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Sunday Long Reads: Kamal Haasan’s latest ‘Vikram’, book on tuberculosis, the charm of grey hornbills, and more

Don't miss out on this week's interesting stories!

A still from 'Vikram'

Kamal Haasan has been known to make films that pulse and enact roles that peel the skin of pretence and reveal to us our innermost desires. For over six decades, he has been unfailing in his commitment to cinema, making it his very life breath.

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What makes Phantom Plague a fine revelation of a known adversary, the tuberculosis bacteria

Mumbai is India’s tuberculosis hotspot, and while the victims do cut across social classes, the poor bear the brunt of the pestilence. (Credit: Unequal Scenes/Johnny Miller photography)

In 2020, as the coronavirus ravaged the world, another microbe took a toll of about 1.5 million lives. In that year, “more people died from TB, with far fewer people being diagnosed and treated or provided with TB preventive treatment compared with 2019, and overall spending on essential TB services falling,” the World Health Organization noted. Unlike the novel coronavirus, the tuberculosis bacteria is a known adversary. Humankind’s battle against it goes back several centuries. That the pathogen remains intractable in large parts of the world has much to do with a lethal combination of ignorance, inequality, and policy deficits. Vidya Krishnan’s Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History is a searing account of humankind’s failure to eliminate its oldest scourge.

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What makes grey hornbills so enchanting

Grey hornbills have done well in Delhi, but they’re nowhere as glamorous as their forest-dwelling cousins, the huge Great Indian Hornbill with enormous yellow bills and casques. (Credit: Ranjit Lal)

A few days ago, (for the second time) a baby grey hornbill perched on my towel hung out in the balcony and caught my eye, reminding me that at least they were doing well – having been born and brought up in the Nicholson Cemetery, New Delhi, next door. He or she only gave me enough time to snap a couple of pictures before flying off; but the message was clear: it’s time you wrote about us dude…

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What artist Chintan Upadhyay did in Anda Cell 

Artist Chintan Upadhyay at his residence in Sanpada in Navi Mumbai Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty 02-06-2022, Navi Mumbai.

After spending nearly six years in prison for the alleged murder of his estranged wife and artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Haresh Bhambhani, when artist Chintan Upadhyay left Thane Central Prison on bail in September 2021, he had hundreds of artworks that needed to be transported. “It is not a cohesive body of works but my recordings, which includes sketches that could propel future works. If it wasn’t for art, I do not know what I would have done,” says Upadhyay, 49, from his Navi Mumbai home-cum-studio.

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How neoliberalism became the backdrop for agrarian distress and exploitative marriage networks

Migration is not without its burden for women (Source: Wiki Commons)

Reading Reena Kukreja’s book, one is reminded of reading Karl Marx in a different setting. The book forms the link between the vast body of work on the workings of caste, kinship and marriage networks in India and the specific context of liberalisation and its impact on rural north India. Kukreja writes, “In India, the accumulative process got a fillip from the early 1990s when it wholeheartedly embraced the neoliberal project through the adoption of structural adjustment programs. This resulted in the alienation of producers from means of production and the creation of a reserve army of dispossessed and landless people who could provide cheap, flexible, and disposable labor for the accumulative process…” “The distinctiveness of this phase,” she further writes, also “lies in the destruction of social relations through commoditization. It commoditizes everything, not even sparing daily life…”

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In Burning Questions, Margaret Atwood is both provocateur and an optimist

Atwood calls the #MeToo movement a “symptom of a broken legal system” (Wikimedia Commons)

Margaret Atwood is one of the greatest writers of our times. The 82-year-old Canadian writer is astonishingly prolific, having produced over 50 works of fiction, poetry and critical essays in her long career. Burning Questions is the outcome of Atwood’s reflections on a variety of subjects from 2004 to 2021. The chronologically arranged collection includes talks, autobiographical sketches, tributes and political commentary.

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How a life in the Indian Railways inspired bureaucrat-author Mukul Kumar

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Kumar delves into politics, with poems themed on 26/11, Kashmir and Kargil; file photo of the Kargil War Memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Bureaucrat-author Mukul Kumar’s Catharsis masquerades as a poetry collection that sneaks in 50-odd stories in its 50-odd poems.

He is a storyteller, a fiction writer, as is apparent from his earlier works As Boys Become Men and Seduction by Truth, as well as the narrative thread that lingers along all the poems in this collection.

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Connecting with India’s environment — rich and mystical, vexing yet comforting. (Source: Suvir Saran)

My life as a chef and consultant takes me to places that I could never have imagined when I first began cheffing in my early 20s. I’ve cooked for royalty, heads of state, business tycoons, popular celebrities, fashion icons, revered artists, and everyday people. Each has left an indelible imprint on my psyche. Many a time I have felt that I am the one educated in the exchange, with tutelage schools can’t impart and money can’t buy. It is human interaction, its myriad emotional connections or the lack thereof, that I find to be the most valuable pieces of the puzzle that is my professional life. To communicate and be able to affect change, to help plant seeds of movements that make life richer and more sustainable, to mentor a life and help it come of age, one must speak, act, teach and share with authenticity, touching minds and hearts, and leaving the other person questioning, reflecting, thinking, debating, getting riled up or finding affirmation.

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First published on: 02-07-2022 at 07:44:45 pm
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