Monday, February 24, 2020

Circe by Madeline Miller - Kitabi Karwan Repost




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Suppression has always been a tool of the powerful. But understanding power dynamics is not as easy as this statement. Humans have reviled in stratification throughout their existence, and have always found traits to discriminate on. Gender, caste, class, race, religion, language…the list is endless. Perhaps that’s why the any piece of literature that shines a light on the spiteful dynamics of our societies is viewed with scorn, largely by the powerful. Personally, this book touched a nerve because it focussed on an aspect of feminism which hasn’t generally been harped on by the mainstream, resulting in the false belief among people (largely people opposing it) that feminism only talks about female empowerment and gender equality The aspect that I am talking about is one of class identity and broadly intersectionality. Miller wonderfully reweaves a tale told to death into a haunting interpretation of intersectional discrimination. What got me thinking was the choice of protagonist. Circe is perhaps the best character from Greek mythology to demonstrate the sweeping effects of discrimination faced due to one’s different identities. Born as a lesser offspring of a Titan, she faced the worst of two horrible worlds. Gods and mortals alike looked down upon her because of her lack of powers, appearance, and gender. Her poignant self-discovery, albeit dramatic, is cathartic. I also couldn’t stop wondering about the dimension of immortality that surrounded this tale. Human behaviour is largely predicated and driven by, either philosophically or religiously or both, by the ultimate acceptance of death. The finality of life in a poetic way largely influences the journey to this end. To that extent, depriving the sufferer of this was a witting masterstroke because it allowed for discovering a morality that exists independently of the life and death cycle. More importantly, it allows for a discovery of purpose and existence beyond the finite circle which mortals are stuck with. #circe #madelinemiller #madelinemillercirce #greekmythology #bloomsburypublishing #feminism #intersectionality #intersectionalfeminism #immortal #god #greek #illiad #homer #helios #odysseus
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Suppression has always been a tool of the powerful. But understanding power dynamics is not as easy as this statement. Humans have reviled in stratification throughout their existence, and have always found traits to discriminate on. Gender, caste, class, race, religion, language…the list is endless. Perhaps that’s why the any piece of literature that shines a light on the spiteful dynamics of our societies is viewed with scorn, largely by the powerful.

Personally, this book touched a nerve because it focussed on an aspect of feminism which hasn’t generally been harped on by the mainstream, resulting in the false belief among people (largely people opposing it) that feminism only talks about female empowerment and gender equality. The aspect that I am talking about is one of class identity and broadly intersectionality. Miller wonderfully reweaves a tale told to death into a haunting interpretation of intersectional discrimination. What got me thinking was the choice of protagonist. Circe is perhaps the best character from Greek mythology to demonstrate the sweeping effects of discrimination faced due to one’s different identities. Born as a lesser offspring of a Titan, she faced the worst of two horrible worlds. Gods and mortals alike looked down upon her because of her lack of powers, appearance, and gender. Her poignant self-discovery, albeit dramatic, is cathartic.

I also couldn’t stop wondering about the dimension of immortality that surrounded this tale. Human behaviour is largely predicated and driven by, either philosophically or religiously or both, by the ultimate acceptance of death. The finality of life in a poetic way largely influences the journey to this end. To that extent, depriving the sufferer of this was a witting masterstroke because it allowed for discovering a morality that exists independently of the life and death cycle. More importantly, it allows for a discovery of purpose and existence beyond the finite circle which mortals are stuck with.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Poor Economics: Rethinking Poverty & the Ways to End it - Kitabi Karwan Repost

Poor Economics


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Poor Economics : Rethinking Poverty and the Ways to End it by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo A perennial issue faced by academia of any kind, and economics in general, is an alleged lack of pragmatism. Laymen generally tend to be dismissive of theories, with the most common complaint being that the suggested solutions, and for that matter, the propositions themselves, are detached from ground reality. Honestly, that’s a fair attack point. The number of retrospectively flawed theories massively outweigh the successful ones. This is where this book, and the methodology adopted by J-PAL(an organisation founded by the authors of this book) exceeds expectations. Abhijeet Banerjee and Esther Duflo require no introduction. Their seminal approach to developmental economics won them the Nobel Prize for Economics last year, and this book is an amazing place to start what they propose. To put it concisely, they advocate a common sense driven and solution based approach to poverty alleviation and developmental economics in general. They choose to deliberately look beyond the myopia of high academia and embrace economics from an all-encompassing perspective. If I may attempt to be witty, they liberally use an interplay of liberal arts ranging from understanding the psychology of the poor (famous now through Richard Thaler’s idea of Behavioural Economics) to understanding the social structures of specific communities. But that’s not what I want to talk about. For me, the book was a brilliant example of how and why a holistic approach towards policy making has the potential to maximise social impact, and how seemingly puzzling dilemmas are rooted in simple notions and basic understanding of the human mind. Poor Economics is an outlier for anyone who wishes to develop a more hands-on approach towards making the world a better place and/or wishes to understand a modern approach to developmental economics in a succinct manner. #PoorEconomics #abhijitbanerjee #estherduflo #poverty #jlab #mit #economics #developmentaleconomics #endpoverty #povertyalleviation #nobelprize #nobelprizeeconomics #penguinbooks #penguinrandomhouse #penguinrandomhouseindia #book #bookstagramindia
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A perennial issue faced by academia of any kind, and economics in general, is an alleged lack of pragmatism. Laymen generally tend to be dismissive of theories, with the most common complaint being that the suggested solutions, and for that matter, the propositions themselves, are detached from ground reality. Honestly, that’s a fair attack point. The number of retrospectively flawed theories massively outweigh the successful ones. This is where this book, and the methodology adopted by J-PAL(an organisation founded by the authors of this book) exceeds expectations.

Abhijeet Banerjee and Esther Duflo require no introduction. Their seminal approach to developmental economics won them the Nobel Prize for Economics last year, and this book is an amazing place to start what they propose. To put it concisely, they advocate a common sense driven and solution based approach to poverty alleviation and developmental economics in general. They choose to deliberately look beyond the myopia of high academia and embrace economics from an all-encompassing perspective. If I may attempt to be witty, they liberally use an interplay of liberal arts ranging from understanding the psychology of the poor (famous now through Richard Thaler’s idea of Behavioural Economics) to understanding the social structures of specific communities. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

For me, the book was a brilliant example of how and why a holistic approach towards policy making has the potential to maximise social impact, and how seemingly puzzling dilemmas are rooted in simple notions and basic understanding of the human mind. Poor Economics is an outlier for anyone who wishes to develop a more hands-on approach towards making the world a better place and/or wishes to understand a modern approach to developmental economics in a succinct manner.




Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Nehru : The Invention of India by Dr. Shashi Tharoor - Kitabi Karwan Repost



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Nehru : The Invention of India by @shashitharoor History is a cruel master. Ruthless actually. You can never be sure how future generations will view your present, or even what your past was. Hitler is probably the best example of this phenomenon. Let alone Germany, Hitler enjoyed support, both academic and otherwise across Europe. Yet, today he is reviled as the embodiment of evil. In that context, examining Nehru in modern day India is an exercise in understanding not just him, but also a country, and a society. I am not going to talk about the factual history of Nehru’s life, as I believe that his persona rose beyond his life and the events that occurred during it. Yet navigating biographies is a tricky business. Writers, and for that matter, humans are yet to transcend the barrier of bias. I guess in a way, it is impossible to not have an opinion on small acts by great people. To that extent, I was pleasantly surprised by the nuance displayed by Dr. Tharoor while talking about one of the tallest leaders of the 20th Century, given that he’s a staunch believer in Nehruvian politics, and is a key member of the Indian National Congress. He doesn’t flinch or even moderate his words while often brutally criticising some of Nehru’s penchants, decisions and thoughts. Although this reads like a complaint, it is perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to a biography. A tall statesman, a failing father, an optimistically naive policy maker and the ever pragmatic politician, this book explores Nehru in a way most of us never have. In context of the shrill rhetoric raised in Parliament (in re Prime Minister Modi’s speech as a reply to the President’s address at the beginning of this Budget Session), most people today end up listening to either end of the spectrum. They’re either people who blame Nehru for everything that is wrong with the country today, or are staunch Nehruvians who cannot hear a word against him. Ironically, 21st century India is when Pandit Nehru matters the most to Indians, and to that extent, this book is an amazing place to start.
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History is a cruel master. Ruthless actually. You can never be sure how future generations will view your present, or even what your past was. Think about it. Hitler is probably the best example of this phenomenon. Let alone Germany, Hitler enjoyed support, both academic and otherwise, across Europe. Yet, today he is reviled as the embodiment of evil. In that context, examining Nehru in modern day India is an exercise in understanding not just this phenomenon, but also a country, and a society.

I am not going to talk about the factual history of Nehru’s life, as I believe that the his persona rose beyond his life and the events that occurred during them. Yet navigating biographies is a tricky business. Writers, and for that matter, humans are yet to transcend the barrier of bias. I guess in a way, it is impossible to not have an opinion on small acts by great people. To that extent, I was pleasantly surprised by the nuance displayed by Dr. Tharoor while talking about one of the tallest leaders of the 20th Century, given that he’s a staunch believer in Nehruvian politics, and is a key member of the Indian National Congress. He doesn’t flinch or even moderate his words while often brutally criticising some of Nehru’s penchants, decisions and thoughts. Although this reads like a complaint, it is perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to a biography.

A tall statesman, a failing father, an optimistically naive policy maker and the ever pragmatic politician, this book explores Nehru in a way most of us never have. In context of the shrill rhetoric raised in Parliament (in re Prime Minister Modi’s speech as a reply to the President’s address at the beginning of this Budget Session), most people today end up listening to either end of the spectrum. They’re either people who blame Nehru for everything that is wrong with the country today, or are staunch Nehruvians who cannot hear a word against him. Ironically, 21st century India is when Pandit Nehru matters the most to Indians, and to that extent, this book is an amazing place to start.

PS: The victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi 2020 elections seemed like the perfect occasion to post about the biography of a man who dedicated his life to India’s freedom, development and upliftment.