Hafta letters: On centrism, life expectancy of Indian women, and more
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Hafta letters: On centrism, life expectancy of Indian women, and more

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

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Hello NL Team,

I’ve been a long-time subscriber now (I took a few months to renew my subscription because the app was being terribly bad, but I’m happy to be back). I wanted to write in for two quick comments based on the discussion from Hafta 256, and ask a couple of questions.

1. On Periyar and BJP getting it wrong in the south: I’m inclined to think the BJP in Kerala and TN do this to see if there’s any impetus to steer the political discourse away from the localised non-Hindi non-Hindu ones and towards the Hindutva narrative. The example from Kerala (where I’m from) was when they tried to wish Malayalis a “Happy Vaman Jayanthi” instead of Onam, and Malayalis united to push back this effort to change the narrative and make the festival about Vaman (the Brahmin Hindu boy) instead of the Dalit king Mahabali.

2. On the discussion on Centrism: I agree with Manisha that there seems to be some lack of clarity on how you were all trying to define the term. I don’t think examples of newsrooms are a good way to understand political centrism at all, considering that their aim in most cases isn’t to take a position on an issue but to put up a performance: that’s them playing to the gallery and not being centrist, as Abhinandan argued. Political parties are a better example, as Anand mentioned.

3. This is a question coming from some ignorance about regulatory mechanisms on media in India. Is there any as such? I know there are some that have no real power, but for instance, if someone was to go to court against Sudarshan for the kind of language they use, would there be any respite from the judiciary?

4. The idea of having subscribers on Hafta is very interesting. Just wanted to check what dates that would be for, and whether you’d still have space for people.

All the best, and wish you all a happy new year!



Hi Abhinandan,

During this week’s Hafta, I think your argument against being a centrist, in general, doesn’t make sense was that it’s not possible to take the middle ground in all cases.

Manisha tried to tell what she took the definition to be which you brushed aside saying that if everyone comes with their own definition then what does the statement even mean.

I’m hoping I understood these as you intended. For the latter, I think, unless someone is being pedantic, the colloquial usage works out fine (yes, you can argue what’s accepted as colloquial but that, I think, is an endless recursion) e.g. as you yourself mentioned multiple times that western notion of liberal doesn’t match up well here (maybe I’m misquoting, but I guess you get the reference).

For the first point though, I think even left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative are notions that no one generally (in all cases) abides by. As an example, I think most of Hafta listeners and I guess you too would consider Madhu to be left-leaning but numerous times in Hafta we’ve heard her bashing you for not standing up for national anthem in theatres – that I feel is quite right-wing behaviour.

I’m, of course, not trying to criticize Madhu here. I am just trying to point out that even accepted labels are likely not generally applicable. I think labels indicate common behaviours.

Hoping that I’m already not bashed up on Hafta already and that the arguments make sense, then it should follow what Manisha was trying to say that she’s ‘mostly’ centrist.

Fwiw (for boomers and old millennials, this is ‘for what it’s worth’ 😛 and these acronyms aren’t used to save time rather keep useful information density in a sentence higher), Manisha, almost towards the end, did say the argument that no labelling can be applied too generally but she was ganged up on bigly.

PS: excuse the typos – phone keyboards have a mind of their own.

Vikas Saurabh


Hi Guys/Abhinandan

Great job on the Asaduddin Owaisi and G.D. Bakshi interview. There is also a lot of youtube videos being put out which should really help NL grow quicker.

I love Newsance but I am hoping it will evolve into a John Oliver-like show where some more research goes into the facts along with the lampooning. Like a Newsance Constitution fusion in NL parlance.

I also urge you to try and showcase more opinions from the right as it helps to hear both sides of the story, even though the NL team is primarily young and probably more left-leaning. Though I am personally against categorizing and bucketing people based on directions (left, right) or ideological leanings, I am more of a liberal but always wary of getting caught up in a bubble.


Please keep up the good work and the constant struggle to stay unbiased.


Ayush Ayyangar

Hi NL Team,

I have been a subscriber for three years now and I want to congratulate you for continued good work.

I want to start with a complaint. I have complained about it earlier in an email but I wanted to restate my grouse about the poor quality of audio of your remote guests. (Referring to Anand’s audio quality in Hafta 256). I am sure you can do better because the quality of the subscriber from Mysore/Ahmedabad who joined later was definitely very good.

I digress so I will come back to the primary reason I am writing this email. It is slightly technical but I want to address it because it is a very widely held fallacy. So please bear with me.

In the same Hafta (256), you talked about the life expectancy of Indian women in Periyar’s time, which was around 35-40 years. From this, you seemed to have drawn the conclusion that adult women from Periyar’s time would have died at a much younger age as compared to their adult millennial grand-daughters (please note that emphasis on the word “adult” in the previous sentence). I want to point out the fallacy in this conclusion. Since Periyar’s time, life expectancy for Indian women has definitely improved (it stands at around 70 years), but it is in the most part because of lower child mortality rates rather than much longer life spans of adult Indian women.

When we say “life expectancy” we usually mean “life expectancy at birth”, which is the average age of ALL the people dying in a certain year, including infants, adults, and oldies. RIsk of death for infants is much higher than the risk of death for adults. Therefore, higher child mortality rates affect this average very asymmetrically.

The right comparison would be – “life expectancy at 25 years of age”, which would be the average age of people dying who are above 25 years of age. Unfortunately, I could not find the data for this comparison.

In summary,  life expectancy at birth of 40 years does not mean that people won’t live beyond the age of 40. And, the current life expectancy at birth of 70 is majorly a consequence of decreased child mortality rather than much longer life spans.

I hope I managed to provide a clear explanation. If not, please refer to the link below:


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