Photo by Adarsh Kummur on Unsplash

Yesterday, my teacher
became a tree
so I may learn
how to face the wind
with the fortitude of fractal grace.

Tomorrow, my teacher
says she shall be femininity
showing me how
my body can strain
the tides of attachment
into a pool of serenity.

Last week, my teacher
was a group of children
interrupted by wonder
in the middle of a game,
examining a compelling history
singing within a mound of dirt.

Every day, my teacher
is willing to undergo
the pain of metamorphosis
solely so that I should learn.
All she asks in return
is that I always recognise her face.

Mr. Shanbhag at his desk in Premier Bookshop — a still from the film “Mr. Shanbag’s Shop” by 100 and One Rupee Productions; Screengrab from YouTube

In India, we are in the midst of a particularly virulent second surge of the Covid-19 pandemic and I am yet to meet an Indian who does not have a personal story to tell of heart-breaking loss wreaked by the pandemic, whether it be close family or friend, professional colleague, or distant acquaintance. Most often, it is a private and personal sense of loss, but at times the loss has a public dimension where you feel that, more than a person, an important era of the collective life of your city has evaporated. I was shaken, in this latter sense…

Violence in Burdwan District of West Bengal. Photo Credit: PTI

I am seeing a string of social media posts asserting that the victory of the Trinamool Congress in the West Bengal election is solely due to the massive Muslim vote they received as a result of their appeasement of this community. Aware that the percentage of Muslims in West Bengal is far higher than the national average and there are three districts in the state with a Muslim majority, the posts claim this election, and the post-poll violence that followed, are portents of West Bengal moving toward becoming a Muslim majority state, with a consequent forced exodus of Hindus from…

A Makeshift Cremation Ground in Delhi. Photo Credit: Reuters / Danish Siddiqui

When put together with innumerable tales of death and suffering amid a collapsed healthcare system that just cannot cope with the Covid caseload, photographs of fires in overloaded cremation sites offer a heart-wrenching metaphor for the hell that India is in right now. How do we get out of here? And to address that question, it is natural to ask how we got here in the first place.

There is sufficient evidence that the current government bears great responsibility for this tragedy:

Photo Credit: Reuters / Danish Siddiqui

The Three Farm Bills
For several weeks, public attention has been on ongoing farmer protests against three laws on agriculture passed in September 2020 by the Union Government of India. On 26 January 2021, violence that accompanied a Republic Day protest became a source of controversy, even though major farm unions behind the protest denounced the violence saying its perpetrators were not from the core of their movement.

General public sympathy for farmers, ingrained since years through public slogans like ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, has made it difficult for the government to crack down on dissent in the same manner…

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

For the purpose of this discussion, let me record the following assertions: I live by a spiritual faith that gives meaning and purpose to my life; this faith belongs to a spiritual tradition that is thousands of years old; and the context that once sustained that tradition appears to no longer hold sway, which puts the unchanged continuity of that tradition in doubt.

From this, it appears that I face a fundamental existential threat. The question arises on what I should do to protect my faith. An immediate reaction tends to be that it is the changing context that is…

Gandhi, during the Dandi Salt March, 1930 (Source:

Yesterday, I gave an online lecture to an audience of students, their teachers, and other panellists, about a recent initiative of India’s government where there is cause for concern on adherence to democratic ideals and rule of law (I do not want to get into that issue here, so I will not mention specifics). Toward the end of the session, I noticed a comment made by one student in the chat box that I could not address before time ran out on the session. The comment expressed a sentiment that I have heard many express, often enough that it warrants…

Drawing by Dhiru Thadani

Reflecting on the experience thus far of the Covid-19 pandemic, I propose seven lessons we must learn from it for the world we need to build after it is over.

1. Markets cannot be the primary backbone:

Ever since the late 20th century, the democratic world has largely reorganised around a set of neoliberal beliefs that posit: (i) the self-organising capability of markets is more efficient than any form of centralised control; (ii) government embodies centralised control, making it inherently inefficient, and therefore; (iii) the state must retreat into a minimal role that leaves as much as possible to markets. This logic is even extended to social…

On a recent discussion on Facebook, a friend raised the question of whether India was intended to be a secular country since independence or not, given that (i) the word ‘secular’ was never part of the original constitution; (ii) this omission was a deliberate choice by the framers of the constitution, and (iii) the word only found its way into the constitution in the 42nd Amendment promulgated by the Indira Gandhi government in 1976, a time when her government was a dictatorship and constitutional rights were effectively under suspension.

To understand this issue, you have to go back to the…

In his address to the nation on 24th March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a lockdown was a welcome sign that the government is ready for decisive action to combat the coronavirus. Let us hope that it has its intended effect and will help to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus.

But on many counts, the speech fell far short of what was needed. He did not delineate any framework by which it will be ensured that people can go out and purchase food and other essential commodities. In the absence of such an announcement…

Prem Chandavarkar

Practicing architect in Bangalore, India, who also writes, lectures and blogs on architecture, urbanism, art, cultural studies, politics, philosophy & education

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