Episodes
What exactly is going on between India and China? When cooperation would lead to a win-win game, why is there conflict? Kanti Bajpai joins Amit Varma in episode 234 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his Four Ps framework for understanding this conflict. Also discussed: academia, public intellectuals, how one learns, and why writing and teaching make you a better thinker Also check out: 1. India Versus China : Why They Are Not Friends -- Kanti Bajpai. 2. Roots of Terrorism -- Kanti...
Published 07/19/21
Public policy may seem like a dull subject fit only for wonks, but it matters: our lives are deeply affected by what our governments do. Pranay Kotasthane joins Amit Varma in episode 233 of The Seen and the Unseen to chat about his intellectual journey, his private beach and why public policy can be so stimulating. He also answers racy questions from the Twitterverse. If you share Pranay's interest in public policy, you should check out Takshashila's Graduate Certificate in Public...
Published 07/11/21
The problem with the past is that it's over. How can we enter distant history and understand what happened? Language is one way. Peggy Mohan joins Amit Varma in episode 232 of The Seen and the Unseen to share her insights on what the evolution of our languages reveals about how we got here.  Also check out: 1. Wanderers, Kings, Merchants: The Story of India through Its Languages -- Peggy Mohan. 2. Peggy Mohan's books on Amazon. 3. Amit Varma's Twitter thread on episodes of The Seen and...
Published 07/04/21
Bollywood lost him, journalism wasted him, and thank goodness for that. Manoj Kewalramani, the foreign policy analyst also known as The China Dude, joins Amit Varma in episode 231 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss his brilliant new book on post-Covid China, Smokeless War. Also discussed: Lokhandwala Cafes and the art of building narratives. Also check out: 1. Smokeless War: China's Quest for Geopolitical Dominance -- Manoj Kewalramani. 2. Eye on China -- Manoj Kewalramani's...
Published 06/27/21
His writing is self-reflective, his humour is self-deprecatory, and he's one of our finest writers on cinema. Jai Arjun Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 230 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how he to came to love cinema -- and how that love changed shape as he did. Also check out: 1. Jabberwock -- Jai Arjun Singh's blog. 2. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron: Seriously Funny Since 1983 -- Jai Arjun Singh. 3. The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee -- Jai Arjun Singh. 4. Popcorn Essayists -- Edited...
Published 06/20/21
In these difficult times, no one's had a harder time than our medical professionals. They see death every day, and they fight it. What is it like to be a doctor in India? Lancelot Pinto joins Amit Varma in episode 229 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the practice of medicine in general, and the battle against Covid-19 in particular. Also discussed: the incentives of doctors, the importance of sleep, how to quit smoking, and the Epidemic of Sighing. Also check out: 1. Past episodes...
Published 06/13/21
We're well into the 21st century, but Indian society seems stuck in ages past -- especially when it comes to the state of our women. Kavita Krishnan joins Amit Varma in episode 228 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss her evolution as a feminist, and what she has learned from her activism.  Also check out: 1. Fearless Freedom -- Kavita Krishnan. 2. Kavita Krishnan's speech in the anti-rape protests of 2008. 3. Kavita Krishnan on the Tarun Tejpal verdict. 4. Kavita Krishnan's Facebook...
Published 06/06/21
The Indian economy has been going downhill for a decade now. How has Covid-19 affected it? Ila Patnaik joins Amit Varma in episode 227 of The Seen and the Unseen to take stock of where we are today, and where we go from here. Also check out: 1. Ila Patnaik at NIPFP, The Print, YouTube, Indian Express & Business Standard. 2. Asia Confronts the Impossible Trinity -- Ila Patnaik & Ajay Shah. 3. The Economics and Politics of Vaccines -- Episode 223 of The Seen and the Unseen (w Ajay...
Published 05/30/21
Does shared suffering lead to greater empathy? There has been an outpouring of relief work during this pandemic, with citizens rushing to help other citizens where the state has failed. But there are complexities and moral dilemmas involved. Ashwin Mahesh joins Amit Varma in episode 226 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his experiences of organising relief at scale, and the importance of working with the state. Also check out: 1. Participatory Democracy -- Episode 160 of The Seen and...
Published 05/23/21
We may have been in denial earlier, but no more. Covid-19 has laid bare how badly India's healthcare system is broken. Before we can fix it, we must understand it. Karthik Muralidharan joins Amit Varma in episode 225 of The Seen and the Unseen to shed light on his many years of studying this field. The discussion also contains thoughts on whether GDP is edible, and a bout of antakshiri right at the end. Also check out: 1. Fixing Indian Education -- Episode 185 of The Seen and the Unseen...
Published 05/16/21
How do we make sense of the madness around us? Well, there's the rational, scientific approach: gather data, build models, keep refining and iterating, get closer and closer to the truth. Gautam Menon joins Amit Varma in episode 224 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the exciting field of biophysics and his work in building mathematical models of infectious diseases -- especially Covid-19. Also discussed: the joys of science, and how Indian music is the best embodiment of the idea of...
Published 05/09/21
The second wave in India could have been avoided. We should not have been suffering like this. Vaccines were the answer. Ajay Shah joins Amit Varma in episode 223 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss how our thinking about vaccines was fundamentally flawed -- and what we should do now. Also discussed: why Indian healthcare is in such a mess. Also check out: 1. Indian Health Policy in Light of COVID-19 -- Ajay Shah's paper from July 14, 2020.  2. How the Vaccine Story Will Play Out --...
Published 05/02/21
Trained as a medical doctor, Nandita Iyer has blazed a trail in the last 15 years creating content about food in media as diverse as blogs, Instagram, YouTube and even good old-fashioned columns and books. She joins Amit Varma in episode 222 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss her journey in food, what we can learn from our grandparents and the fine art of dissecting cadavers. Also check out: 1. Everyday Superfoods -- Nandita Iyer. 2. The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian -- Nandita Iyer. ...
Published 04/25/21
These are difficult times. How do we make sense of what is happening around us? Well, there is science. Anirban Mahapatra joins Amit Varma in episode 221 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights on the science of Covid-19 -- and on the state of science and scientific writing in general. Also check out: 1. Covid-19: Separating Fact from Fiction -- Anirban Mahapatra. 2. Anirban Mahapatra on Twitter and Google Scholar. 3. The Age of Pandemics -- Chinmay Tumbe. 4. India's Tryst...
Published 04/18/21
India has changed so much in the last 30 years -- and so has Indian sport. One of our finest chroniclers, Sharda Ugra, joins Amit Varma in episode 220 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about sports journalism, cricket, other Indian sports, and how she has embraced both the sublime and the shady. Also discussed: the eternal charm of Sion, Atul Bedade, gorillas and paagal kuttas.  Also check out: 1. Sharda Ugra at ESPN Cricinfo (1, 2) and India Today. 2. Sharda Ugra's books for John...
Published 04/11/21
There are many things that threaten our nation, both internal and external, both seen and unseen. Our armed forces protect us from some of them. Sushant Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 219 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the state of our military, his experiences in Kashmir, the threats from Pakistan and China, and the danger of politics to national security. Also check out: 1. Sushant Singh at CPR and Indian Express. 2. Kashmir and Article 370 -- Episode 134 of The Seen and the...
Published 04/04/21
The world of creators has changed in the last few years -- and maybe advertising is dead? Varun Duggirala joins Amit Varma in episode 218 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his journey as a creator in the world of advertising -- and the time he kidnapped people for reality television. Also check out: 1. Varun Duggirala's website, Linktree, Instagram and Twitter. 2. Advertising is Dead -- Varun Duggirala. 3. The Varun Duggi Show. 4. Unschooled by Varun Duggirala. 5. Amit Varma on...
Published 03/28/21
Prem Panicker has been raising hell in Indian journalism for over 30 years: A muckraker and a pioneer, a maverick and an elder statesman, he is loved by fans and feared by the establishment. Prem joins Amit Varma in episode 217 of The Seen and the Unseen for a raw and intimate account of the wounds he got from living, and the lessons he learnt while healing. Also check out: 1. Smoke Signals -- Prem Panicker's blog. 2. The Peepli Project -- Edited by Prem Panicker 3. The State of the...
Published 03/21/21
What is it like to be Muslim in India? Ghazala Wahab joins Amit Varma in episode 216 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss.the history of Islam in the subcontinent -- and how, at this present moment, we may be trapped in a vicious circle. Also check out: 1. Born a Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in India -- Ghazala Wahab. 2. Dragon On Our Doorstep -- Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab. 3. Force -- The magazine edited by Ghazala Wahab. 4. Ghubar-e-Khatir -- Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. ...
Published 03/14/21
There is so much about India that is unseen to us, hidden behind layers of blindness. If only we could peel them off. Annie Zaidi joins Amit Varma in episode 215 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how her many years as a writer, blogger, journalist, playwright and filmmaker deepened her vision of our world. Also check out: 1. Bread, Cement, Cactus -- Annie Zaidi. 2. Unbound: 2,000 Years of Indian Women's Writing -- Annie Zaidi (editor). 3. Prelude to a Riot -- Annie Zaidi. 4. Annie...
Published 03/07/21
India is a complex country. The last few decades have been full of tumult. How does one make sense of it all? Raghu Sanjaylal Jaitley joins Amit Varma in episode 214 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the many frames he uses to look at our politics, economics, culture and Dilip Kumar. Also check out: 1. Anticipating the Unintended -- Pranay Kotasthane and Raghu Sanjaylal Jaitley's newsletter. 2. Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, featuring Raghu Jaitley. 3. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, featuring...
Published 02/28/21
VCs have a crazy job description. They need to understand society, figure out what people will want tomorrow and bet on the future. Sajith Pai joins Amit Varma in episode 213 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about his frames of looking at the world -- and what he has learnt about media, entrepreneurship and this country of ours. Also check out: 1. The Indus Valley Playbook -- Sajith Pai. 2. Understand Startups, Metrics and Valuations -- Twitter thread by Sajith Pai. 3. India2, English...
Published 02/21/21
India's financial system has been in crisis for more than a decade -- and it affects all of us. Tamal Bandyopadhyay joins Amit Varma in episode 212 of The Seen and the Unseen to make sense of all the turbulence. Also check out: 1. Pandemonium: The Great Indian Banking Tragedy -- Tamal  Bandyopadhyay. 2. Tamal Bandyopadhyay's books on Amazon. 3. Tamal Bandyopadhyay's website. 4. Tamal Bandyopadhyay's columns in Mint and Business Standard. 5. India's Lost Decade -- Episode 116 of The...
Published 02/14/21
Our agriculture needs reform -- but we should be wary that our attempt to get there is not at the cost of our democracy. Ajay Shah joins Amit Varma in episode 211 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his insights on the process, content and implication of the farm bills. Also discussed: knowledge assimilation, public health, how we tackled the pandemic and what we can do going forward. Also check out: 1. Ajay Shah's homepage. 2. The Art and Science of Economic Policy -- Episode 154 of The...
Published 02/07/21
A virus can kill you -- and so can hunger. The lockdown last year led to an explosion of hunger around the country. Where the state failed, civil society stepped in. Ruben Mascarenhas joins Amit Varma in episode 210 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss his initiative, Khaana Chahiye, that fed lakhs of people in Mumbai. Also discussed: activism, local politics and the clash between principles and the will to power. Also check out: 1. Khaana Chahiya. (also on Twitter.) 2. Litmus Test...
Published 01/31/21