Episode 192: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Trucker

There is much romance in being on the open road, always on the move. But not for the long-distance trucker, trapped in a moving cocoon, always travelling but getting nowhere slowly. Rajat Ubhaykar joins Amit Varma in episode 192 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his insights from hitchhiking around India on trucks.
Joint production with IVM Podcasts

Episode 191: Our Cities After Covid-19

In normal times, cities are an engine of prosperity. In these strange times, they are also an engine of pandemic. Vaidehi Tandel joins Amit Varma in episode 191 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss how important cities are to civilisation, and how Covid-19 will affect the way we live.

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Episode 190: Queeristan

Whatever you say of India, an old cliche goes, the opposite is also true. India has always been homophobic — but it also contains Queeristan. Parmesh Shahani joins Amit Varma in episode 190 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about his long ongoing battle for LGBTQ inclusion in corporate India — and much beyond.

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Episode 189: The Acting Life

These are exciting times for Indian cinema, as multiple worlds and sensibilities collide in the streets and studios of Mumbai. Actors Rasika Dugal and Mukul Chadda join Amit Varma in episode 189 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe their journeys in this brave new world.

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Episode 188: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

The Indian economy has been on a wild ride, traumatic in parts, for the last 73 years. And Arvind Subramanian was on a wild ride of his own as Chief Economic Advisor in the Indian government between 2014 and 2018. Arvind joins Amit Varma in episode 188 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss both these journeys.

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Episode 187: Dadabhai Naoroji and the Fight for India

In the 19th century, when the Idea of India was so nebulous, what did it mean to be a freedom fighter? Dinyar Patel joins Amit Varma in episode 187 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe Dadabhai Naoroji’s battle to transform India from within the British empire.

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Episode 186: What Have We Done With Our Independence?

As India completes 73 years, it’s worth taking stock of our journey so far. Pratap Bhanu Mehta joins Amit Varma in episode 186 of The Seen and the Unseen, an Independence Day Special that takes a discursive look at the political and social currents that made us what we are.

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Episode 185: Fixing Indian Education

It is a humanitarian and moral failure that 73 years after Independence, our education system remains broken. We have failed our children through all this time. Karthik Muralidharan joins Amit Varma in episode 185 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights from years of research on the ground. We can fix this. Is the NEP part of the solution?

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Episode 184: Finding Dara Shukoh

The rivalry between Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb is often considered a foundational one for Islam in India. Good Muslim vs Bad Muslim. But it’s not quite that simple. Historian Supriya Gandhi joins Amit Varma in episode 184 of The Seen and the Unseen to point out that the truth is complex, and there are no easy binaries.

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Episode 183: The Art of Narrative Nonfiction (+ JBS Haldane)

In a complex world where the truth is up for grabs, we need narrative nonfiction. Samanth Subramanian joins Amit Varma in episode 183 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the art and craft of this form of literature. Also discussed: A Dominant Character, Samanth’s book on JBS Haldane, and the intersection of science and politics.

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Episode 182: Conversation and Society

We live in an age of competing monologues. We talk, but we do not listen. Russ Roberts joins Amit Varma for a wide-ranging conversation in episode 182 of The Seen and the Unseen.

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Episode 181: The Dragon and the Elephant

Why is there this tension between China and India? To understand that, we must uncover many layers of the past. Foreign Policy scholars Hamsini Hariharan and Shibani Mehta join Amit Varma in episode 181 of The Seen and the Unseen to share their insights on the rich history of the interactions between these two great civilizations.

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Episode 180: Elite Imitation in Public Policy

Indian decision makers often blindly copy public policy from abroad, without considering whether it would work in local conditions. Shruti Rajagopalan and Alex Tabarrok join Amit Varma in episode 180 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain the damage caused by such ‘isomorphic mimicry,’ and why it happens in the first place.

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Episode 179: The Plight of Our Street Vendors

India suffers from a predatory state, and nothing illustrates this better than the sorry state of our street vendors. Prashant Narang joins Amit Varma in episode 179 of The Seen and the Unseen to elaborate on this unseen tragedy of the streets around us.

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Episode 178: What Happened to Our Journalism?

Journalism used to be a quest to establish the truth. It has now become a battle of conflicting narratives. We have gone from seeking to shouting. What went wrong? Nidhi Razdan joins Amit Varma in episode 178 of The Seen and the Unseen to share insights from her eventful career.

Read show notesEpisode 178: What Happened to Our Journalism?

Episode 177: India’s Economy in the Time of Covid-19

Our economy was going down, down, down well before Covid-19 struck. And now? Vivek Kaul joins Amit Varma in episode 177 of The Seen and the Unseen to spread his usual quota of sunshine and joy.

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Episode 176: The Nuances of Lockdown

What do past epidemics teach us about Covid-19? What do past disasters teach us about politics and the state? Is there a false binary between lockdown and no-lockdown? Anup Malani joins Amit Varma in episode 176 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights on these subjects and more.

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Episode 175: The Indian Armed Forces

As institutions wither around us, the Indian Armed Forces have retained their credibility. But is there a risk of politicization there as well? Lt Gen Prakash Menon joins Amit Varma in episode 175 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the evolution of our armed forces through the decades, and the challenges they face today.

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Episode 174: Tawaif

Tawaifs played a unique role in Indian society and culture in the 19th century, but have since been either vilified or romanticized. Filmmaker and author Saba Dewan joins Amit Varma in episode 174 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the fascinating human stories behind this lost community.

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Episode 173: The Resonance of Akbar

So much of our history has been weaponized by politics — especially the Mughal period. Manimugdha Sharma joins Amit Varma in episode 173 of The Seen and the Unseen to shed light on the tug of war around Emperor Akbar — and why that history remains relevant even today.

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Episode 172: The Many Cities of Delhi

There is much more to Delhi than Old Delhi and New Delhi. The stones bear witness to a rich history, with much drama and tumult. Rana Safvi joins Amit Varma in episode 172 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about how the forgotten past of Delhi continues to shape its present.

Read show notesEpisode 172: The Many Cities of Delhi