Episode 278: Climate Change and Our Power Sector

To fight climate change, we need to reform the power sector. Right now, it’s dysfunctional. Akshay Jaitly and Ajay Shah join Amit Varma in episode 278 of The Seen and the Unseen to share their roadmap for change.
Joint production with IVM Podcasts

Episode 197: Storytelling and Conversation

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.

Read show notes

Episode 196: The Importance of Data Journalism

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.

Read show notes

Episode 195: Memories and Things

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.

Read show notes

Episode 194: The First Assault on Our Constitution

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.

Read show notes

Episode 193: The Fight of the Central Banker

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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?

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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 notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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.

Read show notes

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 notes

Episode 171: India’s Start-Up Ecosystem

Many entrepreneurs aim to plug a hole in the world. Some try to expand the universe. Mohit Satyanand joins Amit Varma in episode 171 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about why these are exciting times to be an angel investor.

Read show notes

Episode 170: Foreign Policy is a Big Deal

So much of the lives of common people depends on the relationships between nations. But is foreign policy an arcane subject, meant only for wonks and elites? No! Pranay Kotasthane and Manoj Kewalramani join Amit Varma in episode 170 of The Seen and the Unseen to demystify international relations.

Read show notes

Episode 169: Taking Stock of Covid-19

How should India handle Covid-19? Every option on the table carries huge costs, and will take countless lives. Shruti Rajagopalan joins Amit Varma in episode 169 of The Seen and the Unseen to help navigate the complex decisions that policy makers are being forced to make with little information.

Read show notes

Episode 168: The Art of Translation

There are over 6000 languages in the world. How can we possibly understand one another? Arunava Sinha joins Amit Varma in episode 168 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain the importance of translation, and literature itself, in these divisive times.

Read show notes

Episode 167: India’s Greatest Civil Servant

In 1906, a 13-year-old boy burnt down his school in a village in Kerala and ran away from home to work in the gold mines of Kolar. Decades later, he put this country together. Narayani Basu joins Amit Varma in episode 167 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the extraordinary life of VP Menon.

Read show notes

Episode 166: Nanak Was Here

The man known as Guru Nanak was one of the great travellers of his time, passing through lands that are today spread across nine countries. Amardeep Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 166 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about how he retraced Nanak’s path — and also about his efforts at documenting the Sikh heritage of Pakistan.

Read show notes

Episode 165: Genetic Engineering

Humans are the only bots with the ability to reprogram themselves. Shambhavi Naik joins Amit Varma in episode 165 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the science, ethics, politics and policy implications of genetic engineering.

Read show notes

Episode 164: The Ideas of Our Constitution

Contrary to popular belief, the Indian constitution was not a copy-paste job without a vision. It emerged from decades of intellectual ferment. Madhav Khosla joins Amit Varma in episode 164 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the history of the key ideas that drove our founders and shaped our constitution.

Read show notes

Episode 163: Who Broke Our Republic?

Seven decades after Independence, India is still wracked by poverty and strife. Who is responsible? Kapil Komireddi joins Amit Varma in episode 163 of The Seen and the Unseen to excoriate every political player of Independent India. No prisoners taken.

Read show notes

Episode 162: Caste, Gender, Karnatik Music

So much of our culture is shaped by our social fault lines. TM Krishna joins Amit Varma in episode 162 of The Seen and the Unseen to peel the layers off the development of Karnatik music — and Indian society itself.

Read show notes

Episode 161: The History of Desire in India

We may be a sexually repressed country today, but it wasn’t always like this. Madhavi Menon joins Amit Varma in episode 161 of The Seen and the Unseen to elaborate on the infinite variety of our desires all through history.

Read show notes

Episode 160: Participatory Democracy

In India, we have government of the people and for the people, but not by the people. How can we fix this? Polymath thinker Ashwin Mahesh joins Amit Varma in episode 160 of The Seen and the Unseen to chat about participatory democracy, India Against Corruption, the Aam Aadmi Party and what makes a Good Indian.

Read show notes

Episode 159: The Theatre of the Budget

Budgets matter more than they should — and the process of making them matters more than their contents. Ajay Shah and Vivek Kaul join Amit Varma in episode 159 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss both journey & destination, strategy & tactics.

Read show notes

Episode 158: Radically Networked Societies

From the Arab Spring to Shaheen Bagh, radically networked societies are rising up to express themselves. What do they have in common? How will a hierarchical state deal with a networked society? Pranay Kotasthane shares his insights with Amit Varma in episode 158 of The Seen and the Unseen.

Read show notes