What exactly is going on between India and China? When cooperation would lead to a win-win game, why is there conflict? Kanti Bajpai joins Amit Varma in episode 234 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his Four Ps framework for understanding this conflict. Also discussed: academia, public intellectuals, how one learns, and why writing and teaching make you a better thinker.
Public policy may seem like a dull subject fit only for wonks, but it matters: our lives are deeply affected by what our governments do. Pranay Kotasthane joins Amit Varma in episode 233 of The Seen and the Unseen to chat about his intellectual journey, his private beach and why public policy can be so stimulating. He also answers racy questions from the Twitterverse.
The problem with the past is that it’s over. How can we enter distant history and understand what happened? Language is one way. Peggy Mohan joins Amit Varma in episode 232 of The Seen and the Unseen to share her insights on what the evolution of our languages reveals about how we got here.
Bollywood lost him, journalism wasted him, and thank goodness for that. Manoj Kewalramani, the foreign policy analyst also known as The China Dude, joins Amit Varma in episode 231 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss his brilliant new book on post-Covid China, Smokeless War. Also discussed: Lokhandwala Cafes and the art of building narratives.
His writing is self-reflective, his humour is self-deprecatory, and he’s one of our finest writers on cinema. Jai Arjun Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 230 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how he to came to love cinema — and how that love changed shape as he did.
In these difficult times, no one’s had a harder time than our medical professionals. They see death every day, and they fight it. What is it like to be a doctor in India? Lancelot Pinto joins Amit Varma in episode 229 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the practice of medicine in general, and the battle against Covid-19 in particular. Also discussed: the incentives of doctors, the importance of sleep, how to quit smoking, and the Epidemic of Sighing.
We’re well into the 21st century, but Indian society seems stuck in ages past — especially when it comes to the state of our women. Kavita Krishnan joins Amit Varma in episode 228 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss her evolution as a feminist, and what she has learned from her activism.
The Indian economy has been going downhill for a decade now. How has Covid-19 affected it? Ila Patnaik joins Amit Varma in episode 227 of The Seen and the Unseen to take stock of where we are today, and where we go from here.
Does shared suffering lead to greater empathy? There has been an outpouring of relief work during this pandemic, with citizens rushing to help other citizens where the state has failed. But there are complexities and moral dilemmas involved. Ashwin Mahesh joins Amit Varma in episode 226 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his experiences of organising relief at scale, and the importance of working with the state.
We may have been in denial earlier, but no more. Covid-19 has laid bare how badly India’s healthcare system is broken. Before we can fix it, we must understand it. Karthik Muralidharan joins Amit Varma in episode 225 of The Seen and the Unseen to shed light on his many years of studying this field. The discussion also contains thoughts on whether GDP is edible, and a bout of antakshiri right at the end.
How do we make sense of the madness around us? Well, there’s the rational, scientific approach: gather data, build models, keep refining and iterating, get closer and closer to the truth. Gautam Menon joins Amit Varma in episode 224 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the exciting field of biophysics and his work in building mathematical models of infectious diseases — especially Covid-19. Also discussed: the joys of science, and how Indian music is the best embodiment of the idea of India. Kumar Gandharva FTW.
The second wave in India could have been avoided. We should not have been suffering like this. Vaccines were the answer. Ajay Shah joins Amit Varma in episode 223 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss how our thinking about vaccines was fundamentally flawed — and what we should do now. Also discussed: why Indian healthcare is in such a mess.
Trained as a medical doctor, Nandita Iyer has blazed a trail in the last 15 years creating content about food in media as diverse as blogs, Instagram, YouTube and even good old-fashioned columns and books. She joins Amit Varma in episode 222 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss her journey in food, what we can learn from our grandparents and the fine art of dissecting cadavers.
These are difficult times. How do we make sense of what is happening around us? Well, there is science. Anirban Mahapatra joins Amit Varma in episode 221 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights on the science of Covid-19 — and on the state of science and scientific writing in general.
India has changed so much in the last 30 years — and so has Indian sport. One of our finest chroniclers, Sharda Ugra, joins Amit Varma in episode 220 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about sports journalism, cricket, other Indian sports, and how she has embraced both the sublime and the shady. Also discussed: the eternal charm of Sion, Atul Bedade, gorillas and paagal kuttas.
There are many things that threaten our nation, both internal and external, both seen and unseen. Our armed forces protect us from some of them. Sushant Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 219 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the state of our military, his experiences in Kashmir, the threats from Pakistan and China, and the danger of politics to national security.
The world of creators has changed in the last few years — and maybe advertising is dead? Varun Duggirala joins Amit Varma in episode 218 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his journey as a creator in the world of advertising — and the time he kidnapped people for reality television.
Prem Panicker has been raising hell in Indian journalism for over 30 years: A muckraker and a pioneer, a maverick and an elder statesman, he is loved by fans and feared by the establishment. Prem joins Amit Varma in episode 217 of The Seen and the Unseen for a raw and intimate account of the wounds he got from living, and the lessons he learnt while healing.
What is it like to be Muslim in India? Ghazala Wahab joins Amit Varma in episode 216 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss.the history of Islam in the subcontinent — and how, at this present moment, we may be trapped in a vicious circle.
There is so much about India that is unseen to us, hidden behind layers of blindness. If only we could peel them off. Annie Zaidi joins Amit Varma in episode 215 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how her many years as a writer, blogger, journalist, playwright and filmmaker deepened her vision of our world.