Pavan K Varma
Articles by Pavan K Varma

Just Like That | Notes on the love lore of Radha and Krishna

There is so much poetry on their desire, that one cannot possibly even get a sense of it all, but here are some illustrative examples, along with a sidebar on the launch of two new books.

The grandeur of Hinduism is that it harmonises the negation of desire with its simultaneous affirmation. (Shutterstock)
Published on Mar 18, 2023 08:13 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on the life and times of my friend MF Hussain

Over the years, I got to know MF very well. Here are some anecdotes of my time with him, a generous man who became one of India's most sought-after artists

For a person who began his life painting billboards for films, or making portraits for as little as <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>15, he became among the most sought-after artists in India, commanding astronomical prices. But he also was very generous with his paintings. (Getty Images)
Published on Mar 11, 2023 06:56 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on the remarkable women of Delhi, past and present

I raise a toast to all the women who have broken barriers to carve out a legacy of their own in the nation's Capital, and I raise my glass to the exceptionally talented Mudgal family

Undoubtedly, the most powerful woman in politics, who though originally from Allahabad (now renamed Prayagraj) had made Delhi her home, was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. (HT Archive)
Published on Mar 04, 2023 08:01 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on my dear friend Javed Akhtar, destined for greatness

Javed has been a friend of long-standing. And while his life is in the public realm, there are personal anecdotes that many people might not know about.

We have spent many evenings (he is a complete teetotaler for years now but serves drinks to his guests) discussing his life and the vicissitudes he went through as a struggling aspirant in Bollywood’s competitive world. (AFP)
Published on Feb 26, 2023 08:21 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on the celebration of love and desire

On the philosophical legitimacy given by Hindu thought to love and desire that several people in India seem to have forgotten.

I find it both amusing and ridiculous that, in the land of the Kamasutra and Khajuraho (in photo), there are goons who go about harassing couples who celebrate Valentine’s Day, for “violating Indian culture”. (Wikimedia Commons)
Updated on Feb 20, 2023 09:17 AM IST

When Advani oversaw a book production

In February 2001, The Millennium Book on New Delhi, edited by BP Singh and me, was unveiled at the Ashoka Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan by the President in what was labelled as the mother of all book launches

LK Advani was keen on a book on New Delhi. He felt that the city had evolved from a small colonial city to a cosmopolitan metropolis and wanted a book that captured this new self-conscious personality of New Delhi (Hindustan Times)
Updated on Feb 11, 2023 07:48 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on capturing India's layers, in written word and pictures

On studying India in all its, sometimes paradoxical, glory in my books; and French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain's photo exhibition. And a side-bar on the middle class on Budget Day

The Reserve Bank of India building in New Delhi has a statue of the ancient god of wealth, Kubera, at its entrance. (Wikimedia Commons)
Updated on Feb 06, 2023 10:19 AM IST

Just Like That | Notes on R-Day then & now, the Right & Left at JLF & a wedding

Anecdotes on the thrill of celebrating at the Republic Day parade having changed over time, a fiery debate on the political Left and Right at JLF, and a Delhi wedding.

The PM now is surrounded by a ring of security personnel, and his movements are strictly restricted. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)
Updated on Jan 30, 2023 08:33 AM IST

Just Like That | Notes on a simpler time, and the life & times of two great men

On what 19th century Delhi did in the winter months, and the launch of great Indian spook AS Dulat's and filmmaker Muzaffar Ali's memoirs.

A Life in the Shadows; Zikr: In the Light and Shade Of time.
Published on Jan 21, 2023 07:37 PM IST

Remembering Pranab, a remarkable politician

Pranab was the quintessential witness to an era. Born in 1935, his career began as a clerk in the post and telegraph department in West Bengal and culminated as the 13th President of India

Pranab Mukherjee kept a detailed daily diary. His daughter is writing a biography of her father using this invaluable historical material (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Jan 14, 2023 07:56 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on a life lesson and a lunch bringing in 2023

It is better to do what you are good at, not what you think you can do because our capabilities don't always match our interests. This note and a New Year lunch hosted by Shovana Narayan and Herbert Traxl

I decided that I would never do something I'm not good at, even if it is something that I would like to do. And this is my advice for my readers too. (Shutterstock)
Published on Jan 07, 2023 08:57 PM IST

Just like That | Notes on New Year festivities

I take this opportunity to wish all readers a very happy New Year. Enjoy yourselves, stay safe, and try not to have a hangover!

The manner in which New Year is brought in also changes with time. (SHUTTERSTOCK)
Updated on Jan 01, 2023 12:15 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on the art of predicting the future

Astrology is based on the movement of the planets. I am an agnostic: I neither fully believe nor entirely disbelieve. By now, I have learnt that there is infinitely more in life than our human mind can comprehend

Do you believe in astrology, palmistry, tarot reading and tea leaves et al? (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Dec 25, 2022 01:44 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on the mystery and the inevitability of death

At the cremation of a class fellow from St Stephens, what struck me afresh was the finality of death.

Birth and death are the two fixed coordinates of our lives. (Shutterstock)
Updated on Dec 17, 2022 07:46 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on the Capital City and a Cultured Connoisseur

On Delhi, a cradle and the graveyard of empires; And Arun Bharatram, a successful and rounded businessman who brought Alam Khan to an Indian audience last week.

New Delhi was a sleepy, mofussil city camouflaged in imperial robes. (Shivam Saxena/HT Photo)
Published on Dec 10, 2022 09:45 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on hangovers of the past and an institution of the future

On our special relationship with the British as seen through the ‘superiority’ of the English language; and a recent trip to NIIT in Rajasthan, whose campus was particularly impressive.

Rajendra Pawar, whom I have known for several years now, founded NIIT in 1981 with Shiv Nadar and Vijay Thadani. (Wikimedia Commons)
Published on Dec 04, 2022 02:28 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on wise Indians and Indian witticism

Musings on the arrival of winter and travel across the countryside in India; on my dear friends Vinod and Chinna Dua who I lost during the second wave of the pandemic; and a recent, rewarding, lecture that I gave at RNTU

A truck with a quote that reads,
Updated on Nov 26, 2022 08:56 PM IST

Just Like That | The colonial legacy of subordination culture

A bureaucrat will consider it blasphemy to call his senior anything but sir; most times, a sentence will begin and end with “sir”

India’s subordinate culture breeds an unedifying obsequiousness and an acute consciousness of status (Shutterstock)
Updated on Nov 19, 2022 07:20 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on the admirable Rajiv Gandhi & a time of macabre humour

Of the impact that Rajiv Gandhi used to make abroad, which I witnessed first-hand; and how Delhi's annual bad air problem led citizens to embrace macabre humour to cope.

Of the impact that Rajiv Gandhi used to make abroad, which I witnessed first-hand; and how Delhi's annual bad air problem led citizens to embrace macabre humour to cope. (HT Photo)
Published on Nov 12, 2022 08:30 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on two Indian jewels: The Kohinoor and Shah Rukh Khan

On my visit to London where I saw the Kohinoor and learnt that it was not the only priceless stone that came to Britain from India. And a few days after SRK's birthday, recalling the story of the success of King Khan

The Kohinoor on the Imperial Crown (L); and Shah Rukh Khan. (HT File Photo)
Published on Nov 05, 2022 11:27 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on classical music, heritage and my own yearly traditions

On preserving the sanctity of Indian classical music – ragas — in our modern era; and the festivities, celebrations and moments of togetherness every year on Diwali

Another Diwali has come and gone. (Representative Image)
Published on Oct 30, 2022 11:05 PM IST

Just Like That: Notes on 5 successful men

These are: MK Rasgotra, former foreign secretary; Karan Singh, politician, writer, poet, and statesman par excellence; KP Singh, chairman emeritus of real estate giant DLF; K Natwar Singh, former external affairs minister of India and writer, and Prem Prakash, founder of Asian News International

MK Rasgotra is former foreign secretary. At 98, he still hosts intimate and elegant lunches. He attends dinners, has a glass or two of wine, and carries a walking stick, making him look even more patrician (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Oct 22, 2022 07:51 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on nostalgia, a must-read book and important translations

Remembering a serendipitous evening in my house with a very talented ghazal singer; necessary reading on the forced displacement caused by Partition; and young colleague's work in translating his grandfather's work.

The 1946 Partition of British India (L). Pavitra Papi. 
Published on Oct 15, 2022 09:07 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on two good men and their pursuit of culture & education

Of Mahatma Gandhi, who, through his actions and appearance, spoke of the centrality of Indian culture and heritage during the freedom struggle; and Symbiosis University founder, SB Mujumdar, whose mission is education for all.

Mahatma Gandhi (L) and SB Mujumdar. (Wikimedia Commons)
Published on Oct 08, 2022 10:56 AM IST

Just Like That | Notes on jugaad, Cap Gopinath's story & an exciting Q&A at YPO

On examples of how Indians always find a way even in challenging situations; an anecdote on Captain Gopinath and Deccan Airways; and a recent, exciting Q&A on my book

Our India by Captain Gopinath, and my book, Adi Shankaracharya.  
Updated on Oct 01, 2022 10:58 AM IST

Just Like That | Notes on three remarkable people, past and present

Of how Khushwant Singh helped me — then, a novice writer — get my first book published; of Zail Singh's immeasurable wit; and of Malavika Sarukkai's gift of dance.

Khushwant Singh, Malavika Sarukkai and Zail Singh. 
Published on Sep 25, 2022 10:24 AM IST

Just Like That | Notes on reforming DGC; and remembering my friend Suresh Neotia

With Delhi Gymkhana Club in the news for the wrong reasons, I can't help but recall an incident in 1989, when I found its priorities askew. And remembering entrepreneur, art collector, educationist, philanthropist and my dear friend, the late Suresh Neotia, a few days after his birthday

Delhi Gymkhana Club (L). Suresh Neotia. (Mint; ANI)
Published on Sep 17, 2022 06:15 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on culture, an ‘inspired’ play, and a hilarious incident

Of the uniqueness of culture in a globalised world; a well-received play staged across countries that was inspired by a book I wrote; and an evening with Gulzar Saheb which involved an ill-equipped ambulance and several moments of panic

A true but hilarious story demonstrates how, in spite of the homogenising influences of globalisation, cultures remain distinct. (IStock Photo)
Updated on Sep 10, 2022 02:10 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on biting political humour and morality in an immoral age

Of one of my first postings to a dictatorship, where people mocked leaders in private, and complied with the regime in public; and the release of a new book on the dilemma of doing the right thing even in very difficult circumstances.

Nicolae Ceausescu, the general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party (1965-1989) and Hardayal Singh's The Moral Compass. (Wikimedia Commons (L)/
Updated on Sep 03, 2022 07:13 PM IST

Just Like That | Notes on Gulzar, dramas, and the journey of Kathak

On Gulzar Saheb, a close friend with a great sense of humour, who celebrated his 88th birthday; two landmark drama events of long-standing importance in Delhi; and the release of a new book on Kathak

I consider Gulzar to be one of my closest friends. It was my privilege to translate into English four volumes of his poetry, Selected Poems, Neglected Poems, Suspected Poems, and Green Poems — all for Penguin books.  (HT Photo)
Published on Aug 27, 2022 08:03 PM IST
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