Chandrahas Choudhury

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Shakespeare’s Jacques divided life into the seven ages of man, and Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock measured his life in coffee spoons. But the soccer fan knows there are only two ages of man: life before and after football. And the best measure of life is by the four-year beat of World Cups. From the memories of my own life in fandom, therefore, I propose today an alternative schema -- the Seven World Cups of Youth.

That would be the football fan’s dramatic 24-year period between childhood and middle age, bookended and syncopated by World Cups. It is not until middle age, when one’s awareness of time deepens, that the structure under these memories suddenly emerges and the World Cup becomes a measure of more than just footballing progress.…  Seguir leyendo »

The word "raga" is central to Indian classical music. A raga is a series of notes played over and over in a sequence of ascending speed, often producing a mood of forbidding austerity, philosophical detachment or otherworldliness. This week, the young Indian politician and prime ministerial hopeful Rahul Gandhi, recently nicknamed "RaGa" by the Indian news media, proved himself firmly in tune with this tradition during his long-awaited debut television interview. For the 80-minute span of the interview, and for days afterward, Gandhi had the whole country discussing his breathtaking and mystifying rehearsal of political notes in all kinds of sequences, rooted in a reason that could only be musical.…  Seguir leyendo »

The economist Amartya Sen is -- along with writer Arundhati Roy -- the most prominent public intellectual in India’s English-language public sphere. Even at 80, Sen continues to publish new work around his favorite themes of welfare, human capability, social security and choice theory. He’s also closely involved with a project to set up a new university on the site of Nalanda in Bihar, an ancient center of Buddhist education.

Sen has always been known as a man of the left. But last week, while delivering the keynote address at the Jaipur Literature Festival, one of India's most important forums of literary and intellectual debate, Sen spoke for many when he said that despite his own views, his wish for India was to have “a strong and flourishing right-wing party.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Could the word “Khobragade” soon become a part of the English language?

"Khobragade (kho-braa-guh-dey): Noun. A person whose situation or predicament exposes the gulf in understanding between two cultures. Also, one who seeks relief from a charge under one set of laws by recourse to another, more contentious, legal frame or emotional appeal. Also: The tendency of human institutions, or states, to become hopelessly drawn into and enmeshed in a relatively trivial dispute at the expense of larger matters, leading to outcomes that please neither party, except to the extent that they displease the other side".

That might be just one of the long-term effects across language, law, diplomacy and cross-cultural relations of the Dec.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Feb. 1, the Nobel Committee will close nominations for the 2014 Peace Prize. The list of eligible nominees (there were 259 last year) will be huge, partly because the question of what constitutes enduring work for peace allows for so many convincing answers. The Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai was strongly tipped last year, and will have many backers again. The names of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden will be considered. Even Vladimir Putin appears to have become a contender.

Curiously, although India is often associated with ideas of peace and tolerance, no Indian has ever been awarded the Peace Prize.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian democracy took a turn toward ancient Athens this week after the Aam Aadmi Party (“Common Man’s Party”) went to the people a second time in an attempt to resolve a political dilemma. The fledgling political outfit that earlier this month won 30 percent of the vote and 40 percent of the seats in elections in the city-state of Delhi brought up the notion of “direct democracy” in defense of its decision to hold a referendum in Delhi on the question of whether it should make a bid to form a minority government in the capital.

In its manifesto, the AAP has borrowed from Brazil’s Porto Alegre model of local government by popular consent.…  Seguir leyendo »

India and the U.S. have become embroiled in a rapidly escalating diplomatic imbroglio that is reminiscent of Cold War theatricals yet lacks even the perverse logic of those standoffs. The crisis was set off by the sudden arrest and temporary detention in New York on Dec. 11 of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian deputy consul general, on the charge of “visa fraud and false statements in connection with household employee’s visa application.”

Her offense -- a somewhat cynical one, to be sure, but almost certainly not limited to her alone -- was to have brought to the U.S. on an A-3 visa a maid from India (which requires the signing of a contract between employer and employee that guarantees the payment of at least the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

It isn't every day that the most interesting foreign news in Indian newspapers is published on the "Tenders" pages. But there it was one day in October: a notice from the Central Public Works Department of Delhi, inviting applications from Indian companies for desks, tables and -- more strangely -- "chairs of different types including built-in cupboards," to supply an under-construction "House of the People."

That house of the people is the new parliament building of Afghanistan, which the Indian government is constructing in Kabul as a gift to the Afghan people for a crucial moment in their history: the 2015 parliamentary elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made his last visit to China as India's head of state, a prolonged exercise in great-power pageantry and platitudinousness. After all, we are allegedly living in the Asian century, though we may have to wait a little longer for these two countries to jointly turn the balance of power in the world eastward.

In Beijing, Singh did his bit to keep to the Asian century script. "More than ever before, the world needs both countries to prosper together," he said. "What is at stake is the future of India and China; indeed, what may be at stake is the future of our region and our world."…  Seguir leyendo »

India Sees Rupee Signs as Myanmar Opens

Earlier this month, Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, hosted the World Economic Forum. The event confirmed the unexpectedly swift reassimiliation into the global community of a country that, until five years ago, had remained walled off by the military junta in power since 1962. Now that the regime is at long last liberalizing, and inviting foreign investment to change the landscape of one the poorest regions in Southeast Asia, Myanmar could make enormous strides by taking advantage of its geographical location, with India to the east and China to the west.

Crucially for India, Myanmar's new openness to the world would mean a release not just of that country's dormant energies -- and a spike in India-Myanmar trade -- but also a new lease of life for India's desperately poor northeastern flank.…  Seguir leyendo »

In March, I spent a few days in Koraput, a vast, hilly, sparsely populated district in the state of Odisha in the east of India. Few people not native to the region ever visit there: It is almost exclusively known for its poverty and backwardness and has become a kind of emblem of benightedness, the dismal antithesis of an emerging India.

The region, however, has some of the richest biodiversity and is also one of the most distinctive areas demographically (this has something to do with its poverty). More than 60 percent of the people of Koraput are "adivasis," or tribals, indigenous peoples who enjoy (in theory, at least) special privileges under the Indian Constitution, where they are referred to as "Scheduled Tribes."…  Seguir leyendo »

India´s Economy Leaves Job Growth in the Dust

For the last two decades, India has had one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Even in recent years, when the global recession and complacent policymaking have slowed progress, growth has remained a healthy 5 percent to 6 percent.

Recent surveys of employment patterns in the workforce, though, point to the disturbing fact that rapid growth over the last decade hasn't been accompanied by a spurt in jobs. If anything, the word "jobless" needs to be used as a caveat prefacing the words "Indian growth story" to better understand the nature of this country's triumphs and failures.

Recent studies have shown that in the five years between 2005 and 2010 fewer than 3 million new jobs were added to the economy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Narendra Modi, 62, has been the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat for almost 12 years, and will almost certainly run for prime minister in next year's general elections.

It was an incident of no small consequence, then, when Modi's invitation to deliver, via videoconference, the keynote address at the University of Pennsylvania's annual Wharton India Economic Forum was abruptly rescinded earlier this week, after Indian-American academics circulated a petition criticizing his human-rights record.

And therein lies a tale of two extremes. Gujarat under Modi has an impressive record of economic growth, infrastructure development and delivery of public goods such as primary education.…  Seguir leyendo »