Ahead of Republic Day, our cover story explores the ideas of democracy and citizenship in light of the Election Commission saying it’s ready for Indians abroad to vote in elections from this year without having to return home. It is a step towards helping every citizen vote, and there’s no doubt of the influence and purses NRIs hold. Politicians have made it a point to court the diaspora, whether they have retained their Indian citizenship or not, trading on their nostalgia for a faraway home, in an effort to build consensus and a base both at home and abroad. It’s now time to think about migrants within India who often do not have documentation for their place of work. They have a larger stake in what happens in government yet they often cannot vote as the trek back home means a loss of livelihood.
Other stories in this issue also touch upon nostalgia of a different kind—there’s a piece on India’s discovery of ramen during the pandemic, and it’s not fancy Maggi noodles with the broth left in, as various chefs explain to Lounge, but a flavourful dish that’s easy to whip up. Road trips are back in favour, with the slow lane being chosen over flying as people attempt to reduce points of contact. There’s a tribute to the old world of book fairs as, in a year of postponements, most cities have chosen to put off their annual book fairs. Apart from the trade, it’s probably only the now-ageing adolescents of the 1990s who have any nostalgia for these tented worlds from a pre-liberalisation era. Usually stretched out across dusty fields, the January book fair in any city was a family outing, and a very different experience from the carefully orchestrated talk shows that literary festivals have become. Despite the competition from online sellers and more immediate forms of entertainment, book fairs—whether the international Delhi and Kolkata ones or the comparatively smaller affairs like those in Chennai and Guwahati—continue to make money for independent publishers and draw thousands of visitors who aren’t there just for the joy of browsing but also for the discovery of new experiences.
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