is we are doing the same thing on social media without allowing a certain kind of freedom of speech that is in disagreement with what we feel. But it is disagreement that produces culture! Amartya Sen said we are argumentative Indians. In the India we are in now, we are supposed to be agreementative Indians. We have to always agree with each other. And we have forgotten that consensus will never produce any philosophy." - Sumana Roy, author, 'Provincials; Postcards from the Peripheries' talks to Manjula Narayan about being a proud provincial, the difficulty of swimming against the current, bricolage as a literary device, the use of ossified jargon in academia, English literature departments forsaking beauty for the sociological approach, and the reductionism inherent in labelling writing. Read more

EPISODE 255

"The book is about my story as somebody of mixed heritage. In many ways it's just the story of somebody trying to figure out who they are in a world that likes to separate and divi ... Read more

"The book is about my story as somebody of mixed heritage. In many ways it's just the story of somebody trying to figure out who they are in a world that likes to separate and divide. the story of the book is about how, through discovering the origins of ideas, through discovering history, I discover a new way of thinking. So then it became easy for me to reconcile my mixed identity with my Englishness. Because actually, to be English is to be mixed. Then suddenly, it made sense. Identity is constantly in flux; it's an process to be engaged with constantly" - Jassa Ahluwalia, author, Both Not Half talks to Manjula Narayan about the experience of being both Punjabi and English in the UK, not changing his name when he became an actor, the many instances of mixed race actors passing for white in old Hollywood, Sikhism, nationalism, feeling a sense of kinship with transpeople, and being determined to change how the entertainment industry in the West represents people of mixed heritage. Read more

EPISODE 254

"If you look at late 19th century photographs or sketches of Delhi, it is empty and treeless. It's a historical fact that the city's greenery has come with the development of urban ... Read more

"If you look at late 19th century photographs or sketches of Delhi, it is empty and treeless. It's a historical fact that the city's greenery has come with the development of urban settlements... My favourite Delhi garden is Sundar Nursery because there are always new trees to discover there" – Swapna Liddle and Madhulika Liddle, co-authors of Gardens of Delhi talk to Manjula Narayan about the capital's wonderful green oases from Lodhi Garden and Qudsia Bagh to Buddha Jayanti Park and The Garden of Five Senses, among many others. Read more

EPISODE 253

"Social comedy usually has a very short span because it gets dated. For people to laugh at the same silly jokes, for social comedy to survive means that it's hit some enduring spot ... Read more

"Social comedy usually has a very short span because it gets dated. For people to laugh at the same silly jokes, for social comedy to survive means that it's hit some enduring spot. I was trying to write a literary novel. It was a take on the Gothic novel and was about the relationship between Paro and Priya. In a way, Paro was Rebecca (in the eponymous novel by Daphe du Maurier), the beautiful and ruthless woman, and Priya was the archetypal counterpart, the woman who is more discreet and strategic perhaps, one who is more cunning and at the same time entranced by the freedom that someone like Paro represents. When it first came out, it got great reviews outside India but the Indian literary establishment spat at it. It took me by surprise how much they hated the book. I realise now that they hated it because it did not fit their idea of the exalted role of English literature. This was not the language of the rulers; it was the language of the users, the people who use English every day. They just didn't get it." - Namita Gokhale talks to Manjula Narayan about her first novel, Paro; Dreams of Passion, that's just been issued as a Penguin Modern Classic Read more

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