Abhilash Gaur (for Info only, not official)

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Abhilash Gaur

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    ...Lord Rama sat bejewelled on his throne, a magnificent crown on his head. He was a family man, devoted to his parents — even stepmothers — half-brothers, wife and sons. Alternative narratives may wait, please. India yearns for a return to Ramrajya, but strangely she has decided that her stand-in for Rama cannot be a family man or magnificent. It is not enough to live modestly: the king should make a show of frugality approaching poverty. Down-at-heel rubber bathroom slippers are good, but black, cracked heels resting in them are even better. Frugality is theatre. Mufflers, sandals and torn sweaters are the modern-day loincloth-and-ash garb of the ascetic. But why the high premium on being single? Singledom implies saintly celibacy in public life. The king is a tapasvi. He has vanquished desire. He burns with single-minded intensity in the service of the country. It is a wonderful power myth. ...

    TOI on Dec. 26, 2016, 4:33 p.m.

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    ...It was a hilarious story and I laughed aloud at times disregarding other passengers’ strange glances. I always thought Heller wrote the book straight, and then made half the sentences contrary on purpose to make the story run unpredictably from page to page. Now I think someone in the government or RBI — or whoever else has scripted India’s demonetization — is probably reading Catch-22. Take the latest order on depositing the scrapped high-value notes. I can see the wisdom of telling people to deposit all their cash in one go. I am sure it will reduce the rush in banks, but from where does this order draw legitimacy? There are many people with ‘white’ cash who have delayed depositing it in the hope that the rush will lessen before the December 30 deadline. It was a deadline set by the Prime Minister himself on November 8. ...

    TOI on Dec. 20, 2016, 7:41 p.m.

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    ...There was grass on the bank, and birdsong. The king felt his sorrow more pointedly in this beautiful setting. “A poor land,” he said to himself. His horse stopped flicking its tail and looked up. “A poor land still,” said the king again, this time with a hint of rage. The first king of the clan had nursed the country from wasteland to a pasture. The next one built the canal and brought more land under farming. The third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth added branches to the canal, and year by year the country became less poor. But it was poor still. The king wanted to do more than all the kings before him. He wanted to see his people rich and happy. He wanted to take water to every part of the country, but he knew the river wouldn’t give him any more. How was he to fill every drain, ditch and gully of his dreams? The king stabbed the ground with the point of his spear and snapped back into the present. ...

    TOI on Dec. 19, 2016, 4:42 p.m.

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    ...It’s because art, technique and technology combine to make a memorable photograph, but India’s demonetisation story is lacking in all three. Forget the aesthetics Composition: Every good artist begins with a clear idea of what to keep in the frame and how, but the government seemed unsure of the objectives of demonetisation from the beginning. Was it an attack on black money, fake currency and terrorism, or a push for digitisation? Black and white: It sounded like a colour shoot when the Prime Minister announced demonetisation was all about tackling terrorism, fake currency and black money. But then, the brief changed to B/W with the talk centred on only black money. Mood: It is half the essence of any great portrait, but the government couldn’t have cared less at the time it pressed the button. Subject isolation: Imagine Mona Lisa sitting in a packed stadium; would you notice her smile? ...

    TOI on Dec. 15, 2016, 4:34 p.m.

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    ...“I promise.” A herd of… “Not like that. I want a real story.” All right. Long, long ago in a faraway land, there lived a very large herd of cattle. Do you know how many animals there were in that herd?” “Hundreds?” Millions. When they moved together it seemed like a cloud passing over the land. Their king was an enormous bull with sharp, curving horns he was very proud of. No tiger had ever been seen on that land but the king said he had gored many with his horns. “Did he really do that, dad?” The herd believed him, which is all that matters. Now, the land this herd lived on lay beside a very wide and deep river. The bank was always lush green with grass, but the ground away from the river was dry and scrubby. The animals who couldn’t find space to graze close to the river went hungry and became weak. “Couldn’t the king do something about that?” He did. One night he ordered all the grass on their land to be burnt. “Huh, but why?” Because he was a wise king. He said he wanted to teach the fat cattle a lesson. ...

    TOI on Dec. 9, 2016, 4:45 p.m.

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    ...Its note refund rules clearly state: “No claim in respect of a note, which is alleged to have been stolen, lost or wholly destroyed, shall be entertained.” Even 100 years ago, the Bank would have looked at you suspiciously if you came to plead you had lost money, but then it would have pushed some forms your way to write down the serial numbers of the lost notes. And then, your notes would have been ‘stopped’ pending an investigation. Standard Practice This was standard practice wherever English banking rules applied. If loss of or damage to currency was reported, the central bank investigated and paid the claimant after verifying their claim. ...

    TOI on Dec. 7, 2016, 4:34 p.m.

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    ...It won’t be the first debate or controversy around the 52-second anthem either. Here are some anthem tales from the 1960s. Tardy Punjab Your first memory of the anthem is possibly from school. It has been sung in morning assemblies since the 1960s. The practice started after the National Integration Conference held in September-October 1961 recommended that educational institutions start their day with community singing of the National Anthem. Which states were the first to implement it? Jammu & Kashmir, and Madras, besides the Union Territories. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab were the last. Till June 1962, the government of Punjab had not bothered to reply to the Centre on the issue. ...

    TOI on Dec. 2, 2016, 5:08 p.m.

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    ...On December 4, 1981, Delhi heard that Qutub Minar had “burst”. It was a misunderstanding, but the outcome could not have been worse had the Minar really collapsed. A stampede inside the tower had left 45 dead and 24 injured. It was the most terrible accident in the Minar’s 800-year history, and one of the blackest days in post-Independence Delhi. Later that day, a Delhi Administration order was hung outside the tower: “The Qutub Minar will remain closed till further notice”. And it has remained closed to the public ever since. Two generations have grown up without once walking up or looking inside the Minar. The facts of that fateful day are forgotten but hearsay and unfounded theories have made an urban legend of the accident. So, what really happened that Friday? Why was Delhi’s grandest living monument reduced to a cold souvenir from the past? Superb view and suicides When the accident happened in 1981, unrestricted access to the 72.5-metre Minar was already a thing of the past. ...

    TOI on Dec. 2, 2016, 4:25 p.m.