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.
A democracy is not just about voting, The rules of the game have to protect individuals, and institutions have to keep the government accountable. MR Madhavan joins Amit Varma in episode 253 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss his efforts at empowering MPs and MLAs with knowledge — and why we should not lose hope in our nation.
Joint production with IVM Podcasts
India’s financial system has been in crisis for more than a decade — and it affects all of us. Tamal Bandyopadhyay joins Amit Varma in episode 212 of The Seen and the Unseen to make sense of all the turbulence.
Our agriculture needs reform — but we should be wary that our attempt to get there is not at the cost of our democracy. Ajay Shah joins Amit Varma in episode 211 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights on the process, content and implication of the farm bills. Also discussed: knowledge assimilation, public health, how we tackled the pandemic and what we can do going forward.
A virus can kill you — and so can hunger. The lockdown last year led to an explosion of hunger around the country. Where the state failed, civil society stepped in. Ruben Mascarenhas joins Amit Varma in episode 210 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss his initiative, Khaana Chahiye, that fed lakhs of people in Mumbai. Also discussed: activism, local politics and the clash between principles and the will to power.
In 2014, a photograph of two girls hanging from a tree in an Indian village went viral. Sonia Faleiro joins Amit Varma in episode 209 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the years she spent researching their story, and the complex layers of truth she uncovered. And also, how the larger crime is the one our society commits on itself.
Is the stock market an engine of our economy or a casino disconnected from reality? Does it require deep thinking or mad gambling? Deepak Shenoy joins Amit Varma in episode 208 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the lessons he has learnt about the markets — and about life.
God is a controversial subject, but we can all agree that food exists, and is often divine. Shoba Narayan joins Amit Varma in episode 207 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe her explorations of religion and food in India.
Finally, 2020 is behind us. It changed our world, the way we live our lives, and how we relate to each other and to ourselves. Shruti Rajagopalan and Alex Tabarrok join Amit Varma in episode 206 of The Seen and the Unseen to take stock of the year gone by, with each of them picking five lessons they feel 2020 holds for us. Because they can’t count, though, they end up with more than 15 — here they are, below. (Listen to the episode for the elaborations and arguments.)
Pandemic, lockdown, masks, vaccine, state failure, state overreach: India’s been here before, and it’s been worse. Chinmay Tumbe joins Amit Varma in episode 205 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss how 40 million lives were lost in the subcontinent between 1817 and 1920 in the cholera, plague and influenza pandemics — and the lessons we need to learn from them.
Indian cooking is often treated as a mystical art — but it is the science behind it that should fill us with wonder. Krish Ashok joins Amit Varma in episode 204 of The Seen and the Unseen to speak about Masala Lab, his effort at explaining this great art from scientific first principles. Every meal of yours can now be a romantic adventure filled with the ecstasy of insight — whether you cook it, eat or or do both while playing the violin.
If someone from the year 1990 visited the world of 2020, it would seem magical, even fictional. Vasant Dhar joins Amit Varma in episode 203 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss how technology will continue to change our world in ways we cannot imagine. Will the future upgrade us — or will it make us obsolete?
The dominance of Hindu nationalism in Indian politics is so complete that it seems like it was inevitable. Was it? Vinay Sitapati joins Amit Varma in episode 202 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the BJP’s long journey to this point, as reflected in the jugalbandi of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.
Cricket has a unique place in Indian society, and has touched and shaped millions of lives. Ramachandra Guha joins Amit Varma in episode 201 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how he came to love, play and even administer the ‘most subtle and sophisticated game known to humankind.’
The tables are turned in episode 200 of The Seen and the Unseen. Host Amit Varma is in the firing line, replying to questions from 22 of his past guests and fans as Shruti Rajagopalan plays proctor. They talk about poker, podcasting, politics, policy and the personal.
Figuring out what consumers want is pretty similar to figuring out what society wants. Adman and author Ambi Parameswaran joins Amit Varma in episode 199 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights from his decades in advertising, and the many books he has written.
As our cities are growing, our citizens are growing apathetic. Can we reassert our rights and reform our governance? Ashwin Mahesh joins Amit Varma in episode 198 of The Seen and the Unseen for a wide-ranging conversation on urban governance, citizenship, education and much more.
Stories and conversations can shape the world, and ourselves, in ways that we often don’t appreciate. Neelesh Misra joins Amit Varma in episode 197 of The Seen and the Unseen to chat about his journey as a storyteller and interviewer.
Good data journalism can reveal otherwise unseen truths about our society. Pioneering journalist Rukmini S joins Amit Varma in episode 196 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the insights data brought to her journalism, and her groundbreaking podcast on Covid-19, The Moving Curve.
Decades after the trauma of separation, Partition remains with us. Aanchal Malhotra joins Amit Varma in episode 195 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about her work in excavating the memories of Partition survivors through the objects they carried with them — and their resonance in these modern times.
The constitution of India, it has been said, is not a book but a periodical. Starting with Jawaharlal Nehru, every prime minister who wanted to do something unconstitutional simply amended the constitution. Tripurdaman Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 194 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss India’s First Amendment, which began a rot that never ended.
The conflict between the government and the central bank seems like an arcane one that only wonks care about — but it affects the lives of all of us. Viral Acharya joins Amit Varma in episode 193 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why we should all join him in the battle against Fiscal Dominance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.