and now for something completely different

note: like several other posts on this site, this one is also being uploaded post facto. briefly, in august 2005, i quit businessworld and business journalism and made a long-desired switch to writing on environment, development and suchlike. to celebrate this move, i took my bike, bucephalus, to ladakh. as it turned out, we set out on 15th august. independence day.

ladakh (51)

and my lovely, lovely bike.
and my lovely, lovely bike.
almost fell off the bike here. had crossed fotu la. was moving towards kargil when i saw this mountain, marvelled at its shape, kept moving and then realised with a sudden shock that good god, there was a monastery atop it.
almost fell off the bike here. had crossed fotu la. was moving towards kargil when i saw this mountain, marvelled at its shape, kept moving and then realised with a sudden shock that good god, there was a monastery atop it.
beautiful, innit? the mountains en route to kargil really were very craggy
as i moved from lamayuru towards kargil, the mountains got craggier

ladakh (249)

one of the first monasteries i saw as leh came closer and closer
one of the first monasteries i saw as leh came closer and closer
the final kilometres to leh are along the indus, along this straight, straight road. for the first time in days, the bike moved into fifth gear, and flew and flew. aaaah. :-)
the final 50-odd kilometres to leh are along the indus, along this straight, straight road. for the first time in days, the bike moved into fifth gear, and flew and flew.
riding along the gya
you crest taglangla, the last of four passes between manali and leh, the road drops, and then you meet the beautiful gya, and ride next to her towards the indus
this is roughly the place where i realised the horn was not working any longer. am coming close to the moray plains.
this is roughly the place where i realised the horn had stopped working. am coming close to the moray plains.
me. the grim look is due to a migraine brought on by altitude sickness
me. the grim look is due to a migraine brought on by altitude sickness
look at the lines in this photo!
look at the lines in this photo!
the photo at the end of the ride. taken by a neighbour with unnaturally shaky hands. :-)
the sole photo at the end of the ride. taken by a neighbour with preternaturally shaky hands.

ladakh (295)

kashmir, on the way out of ladakh
entering sonamarg. this was taken at noon. had left kargil at 4 or so. and then biked towards and then over the famed zoji la pass. challenging ride. as challenging as the ride up and down rohtang. years have gone by since and i still remember the descents from both passes. the rohtang road covered with pebbles which meant that, even if you braked, the bike would keep sliding ahead. in zoji la, the pass was just mud. and the only way to move was to keep the bike in the ruts left by trucks’ tyres.   ladakh (278) ladakh (202) ladakh (179) ladakh (175) ladakh (57)
also taken at the entrance to the moray plains
bucephalus at the entrance to the moray plains

ladakh (18)



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I am an Indian journalist with interests in energy, environment, climate and India’s ongoing slide into right-wing authoritarianism. My book, Despite the State, an examination of pervasive state failure and democratic decay in India, was published by Westland Publications, India, in January 2021. My work has won the Bala Kailasam Memorial Award; the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award; and five Shriram Awards for Excellence in Financial Journalism. Write to me at despitethestate@protonmail.com.

Reviews

…une plongée dans les failles béantes de la démocratie indienne, un compte rendu implacable du dysfonctionnement des Etats fédérés, minés par la corruption, le clientélisme, le culte de la personnalité des élus et le capitalisme de connivence. (…a dive into the gaping holes in Indian democracy, a relentless account of the dysfunction of the federated states, undermined by corruption, clientelism, the cult of the personality of elected officials and crony capitalism).” Le Monde

…a critical enquiry into why representative government in India is flagging.Biblio

…strives for an understanding of the factors that enable governments and political parties to function in a way that is seemingly hostile to the interests of the very public they have been elected to serve, a gross anomaly in an electoral democracy.” Scroll.in

M. Rajshekhar’s deeply researched book… holds a mirror to Indian democracy, and finds several cracks.The Hindu

…excels at connecting the local to the national.Open

…refreshingly new writing on the play between India’s dysfunctional democracy and its development challenges…Seminar

A patient mapping and thorough analysis of the Indian system’s horrific flaws…” Business Standard (Image here)

33 മാസം, 6 സംസ്ഥാനങ്ങൾ, 120 റിപ്പോർട്ടുകൾ: ജനാധിപത്യം തേടി മഹത്തായ ഇന്ത്യൻ യാത്ര… (33 months, 6 states, 120 reports: Great Indian journey in search of democracy…)” Malayala Manorama

Hindustan ki maujooda siyasi wa maaashi soorat e hal.” QindeelOnline

What emerges is the image of a state that is extractive, dominant, casteist and clientelist.Tribune

…reporting at its best. The picture that emerges is of a democracy that has been hijacked by vested interests, interested only in power and pelf.Moneycontrol.com

Book lists

Ten best non-fiction books of the year“, The Hindu.

Twenty-One Notable Books From 2021“, The Wire.

What has South Asia been reading: 2021 edition“, Himal Southasian

Interviews

Journalism is a social enterprise…,” Booksfirst.in.

Democratic decay at state level: Journalist M Rajshekhar on book ‘Despite the State’,” The News Minute.

Covid-19 en Inde : “des décès de masse” dont un “État obscurantiste est responsable,” Asialyst.

Allusions/Mentions

JP to BJP: The Unanswered Questions“.
Mahtab Alam’s review of “JP to BJP: Bihar After Lalu and Nitish”.

Urban History of Atmospheric Modernity in Colonial India“. Mohammad Sajjad’s review of “Dust and Smoke: Air Pollution and Colonial Urbanism, India, c1860-c1940”.

Westland closure: Titles that are selling fast and a few personal recommendations,” by Chetana Divya Vasudev, Moneycontrol. (Because this happened too. In February, a year after DtS was released, Amazon decided to shutter Westland, which published the book. The announcement saw folks rushing to buy copies of Westland books before stocks run out.)

Time to change tack on counterinsurgency” by TK Arun, The Federal.

All Things Policy: The Challenges of Governing States” by Suman Joshi and Sarthak Pradhan, Takshashila Institute (podcast).

The Future of Entertainment“, Kaveree Bamzai in Open.

On What India’s Watching“, Prathyush Parasuraman on Substack.

The puppeteers around us“, Karthik Venkatesh in Deccan Herald.

Will TN election manifestos continue ‘populist’ welfare schemes?“, Anna Isaac for The News Minute.

Why wages-for-housework won’t help women“, V Geetha in Indian Express.

The poor state of the Indian state“, Arun Maira in The Hindu.

Book discussions

12 November, 2022: Stop Loss: Overcoming the systemic failures of the Indian State. Tata Literature Festival, Mumbai.

26 December, 2021: Rangashankara, Bangalore, a discussion with Dhanya Rajendran.

16 November: Rachna Books, Gangtok, a discussion with Pema Wangchuk.

29 August: Books In The Time of Chaos, with Ujwal Kumar.

21 May: Hyderabad Lit Fest with Kaveree Bamzai and Aniruddha Bahal.

28 March: Paalam Books, Salem, Tamil Nadu.

19 March: The News Minute, “Citizens, the State, and the idea of India

6 March: Pen@Prithvi, with Suhit Kelkar

20 February: A discussion between scholars Usha Ramanathan, Tridip Suhrud, MS Sriram and me to formally launch Despite the State.

6 February: DogEars Bookshop, Margoa.

5 February: The Polis Project, Dispatches with Suchitra Vijayan.

30 January: Founding Fuel, “Systems Thinking, State Capacity and Grassroots Development“.

25 January: Miranda House Literary Society