Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent

Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

This is where to come for my take on life and times in the world’s largest democracy

RK Laxman: Chronicler of Indian life

  • 26 January 2015
  • From the section India
RK Laxman Voter cartoon
RK Laxman's Common Man cartoon ran in the Times of India for decades

As a young boy growing up in Mysore in southern India, RK Laxman did not remember wanting to do anything else except draw.

"My passion was sketching: street scenes, people and landscapes. I do not remember a day when I have not sketched." He was the youngest of six sons of a "strict" school headmaster.

When Laxman applied to the prestigious JJ School of Arts in what was then Bombay (now Mumbai), the school rejected him saying that his "drawings lacked the kind of talent to qualify for enrolment in our institution as a student". He eventually graduated with an arts degree from a university in southern India.

In school, he discovered black and while illustrations in Strand Magazine, where all the stories "were generously illustrated". After working in a number of newspapers as a cartoonist, he joined the Times of India. He began drawing cartoons three times a week, with a panel of three cartoons on Sunday, a practice he struck to for nearly 50 years.

Laxman's signature Common Man - "bald and bespectacled, his bulbous nose propped over a bristly moustache …with a permanently bewildered look and dressed in a dhoti and a checked-out coat" - was the most famous character in Indian cartooning.

Read full article RK Laxman: Chronicler of Indian life

Will the India-US nuclear deal work?

  • 26 January 2015
  • From the section India
Kudankulam nuclear plant in India's Tamil Nadu
The Kudankulam nuclear plant in India's Tamil Nadu state began producing electricity in 2013

"It's a joyous, happy moment," chimed Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a senior functionary of India's main opposition Congress party, after the US and India announced a breakthrough on a pact that will allow American companies to supply India with civilian nuclear technology.

It was a rare moment of bipartisan support for a deal which came during a heady opening day of President Barack Obama's landmark three-day visit to India.

Read full article Will the India-US nuclear deal work?

Why India should not get complacent over its tiger population

  • 21 January 2015
  • From the section India
Indian tiger
India says it now has almost a third more tigers than it did four years ago

How good is the news that India has almost a third more tigers than it did four years ago?

Experts say tiger numbers are the most reliable indicators of the health of the population. But they also warn that it is more important to monitor individual tiger populations every year to really get a handle on their health. "Once-in-four-years country-wide estimates do not have much practical use. But everyone, including politicians and conservationists, seems to set much in store by these numbers," says Dr K Ulhas Karanth, one of India's top conservation experts.

Read full article Why India should not get complacent over its tiger population

Why Indian author Perumal Murugan quit writing

  • 15 January 2015
  • From the section India
Perumal Murugan
Perumal Murugan is one of the finest writers in the Tamil language

"Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He has no faith in rebirth. As an ordinary teacher, he will live as P Murugan. Leave him alone."

With these dramatic words on his Facebook page, the well-known writer in the Tamil language announced his decision to give up writing forever. The provocation: wrathful protests against his novel Madhorubhagan by local Hindu and caste-based groups.

Read full article Why Indian author Perumal Murugan quit writing

Is Kashmir headed for direct rule?

  • 9 January 2015
  • From the section India
Kashmir election
The PDP's success has been attributed to widespread public discontent over the National Conference party's handling of devastating September floods that killed scores of people

Politics is the art of the possible, but more than a fortnight after elections results in Indian-administered Kashmir, no government is in sight.

To be sure, the split verdict hasn't made things easier.

Read full article Is Kashmir headed for direct rule?

Atul Gawande: What ails India's public health system

  • 16 December 2014
  • From the section India
Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande is an expert on medical error and performance

What do you make of India's under-performing, poorly-funded, leaky public health system, smothered by high population and appalling sanitation?

It is the same health system, by the way, which has helped raise life expectancy from 32 years a few decades ago, to more than 65 today.

Read full article Atul Gawande: What ails India's public health system

Why segregated housing is thriving in India

  • 10 December 2014
  • From the section India
Rizwan Kadri
Rizwan Kadri moved into a Muslim apartment building from a mixed neighbourhood

Rizwan Kadri runs an architecture firm with three partners, all Hindus, in India's western city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state.

Son of a revenue official, he grew up in mixed neighbourhoods. In 2002, massive anti-Muslim riots sparked by the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, left more than 1,000 people dead in Gujarat.

Read full article Why segregated housing is thriving in India

Why so many Indians flock to gurus

  • 19 November 2014
  • From the section India
Devotee of Sai Baba
Sai Baba's influence endures after his death

I don't think many people were aware of the controversial Hindu guru Rampal before Tuesday's violent clashes between his supporters and the police.

But then India is a country of more than a billion people and tens of thousands of gurus.

Read full article Why so many Indians flock to gurus

India's dark history of sterilisation

  • 14 November 2014
  • From the section India
A woman, who underwent sterilization surgery at a government mass sterilisation "camp", walks to sit in a hospital bed at a district hospital in Bilaspur, in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh, November 13, 2014
Nearly four million Indians, mostly women, were sterilised during 2013-14

The death of 15 women at two state-run sterilisation camps in Chhattisgarh has put a spotlight on India's dark history of botched sterilisations.

The drive to sterilise began in the 1970s when, encouraged by loans amounting to tens of millions of dollars from the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Authority and the UN Population Fund, India embarked on an ambitious population control programme.

Read full article India's dark history of sterilisation

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    Stories behind headlines, and front lines


  • Andrew North Andrew North South Asia correspondent

    Around and about the world's largest democracy


  • Damian Grammaticas, China correspondent Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

    The people, power and politics of China


  • Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

    The arguments over Europe, its politics and personalities


About Soutik

Before joining the BBC, Soutik worked with Indian newspapers and magazines and an international newspaper as a correspondent and an editor.

He was a Reuters Fellow at the University of Oxford.

Soutik has covered elections in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the tsunami in India and Sri Lanka in 2005, and militancy in Kashmir, working mostly on a series of stories on the state of youth and women in the disputed region.

In 2005, he used a laptop link to connect BBC News readers from around the world to a people living in a Pashtun village in Afghanistan. He revisited the village two years later to do a similar project and to see how life had changed.

He loves blues and jazz, and believes Derek Trucks is the best and most innovative slide guitarist alive.

He is a big movie buff, with Michael Haneke, Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen and Satyajit Ray among his favourite directors.

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