Author: Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Modi reassures Inclusive Democracy: Hopefully Partisan Politics will be Passe

Every party that has formed the government as yet has always attempted to identify its supporters and make sure they were extended the largesse whether they deserved it or not. In the process, they have inevitably hurt those who they perceived were not inclined to support them – at times even violating the tenets of […]

How to Combat the Growing Global Threat of Elders with Neurological Disorders?

From 1950 to 2050, the world population will have increased by a factor of 3.6; but those sixty and older will have increased by a factor of 10, and those eighty and older will rise by a factor of 27. Right now, only a handful of countries have 20 per cent of their population over the age of […]

I Suffer for only Sawdust

The suffering of the poet is insignificant – the metaphor sawdust reminds us of TS Eliot. Like Abhimanyu of Mahabharata, his knowledge is pre-natal. This poem, for Different Truths, operates at many levels, encompassing the complexities of life, rebirths, pain and death. I suffer for only sawdust My knowledge is pre-natal of restlessness, and indifference. The block […]

Work: Challenges, Punishment, Ethics and Social Climate

In modern times especially, the challenge of work goes deeper than the moral formation of single individuals. As Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber well understood, we moderns live in a social climate that increasingly and systematically takes control over the conditions of meaningful and responsible work from those who work – even within […]

Sanjay Leela Bhansali Roughed-up: Folklore and Fanaticism is not History!

We all witnessed a bunch of thugs muscle their way in and rough up the hapless producer on the television. Once a narrative enters folklore, it acquires a quasi-religious conviction and is difficult to reason with it. Any attempt to present an interrogatory is looked upon as blasphemy. Something similar seems to have happened with Rani Padmini’s account. […]

Phosphorous: A Single Chemical Element that Tells Many Stories

Phosphorus may be less celebrated than carbon or hydrogen, it joins those elements (along with nitrogen, oxygen, and sulphur) to constitute the six “biogenic elements” (those needed in large quantities to make living organisms). Let us take a look at some of the issues that arise in inorganic chemistry from the perspective of phosphorus, illustrating in the process the […]

Deepa Malik Honoured with Padma Shri Award on Republic Day 2017

Ashoka, who has known Deepa for many years, said that now she is a Padma Shri recipient. Those who have followed my columns here and elsewhere would be familiar with my disdain for any system of state awards. Notwithstanding some very remarkable individuals who have won the awards in India, I have major problems with the opaqueness of […]

Climate Change: Water Availability, Energy Sources and Global Threats

High water demands, combined with the uncertainty surrounding future water availability due to changes in climate, point to the need to carefully consider the water implications of alternative energy choices. For example, the water requirements of the wind and solar energy production are dramatically lower than those of biofuels and lower also than even some “traditional” energy sources. Globally, agriculture accounts […]

Genes and Identity: Diseases, Medicines, Homosexuality and Identity Politics – II

Some children may come from a gene pool that enables them to play the violin at age four and to compose symphonies at ten. We search for genetic markers of these exceptional desirable abilities as well. The possibility of genes that protect against diseases is also spurring genetic hunts. For example, Alzheimer’s disease shows up rarely or not at […]

Gandhian Nonviolence Inspired Martin Luther King Jr for Redemption of Afro-Americans

Ashoka pays a personal tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., one of his teenage icons, on his 88th birthday, on Sunday (Jan 15). He was presented to the Indian people as a ‘Negro Gandhian’, who was propagating Gandhian ideology amongst the blacks in the United States. The writer says, “Like all impressionable teenagers of my generation, I also fantasised […]

Genes and Identity: Genetic Finger Printing, Crime and Racism – I

Genetic fingerprinting is now considered remarkably reliable. One little-noticed effect was on the law-enforcement system. The FBI now has an enormous data bank containing DNA profiles of certain neighbourhoods. If you come from a neighbourhood where crime is common (in fact, as opposed to local folklore), the FBI knows an awful lot about your neighbours’ genomes and, by statistical […]

Dr Raghu Vira: A Forgotten Founding Father of India

Dr. Raghu Vira was regarded as perhaps the most erudite figure in the Constituent Assembly of India. He was a great Sanskrit scholar plus a polyglot who could not just speak and write in nine Indian and seven European languages, but also deliver learned oration and conduct debates in them. He went on a study tour of China […]

Is it a Dark New Year for the Diego Garcians? Will they get back their Land?

Diego Garcia is an atoll in the Indian Ocean, which has been converted into an American military base where no one is allowed to set a foot without official permission. This has been the state of affairs since 1966 when it was leased by United Kingdom to the US for fifty years. All the United States had to […]

What is the Relevance of Exit Polls in a Democracy?

To determine what future the exit poll should have, we need to assess the purposes it can serve, how well it can serve them, what alternatives exist, and what the relative costs and benefits of exit polls are vis-à- vis alternative techniques. The exit poll’s most familiar purpose is to provide the backbone of a system that can […]

Are Sardar Jokes Funny?

Some of the most prominent ‘Sardar jokes’ have emerged from the Sikhs themselves. Khushwant Singh never tired himself of the humour directed against his own community. Jokes emanating from inbuilt stereotypical prejudices are always offensive and there is an absolute need for self-restraint. But there are others that harp of stereotypes again without being demeaning and we do not see […]

Is the Enigmatic Jayalalithaa India’s Eva Peron?

There is a curious sense of déjà vu that we experience when we recapitulate Jayalalithaa’s remarkable life and career. There was another woman who strode like a colossus in a country almost as large as India and commanded the same devotion and loyalty, who died 64 years ago. Her name was Maria Eva Duarte de Peron and she […]

Did Maulana Azad Author India Wins Freedom with Flawed History, Questionable Authenticity?

One volume that has served as a major source of reference is India Wins Freedom. First published, in 1958, a few months after Maulana Azad’s death, it supposedly has the Maulana’s own evaluations of events in which he was a major player and his opinions on the people he worked with and interacted. The Maulana was a prolific […]

How serious are the Lapses of the President, the First Citizen of India!

The main requirement for the President is that the population should feel good about him /her. Over the years, we have had presidents, some of whom have added lustre to their offices and we have had others who have unfortunately debased their offices. My own list of the three worst presidents we have had would include Fakhruddin Ali […]

Why were the Wolves Exterminated in Great Britain and the British Colonies?

The symbolic resonance of large ferocious wild animals has proved much more durable than their physical presence. Indeed, their absence has often had equal and opposite figurative force. The extermination of wolves in Great Britain, along with such other unruly creatures as bears and wild boars, was routinely adduced as evidence of the triumph of insular (as opposed to […]

The Battle of the Icons: Nehru vs. Patel

There is a tendency of identifying an icon and pitting him against another icon, as recognised by a different individual. There is bad blood between the followers of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. Hardly a day goes by when we are not treated to an article, which eulogises one and condemns the other. For the supporters of Nehru, […]

Why World Nations Endorsed Republicanism as the Source of Political Legitimacy?

With World War II the range of political legitimacy began to narrow dramatically. Fascism was defeated on the battlefield and also discredited as a morally respectable form of politics. The subsequent founding of the United Nations initiated the development of universal norms of governance. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specified that “the will of the […]

Will Citizen Journalism and New Media Take Over the News Business?

The new media that have developed to fill the economic and news space left by the shrinking press are more difficult to characterise and predict. To annoyed critics of the blogosphere, it is an intellectual flea market; to its admirers, it may portend the triumph of citizen journalism in an emerging news democracy. Some smart, creative bloggers have earned […]

The Ethics of Food

How the human community chooses to use the land available to it is a reflection of its values. The current land-use arrangements, which divert 40 per cent of all food to feed animals or create fuels, reflect values suggesting that the dietary and transportation preferences of wealthier individuals are more important than both feeding the malnourished and stabilising the wider […]

Why Einstein Struggled with Religion?

The primacy of young Albert’s First Paradise came to an abrupt end. As he put it early in his “Autobiographical Notes,” through reading popular science books he came to doubt the stories of the Bible. Thus, he passed first through what he colourfully described as a “positively fanatic indulgence in free thinking.” But then he found new […]

For Whom the Language Speaks!

Mother tongues are forked or folded into father and sister tongues, spouse and lover tongues, friend and enemy tongues. Among bilinguals and multilinguals, language kinship is not restricted to the maternal. The philosopher George Santayana, who was born and raised in Spain, identified Spanish – his ‘mother’ tongue – with his father, and English – the language in which […]