Monday, May 27, 2019
Message of the day

“Thank you for reading!” A big thank you to the many, many subscribers who wrote in to express their appreciation of our election coverage. We are glad we could help you “make sense of the madness”—as one person put it. Again: please hit the ‘Invite Friends’ button right above so they too can start their day with Broadsheet. (PS: For those who are oversaturated with election news: feel free to skip past the explainer. Both ICYMI and You Need to Know are safely election-free zones 🙂)

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The future of Rahul Gandhi

Is he in or out? Three days after the election results were announced, no one seems to know the answer to the pressing question.


What happened with Rahul? The Congress Working Committee held a closed-door meeting to discuss the party’s dismal performance. At the meeting, Rahul declared his intention to resign from his post as party president. He said, “We have to continue our fight. I am and will remain a disciplined soldier of the Congress and continue to fight fearlessly. But I do not want to remain the party president.”  


What happened next? The kind of drama that prompts an instant eye-roll from most Congress observers. All the members present “unanimously and with one voice rejected” his resignation. And then Rahul promptly rejected their rejection.


Say what? Rahul apparently stuck to his guns, even insisting, “It is not necessary that the president should be from [the] Gandhi family." And when someone mentioned Priyanka, he said, "Don't drag my sister into it." His mother, sister, and Manmohan Singh did their best to convince him to stay. Priyanka instead blamed party leaders for leaving Rahul to fight on his own. It was all very emotional, with the former finance minister P Chidambaram getting a little “teary-eyed.”


Rahul’s moment of unintended irony: He lashed out at senior leaders like Kamal Nath and Ashoke Gehlot for focusing on the political careers of their sons instead of safeguarding their states. Sonia reportedly did not say a word at the meeting.


Ok, so is he in or out? Depends on which news report you read. Rahul has not said a word to the media. The spokespersons who held a press conference afterwards insisted that he will remain their leader. But no one seems to know for sure what he’s decided—his party leaders included. They described him as “hurt” and “helpless.” Meanwhile, using almost the same words as 2014, the CWC resolution recommended “a thorough introspection and requested the Congress President for a complete overhaul and a detailed restructuring at every level of the party.” Cue many more eye rolls.


So it’s all ‘same old, same old’? For now, yes… unless there is some kind of radical change like a Rahul exit. That said, even the criticism of Rahul feels stale. Anonymous Congress leaders have variously complained about: jholawala advisers; being soft on nationalism; appeasing minorities. However, becoming a pale imitation of your rival is rarely a winning strategy. Whether it is Rahul’s complaints or that of his critics, what is crystal clear is their glaring paucity of fresh thinking.


The bottomline: The health of a democracy requires a viable and strong opposition—irrespective of who is in power. And in order to play that role, the Congress party has to offer a new and vigorous vision of democracy, nationalism and economic growth that posits a genuine liberal alternative. Whether Rahul remains or walks out the door is a minor detail in comparison.  

Learn more: Here is the best of the post-election analysis published over the weekend:

  • Indian Express and Economic Times offer a sound analysis of Rahul’s critical mistakes. Quint lays out the reasons for his defeat in four charts.

  • There was plenty of ink spilt on what liberals got wrong as well—the most interesting of them penned by liberals. Naomi Datta in Quartz offers a stinging rebuke of liberals drowning in “self-pity” and tells them to put on their “grown-up pants.” Rama Lakshmi in The Print looks at the three core liberal beliefs which were tested by the outcome. Twinkle Khanna’s Times of India column offers a perceptive analysis of the difference between liberals and bhakts.

  • Three states resisted the Modi wave: Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Punjab. Caravan offers a provocative analysis of why they represent the limits of the Hindutva project, and why Congress and “upper-caste Hindu liberals” are irrelevant to the resistance they represent.

  • As it turns out, the not-entirely-unified Opposition parties did indeed undercut one another. Economic Times looks closely at Uttar Pradesh, while the Times of India offers a bird’s eye view of the three big states: UP, Bengal and Maharashtra.

  • It is instructive to compare the reasons why an equally anglicised Shashi Tharoor won convincingly in his constituency with the causes for Rahul’s defeat in Amethi.

  • On the subject of dynasties, The Print shows that while Congress scions were defeated, their BJP counterparts are alive and thriving. And Jagan Reddy may be a role model as a dynast whose rise to power—after nine years in the wilderness—is a story “filmier than fiction.”

  • Washington Post looks at how millennials swept Modi back into power. New Yorker reports on how Kashmiri millennials' militancy led to a virtual boycott of the election.

  • Sandip Roy in News18 explains why—despite BJP’s gains—its journey to the CM gaddi in Bengal will not be easy.

  • Last but not least, we enjoyed these maps riffing on the Southern resistance to the Modi wave.


In related election news: PM Modi made an unexpected and strong appeal to his party to reach out to minorities—in stark contrast to the BJP’s Hindutva-laced election rhetoric. He said, “We have to earn their (minorities’) trust. We have to take along our fierce opponents. Without this, the country cannot progress.” The mantra of his second term, he claimed, will be “Sabka sath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas” (All together, development for all, trust of all). (The Telegraph)

In appalling minority-related news: This stomach-turning video of a Muslim couple being savagely beaten by gaurakshaks in Madhya Pradesh went viral over the weekend. The police first arrested the victims on suspicion of transporting beef, and then their assailants—whose ringleader belongs to the rightwing group, Sri Ram Sene, and posted both the video and photos of himself with Pragya Thakur. And speaking of Thakur, here she is being blessed by LK Advani at the recent post-election NDA meet. Also: A Muslim man was beaten up in Gurgaon for being Muslim, and forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

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while scrambling to book your GoAir tickets

Shocking new claims about Martin Luther King Jr: David Garrow, a Pulitzer prize-winning biographer of the revered civil rights leader, claims that newly released FBI documents record the following:

  • The FBI planted miniature transmitters in hotel rooms booked by King in 1964, while agents with “radio receivers and tape recorders” listened nearby.

  • According to FBI summaries of these tapes, King “looked on, laughed and offered advice” while another Baptist minister raped a woman described as one of his parishioners.

  • The following evening, according to the FBI, King and others “participated in a sex orgy.” It included what one official described as “acts of degeneracy and depravity . . . When one of the women shied away from engaging in an unnatural act, King and several of the men discussed how she was to be taught and initiated in this respect. King told her that to perform such an act would ‘help your soul’.”

According to Garrow—whose book paid tribute to MLK—the new evidence “poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.” Points to note: While the story has been covered widely in the UK, the American media has not yet weighed in on the incendiary claims. Also: no one other than Garrow has looked at this 'evidence' as yet. Most importantly: These are supposed to be FBI summaries of the actual tapes—which are reportedly being held in a vault and will not be released until 2027. (Times UK has a paywall; Daily Mail)

A new wrinkle in the Jet Airways saga: Founder Naresh Goyal and his wife were physically removed from an Emirates flight to Dubai on Saturday, and prevented from leaving the country. They were stopped on orders from the Intelligence Bureau at the request of the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA). The reason: A forensic audit of the company’s books may have revealed “instances of diversion of funds.” (Mint)

A fatal traffic jam on Everest:The death of a British climber has brought attention to overcrowding on the Nepali side of the world’s highest peak—in particular, the last stretch which has been dubbed the “death zone.” The reason: “Fly-by-night adventure companies are taking up untrained climbers who pose a risk to everyone on the mountain. And the Nepalese government, hungry for every climbing dollar it can get, has issued more permits than Everest can safely handle.” (Outsidehas an unbelievable photo of the crowding; New York Times has the story)

RIP AIB: A statement issued by All India Bakchod reads: “The AIB YouTube channel is for all intents and purposes, dead for the foreseeable future—there will be no new sketches anytime soon.” The Printcharts the fall of the comedy collective brought down by the #MeToo movement.

Freezing levels of air conditioning are sexist: A recent study found that chilly temperatures significantly impaired women’s ability to perform on tests. “The magnitude of the effect was really surprising, especially for the math task,” said one of the lead researchers. The moral of this story: No good comes of freezing women to death at the office. (The Atlantic)

Go, go, go on GoAir:The airline is offering domestic tickets at the all-inclusive price of Rs 899 under its 'Mega Million Sale'. Ten lakh seats are up for grabs in the three-day sale which starts today. (Mint)

Salman Khan throws a hissy fit: In a joint interview with Katrina Kaif promoting his movie ‘Bharath’, Salman Khan repeatedly tore into Priyanka Chopra. Why? She committed the cardinal sin of opting out of the movie to focus on her Hollywood career and wedding. And the Khan just can’t get over it. So here he is, heckling PC repeatedly—while disrespecting his current heroine as she valiantly attempts to talk about her role. Apparently, Sallu Baby Bhai can’t take rejection. (Bollywood Hungama has the entire interview, the PC bit starts at the 2-minute mark).

Women are happier without husband or child:According to a leading happiness researcher, unmarried and childless women are the happiest category of people in the world—and they are more likely to outlive everyone else. The LOL quote in this story: “Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: f**king miserable.” (The Guardian)

Weekend reads you may have missed: include the following:

  • The Guardian looks at the hot new trend of reviving dead artists as holograms. Soon to go on tour thanks to technology: Whitney Houston.

  • The Ken(sign up required) looks at the rise of “period care” as menstrual products grow to meet needs beyond basic pads and tampons.

  • The Hindureports on the rise of chronic loneliness among urban millennials in India.

  • Gaon Connection pays a lyrical tribute to the very real and significant role of trees in our everyday lives.

  • Axios has a quick and alarming take on “the explosion of fake: fake videos, fake people on Facebook, and daily cries of ‘fake news’.”

  • Tips from global train-setting pro, Monisha Rajesh, in Mint.

  • Artsy weighs in on the rise of the handmaid’s habit as a visual icon in America—to protest the medieval abortion laws introduced recently. 


Your Monday morning pick-me-ups: include the following:

  • This viral photo of Ketan, the hero who saved two students from the horrific Surat fire which killed at least 20 people.

  • This video for the #TimesOutandProud ad campaign unveiling its new and inclusive classifieds section.

  • This funny Star Sports video that takes the piss out of England and their World Cup hopes.

  • This hilarious clip where Watson offers the perfect doggy apology to Kiko for stealing his food.

  • An inspirational BBC video on a woman who runs a hospice for dogs close to death.

  • This rendition of George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Weeps’ which features Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and a “BRAIN-MELTING solo” by Prince which starts at 3:28.


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The best place for the best advice

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How to appreciate and enjoy art

As kids, we all play with crayons, paints, clay—and love every minute of it. But when we become adults, art becomes that rarefied, distant thing which belongs in the realm of museums, art historians and uber-rich collectors. Instinctive pleasure is replaced by boredom or bewilderment. Well, it’s time to reclaim that childhood joy.


Start here: Pick a museum or even an art gallery (they’re free) close to home or when you’re on holiday. Pick whatever interests you (at least a little bit). Maybe it’s the subject or the historic era or the artist, maybe it’s just the image on the museum poster. Maybe it’s the museum itself—hey, let’s check out The Met. This is about you—what you like, and think is worth your precious time.


Company is nice: Contrary to popular misconception, art is best enjoyed with a companion in tow. We don’t really like installation art, for example, but had a great afternoon at a London gallery with a friend who absolutely loves it. Passion and pleasure are infectious. And even if both of you are clueless, it’s nice to discuss, grumble and giggle together. This isn’t homework.


Pay attention to yourself: You walk into that famous museum, and the temptation is to head straight to the paintings or exhibits that are deemed a ‘must see’. Sure, you’ll check out the Mona Lisa eventually, but first do this: walk in, survey the room, and pay attention to what catches your eye. Trust that instinct, and start there. The discovery of art is, in fact, a journey of self-discovery. But it requires an open mind. Be open to surprising yourself.


Pay more attention to yourself: Ok, so you’re now parked in front of a piece of art. No, don’t immediately turn to the wall text or museum hand-out. Just look at it, paying attention at first to its details (texture, motifs, material), and then to how it makes you feel. Weirded out? Revolted? Happy? Sad? Confused? Or just plain bored?


Time to read: Now turn to the information—on the wall, in the hand-out, or even via Google on your phone. See if that context—the artist’s intention and cultural/historical era—changes the way you ‘see’ this piece of art, and your reaction to it. Maybe it does not. And that’s okay. Unlike movies or music, there is no ‘wrong’ reaction to art—its aim is to evoke a response, be it positive or not. But art that leaves you cold is indeed ‘wrong’ for you. And that’s a very useful thing to know.


Less is more: Unlike Instagram, the aim of a museum visit isn’t to ‘scroll’ as much as possible. Nor does it require an entire day—which is likely to leave most of us cranky and resentful. Spend a few hours on a few pieces, and you’ll get a lot more out of the experience.


Bonus tips: One, it’s totally okay to skip anything that bores you. Two, it’s totally okay to skip the most popular attractions at a museum—they’re the most crowded, and therefore, most frustrating. Opt for the lesser-known and you might discover the unexpected. Three, it’s totally okay to come away bored and unsatisfied. But you may also find that an artwork you ‘hated’ stays on your mind long after the rest blur in memory. Maybe go back to it again—and figure out why it evoked such a huge response. See? Self-discovery!


The bottomline: When we engage with art—see it, react to it, try and understand it—we develop preferences, which, in turn, is necessary for sustained interest. And with interest come inevitably those moments of genuine joy.


Learn more: Here is a lot more to get you started.


  • New York Times has the best guide—and one we learnt most from—but it is unfortunately behind a paywall.

  • The other option is this step-by-step advice, including what it means to be an art connoisseur and art critic.

  • This Medium article offers an excellent list of free online art courses.

  • Then there is this fun Current Affairs quiz that tests how well you can appreciate art.

  • And this totally tongue-in-cheek Guardian piece on “How to appreciate art” that made us Lol!

  • This lovely guide from Vulture offers advice on how to be an artist—that’s right, how to go back and rediscover that child-like joy of simply creating.

  • Finally, here’s a local listing of museums, galleries and events. This is a of galleries to get you started. Not on the list but also worth a look: Prince of Wales and Bhau Daji Lal museums in Mumbai, and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi and Bangalore.

  • If you’re in Bangalore, the Museum of Art & Photography is offering a two-day introductory workshop on art that looks brilliant.

  • Architectural Digest has the 2019 calendar of art and culture festivals in India.

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