India Insight

Book Talk – Ten years on, Chetan Bhagat says better prepared to face critics

Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore him. If you’re in India, the chances are that there’s at least one of his novels on your bookshelf or one of his columns in the newspaper in front of you on the table. If you still haven’t escaped from him, there are tons of interviews lately like this one showing up in front of you.

Once dismissed as persona non grata by literary critics for being a non-writer, Chetan Bhagat is India’s bestselling author to date, according to his publisher.

Through his plain prose, the banker-turned-writer has touched India’s young people, who see echoes of their lives in his stories of campus life, call centres, cricket, entrepreneurship, communal violence, inter-caste marriage, and love.

Ten years on as a professional writer, Bhagat, 40, says he is better prepared to face criticism. “I can dispassionately talk about it. It cannot bother me enough to disrupt me. But in the initial stages there were real moments of doubt,” he told India Insight ahead of his latest book’s launch in Delhi.

“Half Girlfriend” is a novel about a timid, non-English speaking Bihari boy’s journey in a world dominated by “English types”, and who “half-romances” a rich Delhi girl.

India at the 2014 Asian Games

Gold medallist Mary Kom reacts during the medal ceremony for the women's fly (48-51kg) boxing competition at the Seonhak Gymnasium during the 17th Asian Games in Incheon October 1, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

India sent a contingent of 516 athletes to this year’s Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. India finished eighth on the medal table at the 2006 Asiad and improved to sixth in Guangzhou four years ago, bagging 65 medals – their best ever haul.

To see Indian athletes in action in South Korea, click here

Here is a look at this year’s winners so far. Full coverage here

(Follow Shashank Chouhan on Twitter @shashankchouhan | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

Movie Review: Daawat-e-Ishq

“Daawat-e-Ishq” is one of those infuriating films that seem to go on for ever, getting more monotonous by the minute. For a movie that is supposedly about food, there is surprisingly little of it on screen.

Instead, director Habib Faisal chooses to populate his movie with asinine plotlines, a lead pair whose romance is stone-cold, and characters who are neither funny nor interesting.

Gulrez aka Gullu is a feisty shoe salesgirl who dreams of studying fashion design in New York and marrying the perfect man with the perfect American accent. Her father has more modest ambitions for his only daughter. He wants to get her married, even if it means having to pay dowry. But when several suitors reject Gulrez because the dowry is deemed inadequate, she hits upon what she thinks is a brilliant plan to get the marriage monkey off her back, and fund her American education.

Davis Cup: Serbia showcases the art of winning

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

“I had nothing to lose.” It sounded quite innocuous when Filip Krajinovic, 22, said this to the media after winning his match against Somdev Devvarman at the Davis Cup in Bangalore on Friday, but it’s a lethal attitude. “Nothing to lose” is reverse psychology; it helps to achieve the opposite result.

With their marquee player, World  No. 1 Novak Djokovic, pulling out four days before the tie, and other experienced players like Janko Tipsarevic and Victor Troicki not in the team owing to injury and loss of form, last year’s finalist Team Serbia knew they had a lot at stake. It was not just a place in the World Group, but also their pride in being a fiercely competitive sporting nation was on the line.

Segway’s India business pegs hope on tech-savvy Modi

By Shashank Chouhan and Ankush Arora

People ride self-balancing Segway transportation devices past the Indian home ministry in New Delhi January 5, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

Among the companies hoping for tax credits from the business-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party since its election victory in May is the Indian distributor of the Segway Personal Transporter. The company hopes that the government will recognise the battery-run two-wheeler as a green vehicle, a move that could spur sales of the expensive device in a country where many people today cannot afford it.

The U.S.-based Segway Inc. was founded by Dean Kamen based on a vision to develop “high-efficient, zero emission transportation solutions” that are manoeuvrable and can be operated on sidewalks and pathways.

In 2002, Segway, adapted from the word segue that means “to transition smoothly from one state to another”, got the right to operate in over 30 states in the United States. By 2007, the New Hampshire-headquartered company had a worldwide presence in 60 countries, according to a report. It made its India debut in 2010.

Markets this week: Cipla, BHEL top Sensex gainers

A man looks at a screen across the road displaying the election results on the facade of the BSE building in MumbaiThe BSE Sensex closed 1.2 percent higher in a week that was marked by two successive record highs for the benchmark.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech and easing wholesale inflation boosted sentiment earlier in the week. Buying of Indian equities by foreign investors and a slide in Brent crude prices to near 14-months lows also helped.

Foreign portfolio investors have poured $12.2 billion in Indian shares this year on hopes the new BJP-led government and the Reserve Bank will revive flagging growth and lower deficit.

First pictures of Taj Mahal to ‘Hairy family of Burma’: subcontinent photos from 1850-1910

A new exhibition in India’s capital showcases some of the earliest photographs from South Asia, taken between 1850 and 1910 when the region was under British rule.

Around 250 images from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal are on display at the “Drawn from Light: Early Photography and the Indian Sub-continent” exhibition in New Delhi.

Dr. John Murray’s images of the Taj Mahal are recognized as the first-ever photographs of the monument. The surgeon, who was employed with the East India Company, took the pictures between 1858 and 1862.

Class divide puts English to the test in India’s civil services

Indian students in recent weeks have protested the use of English in the country’s difficult civil service examinations. The students, usually from Hindi-speaking regions of India, say that the exams reflect a class divide: if you speak and write English well, you are seen as part of the educated, urban elite. If you do not, it’s because you are one of the disadvantaged, usually from smaller towns or villages.

(Here’s a counterview by Swapan Dasgupta)

English is a tricky subject in India. A language imposed by colonists who exploited the people and resources of the land for centuries, it also was the one language that people seeking independence from the British could use to speak to one another. It remains one of two official languages across India, though many people do not speak it well or at all. I spoke to some of the civil service aspirants who have complained about the language requirement and the structure of the exams, and learned about the role that they hope the exam will play in their lives.

Ashutosh Sharma is a 25-year-old psychology graduate from Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, who has been camping in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar neighbourhood for the past two years, hoping that he will crack the examination one day.

India at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

India, the host of the last Commonwealth Games, sent a contingent of 220 athletes to this year’s Games in Glasgow. It finished fifth on the tally with 64 medals. Here is a look at the winners.

STORIES -

Kashyap ends long Indian wait for men’s badminton gold

Tendulkar factor adds to pressure on Sindhu

Saina Nehwal pulls out with fitness issues

SLIDESHOWS -

Indian athletes in action at the Glasgow Games

Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

India’s medal haul in 2010

(This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

from Photographers' Blog:

Waiting to die

Varanasi, India
By Danish Siddiqui

The River Ganges is sacred in Hinduism, and the city of Varanasi, which lies on its banks, is one of the oldest and holiest sites for Hindu pilgrims from all over the world.

Devotees believe that you can wash away your sins by taking a dip in the Ganges at Varanasi. What’s more, dying and having your ashes scattered here is a sacred thing for Hindus who believe that it brings “moksha,” or freedom for the soul from the constant cycle of death and rebirth. To attain this salvation, many travel to Varanasi to die.

A woman stands in a street outside the Mukti Bhawan (Salvation Home) at Varanasi, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, June 17, 2014. Picture taken June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

“Mukti Bhavan,” or “Salvation House,” is a charity-run hostel for people who wish to pass away in the city. It has 12 rooms, a temple and small quarters for its priests. Lodging there comes with certain conditions: guests have two weeks to die or they are gently asked to move on.

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