Wednesday, July 28, 2004

new book: the places in between

First-time author Rory Stewart roars out of the gate with The Places in Between, an account of his walk from Kabul to Herat in the aftermath of the fall of the Taliban. This one's definitely worth a read--as I explain in my review of the book in this week's Far Eastern Economic Review--but also serves as a reminder of Stewart's terrific essay in Granta 78. You want to know why the Afghan polls are destined to fail? Stewart's your man.

Monday, July 26, 2004

comics: off to save mumbai

That's right, loyal readers. Spiderman India hit the big leagues, with an even trimmer version of my story appearing in the US edition of Newsweek.

stop the presses

Sometimes the foreign press does something that you just have to serve up for general ridicule. This week, it's the Christian Science Monitor with its news flash that India's "cultural elite" has revived a muckraking magazine--yep, Tehelka. I thought it was bad enough when the NY Times weighed in on Tarun Tejpal's persecution following the bribes-on-tape scandal a good nine months after the fact, but that was (arguably) news.

the hindu right's sexual obsessions

I've long criticized the foreign press for ignoring the outrages of India's Hindu fanatics--which I see as more evidence that the West has a blinding preoccupation with fundamentalist Islam. Fortunately, the same studied ignorance is not true in the academic world, where many western scholars have observed and understood the dangers associated with saffron fanaticism. Case inpoint: this week, the soft-academic magazine Boston Review has published a fascinating essay by scholar Martha C. Nussbaum that investigates why the sexual torture of women was the focus of the violence in Gujarat in 2002. With convincing logic--though some of the language had a layperson like myself creased--Nussbaum links the Hindu fanatics' obsession with the "unclean" female bodies of Muslims to colonial law, German fascism, and Freudian psychology. Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

call for comments on reservations

Dear readers,

I've been assigned to write an article on the potential business implications of the extension of caste-based reservations to the private sector. For this piece, I'll be speaking with executives from some of India's top companies to learn about their current hiring practices, as well as their thoughts on how reservations might affect their future operations.  I'll also talk to some advocates of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Caste workers, as well as some staunch opponents of these kinds of employment quotas.

But these "representatives" don't always represent the feelings of real people, especially real people who aren't terribly interested in politics and already have good jobs with respected Indian or international companies.  That's why I'm sending out this call for comments, if anybody's out there.  What's the real dope on reservations?  Have they worked at all?  What problems have they caused?  Is caste-based discrimination still a problem in Indian life?  Did reservations rob you of your chance for a good job?  Or, on the contrary, did reservations save your family from a life of poverty and humiliation?  Are there qualified SC/ST and OBC candidates out there to fill jobs in the private sector, whether in the service industry or in manufacturing?  Would quotas simply force companies to bloat their work force with unqualified personnel, or could they find SC/ST or OBC workers with the education, skills and brains to do the job?  If so, why can't they get these jobs without quotas?  If not, does that show that the reservation policies in education have failed to end the legacy of discrimination?  Why and how?

Monday, July 19, 2004

a new feed

Delhibelly is now available in xml format, thanks to a reader who alerted me that the RSS feeder I was using was not updating the feed regularly. You can now direct your blog reading software to the following feed: .

a multicultural web

Spiderman dons a dhoti and fights a Hindu demon in a new Indian version of the popular comic, writes Jason Overdorf in this week's Newsweek International.