BOOM TOWN IN THE DESERT

BOOM TOWN IN THE DESERT

DECADE AGO, A BLINK-AND-YOU-MISS-IT signboard is all that announced Pachpadra, located somewhere between Barmer and Jodhpur on desert highway NH-112. Half a dozen shops and two dhabas were the only things visible as the dust kicked up in the endless sprawl of the Thar. Today, there are at least 200 shops lined up on either side of the road. Every day is like a haat, as shoppers mill around and dozens of under construction multistorey buildings create a new skyline. The Pachpadra tehsil headquarters, part of Barmer district in Rajasthan, is in a traditionally vegetarian part of Rajasthan, but ‘fish and meat’ shops are flourishing, catering to the workers from other states. Most times during the day, the highway and village lanes are choked; some 2,000 vehicles frequent the upcoming HPCL…

AGNIPATH: PROS & CONS

AGNIPATH: PROS & CONS

The Narendra Modi government added a touch of Bollywood when it named a new major recruitment scheme for the armed forces ‘Agnipath’. Announced on June 14 by defence minister Rajnath Singh in the presence of the three service chiefs, the scheme aims to make the Indian armed forces a much younger, leaner fighting force. Under it, the government will recruit Indian youth between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 into the armed forces where they will get six months’ training and then provide 3.5 years of service. At the end of four years, 25 per cent of these young people, the ‘Agniveers’, will be absorbed into the force to serve another 15 years while the other 75 per cent would return to civilian life with a severance pay of Rs…

GLAM SLAM

It's yet another cozy Sunday afternoon during quarantine, and Serena Williams is lounging in her newly decorated home office on Zoom with her big sister Venus. It’s just two months after the tennis titans went toe to toe at the Top Seed Open in Kentucky, which was their first time back on the court since the forced hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The world-famous pair, who have played many roles in each other’s lives in the 23 years since their first match against each other—best friends, former teammates, competitors, and longtime roommates—are giggling as they reflect on the five-year journey of collaborating on their greatest joint effort yet: designing Serena’s dream home. After co-owning a Palm Beach Gardens property where the Grand Slam duo lived together on and off since…

GLAM SLAM
Asteroid impact in vivid detail

Asteroid impact in vivid detail

THE Chicxulub asteroid that jolted our planet 66 million years ago is widely thought to be responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs and many other species. Now, we might be seeing its effects on individual animals too. A remarkable but controversial geological site seems to show how the asteroid caused the death of a turtle – which became impaled by a branch as the wave of destruction from the impact swept across the planet. What’s more, the evidence suggests that this happened during the northern hemisphere’s spring or summer. The findings come from excavations at the Tanis site – in the Hell Creek Formation of North Dakota – and were presented last week by Robert DePalma and Riley Wehr at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, Oregon. As DePalma…

India’s next green revolution

IF YOU CARE about the climate a crucial question is how emerging economies, which accounted for 67% of carbon-dioxide emissions from energy last year, can shift to a cleaner approach. They derive a third of their primary energy from coal, and must meet the aspirations of poor citizens who lack cheap electricity. China offers one template: its energy industry is shifting towards renewables. Yet it is still moving far too slowly to reduce its emissions and many countries may be wary of replicating its state-led approach. An alternative model is now visible in the other Asian giant, India, which is in the early stages of a green boom led by the private sector (see Briefing). Although it has obvious flaws, it provides hope that India can make the green leap. India has…

Posh in translation

THE WEEKEND after Queen Elizabeth II died, the continental European press was much taken with the arrangements for the royal transition. But readers of the Diari de Girona—which explained in Catalan the change in titles of the former Prince of Wales and his wife—might have been a bit baffled. They would have encountered a few familiar people: Elisabet II was the late queen, and the former Príncep Carles is her son. But who is this Llitera of which the paper spoke? Readers on Twitter figured it out: a llitera is a stretcher or a bunk-bed in Catalan, or a translation of the Spanish camilla, little bed. The paper quickly restored the new queen consort’s name to Camilla. Countries have differed on whether and when to translate the names of the royal…

Posh in translation
THE EMERGING SHAPE OF AN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE

THE EMERGING SHAPE OF AN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE

Om Prakash Rajbhar, chief of the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), a regional outfit in Uttar Pradesh with four seats in the 403-member state assembly, tweeted a photograph on October 20 of his meeting with Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav. The image was captioned ‘Abki baar, BJP saaf (This time the BJP will be routed)’. Rajbhar had just days ago held inconclusive seat-sharing talks with the BJP, a former ally. Speculation on which way he would go was put to rest on October 27 when Akhilesh turned up as chief guest at the SBSP foundation day rally in Mau district. “The red cap of the SP and yellow cap of the SBSP are now one,” he said. Poking the BJP, he added: “If the West Bengal election was ‘khela…

SP’S BROKEN RAMPARTS

SP’S BROKEN RAMPARTS

It’s the kind of bitter blow the Samajwadi Party would hardly have counted as a possibility. In a major setback, the Akhilesh Yadav-led party lost its bastions of Rampur and Azamgarh to the Bharatiya Janata Party on June 26 in byelections to both the Lok Sabha seats. The loss is significant, as the Azamgarh and Rampur seats were vacated by senior SP leader Azam Khan and Akhilesh himself after they won in the assembly polls in March. BJP candidates Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ (Azamgarh) and Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi (Rampur) defeated SP candidates Dharmendra Yadav and Asim Raja by margins of 8,679 and 42,192 votes, respectively. With these two seats gone, the SP has just three MPs in the Lok Sabha—an all-time low. This loss also shows that the SP, the main opposition…

YOGI 2.0: NEW CASTE EQUATIONS

YOGI 2.0: NEW CASTE EQUATIONS

Elections, and the politics surrounding them, are not a finite event. They don’t just come once in five years. Every day is a step towards the next one…even the first day. When Yogi Adityanath took oath for his second term on March 25, in a grand ceremony at Ekana stadium in Lucknow, the way he rearranged his team offered a classic example of that. Caste equations and the imperatives of regional balance, keeping in mind the Lok Sabha election in 2024, were the decisive factors in the ministerial choices—some of which had the stamp of New Delhi. More than half of the new team was on stage to take oath along with Yogi, but there were a few surprises—22 ministers from his previous government were dropped, and 31 new faces added…

Great Retirement Spots

Great Retirement Spots

I smiled to myself as you noted that you may not want to withstand Michigan winters in retirement (“From the Editor,” Aug.). Rethinking is good. I’m 82 and have been retired for almost 20 years. Having relocated several times, we stayed in my last community, New Rochelle, N.Y. We bought a ranch house built on a slab, with no steps to enter and an ability to live entirely on the first floor. Look for something similar, or a condo with a couple of elevators. Walking and climbing steps will become a concern. Also, you’ve likely spent many years building friendships; moving to a single-family home in a new community will not replace those friendships or easily let you make others. It’s better to find a retirement community where people have…

Hindenburg v Adani

ON THE SURFACE it was a huge mismatch—David versus an army of Goliaths. Yet in a matter of days a report by Hindenburg Research, a fledgling short-selling firm, resulted in a fall of over $50bn in the wealth of Gautam Adani, hitherto one of the world’s richest men and a close associate of Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister. Along the way, a $2.5bn share offering by Adani Enterprises, flagship of the Adani Group’s listed companies, was derailed. Hindenburg alleged that Adani is a giant con. Adani countered that the charges are baseless and, moreover, count as an attack on India itself. Mr Adani is a big target. His empire has expanded rapidly in recent years, and now includes everything from ports to power plants. Its share offer initially closed on January…

Hindenburg v Adani

Exit wave

FOR THE better part of three years—1,016 days to be exact—China will have been closed to the world. Most foreign students left the country at the start of the pandemic. Tourists have stopped visiting. Chinese scientists have stopped attending foreign conferences. Expat executives were barred from returning to their businesses in China. So when the country opens its borders on January 8th, abandoning the last remnants of its “zerocovid” policy, the renewal of commercial, intellectual and cultural contact will have huge consequences, mostly benign. First, however, there will be horror. Inside China, the virus is raging. Tens of millions of people are catching it every day (see China section). Hospitals are overwhelmed. Although the zerocovid policy saved many lives when it was introduced (at great cost to individual liberties), the government…

Exit wave
Urbs prima in Indis

Urbs prima in Indis

Why Mumbai is handling its second wave better than Delhi WHEN THE world sees images of India’s covid-19 crisis, it is through the eyes of the citizens of Delhi. That is not just because most foreign correspondents and photographers live—and are stuck—there. The capital’s caseload has been among the highest and deadliest of any city in the country. On May 3rd alone, 448 deaths were reported and untold numbers died unrecorded. One in every four tests is coming back positive, typical of an outbreak that is out of control. On May 5th the Supreme Court, situated in Delhi, told the national government, which is there too, to “look to Mumbai and take note” of its successes in managing the supply of oxygen. But the city has a lot more to teach. Even…

Highend sampling & recording

Highend sampling & recording

Pro Tools | First lets you create up to 16 audio and MIDI tracks. It shares the same engine with the larger versions of the DAW and offers powerful audio and MIDI recording and editing, excellent sound processors, and full mix automation. Features like offline bounce, track freeze, and automation of parameters like volume, pan, sends, and plug-in parameters ensure an intuitive workflow. Gone are the days when you needed a physical iLok dongle to use Pro Tools: Now all you need is an iLok account to authorize the software. Pro Tools | First includes 23 must-have plug-ins, including AIR Xpand!2 and UVI Workstation sound workstations, plus great-sounding equalizer, compressor, limiter, de-esser, and expander/gate plug-ins. Pro Tools | First ships with 3.1 GB of sounds, including Plugsound Avid Edition, an extensive sample…

DEATH FOR DISSENT?

DEATH FOR DISSENT?

For the past two weeks, thousands of villagers have been keeping vigil at a two-storeyed, half-finished house in Sarada Dakshin Khan Pada in West Bengal’s Howrah, 50 km from Kolkata. It is the home of student leader Anis Khan—and the very place where he died mysteriously late in the night on February 18. His family alleges the 28-year-old former student of Aliah University in Kolkata was murdered. Anis’s father Salaam claims that four men—one of them in police gear—had barged into his home looking for his son and pushed him off the second floor. They left, announcing “operation successful”. The family scrambled to get help for Anis, who lay in a pool of blood, but most people in the village were away at a religious function nearby. Politically active and, to many,…

TIME UP FOR THE DON

“MUKHTAR HAS BEEN A CANNY OPERATOR, ALMOST NEVER IMPLICATING HIMSELF IN ANY OF THE MURDERS HE HAS COMMITTED”Brijlal Former DGP, Uttar Pradesh The Banda district jail on Police Line Road has seen a flurry of activity in the past few days. Even DIG (Jails), Prayagraj range, P.N. Pandey, was camping here, ostensibly to strengthen the jail’s security system. The preparations were for mafia don-turned-neta Mukhtar Ansari, 63, who arrived here in the wee hours of April 7, after travelling 900 km from Ropar Jail in Punjab escorted by a 150-strong police patrol. His relocation followed a Supreme Court order on March 26, which backed the Uttar Pradesh government’s plea that he be brought back to the state. Ansari should be familiar with the place—he was in Banda jail for 21 months…

TIME UP FOR THE DON

The Last Struggle

13 YEARS AFTER INDEPENDENCE The Indian Army entered Goa, then ruled by the Portuguese, on December 17, 1961—13 years after India had won freedom from British rule. The army cornered the 5,000-odd remaining Portuguese soldiers and made them surrender in two days. Goa, spread over 3,702 sq. km, became a part of India on December 19, 1961 SEVEN ALLIES Under Lohia’s leadership, the residents of at least seven villages close to the Maharashtra and Karnataka borders began uniting against the Portuguese. The villagers imposed a ban on Portuguese products and helped Goan farmers sell their rice in the market FIRST MOVER Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia was among the first to voice a national call for Goa’s liberation, on June 18, 1946, at a rally attended by close to 10,000 people in Margao. He became…

The Last Struggle

A STICKY FORM OF TERROR

Long before the US withdrew its troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, Taliban insurgents were using this guerrilla tactic to subvert its ground strength and set off bursts of violent mayhem. That too with a simple device: small sticky bombs planted on vehicles carting the enemy. Inspired by its success, Kashmir is now witnessing the entry of this new weapon of offence alongside a shift in the tactical armoury of militancy itself. Security forces woke up to the threat after a drone consignment was recovered in Samba along the LoC on February 14. Cheap and portable, a sticky bomb packs RDX or TNT into a small box, has a magnet to fix it to the target metal surface, and is detonated remotely with a timer. The security establishment is a bit…

A STICKY FORM OF TERROR

A NEW CHAPTER IN AFGHANISTAN

In October 2001, when US Special Forces and CIA operatives went into Afghanistan with the express objective of removing the Taliban and dismantling Al Qaeda, could anyone have predicted that 20 years later the US would still be militarily engaged and debating its choices? It is this stark realisation that made President Joe Biden announce on April 14 that “it is time to end the forever war in Afghanistan”, and that all US soldiers would leave before September 11 this year. Yet, the harsh reality is that this may wind up US’s war in Afghanistan, but for the Afghans, their endless war shows no signs of ending. Initially, Biden was critical of the arbitrary deadline of May 1 negotiated in the Doha Agreement by US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, saying “it was…

A NEW CHAPTER IN AFGHANISTAN

Intanto, Altrove

Prima di fake news, sorveglianza di massa, dittatura dei like e profilazione selvaggia, la retorica che circolava sulla rete era tutta sotto il segno di un ottimismo quasi insolente. Per i tecnoutopisti californiani, internet ci avrebbe portato per mano in un mondo nuovo, radicalmente libero. Ora si sa che non è andata proprio così. Ma esplorando le piattaforme delle community di cryptoarte si percepisce subito una vibrazione familiare. È l’eco dell’entusiasmo e delle speranze che un tempo si associavano a internet in quanto tale, e che qui si riferiscono, più prosaicamente, a un suo strumento: l’NFT. Il “Non-Fungible Token” è una tecnologia in grado di trasformare jpg, video o anche semplici tweet in entità digitali uniche, verificate, tracciabili. Tutto questo grazie all’utilizzo del blockchain, una sorta di registro digitale cronologico non…

Intanto, Altrove

Politics

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a leftist former president, won Brazil’s election, beating Jair Bolsonaro, the populist right-wing incumbent. Lula, as he is known, won 50.9% of the votes to Mr Bolsonaro’s 49.1%, the narrowest winning margin since Brazil’s return to democracy in the 1980s. After the result was declared, Mr Bolsonaro refused to speak publicly for 45 hours. He eventually gave a two-minute speech and said he would comply with the constitution. He also asked supporters who had taken to the streets to stop blocking roads with lorries. Although Mr Bolsonaro did not explicitly concede, his chief of staff said that the transition of power would proceed smoothly. Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, seemed to be on track to return to office after a parliamentary election. His bloc of…

Politics

The world this week

Politics The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first part of its latest assessment report. The Earth is warming. Even with a drastic reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions temperatures will probably be 1.5o C above their late-19th century levels by 2050. Climate change is under way, the report laments, with all the environmental consequences that brings. The extent of the damage depends on the cumulative build-up of emissions and can be limited if the world strives for net-zero carbon emissions. Andrew Cuomo said he would resign as governor of New York, after his Democratic colleagues in the state assembly prepared to impeach him over allegations from 11 women of sexual harassment. Mr Cuomo insists his actions did not amount to misconduct and said he was forced out by a political system “driven…

The world this week
A better path

A better path

WHEN Viveca Wallqvist first phoned a local asphalt company, she didn’t mince her words. “I have something to tell you,” she said. “Your material is really hard – too hard. People are getting hurt.” Her comments didn’t go down well. “They were like, ‘Who is this crazy scientist?’,” she recalls. Asphalt is supposed to be hard, they said. But a few days later, the company rang back. It was the beginning of a journey that could reinvent the ground we walk on. Wallqvist’s passion is rare. It is more than two millennia since the Romans laid their first pavimentum, from where we get the word “pavement”. Since then, very few people have questioned the fact that the pavements we walk on are, in effect, extensions of the road surface, made of…

Lagune aux trésors

HUÎTRES REINES Voici une histoire hors du commun: fils d’un petit ostréiculteur, Florent Tarbouriech, à la mort de son père, développe son négoce, passant de quatre tables installées sur l’étang à cinquante en dix ans. Pour s’ouvrir la porte des cuisines étoilées, il invente un système manuel permettant d’imiter l’effet des marées en sortant les huîtres de l’eau tous les jours, comme en Atlantique. Succès immédiat: l’huître, plus sportive, plus musclée, gagne en saveur, en croquant, et séduit des chefs comme Guy Savoy ou Gilles Goujon. Florent investit alors dans la recherche et développement pour automatiser le processus. En 2008, le système est breveté dans 26 pays. En 2011, Florie et Romain, les aînés de Florent et Sabine Tarbouriech, créent Le St Barth’, un lieu de dégustation de coquillages sur le…

Lagune aux trésors
A SAFFRON FACELIFT

A SAFFRON FACELIFT

A new state unit chief. A new leader of opposition. A new incharge of the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has seen radical changes in its organisational structure in Chhattisgarh since August, with three new men commandeering its efforts to bring the party back into power as the state prepares for the assembly election scheduled in a little over a year. After having an uninterrupted 15-year reign led by then chief minister Raman Singh, the BJP faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Congress in the last assembly election in 2018—winning just 15 of the 90 seats, and later losing one more to the Congress in a byelection. It is against this backdrop that the party’s central leadership has initiated a major rejig in the state unit. It…

THE REAL LOVE JIHAD

THE REAL LOVE JIHAD

Sometime in mid-2020, Krunal Kumar Baria received a Facebook friend request. It was from Sidra Khan, a pretty lady dressed in a salwar kameez who seemed to be in her mid-20s. Baria, posted with the Indian Army’s IT cell in Ferozepur cantonment, didn’t suspect anything amiss. They exchanged phone numbers—she had three, two Pakistani and one Indian. They started chatting, moved on to WhatsApp calls and gradually things became more intimate. They had phone sex. And soon Kumar was telling Sidra all that she wanted to know. On October 23, over a year-and-a-half later, a team from the Punjab Police’s special operation cell, Amritsar, arrested Baria on charges of leaking confidential information. ‘Sidra’ is what India’s military intelligence calls a Pakistani Intelligence Operative (PIO). PIOs work for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),…

THE RETURN JOURNEY

THE RETURN JOURNEY

The privatisation of Air India, though much delayed, should come as a big relief to the Modi government, which has faced much flak for its apparent inability to come good on its promise to get out of business and focus on governance. Even though the Tatas’ bid of Rs 18,000 crore was not exactly a king’s ransom—the government gets to keep only Rs 2,700 crore; the remaining Rs 15,300 crore is debt the Tatas have taken on—the Tatas’ bid was nearly 40 per cent higher than the Centre’s reserve price and nearly 20 per cent higher than the only other bid, by SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh. Air India is just one of a large number of public sector undertakings (PSUs) the government hopes to disinvest in this year. For 2021-22, the…

How to be curious

DURING an icy April in 1626, Francis Bacon, philosopher and a pioneer of the scientific method, was riding through the snowy streets of London when a curious question popped into his mind: would the cold help preserve a dead chicken? After acquiring one from a nearby household, he set about stuffing the bird with snow. In the process, he caught a chill, quickly followed by pneumonia and death. This possibly apocryphal story, spread by philosopher Thomas Hobbes, points to two faces of curiosity: one a virtue, the other a vice. Curiosity is the driving force behind science, exploration and discovery, in which form it has been as important in our species’ success as our intelligence. Curiosity can also be a boon to us individually, guiding us into passionate, purpose-filled lives –…

How to be curious
FOCUS STACK FOR TOTAL SHARPNESS

FOCUS STACK FOR TOTAL SHARPNESS

Achieving a totally sharp shot can be much more difficult when shooting macro photography because your depth of field becomes more shallow as your subject gets closer to the front of your lens. This means that even a relatively narrow aperture of f/16 or f/22, which would usually deliver good sharpness throughout a scene in normal conditions, will only provide a shallow band of sharpness when shooting close-ups. The solution is to create a focus stack. This is where you take a batch of images, focusing on a different part of your subject matter in each frame, then merge the sharpest pieces of each shot for a completely sharp photo. A slider rail is handy for this, as you can keep the focus set and rack the whole camera and lens…

The world this week

Politics Sudan suffered its second coup in two years. Abdel­Fattah al-Burhan, a former general and the country’s de facto president, seized control just months before he was supposed to step down. He also had the civilian prime minister arrested. Mr Burhan said he had acted to prevent a civil war. Thousands of protesters said no, it was a blatant power grab. Soldiers opened fire on them. At least seven people were killed and 140 wounded. Donors such as America suspended aid, but Mr Burhan hopes for backing from undemocratic foreign powers. BioNTech, the company that developed the covid-19 vaccine marketed by Pfizer, said it would build factories in Senegal and Rwanda next year. It hopes to produce more doses for Africa, which has 17.5% of the world’s population but has so far…

The world this week
THE SASIKALA CONUNDRUM

THE SASIKALA CONUNDRUM

On October 30, politicians of every hue in Tamil Nadu, led by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, made a bee-line for the samadhi of Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar at Pasumpon in Ramanathapuram district on his 114th birth anniversary. But the event honouring the late freedom fighter and spiritual icon was eclipsed by the buzz over the possible return to the AIADMK of another member of his Mukkalothor Thevar cohort, V.K. Sasikala. Released from jail in January this year, after a four-year-long incarceration in a Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case, the late Jayalalithaa’s mer-curial aide is suddenly making news again. Sasikala had gone to Thevar’s Pasumpon shrine a day ahead in a convoy bearing the AIADMK flag. During the week-long tour of Thanjavur, Madurai and Ramanathapuram districts in southern Tamil Nadu, Sasikala was…

“I REGRET NOTHING”

Her parents named her Sheela Ambalal Patel. After she married for the second time, her name in official records appeared as Sheela Birnstiel. Most of us, however, know her by the name Osho had once given her, Ma Anand Sheela. In the early 1980s, Sheela was indomitable, feisty. She had spunk. Back then, Osho was known to the world as Bhagwan Rajneesh. Sheela, his secretary, had his ear. She brought him what he wanted—cars, diamonds, fame, his own city in the US. She made real his utopia. The Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country (2018), told the story of how Osho’s American dream of sex and samadhi soured. It made Sheela the protagonist of a tragedy, one that ended in scandal and a jail term. Osho accused Sheela of arson, wiretapping, attempted…

“I REGRET NOTHING”

IN HIS MAJESTIC ANCESTRAL PALACE IN MADRID THE COUNT OF OSORNO AND BELEN CORSINI UNITE TWO OF SPAIN’S BIGGEST DYNASTIES AS THEY MARRY IN EUROPE’S FIRST MAJOR HIGH-SOCIETY WEDDING IN 18 MONTHS

It could have been a scene from a fairytale, in which the beautiful bride marries a handsome aristocrat in the landscaped gardens of his family’s historic ancestral palace. But this real-life love story took place in Madrid’s 18th-century Liria Palace, where last week around 300 guests gathered to witness Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Solís, Count of Osorno, marry Belén Corsini de Lacalle. While hundreds of onlookers gathered outside to catch a glimpse of Europe’s first high-society wedding in 18 months, the bride arrived at her future husband’s family home dressed in an empire-line georgette silk gown by Cristina Martínez-Pardo Cobián for Navascués. SOMETHING BORROWED Holding her hair in place was a silver and diamond decoration shaped into two interlocking circles to symbolise eternal love, created from a piece belonging to her mother. Following family tradition,…

IN HIS MAJESTIC ANCESTRAL PALACE IN MADRID THE COUNT OF OSORNO AND BELEN CORSINI UNITE TWO OF SPAIN’S BIGGEST DYNASTIES AS THEY MARRY IN EUROPE’S FIRST MAJOR HIGH-SOCIETY WEDDING IN 18 MONTHS
Fear and ‘Safe Zones’ in Kashmir

Fear and ‘Safe Zones’ in Kashmir

The dramatic and hostile reordering of Jammu and Kashmir’s political status vis-a-vis the Indian state on August 5, 2019 was followed by a systematic emasculation of the old political order and its replacement by a new set of elected leaders. The BJP-led central government felt that taking control of local governance institutions (panchayat and municipal committees) was the best way to neutralise the traditional political parties and its legislators in the absence of a functioning assembly. But nearly two years down the line, grassroots democracy has become a hostage in the battle between the militants and government forces. There have been threats and executions and instances of elected representatives fleeing their native villages. Rakesh Pandita was elected unopposed as a councillor from Tral in south Kashmir in the October 2018 municipal…

The Many Birthplaces of Hanuman

The Many Birthplaces of Hanuman

On April 21, on the occasion of Sri Rama Navami, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), custodian of the richest Hindu shrine, unveiled “mythological, epigraphic and geographic evidence” to claim that Tirumala is the birthplace of the Hindu god Hanuman. To bolster the claim, the TTD had constituted an eight-member committee, including Sanskrit and Vedic scholars and even a scientist from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in December 2020 to produce “irrefutable” evidence on the purported Hanuman janmabhoomi. This came after questions were raised during the special religious discourses the TTD held in June last year when participants asked why there were uncertainties about the birthplace. It seems bhakts were mentioning several places with similar-sounding names. The TTD announced that Anjanadri, one among the Seven Hills, is the birthplace of Hanuman.…

HERODIUM HEROD’S DESERT PALACE

Dominating the arid landscape on the edges of the Judaean Desert stands a hill that was once the pinnacle of territory controlled by Herod the Great. Identified in the mid 1800s as the site of the palace-fortress built by the king, Herodium housed a luxurious oasis in the lands southeast of Bethlehem. Even before its identification, historians had a clear vision of what this landmark once looked like, thanks to the Judeo-Roman historian Flavius Josephus. In his History of the Jewish War, written in the late first century a.d., Josephus described it as“a hill, raised by the hand of man, to be the shape of a woman’s breast.” Comprising palaces, forts, gardens, and a theater, the complex has provided rich insights into a king whose rule shaped the early life of Jesus.…

HERODIUM HEROD’S DESERT PALACE

China’s attack on tech

OF ALL CHINA’S achievements in the past two decades, one of the most impressive is the rise of its technology industry. Alibaba hosts twice as much e-commerce activity as Amazon does. Tencent runs the world’s most popular super-app, with 1.2bn users. China’s tech revolution has also helped transform its long-run economic prospects at home, by allowing it to leap beyond manufacturing into new fields such as digital health care and artificial intelligence (AI). As well as propelling China’s prosperity, a dazzling tech industry could also be the foundation for a challenge to American supremacy. That is why President Xi Jinping’s assault on his country’s $4trn tech industry is so startling. There have been over 50 regulatory actions against scores of firms for a dizzying array of alleged offences, from antitrust abuses…

China’s attack on tech

The world this week

Politics An 18-year-old gunman murdered 19 young children and two adults at a school in Uvalde, Texas. After a stand-off with law-enforcement officers he was shot dead by a borderpatrol agent. Parents were asked to provide DNA samples to help identify the children’s bodies. The perpetrator had a semi-automatic rifle and wore body armour, as did the gunman who shot and killed ten black people at a supermarket in Buffalo on May 14th. It was the worst school shooting in America since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. The FBI reported this week that the number of “active shooter” incidents, not counting episodes of gang violence or domestic disputes, rose by more than 50% last year to 61. Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, came under pressure to improve safety on…

The world this week

NO EASY EXIT

Following a tip-off on the night of October 2, a team of the Mumbai unit of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), posing as passenders, boarded Cordelia Cruises’ ship Empress, where a Delhi-based events company had organised a two-day musical voyage. Among the guests was superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan, 23. Led by zonal director Sameer Wankhede, the NCB team began a search and claimed to have seized 13 gm of cocaine, 5 gm of MD, 21 gm of charas, 22 pills of MDMA (Ecstasy) and Rs 1.33 lakh cash. The next day, the NCB arrested Khan, his friend Arbaaz Merchant and 18 others for the alleged consumption, sale and purchase” of contraband substances. Khan was charged under sections 8(c) r/w 20(b), 27, 28, 29 and 35 of the Narcotic Drugs…

NO EASY EXIT
ARE QUOTAS CROWDING OUT MERIT CANDIDATES?

ARE QUOTAS CROWDING OUT MERIT CANDIDATES?

On July 29, the Union government issued a notification introducing two new reservations for undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses, beginning this academic year. Of the seats under All India Quota (AIQ), 10 per cent will be reserved for EWS (economically weaker section) candidates and 27 per cent for OBC (other backward classes) candidates. AIQ seats were introduced in 1986 under the direction of the Supreme Court to provide domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to students from any state to study in good medical col-leges in other states. As a result of the notification, 2,500 seats in postgraduate (PG) courses in medical colleges will go to OBC candidates, with 1,000 for EWS candidates. However, admissions to PG courses this year, which were supposed to start on October 25, remain stalled as the…

THE KEN-BETWA BATTLEGROUND

THE KEN-BETWA BATTLEGROUND

On March 22, World Water Day, the Centre inked a tripartite agreement with the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to push forward work on the Ken-Betwa River Link (KBRL) project. Among other infrastructure, this entails the construction of a 2-km-long dam on the Ken river at Daudhan village in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district. The water from the created reservoir will then be transferred via canal to the Betwa river basin in Uttar Pradesh. The project was originally conceived in 1980, under what was then the Centre’s National Perspective Plan to transfer water from surplus regions to deficit areas via river-linking projects. To be built at a cost of about Rs 35,111 crore, it is expected to provide irrigation and drinking water to 13 districts across Madhya Pradesh (Raisen, Vidisha,…

CRISIS OF PRICES

For the past few months, Sreelekha Nambiar, a 38-year-old homemaker in Vashi, Navi Mumbai, has been wondering if seasonal shortages are driving up the prices of vegetables and groceries. The Rs 25,000 she sets aside for monthly household expenses has been getting her two-thirds of what she could buy a year ago. Vegetable prices are ruling at Rs 100-120 a kg in April compared to Rs 80-100 a year ago; cooking gas has become costlier by Rs 150, touching Rs 950 for a cylinder; and edible oil prices have jumped to Rs 200-220 a litre from Rs 80-100 a year ago. The Rs 22 a litre rise in petrol prices has made costlier her husband Satheesh’s daily commute to the internet services firm where he works as a technician. There…

CRISIS OF PRICES
INSIDER’S GUIDE THE SWISS H&F LEAGUE

INSIDER’S GUIDE THE SWISS H&F LEAGUE

Bernhard, what’s the new Swiss hike-and-fly league all about? The Swiss hike-and-fly league launched on 1 November. It’s a separate league within our national association (SHV)’s main Swiss league. The goal is to develop a wider base of talented hike-and-fly pilots, to facilitate training and coaching to ensure more of them will reach the top to represent Switzerland in international hike-and-fly competitions. In addition, we aim to improve safety and reduce accidents. We provide training and support and we organise competitions. How did it start? Some years ago Chrigel Maurer started the X-Alps Academy, a private initiative to train talented pilots to be better prepared for the Red Bull X-Alps. The Swiss league at the time wasn’t interested in participating. I was a coach at the Academy for two seasons, from 2019 to…

PAYING TRIBUTE TO HER LATE HUSBAND THE QUEEN A SHIP-SHAPE OUTING AS SHE RETURNS TO SOLO DUTIES

‘It was an honour to see her, let alone speak to her. The highlight of my career’ Resplendent in a military-style, brick-red cashmere coat, the Queen cut an elegant figure making her first solo engagement since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. But as she arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base to visit the flagship she named in 2014, the monarch was paying a tender tribute to her husband by teaming her outfit with the striking ruby, diamond and gold Scarab brooch he gave her in 1966. Smiling brightly, Her Majesty stepped on board HMS Queen Elizabeth as the crew prepared for the huge aircraft carrier’s maiden operational voyage – a seven-month deployment to the Far East. She was greeted by Captain Angus Essenhigh and Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the UK Carrier Strike…

PAYING TRIBUTE TO HER LATE HUSBAND THE QUEEN A SHIP-SHAPE OUTING AS SHE RETURNS TO SOLO DUTIES

Skunk no more

IT GETS ALMOST three-quarters of its electricity from coal, and has 39 new coal-fired power plants under construction. It digs up and burns more of the stuff than any other country except China. And it is coal’s loudest advocate internationally: at last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, it was the skunk at the garden party, blocking efforts to phase out the fuel most responsible for global warming. This soot-smeared intransigence, however, distracts from a dramatic countervailing trend. While his underlings defended coal, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, made a series of pledges in Glasgow that, if kept, will make his country a green-energy powerhouse. The most eye-catching was the promise that India would achieve “net-zero” emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2070—meaning that any emissions that had not been eliminated by…

Skunk no more
Serve the people

Serve the people

Cuba is facing its worst shortage of food since the 1990s “CUBANS HAVE always been resourceful,” says Ana, the owner of a private farm-to-table restaurant near Havana. “But now we need to be magicians and acrobats.” The communist island is facing its worst shortage of food since the 1990s. Finding ingredients was never easy in a place which imports around 70% of its food. Over the past year it has become nearly impossible. When grocery shops are empty, as is so often the case, Ana tries the internet or the black market, only to find that prices are prohibitively high. Farmers no longer want to sell produce to her, she says, as they need to eat it themselves. The government blames the shortage of food mostly on sanctions imposed by the United…

CHEMINS DE TRAVERSE

CHEMINS DE TRAVERSE

STYLE SAINT-TROPEZ L’AVENTURE VERDON SOUFFLE ARLÉSIEN PATCHWORK © 1. BRIDGEMAN IMAGES/AGIP 2. BRIDGEMAN IMAGES/COLORISATION SÉBASTIEN DE OLIVEIRA/VOYAGES EXTRAORDINAIRES, LOUIS VUITTON 3. FOLEGANDROS AMORE/THEO VRANAS. © 1. ÉLITIS 2. COMPTOIR DES COTONNIERS 3. MATTIA BALSAMINI 4. IKEA. © SDP 1, 2. CHANEL. 4. SI.LI.CERAMICS 8, 9. POMELLATO. © SDP 1. GILLES MARTIN-RAGET/LES VOILES DE SAINT-TROPEZ 3. ERES 4. TECTONA. © SDP 1. GILLES MARTIN-RAGET/LES VOILES DE SAINT-TROPEZ 4. PAIN DE SUCRE 5. DNUD 6. AU DÉPART/GIAMPAOLO SGURA. © SDP 1. OFFICE DE TOURISME D’ARLES 4. TEVA X POLAROID 6. HERMÈS/STUDIO DES FLEURS. © SDP 1. JEAN-LUC BERTINI AMISH, LINCOLVILLE, MAINE, 2008 7. HERVÉ HÔTE 8. CARAVANE. © COURTESY OF RACHEL HAYES AND LOWELL RYAN PROJECTS, LOS ANGELES/RACHEL HAYES, LINE DANCE, WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO, 2017 © COURTESY OF RACHEL HAYES AND LOWELL RYAN PROJECTS, LOS…

DIDI PLAYS THE DOLE DRUMS

DIDI PLAYS THE DOLE DRUMS

In the jousting field that is West Bengal politics, the incumbent Trinamool Congress finds itself on the backfoot. Two of its heavyweight leaders—former minister Partha Chatterjee and Birbhum strongman Anubrata Mondal—have been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation for their alleged involvement in the teachers’ recruitment scandal and the cattle smuggling scam respectively. Add to that the repeated CBI summons to party national general secretary and second-in command Abhishek Banerjee in the ongoing probe in the alleged coal scam. In the not too distant past, too, loom the dark visages of the Saradha and Narada scams, which created no less embarrassment for the TMC. Add to that infighting in the party and a spate of crimes in recent months, including rape, allegedly linked to TMC…

MUTANT STRAINS OF COVID-19

MUTANT STRAINS OF COVID-19

EARLY CHINA VARIANT (D614G) Emerging from Wuhan, it replaced the first virus identified in Jan. 2020, and became the dominant global strain by June What does the mutation do? Helps the virus attach more efficiently to the ACE2 receptor in the human host How infectious is it? Was found in 10 per cent of 997 global genome sequences before Mar. 1, 67 per cent sequences from Mar. 1-Mar. 31 and 78 per cent sequences from Apr. 1-May 18, in a June 2020 study in the journal Cell Prevalence in India Was seen in 78 per cent of all samples between Apr. 1 and May 18, 2020 SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANT (501Y.V2) Fifty per cent more infectious in South Africa, it became the dominant strain in the country and has now spread to around 40 countries What does the…

THE LAST STRAW

We must know what we are up against—how immense the challenge before us is—as we look at India’s ban on single-use plastic that kicked in on July 1. Anyone who has been to a beach and has received a message in a bottle knows it’s a stark one. The bottle is made of plastic. So is the water—almost. That’s the message. The bottle may seem tiny compared to the vast sea, but have you heard of trash vortexes? The largest one, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is estimated to have an area of 1.6 million sq. km—a floating bridge of semi-dissolved trash between California and Japan. We have one of our own, in the Indian Ocean, toxifying the blue waters between South Africa and Australia. Scientists have called it a…

THE LAST STRAW

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Our nation is at war,” General V.P. Malik tweeted on April 18. As the last Indian army chief to have led troops in war, he should know. Each day, over 2,000 Indians are succumbing to Covid-19, nearly four times the number of soldiers killed in the 11-week Kargil War in 1999. But there’s an important difference—this pandemic is not a distant border conflict fought by generals and professional soldiers. The tsunami of the second wave has crashed into our towns and cities, affecting our friends, neighbours and relatives, overwhelming our health infrastructure, leaving people scrambling around for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and even slots in crematoriums to dispose of the dead. Over 200,000 persons have been infected every single day since April 15—the world’s largest number of new cases since…

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
TOASTING THE GOOD LIFE AT THEIR IDYLLIC VINEYARD MIRYAM ABASCAL VALDENEBRO THE WINEMAKER AND ARISTOCRAT ON KEEPING A FAMILY DREAM ALIVE

TOASTING THE GOOD LIFE AT THEIR IDYLLIC VINEYARD MIRYAM ABASCAL VALDENEBRO THE WINEMAKER AND ARISTOCRAT ON KEEPING A FAMILY DREAM ALIVE

‘Portugal has been a blessing for us and the children. It’s a magnificent place with lovely people, amazing landscapes and the best possible quality of life’ As she gazes out over the rows of vines on her historic wine estate, Miryam Abascal Valdenebro can see an elegant rosé in the making. But that’s not all. Before her eyes is living proof that – if lovingly nurtured – dreams, like vines, take root and grow. It’s four years since the Andalusian aristocrat and her husband, Nicholas von Bruemmer, came to live in Casal Santa María on the south-western tip of Portugal. Financier Nicholas inherited the estate from his grandfather, Baron Bodo von Bruemmer, an extraordinary man who suddenly, at the age of 96, set about creating a vineyard here, devoting himself to it right…

WHAT BIDEN’S NEW $100B PLAN FOR BROADBAND MEANS

WHAT BIDEN’S NEW $100B PLAN FOR BROADBAND MEANS

The problems with U.S. broadband networks have been obvious for years. Service costs more than in many other rich nations, it still doesn’t reach tens of millions of Americans and the companies that provide it don’t face much competition. Now the Biden administration is promising to do something about all of those issues as part of its proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. The plan, which would devote $100 billion to get all Americans connected, is more idea than policy and lacks a lot of important detail. But it sketches out a striking new vision of activist government measures intended to improve high-speed internet service, following decades in which the government has largely left the job to private companies. WHAT IS BIDEN’S PROPOSAL? It would spend $100 billion to “future-proof” broadband as part of an…

The long goodbye

WHEN WILL it end? For a year and a half, covid-19 has gripped one country after another. Just when you think the virus is beaten, a new variant comes storming back, more infectious than the last. And yet, as the number of vaccinations passes 3bn, glimpses of post-covid life are emerging. Already, two things are clear: that the last phase of the pandemic will be drawn-out and painful; and that covid-19 will leave behind a different world. This week The Economist publishes a normalcy index, which reflects both these realities. Taking the pre-pandemic average as 100, it tracks such things as flights, traffic and retailing across 50 countries comprising 76% of Earth’s population. Today it stands at 66, almost double the level in April 2020 (see Graphic detail). Yet the ravages of…

The long goodbye

All-consuming

EVER SINCE its first antitrust law passed in 1890, America has argued over what trustbusting is for. One school, named after Louis Brandeis, a judge, holds that big companies must be tamed because they corrupt politics and damage customers, competitors and staff. The other says the goal of antitrust is to protect the welfare of consumers, which can be enhanced by big, efficient firms. For decades the consumer approach has been ascendant, but now the consensus has frayed and trustbusters are heading in a Brandeisian direction. This is a mistake. Competition policy needs reforms, to correct past failings and to adapt to the digital economy. Yet it should continue to be based on the principle that consumers are what count. A shift towards more politicised and expansive antitrust is taking place…

All-consuming
NUTRITIONIST TO THE STARS GABRIELA PEACOCK FINDS BALANCE, FAMILY FUN AND ROYAL NEIGHBOURS AT HER COTSWOLDS LOCKDOWN RETREAT

NUTRITIONIST TO THE STARS GABRIELA PEACOCK FINDS BALANCE, FAMILY FUN AND ROYAL NEIGHBOURS AT HER COTSWOLDS LOCKDOWN RETREAT

‘As much as I love London, this is very different. Lockdown made us all re-evaluate’ Gabriela Peacock has made her name helping royal brides, top models and A-list stars get into shape. Now, the celebrity nutritionist, who’s credited with preparing her close friend Princess Beatrice, her sister Princess Eugenie and cousin the Duke of Sussex for their weddings, has overhauled her own lifestyle with a move to the Cotswolds – where open space and fresh country air are top of the menu. ‘The kids collect eggs every morning, which is so sweet’ Gabriela’s home for most of this year has been her retreat in Oxfordshire, a 17th-century manor house where she has been running her successful nutrition business remotely, using Zoom calls to see her clients, who include the likes of Beatrice, Dame…

HOW INDIA WILL BE HIT

HOW INDIA WILL BE HIT

On February 28, after the first round of ceasefire talks between Ukraine and Russia failed, satellites revealed a 64 km-long convoy of Russian vehicles heading toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. News anchors described the scene as reminiscent of Europe during World War II, except that it was unfolding on millions of screens around the world in living colour. The death and devastation of WWII resulted in a new world order, as countries rebuilt their economies after the smoke cleared. A week into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rumblings of a huge economic shake-up are being felt again, this time across a hugely interconnected globe with countries just limping out of yet another wave of the devastating pandemic. The economic consequences of Russia’s invasion have been immediate, with crude oil now at its…

A New Era Begins

A New Era Begins

The anointment of Abhishek Banerjee as Trinamool Congress (TMC) national general secretary, on June 5, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the party. Emboldened by her landslide election victory that gave her a third term on the trot, Mamata Banerjee wasted no time initiating a revamp of the TMC and entrusting her 33-year-old nephew with the task of taking the party beyond the borders of Bengal. The project, which was to begin with the Northeast and parts of Uttar Pradesh, had gone into cold storage with Mukul Roy’s exit from the party in 2017. Under Abhishek, the TMC’s expansion drive might be more watchful and result-oriented than anything his predecessors have attempted. He says the party will not enter other states for a token presence or just a…

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

However much we deny it, India remains a caste-ridden society even after 75 years of Independence and considerable economic progress. It is em-bedded in our society and most definitely in our politics. Indians, it is often said, don’t cast their vote so much as vote their caste. This convergence of caste and politics makes most self-serving politicians want this state of play to continue. Caste politics assumed national centre stage when the then prime minister V.P. Singh’s decision to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations triggered nationwide protests in 1989-1990. His action did not come out of any love of social justice but was a cynical calculation to ensure the survival of his coalition government. The decision earmarked 27 per cent of government jobs for OBCs or the Other Backward Classes.…

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

HIJABS OF THE MIND

PURUSHOTTAM AGRAWAL The author is a historian of ideas and scholar of Hinduism. His latest book is Kabir-Kabir. He is currently working on a book about Hinduism The most interesting, rather instructive, aspect of the Udupi ‘hijab controversy’ has been the way young Hindus chose to register their protest by underlining their own religious identity. “If you are allowed to don the hijab, then we must be allowed our saffron,” they said, through word or action. This way, they—rather, their instructors and mentors—managed to direct public imagination to the larger issue of perceived ‘Muslim appeasement’. The hijab would be seen as yet another ‘undeserved concession’ to Muslims, which must be nipped in the bud. The controversy became a timely vehicle for the BJP to put across its ‘anti-appeasement’ message in the ongoing…

HIJABS OF THE MIND

Biden’s Policy Must Center Racial Justice

As soon as they were inaugurated, U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris started making good on their campaign promises. They reentered the Paris climate accord, renewed U.S. support for the World Health Organization, and ended the Trump administration’s travel bans targeting nationals of select Muslim-majority and African nations. Racial justice was also high on the list of issues that they identified as most pressing and requiring action in their first 100 days. On Jan. 26, Biden rolled out his administration’s first steps to advance racial equity and promote national unity and reconciliation. He issued four executive orders spanning issues that affect multiple racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States, namely Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, and Pacific Islander Americans. The first executive order directed the Department of Housing…

Biden’s Policy Must Center Racial Justice
Indian realism

Indian realism

WHEN INDIA formally takes the helm of the G20 on December 1st, it will do so as a prominent, sought-after actor on the world stage. Having refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it was praised this month for its contribution to a joint declaration of leaders in Bali that did so implicitly. It then helped create a fund at the UN climate talks in Egypt to compensate developing countries for climate-related damage (see next story). This week Jon Finer, America’s deputy national security adviser, described India as “very high” on America’s list of partners that “can truly help move forward a global agenda”. Supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party often attribute India’s growing stature to a more assertive foreign policy that dispenses with the deference…

Lost promise

ONE OF THE most extraordinary growth records over the past two decades was to be found, perhaps surprisingly, in the horn of Africa. Real GDP per person in Ethiopia, the second-most-populous country in Africa, rose by an average annual rate of 9.3% from 1999 to 2019, just 0.4 percentage points less than China’s pace of growth. Now a year-long war between Ethiopia’s government and forces led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) threatens to spill into the capital city, wreak humanitarian disaster and wipe away those economic gains. From the late 1990s, a roaring Chinese economy provided the impetus for a boom in the rest of the developing world. As China became richer, some of its industry moved abroad, allowing poorer countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam to follow in its…

Lost promise

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

In India, controversies sometimes emerge out of the unlikeliest places and when you least expect them. Last month, it erupted in coastal Karnataka when a group of schoolgirls in a government-run pre-university school said they were being prevented from entering their classrooms because they were wearing hijabs (headscarves). The issue snowballed into a larger conflagration. Several such incidents were reported across the state, the state government ordered an unprecedented three-day closure of all schools, and the schoolgirls petitioned the high court. Whether or not hijabs can be worn to school is now a question that the courts will have to answer. Although the controversy arose in the intensely polarised landscape of coastal Karnataka, it soon spread to other educational institutions in the state. The issue now boils down to an individual’s…

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
THE ‘T’ COMPANY

THE ‘T’ COMPANY

Nearly a month after an explosives-laden SUV was found parked a short distance from Mukesh Ambani’s residence, Antilia, all investigative leads seem to be converging in Thane, a satellite city north of Mumbai. The two vehicles—a white In-nova, allegedly driven by assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze, and the light-green Scorpio, allegedly driven by one of his aides—started towards South Mumbai from Thane, 30 km away, on February 24. On the intervening night of February 24-25, the Scorpio was left parked 500 metres away from the Ambani residence on Carmichael Road, with 20 sticks of commercial blasting gelatin and a note threatening the family inside the vehicle. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the central agency now probing the incident and the murder of the original Scorpio owner, businessman Mansukh Hiran, believes the conspiracy…

LA STORIA, RITROVATA

A pochi metri in linea d’aria dalle Gallerie dell’Accademia, affacciata sul Canal Grande, c’è una casa che – anche per gli standard di Venezia – è unica. L’aveva voluta la discendente di una famiglia di antiquari, la gallerista e collezionista Loredana Balboni, al piano terra e al primo della palazzina ottocentesca di famiglia. Per ripensare questo spazio e portarlo nella modernità chiama Carlo Scarpa: è il 1964, lui ha già firmato progetti importantissimi come palazzo Abatellis a Palermo, la Gipsoteca Canoviana a Possagno, la Fondazione Querini Stampalia nella sua Venezia. Scarpa entra in questo volume e lo reinventa. Da maestro, seguendo sia la razionalità sia l’emozione. Per proteggere gli interni dall’acqua alta rialza il livello del piano terra e riduce in conseguenza le altezze dei soffitti; ma nel punto centrale della…

LA STORIA, RITROVATA
MAMATA VS MODI, PART 2

MAMATA VS MODI, PART 2

It has been a stormy first month in office for Mamata Banerjee in her third term as West Bengal chief minister. The BJP top leadership seems to have taken the election defeat to heart and has kept up the pressure on her government. Multiple central teams have descended on the state to “review the law and order situation” and investigating agencies seem to have suddenly woken up to scams that have dragged on for years. The latest in the ongoing fracas was the Centre’s recall of West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, and Mamata’s ‘appeal’ in a public letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking that the order be withdrawn as the bureaucrat was needed in Bengal. Of course, that didn’t happen and the chief secretary has now officially resigned, and…

Random Family

What are the chances that five women artists, with studios in the same Los Angeles complex, would all be rooting for one another? Just such an unlikely arrangement exists right now in Frogtown, a sleepy, mostly residential neighborhood on the Los Angeles River, minutes from downtown. Ruby Neri, a sculptor of bright, bumptious, large-scale female clay nudes, had her eye on the magic warehouse for some time before she officially obtained it in 2020. “It was a little bit beyond my price range, but I signed the lease two months before COVID shut things down.” Lily Stockman, an abstract painter, heard about it from a friend, and got in touch with Neri. “It was truly right in my backyard,” she says. Neri then called Hilary Pecis, a realist painter of interiors…

Random Family

Modern country

COLOUR DIRECTION Combining a variety of prints but all in greens and whites ensures this room feels calm and not overwhelming. SUNNY DISPOSITION Pink and yellow is a winning combination for a fresh, summery feel at the breakfast table. Mixing and matching designs creates a cheery gathering of colour and pattern. ARTISTIC INSPIRATION A much-loved piece of art is an ideal starting point for a scheme. Pulling out key tones from the artwork for curtains, upholstery and accessories offers a joyful cocktail of yellows, pinks and browns. BEAUTIFUL BOTANICALS Three diverse patterns – a perky floral, a modern African print and a classic trellis design – have been cleverly layered to work together harmoniously. PATTERN PLAY An exuberant headboard is the focal point here, with diagonal striped curtains complementing the happy scheme.…

Modern country

To see a world in a grain of sand

IN THE PAST few centuries physics has transformed both daily life and world history with novelties ranging from electricity to nuclear bombs. Physicists have also broadened humanity’s horizons, literally and metaphorically. Time and again, they have overturned notions of reality previously held—often by the self same physicists—to be fundamental. They could be about to do so once more. On a cosmic scale, a universe that was once thought to be a few thousand years old, and to consist of a handful of orbs circling Earth against a fixed backdrop of stars, has been shown to have an age of 13.77bn years—a value believed to be known to within a precision of three parts in a thousand. That universe may also be infinite in size. Certainly it stretches at least as far…

To see a world in a grain of sand

The power of negative thinking

THE CLIMATE law that the German government passed in 2019 required a cut in greenhouse-gas emissions of 55%, from levels in 1990, by 2030. Climate activists saw this as insufficient. They took the government to court on the basis that, by not treating climate action seriously enough, it was denying basic rights to citizens of the future. The court has now rejected the more ambitious aspects of that complaint. But its ruling at the end of last month did nevertheless find fault with the law. Although the target for 2030 was not in itself deemed to be inadequate, the court decided that it does pose a problem in the context of the law’s longer-term aspiration to “net zero” emissions in 2050. The combination of the two pledges seemed to allow governments…

The power of negative thinking
A SIMMERING SUMMER STANDOFF

A SIMMERING SUMMER STANDOFF

More than two months after hundreds of Indian and Chinese soldiers, tanks and vehicles pulled back from the northern and southern banks of the Pangong Tso and the Kailash Range, an attenuated standoff looks set to continue through the summer. Indian and Chinese troops continue to confront each other at the Hot Springs and Gogra Post, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. The troop numbers, Indian military officials say, are not significant—around a platoon, or 32 soldiers—in both locations to mirror Chinese deployments. The deployments have continued since last June when both the Indian Army and the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) stepped back over 2 km each from their respective perceptions of the LAC. The PLA is currently around 700 metres inside India’s perception of the LAC…

Bangalored? Take a Train

Bangalored? Take a Train

Anyone in Bengaluru knows the two conversation-starters—the weather and the traffic. The first has held up impeccably through a heatwave that scorched much of the country. The latter hasn’t disappointed either—Bengaluru’s notorious traffic is getting back to its pre-pandemic levels. Back in 2019, Bengaluru ranked as the most congested city globally in the Amsterdam-based TomTom Traffic Index. It fell to the tenth position in 2021, thanks to the pandemic, while Mumbai overtook it to reach No. 5 and Delhi was at No. 11. However, there was a difference: Mumbai has a dependable local rail network that ferried nearly eight million commuters every day in 2019 while six million rode the Delhi Metro daily that year. In contrast, Bengaluru’s 6,500-odd city buses and its 56-km metroline put together transported about four million. Public…

THE MELTDOWN IN SRI LANKA

THE MELTDOWN IN SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka is wilting under its worst economic crisis in decades. And battered by shortage after shortage, its citizens are enraged. Snaking queues of sweat-drenched men and women are a familiar sight in every town and city, waiting for cooking gas, kerosene, diesel and petrol. Lining up starts in the early hours and often continues overnight. Pharmacies are running out of even basic medications like antihistamines and paracetamol. Since February, there have been rolling power cuts because foreign exchange reserves, down by 70 per cent in two years, have dwindled to $ 2.3 billion, too low to procure regular fuel imports for transport or thermal power. ervoirs are dropping. With rains due only in May, water is the next looming scarcity and must be preserved for agriculture, not power generation. On…

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Bangalored. Coined sometime in the early years of the 21st century, the word used to mark out a unique Indian success. At the height of the outsourcing boom, an American would use the word to convey defeat in a long-distance economic competition. Bangalore, to take the old and familiar anglicised form of the name, was our own Silicon Valley. It was our sunrise city, our El Dorado. The world was its oyster. What possibly could go wrong with this script? Well, trust India to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That American word has been turned inside out. Now it just as likely conveys an instrument of self-torture. The city may have renamed itself as Bengaluru in 2005 to suit rising nativist sentiments, but it has been ‘Bangalored’—and has…

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Business

Business

Meta’s quarterly earnings delighted investors, for a change, as it set out a plan to reduce costs in a “year of efficiency” and announced a $40bn share buy-back. Revenue fell in the last three months of 2022, year on year, but is expected to rise in this quarter. Still, Reality Labs, the division tasked with creating the metaverse, ran up another loss, of $4.3bn, taking its total loss for the year to $13.7bn. Sharing the driving seat After months of sometimes troublesome negotiations, Nissan and Renault announced a restructuring of their two-decade-old alliance, which has been under strain since the fall from grace in 2018 of Carlos Ghosn, who had run both carmakers. The main feature of the agreement is a reduction in Renault’s stake in Nissan to 15% from 43%, with the…

Intel, Are You Listening?

AFTER ‘ROCKET LAKE,’ 5 THINGS INTEL MUST DO ON DESKTOP TO GET ITS CPU MAGIC BACK Intel must replicate what Apple has done. The Apple M1 is the first ARM-based system on a chip designed by Apple Inc. as a central processing unit for its line of Macintosh computers. It was inspired by their ARM A14 chip. It is deployed in the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and the MacBook Pro. It is the first personal computer chip built using a 5nm process. Apple claims that it has the world’s fastest CPU core.—Richard Keyes It is past time for Intel to move its chip design to at least 10nm, achieving all of its economies in circuit density and power consumption, especially when TSMC and Samsung are already at 7nm. It boggles the mind…

Intel, Are You Listening?

The horror ahead

MARVEL AT THE heroism and resilience of Ukraine. In the first days of war, the armoured might of Vladimir Putin shrivelled before the courage of the nation he had attacked. In the face of Mr Putin’s invasion, the Ukrainian people have discovered they are ready to die for the idea that they should choose their own destiny. To a cynical dictator that must be incomprehensible. To the rest of humanity it is an inspiration. If only this week’s bravery were enough to bring the fighting to an end. Alas, Russia’s president will not withdraw so easily. From the start, Mr Putin has made clear that this is a war of escalation—a hygienic word for a dirty and potentially catastrophic reality. At its most brutal, escalation means that, whatever the world does,…

The horror ahead
Engine repair

Engine repair

THE WORLD could use more economic hope. The war in Ukraine has dealt a heavy blow to global growth prospects. Lockdowns and a property slowdown have sapped China, the erstwhile growth engine, of its vim. Given its size and potential, it seems reasonable to ask if India could be the world’s next economic motor. In April the IMF reckoned that Indian GDP might grow by more than 8% this year—easily the fastest pace among large countries. Such a rapid expansion, if sustained, would have a profound impact on the world. But, in large part because of the shifting structure of the global economy, things are not as simple as India taking up China’s mantle. In the 2000s China accounted for nearly a third of global growth—more than America and the European…

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

We entered 2022 with a sense of déjà vu because the new year seems a lot like the year gone by. Covid-19 cases are rising again and a far more contagious strain of the novel corona-virus is spreading across the globe. The good thing, though, is that two years on, Covid-19 is no longer an unknown unknown. We know the nature of the beast and experienced the worst of it last year when the Delta variant tore across India, triggering the second wave of infections, aggravated by an acute medical oxygen crisis and black fungus cases, all of which collectively killed over 200,000 people in the country. We are now far better prepared with vaccine stocks and the government’s booster dose programme. Covid-19 has claimed 5.4 million lives globally, just…

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

THE LONELINESS OF SUKHBIR BADAL

The Aam Aadmi Party’s euphoric arrival to dominance made it the cynosure of all eyes in Punjab, but it also diverted attention from a curious void the election results had left in their wake. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been at the very fulcrum of Punjab’s polity for all of its century-plus existence, and its wipeout is more than just a loss. It managed just three MLAs in the 117-seat assembly—its worst-ever electoral performance since 1967, the first polls after modern-day Punjab was carved out on linguistic lines. In a way, it’s a tectonic shift, bestowing an unpredictable set of dynamics for all of Punjab—not the least for, and not only for, the Akalis. That this has happened under Sukhbir Badal’s helmsmanship brings the most urgent questions for SAD. Sukhbir…

THE LONELINESS OF SUKHBIR BADAL
THE KHELA IS STILL ON

THE KHELA IS STILL ON

Last week, BJP leaders were rejoicing over news that the Congress’s Jitin Prasada was joining their ranks, seemingly oblivious of a similar crisis unfolding in their own party in West Bengal, where national vice-president Mukul Roy was returning to the Trinamool Congress (TMC), with son Subhrangshu in tow. Learning about the move barely hours before Roy & Co. were to meet TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek on June 11, top BJP leaders tried in vain to forestall the reverse migration, rubbing salt into wounds inflicted by a humiliating election defeat in the state just over a month ago. Roy joined the BJP in November 2017 but was never really at home. It’s unlikely that his growing discomfort would have gone unnoticed in the party. He was hemmed in…

THE RIGHT TO BE VISIBLE

MEJINDARPAL KAUR The writer is International Legal Director, UNITED SIKHS The ongoing hijab row has left us shocked. The hijab is worn globally by Muslim women in public places, including schools. It is even more shocking that the debate is unfolding in India, a land where many religions were founded and where religious freedom has existed for aeons, since well before the Indian Constitution provided for it. It is for this religious freedom that the sixth Sikh guru, Sri Guru Teg Bahadurji, gave his life 347 years ago, so Kashmiri Pandits may wear their janeyu. He did it without questioning if the janeyu is an essential requirement of sanatan dharma, let alone if it is discriminatory. And his father, Guru Hargobind Sahibji, built the Guru Ki Maseet for Muslims in Hargobindpur, during…

THE RIGHT TO BE VISIBLE

THE SECOND WAVE: CRISIS & CONTAINMENT

On April 13, when former district judge Ramesh Chandra, a resident of Lucknow’s Gomti Nagar, and his wife Madhu had a bout of fever and a sore throat, they got themselves tested for Covid-19. The report found both of them positive. As Madhu’s condition deteriorated over the next two days, the former judge made frantic calls to city hospitals for ambulances and, when none came, called up and pleaded with the district magistrate and even officials in the chief minister’s office—to no avail. His wife died on the morning of April 15. But the ordeal was not over yet. Chandra spent a harrowing time trying to get a hearse to take her body to the crematorium. A weeping Chandra says he spent four hours calling friends in high places before…

THE SECOND WAVE: CRISIS & CONTAINMENT

Big, green and mean

GET BEHIND the wheel of an electric vehicle made in Detroit and drive south. The outline of a city that was once a byword for industrial decline fades in the rear-view mirror. Head into Ohio, where the battery under your feet was made. The semiconductors that regulate its charging speed were made there too, in a vast new factory that counts the Pentagon among its biggest customers. Recharge with electricity transmitted from one of West Virginia’s new nuclear plants, then start the long journey into the heartlands. After the endless wind farms of Kansas, you drive through Oklahoma’s vast solar fields, then loop back to the gulf coast. The trip ends by the water, the bright sun glinting off a spanking-new green-hydrogen plant. This is America in 2033, if the Biden…

Big, green and mean

Why Indonesia matters

THIS WEEK’S G20 meeting took place in Indonesia, the most important country that people routinely overlook. The last time its economy and politics were in the global spotlight was during the mayhem of the 1990s when a crony-capitalist system collapsed amid the Asian financial crisis, causing the fall of the 32-year-long dictatorship of Suharto. A quarter of a century on, Indonesia matters once again. It is the world’s largest Muslim-majority state, its third-biggest democracy and its fourth-most-populous country. With 276m people spread across thousands of islands that stretch from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, it is caught up in the strategic contest between America and China. And like India and other emerging markets, it is adapting to a new world order in which globalisation and Western supremacy are in retreat. Over…

Why Indonesia matters
Automatic for the people

Automatic for the people

China’s future economic potential hinges on its productivity. Can the government boost it? NOBLELIFT, BASED in Changxing, a town on the banks of Tai Lake, provides robotic tools for warehouse management: self-driving pallet jacks and sorting systems that make picking and fetching quicker and less dependent on humans. The factories in which it builds its wares are themselves a blur of robot arms. “There’s no comparison with the way things used to be,” says Ding Yi, Noblelift’s founder. The company’s main factory has only 350 workers. He says that in the old days it would have needed nearly four times as many. In 2010 China was home to fewer than 50,000 industrial robots. Today it has 800,000—nearly one in three of the robots in the world. This is in part because robots…

SOFTWARE HIGHLIGHTS

SOFTWARE HIGHLIGHTS

16-track DAW with 23 synths & FX Avid Pro Tools | First In recent versions, Avid‘s DAW has transformed from an exclusive tool for professional studios to a DAW that is as powerful as it is beginner-friendly. In addition to its 23 compressors & EQs, 16 tracks and the unprecedented range of creative sampling and time-stretching tools, Pro Tools | First even offers two amazing extras: the Xpand!2 workstation from AIR Music and UVI‘s PlugSound Library. By the way, syncing with other DAWs is no problem using ReWire. Download: www.bit.ly/BeatDL187 | License: www.bit.ly/BeatPTFirst win | mac Rocks! Fully modular amp modeling giant Overloud TH-U Beat With TH-U Beat, Overloud has created an exclusive version of the modular studio for guitar and bass sounds for Beat readers. The plug-in comes up with excellent sounding amps and matching cabinets,…

A FITTING SERVICE – JUST AS HE PLANNED

Inside the historic St George’s Chapel, the setting for so many joyful royal family moments in recent years, the nave had been stripped of furniture but was bathed in bright sunlight from the windows high overhead. Before the service, chapel organist Luke Bond played JS Bach’s Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele, Adagio Espressivo by Sir William Harris, Salix by Percy Whitlock, Berceuse by Louis Vierne and Rhosymedre by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The last piece was also played at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales and at the weddings of both Prince William and Prince Harry. Rhosymedre was also played at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales The pallbearers approached the organ screen and, as the coffin entered the quire, a choir conducted by James Vivian sang The Sentences by William Croft…

A FITTING SERVICE – JUST AS HE PLANNED
KAMAL NATH’S COLD START DOCTRINE

KAMAL NATH’S COLD START DOCTRINE

The Congress headquarters in Bhopal is a hive of activity—unusual given that the assembly election is only in 2023, and the party unit is used to ‘coming alive’ only when polls are near. Madhya Pradesh PCC chief and former chief minister Kamal Nath is making an early start, though. Nath, who had finally wrested the state from the BJP in 2018 only to lose it in 2020 when Jyotiraditya Scindia and his cohorts switched sides, knows that strengthening the organisation is crucial to take on the saffron regime, even one enervated by the long stint in power (2003-18 and then from 2020 on). MP is crucial for the Congress as it is among the few states where the party’s been able to stage a comeback, even take the fight to its…

BREWING DISCONTENT

On October 14, while on a tour of Goa, Union home minister Amit Shah got a glimpse of how factionalised the BJP’s state unit has become. At a meeting of the party’s core committee in Panaji, attended by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, two ministers—Mauvin Godinho and Vishwajeet Rane—openly complained to Shah about how Sawant ignores their advice on governance matters. The state unit is also divided on whether the BJP should go solo in the upcoming assembly election, scheduled for February 2022. Sources say the home minister’s advice on the day boiled down to one line—ensure, at all costs, that Goa’s opposition parties do not come together. In its bid to win a third term, the BJP’s Goa unit faces its biggest challenge in a decade, with the dissidence in its…

BREWING DISCONTENT

THE ANGER GAMES

It’s not easy to frame a generational conflict that bears no clear, fixed ties of affiliation. But the Congress can be said to be loosely split between two halves with a distinct difference of approach—call it the gap between those eager for change and those content to let things hum along with minimum fuss. The assorted members of both sides exhibit this gap even beyond the specific pulls of groupism. The letter that senior party leader Ajay Maken wrote to new party president Mallikarjun Kharge on November 8 is a case in point. Leaked to the media a week later, the letter had a miffed Maken expressing unwillingness to continue as AICC in-charge of Rajasthan. He did not have any moral authority to stay on in that role, he wrote,…

THE ANGER GAMES
HOLY RELICS FAITH AND FORGERY IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE

HOLY RELICS FAITH AND FORGERY IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE

During the Middle Ages, objects and body parts associated with Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and the saints played a central role in Christian life in Europe. Faithful pilgrims flocked to sites across the continent to venerate these relics, like the skull of St. Bridget in Sweden, the girdle of the Virgin Mary in the Netherlands, and Christ’s blood in Belgium. The top league of medieval relics were associated with Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Apostles, with lesser saints and martyrs ranked below. Pilgrims flocked to Rome, site of the burial of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Peter, believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Peter, the first pope. Ranked after Rome in importance was the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, which tradition holds…

Sweet dreams

You don’t need acres of INTRICATELY GATHERED fabric to create a CANOPY. A simple flat length of LINED FABRIC, with a channel for a pole, looks BOLD and APPEALING…

Sweet dreams

Last chance

“A NEGATIVE OUTCOME, a Taliban automatic military takeover, is not a foregone conclusion,” Mark Milley, America’s most senior soldier, intoned last month while reiterating America’s support for the embattled Afghan government. General Milley is right: such a takeover is not quite inevitable, despite the departure of American troops. But it is growing more likely by the day—in large part because America, whatever its generals say, is doing too little to help. Ideally, America would not be withdrawing its forces at all. For several years, with only a few thousand troops who sustained few casualties, it had managed to maintain a stalemate between the Afghan government and the Taliban, thanks largely to air power. Yet last year, when Donald Trump was president, America struck a deal with the Taliban. In exchange for…

Last chance
THE GOD OF BIG THINGS

THE GOD OF BIG THINGS

Normally when you think of the kind of conflicts the bifurcation of a state can bring, you think of tangible, material things—say, natural resources or a massive, built-up aggregate of human endeavour like a capital city. No one thinks of cultural heritage and the abstract value this form of capital affords. The 2014 division of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh into an eponymous coastal state and landlocked Telangana was consumed by disputes about Hyderabad. But if the rump state of Andhra Pradesh lost the Pearl of the Deccan, it also retained something else: Tirupati. Losing out on one of the holiest—and richest—shrines of Hinduism has evidently been a matter of resentment for Telangana. Enough to goad Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) into an expansive project to create a counterpart. It has…

POLITICS OF INFLUENCE

HASINA KHAN The author is a feminist activist and founder member of the Bebaak Collective The Karnataka school’s sudden decision to ban girls wearing hijab from entering its premises reeks of a conspiracy directed at Muslims. In the name of gender empowerment, they are out to build a narrative in which the entire fault lies with the Muslim community, all other communities are fine. They want to demonstrate that schools should have discipline, they should have a uniform. I do think that schools should have a uniform, and that every student, whatever his or her religion, should adhere to it. But what was the school management doing till now with students who were turning up wearing their religious identity? How can they be stopped suddenly? Was there any disciplinary action? Was there a…

POLITICS OF INFLUENCE
MAOISTS FIND SANCTUARY IN KANHA

MAOISTS FIND SANCTUARY IN KANHA

Some 2,162 sq km of lush central Indian jungle, home to the tiger, bison, sloth bear, packs of the ferocious Indian wild dog and…Mowgli? No, Kipling needs to be updated for 2022. The right answer is Maoists. One of the oldest protected forests in India, Kanha Tiger Reserve is seeing a bit of twist in the tail. Home to over 100 tigers today, it’s one of the most popular wildlife reserves in India. But tourists keen on seeing the big cat in its natural habitat have a reasonable chance now of making another sighting. Maoist guerrillas from surrounding areas have been seeking sanctuary inside what was supposed to be a safe haven for endangered tigers. The frequent spotting of Maoists deep in the 917 sq km core area of Kanha—spread across…

RECORD REVIEWS

RECORD REVIEWS

The cover art for Wilco’s finely hewn double album Cruel Country resembles a hand-stitched doily or the kind of patch you might have seen sewn onto the back pocket of a pair of vintage faded jeans circa 1978. It’s appropriate: Wilco’s music has long been a patchwork, piecing together the scope and potential of American music for the band’s nearly 30 years. Cruel Country, Wilco’s latest, is anything but cruel: it’s a longform love letter to an American artform, specifically the one described by the title’s second word. The songs and sounds produced by this Chicago-bred sextet over many concerts and albums have often approached country music, even caressed it. On this album, Wilco’s 12th made in the studio, frontman/singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy has doubled down on country, capitalizing the “C.” “Wilco,” Tweedy…

ALL ABOARD THE SUBMARINE

ALL ABOARD THE SUBMARINE

Luc Armant’s vexation was subtle, but perceptible. Sitting forward, staring at me intently, then leaning back in his office chair, patiently awaiting my response, I felt like Luc was evaluating me, my questions, and where they might be leading. It was clear early on that Luc’s slightly reserved demeanour was a function of his busy mind. “What is the experience like? What do you feel?” I finally asked. “It’s quiet,” he replied, contemplatively. “Drag, you know, makes noise.” Nearing the end of his workday, he was kind enough to entertain my questions on his years-long project: Ozone’s Submarine harness. The production version was released as I wrote this. It’s been on Luc’s mind for some time, since at least 2006, before he even worked at Ozone. Thinking back to engineering school, Luc’s response…