Long Form Indian writing Digest 003

The phenomenal Mary Kom—five-times world champion and mother of two is profiled in Intelligent Life

India’s Gold hope in the upcoming Olympics is interviewed by Rahul Bhattacharya

But next to Mary, these other girls were ponderous. Their feet were sluggish, their positioning not so clever. She could fight with her guard down, testing her reflexes by offering them her bare chin as a target, and counter-attacking in angles unfamiliar to boxers who take the orthodox stance.

All around the gym the girls furtively watched her. They covet her low-gravity wound-up springiness, her pure petite explosiveness. They would love to lunge so wide and fast, and never need to wrestle or go to the ropes. Aggression is her hallmark, and it makes her exhilarating to watch.

“Yeh leh Mary,” Mr Bhaskar Bhatt goads her, “take this. And this.” This too is the play of boxing.

“He tries to make me angry,” she says later, “but I have to be cool.” Her grimace is hidden by her white gumshield. You can feel her burn; it’s been 80 minutes now.

Whatever Has Happened to Civil Society?

Neera Chandhoke, who teaches political science at the University of Delhi, and is director of the Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi, takes a detailed look at the rise and fall of Civil society in India. She traces its history, political challenges, failures and success.

One of the most creative of Marxist theorists, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), had warned us that liberal democratic states possess formidable capacities to harness civil society to their projects of domination. Civil society, according to Gramsci, is the space, where the state and the dominant classes produce and reproduce projects of hegemony. And this is exactly what has happened in India. The rush of political theory that acclaimed civil society in the aftermath of the Velvet Revolutions of 1989 eagerly claimed that it is only the third sphere that can take on the state and the market. The participants in the debate had forgotten Gramsci. And they paid a heavy price for this, because liberal democratic states – and India is one of the most sophisticated of this genre of states – quickly moved to neutralise civil society by laying down the boundaries of what is politically permissible and what is not.