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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: Of Obama’s Promised Land, the room where the lines of Partition were drawn, HBO’s The Undoing, and more

Here is your Sunday reading list

New Delhi | Updated: November 29, 2020 11:33:02 am
A Promised Land is an ode to the difficulty of judgement, even as it makes apparent where it falters.

What makes A Promised Land by Barack Obama one of the best American presidential memoirs

There is a moment in Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (Viking, Rs 1,999), when he goes to meet (Czech statesman) Václav Havel. As he is leaving, Obama thanks Havel for his advice and promises him that America will pursue democratic values. Obama writes, “‘You’ve been cursed with people’s high expectations,’ he (Havel) said, shaking my hand. ‘Because it means they are also easily disappointed. It’s something I’m familiar with. I fear it can be a trap.’”

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The room where Radcliffe drew the lines of India’s partition

An eye on the world: In 1947, the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s cabinet room had served as the final venue for the Radcliffe commission, set up to demarcate the boundaries between India and East and West Pakistan

It is Tuesday and our weekly afternoon ritual in the cabinet room of the Rashtrapati Bhavan begins. Seated around a majestic rectangular hardwood table that can easily accommodate 50 people, we are gathered for a staff meeting. The agenda for today’s meeting is displayed on a large LCD screen placed at the far end of the table. Sometimes, the topic of discussion concerns an upcoming visit of a head of state. But, normally, the discussions are less exciting but equally important, such as administrative issues of the vast President’s estate or upkeep of the grand main building and its numerous rooms.

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The quiet fashion revolution powering India’s women runners

A campaign shoot still of the sportswear brand Stretchery. (Courtesy Stretchery)

Back in 2006, Sayuri Dalvi wondered why, if it was only about putting one foot in front of the other, more women didn’t run. When she started training women for marathons a few years later, Adidas’ leading run coach from Mumbai would understand that this inhibition had to do with the running attire. Most women who started road running, she says, had no idea about the liberating power of the right kind of clothing. “They’d come in salwar kameez, with a dupatta slung across one shoulder, and walk as fast as they could. Many didn’t know about sports bras, so you had to explain that running attire could be more comfortable and that it was alright to run in shorts and sports bras,” she says.

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All hail Rashtraman, the superhero we don’t need

Divide and Fool: A page from the comics

In Rashtrayana’s second instalment, Rashtraman has a big problem. The beefy superhero doesn’t have the people’s support, without which he could lose his powers. A coterie of lesser superheroes comes to his rescue. They hatch a plan to take over some forested areas, annex the land of Cowrashtra and quieten “a few pockets of dissent” to protect Rashtraman’s superpowers.

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The Undoing’s uncomfortable question: do we really know the people we love?

Behind closed doors: Nicole Kidman (left) in The Undoing

If you, like me, have been devouring The Undoing, the HBO series streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, then this is tenterhooks time. The big reveal is right around the corner: who killed the girl in the studio, the husband, the lover, or someone else?

The six-part series, based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 2014 novel You Should Have Known, is a racy thriller. And in the deft hands of writer and executive producer David E Kelley and director Susanne Bier, it becomes more than a whodunit: the portraits of people it draws, peeling off layers one after another, shows us that there’s no telling with humans. Even if we’ve loved and lived with each other for years, do we really know someone?

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How should we teach children the right attitude towards animals?

Here comes your man: A lion walks away (Source: Ranjit Lal)

Most children when left to themselves in natural and wild habitats, will sooner or later develop an affinity towards nature. Whether it is a toddler tasting a slug, or a young teen envying and admiring the flight of a hawk, or a pre-teen chewing casually on a grass stem or trying to hook a fish, the animal-kingdom denizens (insect, reptile, avian, mammal, aquatic et al) will, at some point, evoke their interest, too. Children’s attitude towards them will depend a lot on what adults have told/taught them about these creatures. Alas, even if intended to protect their child, most of the time, the messages being passed down are appalling.

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Memories of My Father

He was never shy of hope, never short of brilliant and never without a smile. (Photo: Suvir Saran)

Papa. “Dad” seems too removed and cold for a man with my father’s omnipresent charisma. And, so, “Papa” is what naturally comes out of my mouth when I address him, as I sit here, thinking of him with longing that will never be requited.
Almost 10 years have passed since we lost him as we knew him in his human form. Ten years that seem just like yesterday, with pain that is fresh yet far from festering.

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