Gautam Adhikari (for Info only, not official)

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Gautam Adhikari

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    ...On two nights in August 1969 his followers killed nine persons, including pregnant Hollywood star Sharon Tate who had joined his cult. Strangely, Manson’s monstrosity had emerged from a warped interpretation of a Beatles song, ‘Helter Skelter’. That 1968 song from The White Album impacted subsequent happenings in at least two ways. First, as later critics determined, it was the first ever heavy metal or proto-punk rock number. Surprisingly, it came from the Beatles, who are better known as purveyors of universal love, peace and mystical lyricism. Its second impact, however, turned out to be baleful. Manson, who was a Beatles fanatic but led an apocalyptic cult that believed the world would come to an end through a race war, heard the lyrics in a way that convinced him the Fab Four were the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The song to him was a coded ode announcing an imminent end of the world. ...

    TOI on Nov. 25, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...It formally enshrined ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era’ on Tuesday, making it clear that it is Xi who must be obeyed. The title of that collection of glimpses of Xi’s wisdom is reminiscent of Mao Zedong Thought, put together in a revered Little Red Book, as well as Deng’s astute coinage ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’, which meant that China would be a market economy ruled by an authoritarian, centralised party leadership. Xi’s thoughts extend into “a new era” in which the world will see China moving “closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind”. In other words, Xi’s China will become a world leader. It also means that with an extraordinary concentration of authority in his grasp Xi, like Mao and Deng before him, will not be part of any collective leadership or a first among equals, but a chairman of all things. ...

    TOI on Oct. 28, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...It sighed its final breath of coffee-aroma last Friday. We regulars have had our daily routines upturned. For the cafe was our cosy shelter from the raging winds of confusion outside, that ‘safe space’ which so many young folk now demand on college campuses. Cafes have not always been there in human history. The first coffee houses may have emerged in Damascus and Cairo in the 16th century. The idea of a place to gather for coffee-driven conversation spread from Ottoman Istanbul to Venice to the rest of Europe. But wherever they were they offered a space for people to chat, exchange gossip, float ideas and argue without killing one another, though fatal disputes have been known to happen occasionally. Cafes form a distinctive feature of urban civilisation. In our cafe now gone, the regulars exuded diversity and bonhomie despite political and cultural differences. ...

    TOI on Sept. 30, 2017, 2:03 a.m.

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    ...Or do they remain open wounds in the world’s largest two democracies? Those who live in India would agree that the issue of what exactly should be the nation’s primary identity is hardly a settled matter. That might be the only thing the two sides in the argument would agree on. One camp insists that the Partition of India was a defining moment at which the Muslims chose to have a separate nation carved out for them and therefore the remaining portion of India that is Bharat should be an unapologetic Hindu nation. The other side says the Constitution of India was drawn up in the manner it was because the republic of India would affirm a kind of secularism that would continue to accommodate Hindus and Muslims, as well as Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and what have you, in direct contrast to the religion-defined profile of Pakistan. Between the two nations the argument has continued for seven decades, violently, over the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Within the Indian republic, it is a critical fault line between major political parties and ideological camps. ...

    TOI on Sept. 2, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...A few days ago five young persons in a summer camp here had a conversation about it. They were playing Apples with Apples in which an adjective had to be paired with an apt noun. The players were three nine-year-olds and two teenage campers. One chosen adjective was ‘eternal’. Our nine-year-old grandson, Rohan, and his two friends proposed ‘Saturn’ as a noun that could be legitimately described as eternal. The teenagers in the other team came up with ‘Church’ asserting there would be no Saturn if Jesus Christ had not created the universe. Rohan turned to his buddy Henry: “Is church eternaI? I don’t know much about religion, do you?” Henry shrugged. And Rosie, their teammate, piped in: “I’m Jewish!” Youthful uncertainty aside, the situation creates ground for speculative reflection. In all likelihood there is nothing in the cosmos that is eternal, not even this universe of ours or the numerous others that might exist. Neither Saturn nor the church are permanent features of cosmic reality. Yet, our young campers believed eternity was a valid qualifier of the nouns they had selected. ...

    TOI on Aug. 5, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...But it swells to 2,00,000 every summer when people from all over the world come to visit. My friend Rajiv visited a couple of years ago and actually tumbled from a sidewalk swinging his head to look at the sheer numbers of Indians around, especially an elderly couple who were wearing wool scarves and jackets in stark contrast to the paucity of clothes everywhere. The rock symphony of languages and accents you hear is an ode to life in all its joyous variety. Hundreds of colourful flags flutter in the summer breeze. Three flags catch the eye: the rainbow banner, Portugal’s flag and the American stars and stripes. They reflect three faces of this town. Rainbow flags are common because Provincetown is known to many as the gay capital of the world. Being heterosexual here might make you feel you belong to a minority. Gay night clubs flourish, transgender folk wander unselfconsciously, even some cops are obviously gay. ...

    TOI on July 8, 2017, 2:02 a.m.

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    ...He probably would since he’d have star power. But for ordinary folk everywhere, standing up can be a risky move. Take what happened recently in Portland, Oregon, where two teen girls of colour, one wearing a hijab, were humiliated and asked to leave this country by a white nationalist aboard a local train. Three other passengers, who happened also to be white, got up, stood up, not for their own rights as much as the right of the threatened teenagers to respect and freedom. The nationalist man drew out a knife, killed two protesters and wounded the third. Standing up can cost lives. You might ask, wasn’t it always so? Yes, but violent hatred in civil society outside the battlefield is, by all accounts, bursting out more and more frequently, most disturbingly in democratic societies. Democracy is civilisation’s best, if imperfect, foil to brute force. ...

    TOI on June 10, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...But, even as the tributes rolled out in speech and music, my mind floated every now and then to the world outside. Inside, we clapped hands and sang along in our nosebleed seats while the glitterati down in the orchestra section didn’t just rattle their jewellery, to cite Lennon’s memorable words, they danced in the aisles. All the speakers and the host, Hollywood star David Duchovny, stressed the power of art to change the world and the lasting impact of Lennon’s mind-altering music on our times. Outside, a few blocks away in the White House sat the arguably most powerful man on earth, Donald Trump, whose views are a universe across from Lennon’s. His impact on the world can also bring about change, though in a diametrically different way. His tenure thus far as president has brought the United States close to policy paralysis and possibly a constitutional crisis. ...

    TOI on May 13, 2017, 2 a.m.