Writer and commentator on feminist and Indian issues
Radhika Swarup is a full time writer and commentator on feminist and Indian issues. She lives in London, and her work has appeared in Indian broadsheets and British literary journals. Her debut novel Where the River Parts, which follows the lives of a couple caught up in the India-Pakistan Partition, has been chosen as one of Amazon India's memorable books of 2016.
Eight years ago, the United States of America voted in Barack Obama, its first black president, on a mandate of hope. His campaign slogan? "Yes, we can!" It was a time of great economic upheaval, when...
Time moved slowly when I was a child. The days seemed endless. It's a contrast to my children's childhood, where all their activities seem scheduled weeks in advance. They'd widen their eyes if I told them how much time I spent doing nothing. They'd look at me as I look at those older than me who boast about walking barefoot to school. The way you do when you catch an uncomfortable glimpse into a time before civilization.
Hindu nationalism has unquestionably been on the rise since India's last elections in 2014, when the BJP was elected to power on a massive anti-incumbency wave. But while it is vital to be alert to any extremist Hindu elements, it is also simplistic to blame a single constituency for India's current communal problems. The truth is much more complex, and much more toxic. It encompasses illegal immigration, vote bank politics and social and economic pressures on indigenous populations.
In our increasingly neurotic and self-diagnostic culture, I find that we are forgetting to live in a way where we can allow for mistakes. We are forgetting to cut ourselves some slack. We are forgetting to learn from the wisdom of our children, and we're forgetting to teach them that we too are fallible. I'm the good-enough parent. I'm the one who has finally made her peace with her imperfections.
The Roman Emperor Nero was accused of fiddling while Rome burnt. Nero, whose rule is often associated with extravagance and tyranny, focused a lot of his energy on foreign diplomacy. He blamed Christians -- a minority community in Rome at the time -- for starting the great fire of 64AD, and presided over their wholesale torture and execution. The events of Nero's Rome are nearly two millennia old, but a lot of these misadventures resonate in modern day India.
I recently had the dubious pleasure of reading Chetan Bhagat's Times of India blog post on the "Anatomy of a liberal". The style of his piece is as frothy as ever, though sadly a little short on credible detail. The crux of Chetan Bhagat's argument, perhaps, is that India's liberal class is great at taking umbrage. There is much to take umbrage at right now. There is a rising feeling of intolerance -- towards dissent, towards resistance, and towards alternative belief systems -- a wave ably represented by Bhagat's article.
My Twitter timeline has been abuzz. Syria, you think. Rahul Gandhi's latest speech. The lingering after-shocks of Cameron's Piggate. Maybe even some Trump-related jokes. Think again. Ever since it announced its presence circa 6pm on 22 September, the brand new publishing house Juggernaut has not looked like stopping. And like the proverbial juggernaut, it is both formidable and paradigm altering.
I begin this, my new entry for the 68th year of India's independence, with a memory of old. A memory so old, in fact, that it predates me. It predates my father too, through whom I claim kinship with the event. It begins with my grandparents' wedding, on 8 August, 1947, in Lyallpur, West Punjab. It was a traditional Hindu Punjabi arranged marriage, carried out in some style as it celebrated the union of two firstborns. Meanwhile, there was some concern locally over rising Hindu-Muslim tensions.
Bobby Jindal is an American. No one is denying that. Hundreds of thousands of others of Indian origin identify themselves as American too. But what he seems to have forgotten is where he comes from, and the traits he owes to his heritage.
Determination and persistence pays off. I believe that with the right attitude, and with a reasonable understanding of my talents - I know I'm never going to become a singing superstar - I can succeed. This belief is what kept me going when I left my lucrative career in investment banking and turned to writing.
Many Indians probably do not feel much sympathy for Rohingya Muslims, shunted out of their homes in Myanmar and turned away at border after border. Newly assertive in our nationhood, we are voicing concerns about illegal Bangladeshi immigrants seeping in through our porous borders. We are - if the increasingly voluble political rhetoric and acrimonious inter-faith clashes in our country are any bellwether - worried about religious extremism and Islamic radicalisation.