Blogging Is Not Dead Yet

In the first episode of this weekly podcast, Amit Varma and Hamsini Hariharan discuss the launch of Pragati Express, and their favourite pieces for the week. Here are some of the pieces that were spoken about in this podcast:

  1. The Freedom Fighters of Pakistan by Chintan Girish Modi
  2. Breaking New Ground by Manoj Kewalramani
  3. A Strong Law is Not Enough by Rishi Majumdar
  4. We Will Not Protect You by Alok Prasanna Kumar
  5. I Want My Free Sub by Gaurav Sabnis
  6. The Future of The Internet on the Seen and the Unseen


Enemies With Benefits

The Times of India reports:

Congress on Thursday alleged conspiracy and lodged a complaint with the Karnataka police over what it called “unexplained malfunctioning” of the 10-seater Dassault Falcon 2000 aircraft (VT-AVH) carrying party president Rahul Gandhi to Hubballi from New Delhi.

According to the complaint, filed by Rahul’s close aide Kaushal K Vidyarthee, who was travelling with him, the aircraft suddenly tilted heavily on the left side and the altitude dipped steeply, combined with violent shuddering of the plane’s body, during the course of the flight.

Apparently Narendra Modi called up Gandhi after the incident. I imagine his concern was genuine. These two men should love each other, because they need each other. Modi needs Gandhi because he wants to destroy the Congress, and a weak leader like Gandhi is helping the process along. Gandhi needs Modi because he does not have the skills to come to power on the basis of his own personality, but an anti-Modi wave could get him there.

Basically, the relationship between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi should have BFF-status. You think they send each other cat videos?

The Real Parliament Washout

It is a national shame that our parliament is not functioning. But does it make a difference when it was made irrelevant in 1985?

The anti-defection law in 1985 made it impossible to vote across party lines. That meant that parliamentary debate was moot, and the quality of our discourse dipped. Why should MPs even be physically present, when one could conduct the vote as per an excel sheet?

That is the case my friend Barun Mitra made in a conversation with me on an old episode of The Seen and the Unseen. Listen in!

The Incels are Coming

The journalist Arshy Mann has an excellent tweet thread up that introduced me to a new word — and a new movement. Here’s the tweet defining it:

In that thread, Mann writes about how Incels–men who can’t get laid–are “almost entirely men who are laser-focused on their inability to have sex.” They “blame women,” and are “virulently misogynistic.” Incels “often play out violent fantasies online,” and these can include “acid attacks & mass rapes.”

Mann’s thread was in the context of a terrorist attack that killed ten people in Toronto yesterday.

The problem, you think, is far from our shores? Well, do read this piece by Simon Denyer and Annie Gowen that reveals that “men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.”

That should lead to many homegrown Incels, right? What happens then?

Welcome to Pragati Express

This is the most exciting day for me at Pragati since we relaunched the site over a year ago. Today we launch this group blog that you are now reading, called Pragati Express. It has an awesome team of writers, even if I say so myself. (Even if I wasn’t writing on it, and had nothing to do with it, I would want to read it every day.)

There are old-school bloggers like Nitin Pai, Yazad Jal and me. Pragati staff writers will also blog here, as will various policy experts from the Takshashila Institution. The list of writers that you see on the panel alongside will grow with time.

But first, let me address these question: Why a blog? Who reads blogs these days?

I was a prolific blogger with India Uncut back in the day, and wrote more than 8000 posts between 2004 and 2009, averaging five posts a day for quite a while. I slacked off after that, and now use it mainly to archive pieces of mine published elsewhere. I rationalised my laziness by arguing that the Age of Blogging was over: Social Media changed the way people navigate the web and consume content. Twitter and Facebook took over the filtering aspect. The personal posts went on FB and Instagram. Bloggers moved on; and so did blog readers.

So why Pragati Express?

Firstly, all the advantages that blogging held as a medium still hold true: I described some of them in this old essay. Blogging remains an easy and flexible way for anyone to get their thoughts down, unhindered by considerations of length or news cycles. They can go as broad or deep as they want, writing always in their own style, not the house style of someone else.

Secondly — and this is a reader’s point-of-view, not a writer’s — blogs don’t require writers to take hard positions on anything. When you write an opinion piece, for example, you usually plant a flag in the soil: this is my opinion, and I will stand by it. In a blog, on the other hand, you can express thoughts as they happen, and ask questions to others in public that you would usually ask yourself in private. I find that a fascinating process.

If journalism is the first draft of history, as the cliche goes, then a blog is the perfect place to take notes for that draft. And everyone can see those notes, and everyone can think aloud with you.

What kind of posts will you see here? Quick perspectives and insights on events as they happen. Questions that pop up in a writer’s head when they read something interesting in a book. An overheard soundbyte that sparks off a thought. And so on — there are few limits to this medium.

One aim we have for Pragati is that readers should feel smarter after they read an article there. Our aim for Pragati Express is that readers should feel stimulated by it.

It feels too meta to write any more about it right now. All I’ll say is, watch this space. We should have around four or five posts a day, starting today, from different writers with different interests and different voices. Do follow us on Twitter here, and like our Facebook page for updates. Happy reading!