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A note on the issue: The stories we vote for

This week, we look at the fundamentals of living in a democratic society through a curated set of books

Democracy, at its core, is about equality. Illustration by Nithya Subramanian

By Shalini Umachandran

LAST PUBLISHED 20.04.2024  |  08:20 AM IST

Every five years when India votes, everyone gears up for the “world’s largest election". “India watchers" are eager to tell you “everything you need to know", X analysts put out quick-fix opinions, and people publish outdated lists of “books to understand India today". Democracy, at its core, is about equality—and that’s not only about politics, it is also about the way we live. Or rather, choosing how we want to live is actually a deeply political decision, and even those who say they are “apolitical" are still making a political choice of not caring. So, this week, we look at the fundamentals of living in a democratic society through a curated set of books we think you’d like to read. That doesn’t mean that we’ve picked 1,000-page doorstoppers. Instead, we decided to go with comedy, fiction, parody, poetry and stories that have shaped people’s ideas of democracy.

Twelve writers tell us about their favourite stories that changed their view of the world, and moulded their personal beliefs about equality, identity and nationalism while being an engaged member of a larger community or the country. On our request, they have picked writing in languages other than English to reflect the variety of mores that characterise India.

SIMILAR STORIES

Film critic Raja Sen selects shows—past and present, witty and dramatic, and all available in India—that will get you thinking about the challenges facing a democracy. From the evergreen classic political comedy Yes, Minister to the hard-hitting Maharani with Huma Qureshi, these shows hold lessons about the state of the country. While each of these books and shows make for good weekend reading and watching, we also hope they will help you look within and reflect on first principles before you go out to vote.

Elsewhere in the issue, we address the other big preoccupation of the month—summer. One columnist makes a case for being a little kinder to make the rising temperatures somewhat bearable, another story delves into the trend of dessert cocktails, while our compilation of products to keep you cool is inspired by the shades and shapes of mangoes.

Write to the editor at shalini.umachandran@htlive.com

@shalinimb

Also read: 12 writers on their literary experiences of democracy