Hafta letters: What Y2K was really about, monkey balancing, being a conservative
NL Dhulai

Hafta letters: What Y2K was really about, monkey balancing, being a conservative

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Mail 1

Hi NL team,

Subscriber for a long time. Love your work.

You guys mentioned that getting sane right-wing voices has been a challenge, and it definitely is darn hard. Ad given the fact that its easier to find plutonium than a sane RW voice, I think NL is doing a decent job.

In recent times, the addition of Mehraj has made Hafta better, and Vardhan being the centre-right panellist does reduce the chances of Hafta becoming an echo chamber. That doesn't mean Hafta is without any issues. And as a coping mechanism, I have started a drinking game. Every time Mehraj utters "brahminical" — that too on a topic where NONE of the other panellists mention any caste angle — I am gonna down that with a shot. Same goes for Vardhan starting his material with quotations from obscure sociologists or psychologists or historians or whatever and totally missing the specifics of the contemporary issue, however related the topic maybe to some gyaan in some book.

Manisha Pande is the best, and I miss Madhu a lot in Haftas.

Mail 2

I just read Mehraj's latest piece on the pandemic and yet again, the title says "Why India doesn’t seem to care about its poor even during a pandemic", and the article is too focused on caste and "brahminical", the clutch word appears. Incompetent or callous handling of the pandemic has very little, or anything, to do with casteism. It's as useful as saying casteism has gone down because the PM is OBC.

Prakash Iyer


Hi NL team,

I've been an on and off subscriber to Newslaundry for a long time now, because of the fact that I'm a student, I couldn't always afford to "PAY TO KEEP NEWS FREE". But have decided that from now on, I will try to do my best to stay on subscription and uphold independent journalism.

I recently became a subscriber and by recently, I mean two days back, and like any other person of my age I decided to binge on NL content to such an extent that I've probably listened to 12-13 Haftas and a few NL interviews.

And during this period, I came across an episode where the NL team spoke about the Pehlu Khan lynching accused being given a clean chit by the local court. What did shock me was Anand Vardhan pointing out that it was a case of a "mob justice system" rather than a hate crime, and then Abhinandan pointing out that there is a grey area to it.

Now I realise it was a long time back so bringing it up right now, while the whole world is going through a pandemic, is probably not a great idea and you might not remember exactly what you said on that episode. But I just needed to point out that there was a Muslim man living in a village with a largely Hindu population, who was lynched and subsequently killed at the hands of his neighbours because of the suspicion of cow smuggling/beef consumption. It is a classic example of a hate crime.

It is true that our country is not foreign to the idea of hate crimes based on religion or caste or even gender or even mob justice, but various reports have shown that it has systematically increased after 2014, especially religious-based hate crimes (from nine incidents in 2013 to 92 in 2018, Uttar Pradesh having the highest number of cases). NDTV did a report about how 45 of our union legislators have been accused of hate crimes and 35 of them belong to BJP.

Therefore, it will not be completely illogical to say that the majority lot of the lynching incidents are fuelled by religion.

The reason behind me saying all of this is because I think as a society, we should all be a little sensitive and respectful towards the victim who we all know is far from getting justice. As a law student, the first thing we learn is that there are two sides to all stories and every case is somewhat grey. But I guess sometimes, it is an open and shut case. A man of colour gets shot and killed in a neighbourhood for jogging there, is that also grey ? Maybe sometimes, for the sake of divulging into a story and analysing it, we tend to complicate it and miss what happened at very first instance. Let me know if I made any sense and correct me if I said something wrong.

It goes without saying that that I really love your work whether it's Newsance, Awful and Awesome, or Hafta, or even your reports and opinions — they truly stand out. Keep up the good work.

Kingshuk Dasgupta



Please don't air my name if you read this email on any of your podcasts.

Just a short input on "monkey balancing" discussions on Hafta 275.

Often, the demarcation between two aspects of any issue may not be as black and white as saying whether it is night or day. It may just be dawn or dusk.

For example, the issue of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh bringing out ordinances to hold labour laws in abeyance. Here are two links which have discussed two different perspectives unilaterally.



In such cases, where the demarcation isn't very clear, then I believe that showcasing both sides and monkey balancing isn't that bad. Rather, taking sides and showcasing only one aspect outright should be looked down upon.

Best wishes,

Proud subscriber


Hello NL team,

Please consider this in privileges: "Alcohol keeps you calm and sane."

Bahuton ko alcohol ka phobia hai.

Parminder Kaur


Hi team,

Small correction. Manisha mentioned about "Reliance" paying salary twice to its employees. And nobody corrected her.

The report is that employees earning below Rs 30,000 will be paid twice, meaning, they will get their normal salary but instead of being paid the whole amount once, they will be paid in two instalments in just one month, so that cash flow is easy for the lower salary gap employees.

Thank you for your work. Lagge raho.

I was Rs 300-wala subscriber, now I am Rs 1000-wala subscriber. Thodi taareef kardo please.


Inderpreet Singh


Hey guys,

In the last episode, Abhinandan remarked that Y2K problem was the biggest non-event he has ever seen. The remark kind of indicated that the whole issue was more of a hype/dud than anything else. No rebuttal and quiet smiles from other panel members seemed to support that view.

So, here's a hypothetical story: Sometime in the 1980s, climatologists said that humans are causing irrevocable damage to the environment by human-based carbon emissions. Surprisingly, the governments and corporates agreed and things were brought under control. Hundred years into the future, in a Hafta panel, a remark gets made: "Climate change is the biggest hoax that renewable lobby created. There was never a rise in sea level nor did we observe any extreme weather patterns."

Do you see why that future panel is wrong?

Y2K was a genuine issue and billions (I don't recall, maybe it was hundreds of billions) of dollars were spent in fixing the issue. Actually, the problem is almost trivial to identify and fix; the big problem is finding all places where it exists to be worth fixing and then validating/testing that the fix would correctly behave with ambiguous two-digit years, ie it can correctly disambiguate such century a certain record might be referring to.

Of course, the updated implementations would likely not keep storing two-digit years in the future and would have had migration plans to update old data in new format.

All of this might still feel simple to do but do consider the fact that we're talking about sectors like hospitals, aviation, banks, etc who are very, very reluctant to take a software change. And when they do, they'd much rather have a minimal change instead of a groundbreaking/revolutionary/poore-ghar-ke-badal-dallonga type change. I'm not blaming them. The idea is that a pre-production testing cycle often doesn't match the quality of a test of time of execution in production.

Why were we so proactive in fixing Y2K and not climate change? Because, modelling global climate and prove beyond doubt what the effects would be is super hard. Modelling what ruckus Y2K would create is provable: you can actually stimulate the odd behaviour of the software by simply jumping your system clock.

...With that kind of evidence and obvious issues that it would have led to is an easy enough pitch to get funds to fix the issue, I think.

So, yes, Y2K existed and it was a non-event because lots of effort was spent to mitigate the risks.

Btw, I guess a lot of engineers of Indian origin might have been involved in the task but calling that Indians helped fixing it is almost same as the tendency to adopt Kalpana Chawla or Amartya Sen post facto their fame.

Vikas Saurabh


Dear Newslaundry,

I had written last week to show my appreciation for Anand Vardhan’s ability to express a conservative viewpoint with clarity and insight, and to implore the other guests, whatever their disagreements with him, to allow him to speak without hindrance. Ironically, at just the moment when Abhinandan was about to read out my letter, he was cut off, and my remarks were consigned to the nameless void.

I am not writing now, however, despite my limitless capacity for self-absorption, to complain about this. Instead, I would like to lay forth a case for why it is both important and even urgent for conservative values to hold their own in a political landscape divided between fiercely competing tribes. Let me provide a degree of context for my remarks.

I have been working in academia in France for the last few years. When the anti-CAA protests broke out last December, a few of us Indians living in Paris decided to organise small protests and meetings to express solidarity with the protesters, and to educate the public about what was happening in India. These meetings brought together people from diverse backgrounds, but mostly sharing a generally anti-fascist, progressive and liberal ethos.

For me, however, resisting the Modi regime’s attempts to transform the meaning and substance of Indian citizenship, can also be seen as a staunchly conservative action. I see the Hindutva regime as a deeply subversive one, that seeks to overturn a 70-year constitutional compact between the state and its citizens. I also resent their disregard for Republican values and democratic practices that are well-entrenched modern traditions in this country. Loyalty to the Indian republic means that one can raise one’s voice for the constitutional rights of Kashmiris, as well as resist savage demands on national territory by malignant outsiders.

For me, being a conservative also means a real respect and curiosity for India’s vast and rich cultural heritage. Attempts to refashion this past along narrow sectarian or ideological lines are not a conservative project. They are the work of extremists with little understanding of Indian history, its uniquely composite culture that is the fruit of several centuries of co-existence between different communities and religions. In the end it is these traditions, and habits of co-existence, that I would like to preserve, and that I hope haven’t deserted us entirely.

Take care, and stay safe.

Thank you,

Nachiket Joshi



I wrote into Awful and Awesome a few months ago saying that I wasn't a subscriber because I was a broke student then. Abhinandan, you wished me luck and that I could soon get a job soon. I got a job three months ago and I have been subscribing since. Thanks for the kind words, Abhinandan. I have really started to draw inspiration from you in the sense that I practise yoga everyday and think that I will stay single all my life. I feel that relationships and all that are not my thing but perhaps spirituality is. Can't believe I am saying this.

Anyway, my question is that I heard your webinar with Barkha Dutt and Faye D'Souza. You were very smug to remind Barkha that a few years ago, on a panel, she detested the idea of independent journalism and basically said that TV journalism was all that mattered. Now, of course she is an independent journalist trying to run a YouTube channel. So, my questions are:

1) Do you have the "I told you so" feeling towards yesteryear's star anchors, now that they are also trying to figure out alternative revenue models? Do you enjoy it?

2) You mentioned that Barkha deserves an award for her coverage of the "migrant labourers". Explain why?

3) Also, do you think we will see a supergroup of independent journalists (like Faye, yourself and Barkha) coming together on one platform? How far are we from something like that? You said something like that was under development. Please throw light.

Rohan Wadhwa


Hi Abhinandan and Manisha,

I am a frequent Newslaundry subscriber and would describe myself as some who stopped living under the rock a year ago. Through your podcast, I have been able to gain balanced insights on several topics which otherwise (mostly on Twitter) are extreme and often bizarre.

Lately, I have been wondering whether reservations are necessary for people who are financially stable?

In my opinion, it should only go to those who (or preference should be given to those) who are financially weak and belong to a reserved category.

Reason: Those who are financially secure and have access to things such as quality education shouldn't get benefits at a discounted effort. This only defeats the purpose of uplifting those who are marginalised because of their caste and weak economic background.

Please share your opinion on the same.


Kartikey Mishra


Hi Abhinandan,

How to put this delicately: Get your tech fixed, man. My Newslaundry consumption has gone down during corona lockdown days as your tech broadly sucks and is all over the place and I no longer have a long commute.

As a professional technologist, let me say that none of what you are struggling with is very difficult and just requires treating it more than as a cost centre but as something of strategic importance and thinking. You cannot quote and quote McLuhan and ignore the content. (Don't be like a kanjoos lala company; hire one good senior tech guy as internal, many of them will be unemployed soon like others.)

- Love your work.

- I am a Malayali based in Europe.

- I miss Madhu Trehan. Please let Anand speak more. Now that he is working out of the heartland, you people in Delhi monopolise the conversation. (It irritates me no end why something is "national" because people in that particular municipality think so.)

As someone who thought for one microsecond of becoming a journalist, one thing I do think about is strategy for media. Now that both the Print and News Minute are trying subscription-based business, having this sorted also offers you a competitive vector.

I am worried about the future of democracy, of civilisation itself without a vibrant media.


Jayasankar Peethambaran


Dear NL Hafta team,

As ever, keep up the good work. It seems that very recently we were discussing the Delhi elections and riots. Then Covid happened and I only get to write again now. Thanks again for the redoubled efforts you have put up to keep the news and all your wonderful shows and podcasts going strong during the lockdown. Among others, we have been enjoying the crazy and hungry HOMP and the increasing bite on NL Tippani. You shows are only getting better (like wine with age? :))

As you often mention, you indeed seem to have strong, diverse and highly educated listeners. Remember, however, that they are only returning a favour to highly educated, brave and serious journalists.

In my own day job as a professor of computer science, I am reminded of the importance of communication. Much of the research we do is not very useful if not communicated properly, but we also know how "improper" communication can be dangerous. This is very topical given all the fake news — social and scientific — around corona itself. The latest I hear are Indian union ministers pushing the "corona is an artificially created virus" theory.

In this context, I would like to make two recommendations:

- There is this fascinating book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, by economics Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kanhemann. It lucidly explains their Nobel Prize-winning work on human thought beginning with a central question: "Humans are born linguists, Are they born statisticians too?"

They conclude that we are not; that we are not good in estimating numbers and drawing logical conclusions. Our brain works in two modes: a fast, intuitive but error-prone mode, and a slow, intensive, logical mode. Of course, we are much happier in the faster, intuitive mode. Why do I mention this? Because some of the side effects are that media can manipulate our thinking — bombarding a message shifts our belief towards it in our fast brain — and we start believing in fake news when it confirms to our self-created created beliefs and we don't want to put the extra effort to switch to the slow mode to fact check! That is how the combined effort of Arnab, Sudhir and co. is showing results.

- My second recommendation is this group I have come to know recently: the ISRC (Indian Scientists Response to Covid-19). This seems to be a sterling group of (more than 500) Indian scientists and others who are trying to keep sanity and Science alive in the context of Covid-19 despite Indian politicians. They have voluntary groups dealing with everything from looking at the latest corona-related research to producing educational material to hoax busting. They began on the right foot by questioning the scientific validity of the "Tablighi are responsible for the Covid" theory which I believe earned them medals from OpIndia and such. It will be great if you do get in touch with them and see what they are doing. The website is here.

May the Force be with you.


Dr Amitabh Trehan