Author Archives: M J Akbar


M J Akbar

The strength of cool

A seller of sweetmeats can either celebrate Diwali or sell his mithai. He cannot do both. The goddess of wealth will enter his door only if he keeps his shop open, not if he goes around bursting crackers. That is the nature of his compulsion; or, if you want to get theological about it, his dharma. Barack Obama comes to India on the night of Diwali not to enjoy a much-needed holiday after the woes of defeat, but to turn the Great American Hardware Store into a mall.
He was buoyed


M J Akbar

Ghost in Obama shadow

The prevailing metaphor of Barack Obama’s relations with India is surely the sauciest gatecrash in the timeless span of diplomatic dinners. Michaele and Tareq Salahi probably deserve an Oscar for chutzpah in turning up, uninvited, for Obama’s grand evening in honour of Dr Manmohan Singh last year, and maybe the White House secret service now needs a tutorial from Delhi Police. But the hovering presence of an unwanted spirit has become the most unsettling factor in Indo-American


M J Akbar

Congress in transition

The question begs to be asked. Has the Congress changed its view of Jaya Prakash Narayan after 35 years, or has the Congress changed its view of Rahul Gandhi after 35 months? An official spokesman of the party has, after all, compared Dr Manmohan Singh to a national hero, a veteran of the Congress Socialist Party, the leftist group that became a power within the party in the 1930s, and a freedom fighter whose last fight for freedom was to liberate India from the censorship, suspension


M J Akbar

The fire this time

Small boys often dream of becoming either a fireman or a prime minister. But no child should be so precocious as to fantasise about becoming both at the same time.
The problem about becoming a heroic firefighter is that there must be a fire to fight. There is, moreover, an invisible line between the temptation to become a hero, and the immediate necessity of dousing the fire. The hero saves the child on the burning deck with a last-minute intervention. The art of public


M J Akbar

China makes Chinese; Indians make India

When does a small town grow up and become a big boy? Does size matter? Geography is a peculiar addiction. Fat makes you large, possibly very large, but it does not make you strong. Some nations have a quarter of their population herded in slums extending in myriad directions because they have not created the capacity to build more cities. America’s strength does not lie in New York and Washington but in the fact that Microsoft can be born in Seattle and the world’s software industry

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