The Congress Party once dominated Indian politics. Today, it’s on the outside looking in. Rahul Verma joins Amit Varma in episode 248 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the complex social and political factors behind this massive decline.
Our political parties suck at governance but excel at narratives, as that’s what wins them elections. Shivam Shankar Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 247 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his experiences at the heart of different political machines.
Over the last few decades, India has changed, cricket has changed, our media has changed — and one man has seen it all. Ayaz Memon joins Amit Varma in episode 246 of The Seen and the Unseen to reflect on some of what he has seen and learnt.
When we pick up medicine from our nearby chemist, we assume that we are getting what we pay for. That trust may be misplaced. Dinesh Thakur joins Amit Varma in episode 245 of The Seen and the Unseen to share the story of the Ranbaxy fraud, and the shoddy state of Indian pharma today.
India’s Maharajahs get a bad rap. Both the British empire and our freedom fighters pushed wrong stereotypes about them. Manu Pillai joins Amit Varma in episode 244 of The Seen and the Unseen to chat about the multitudes of our maharajahs — and much else that matters.
In the last 25 years, India has changed, journalism has changed and Barkha Dutt has been at the frontlines. She joins Amit Varma in episode 243 of The Seen and the Unseen to speak about how we got here, and the lessons of these years.
We are subjects, not citizens — and India’s state is designed to keep us that way. Josy Joseph joins Amit Varma in episode 242 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the astonishing ways in which India’s security state misuses its powers.
The gangster film and the city film are two genres that took a while to evolve in Bollywood. Uday Bhatia joins Amit Varma in episode 241 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya was a seminal moment, shaped by what came before it, and changing the course of Hindi cinema.
You can learn life lessons by actually living life — or you can take a short cut and learn them from those who have done the living for you. Prakash Iyer joins Amit Varma in episode 240 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss his journey rising to the top of the corporate world, and then sharing the lessons he learnt.
If you’re a creative person, there is no better time to be alive. Roshan Abbas joins Amit Varma in episode 239 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his remarkable journey as a creator — and to explain why the best is yet to come.
Indian sport has never been healthier. Joy Bhattacharjya and Nandan Kamath join Amit Varma in episode 238 of The Seen and the Unseen to share their inside view on what has happened behind the scenes to bring us here.
The liberalisation of 1991 lifted more than a quarter of a billion people in India out of poverty. And yet, we often don’t recognise their importance, and have gone backwards in the last decade. Shruti Rajagopalan and Ajay Shah join Amit Varma in episode 237 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss what life was like before 1991, where we had gone wrong, what we put right and what remains to be done.
The task of a journalist is to document the present moment. And there have been plenty of crazy present moments in India in the last 40 years. Vir Sanghvi joins Amit Varma in episode 236 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights on how our society, politics and media have been transformed over the course of his career. He also looks inwards.
Back in the 19th century, women were supposed to stay home and learn cooking and needlework — but some dared to fight the odds and get an education. Some even became doctors. Kavitha Rao joins Amit Varma in episode 235 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss her new book on six pioneering lady doctors. Also discussed: the craft of writing and storytelling, and the endless possibility for late bloomers.
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.
India is a complex country. The last few decades have been full of tumult. How does one make sense of it all? Raghu Sanjaylal Jaitley joins Amit Varma in episode 214 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the many frames he uses to look at our politics, economics, culture and Dilip Kumar.
VCs have a crazy job description. They need to understand society, figure out what people will want tomorrow and bet on the future. Sajith Pai joins Amit Varma in episode 213 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about his frames of looking at the world — and what he has learnt about media, entrepreneurship and this country of ours.
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.