Clean air: This is what Indian cities can learn from China. But will they?

I lived in Beijing for seven years between 2002 and 2009. During that time, visits to India invariably included conversations with aunties who while not usually environmental in their outlook, delightedly commiserated about China’s toxic air. “Oh ho! Such terrible pollution. Tch! Tch!” Having spent years being dumbfounded by our northern neighbour’s miraculous economic growth…
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Shinkansen: India and Japan’s Silver Bullet for a Rising China

The inauguration this week of India’s first high-speed rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmadabad, using Japanese technology and financing, has a geostrategic significance that transcends its economic worth. It amplifies the growing closeness between India and Japan at a time when both nations are struggling to find their footing in an Asia being re-fashioned by…
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An alliance on track: on the bullet train project

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad this week, the bilateral agenda will range from issues of maritime security to nuclear energy and trade. But at the centrepiece of their summitry will be the inauguration of India’s first high-speed rail corridor from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, to be developed using…
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Spot the similarities: unity in diversity in India and Indonesia

Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia, has often felt like a moderate oasis in an angry, global desert of religious extremism. Until only a few months ago two of the Muslim-majority nation’s most important, if unlikely, leaders, President Joko Widodo and Jakarta Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, embodied this optimism. They were unlikely because neither came from…
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Rajinikanth: The Tamil star who has a cult following in…Japan.

Hiroyoshi takeda is not a typical Japanese man. Instead of a suit and tie, the 39-year-old Tokyoite wears T-shirts with technicolour caricatures of a moustachioed south Indian movie star. Rather than bowing, he dances. He doesn’t ride the metro, but travels the streets in a gaudily adorned auto rickshaw imported from Tamil Nadu. Not for…
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Despite government, public complacency, appalling pollution leading to “airwakening”

Globally, China and air pollution remain synonymous. I lived in Beijing between 2002 and 2009, when visits to India invariably included conversations with aunties delightedly commiserating about China's toxic air. "Oh ho! Such terrible pollution. Tch! Tch!" This tone of schadenfreude stemmed from the fact that after years of marveling at China's economic ascent, Indians…
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The Fortune Teller: Weighing machines and chance encounters

Nostalgia transforms ordinary objects into talismans. The constituents of the material life of one’s childhood can, just by the feel of their names rolling in the mouth, evoke pathos: a longing for the past, its innocent excitements and vast promise. I grew up in the pre-liberalisation Delhi of the 1980s. Childhood in those days meant…
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Delhi, where even China’s pollution fades into insignificance.

Having grown up in perennially polluted New Delhi, smoggy skies were so unremarkable to me that I didn’t even notice anything was awry in Beijing for years after moving there. Till a spring morning in 2006. It was an ordinary start to the day in most respects. I ate a quick breakfast of jian bing,…
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Moving between Beijing and Brussels, “Choked” draws parallels for Delhi

A month after the Olympic Games, our baby boy was born in a Beijing hospital. First-time parenthood engendered a siege mentality in us. We moved out of the charming but less-than-hygienic hutong neighbourhoods we had lived in for six years, and bunkered down in the double-glazed safety of the Diplomatic Compound. We began to navigate…
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