articles by Karthik Venkatesh


An inspiration to revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, remembering Kartar Singh Sarabha's supreme sacrifice

In 1915, before the mass struggles that characterised much of the 1920s were launched, another young man was executed by the British administration. All of 19, his sacrifice served as a trigger of sorts to many others. His name was Kartar Singh Sarabha.


The language of the lion: Tracing the history of Sinhala, its complicated relationship with Tamil in Sri Lanka

There are as many points of convergence between Sinhala and Tamil, as there are of variance. In admitting the truth of this crucial fact and acting on it perhaps lies the future of Sri Lanka.


A short history of the India Coffee House: Conversation, revolutionary politics and a different way to do business

Unassuming, unostentatious, efficient, reasonably priced and other such adjectives are what spring to mind when the India Coffee House is spoken of.


To remember Guru Nanak is to necessarily remember Bhai Mardana, long extolled as the first Sikh

Mardana stood by his friend and mentor and played an important role in enabling Nanak's message to reach a wider audience

Arts & Culture

Gandhi's journals: How the Mahatma shaped a nation's ideas through Young India, Navjivan and Harijan

Many, before Gandhi, had employed the press to further their cause. Many did so after him. Few have been as effective as he was in the early 1920s when Young India and Navjivan were at their zenith.


How the films Jagriti and Bedari, mirroring each other, underline India and Pakistan’s shared culture

As elucidated by the two films, Indians and Pakistanis are far more alike than some of us would want to admit, and one can pass off for the other without too much effort.


In decoding the language of cricket, a look into the game's culture, gendered outlook and current lingual challenges

Cricket's greatest linguistic hurdle has come to the fore: the terms ‘batsman’ and ‘man of the match/series’ are now of a piece with terms like chairman, businessman and so on – gendered oddities that need a quick fix.


Komagata Maru: The voyage that exposed the British Empire for what it was — a glorified profit-seeking operation

Less than two decades after the legendary Battle of Saragarhi, the much-feted soldiers of the British Empire came up against it in the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.


Migrants across eras: Exodus caused by lockdown mirrors untold suffering of indentured labourers from 19th century

Like the migrants who are currently walking back home across states, a century-and-a-half ago, many Indians — indentured labourers all — made similar travels in cattle-like conditions on steamships. Most ended up being cheated and denied a fair shot at life.


As religion re-emerges as the faultline of Indian society, could Bhagat Singh's ideas of atheism be a way forward?

Bhagat Singh’s objection to faith and God seemed to be both philosophical as well as springing from the severe religious unrest that he observed around him which marred regular life in 1920s India.


Sarnami: An Indian language born in South America, on the verge of becoming an endangered tongue

Sarnami (sometimes called Suriname Hindustani) is a mixture of the Indian tongues that the immigrants spoke. It has also adopted words from Dutch and Sranan Tongo. The grammar and lexicon of Sarnami reflect the influence of all its mother languages.


Totaram Sanadhya, an Indian in Fiji: A life defined by the indentured labour system and the fight against it

An indentured labourer sent to Fiji, Totaram Sanadhya survived near-starvation and back-breaking work to become a successful sugarcane farmer. He travelled throughout the islands, meeting labourers and listening to their tales of woe. He would go on to write a letter to Mahatma Gandhi, requesting that an English-speaking lawyer be despatched to Fiji to help the Indians get organised


On Gandhi Jayanti, remembering Mahatma's most beloved hymns — from Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram to Lead, Kindly Light

A common theme seems to run through Gandhiji’s preferred playlist. The themes of devotion, harmony and reconciliation are a common thread. And through all of the songs, there is a sense of gazing deeply into the self to bring out the best that resides in everyone regardless of how trying the circumstances are.


Remembering Bharatendu Harishchandra on Hindi Divas, a man whose work fortified the language

Bharatendu Harishchandra, born in 1850, is known as the 'Father of modern day Hindi literature'. And it was in establishing this language that his biggest contribution lay. Much of the prose that Harishchandra wrote to establish the Hindi we know today was done in the Kavivachansudha and Harishchandra Magazine, which he founded in 1873.


Nehru’s Cabinet was no place for yes men

At the apex of his political career, Nehru chose to induct two bitter critics of the Congress into his cabinet. And even if it were Gandhi’s call, it was an extraordinary one