Hafta letters: Indian employers and taking leave, secularism, pronouncing words correctly

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: Indian employers and taking leave, secularism, pronouncing words correctly
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Dear NL team,

I want to see more interviews, especially the "I Agree With" interviews. Anything coming soon?

Can you do an "I Agree With" with Yogi Adityanath?




Hey peeps,

So, I’ve been following up on the topic of safetyism a lot and there have been several upgrades in my understanding of the same since the mail I sent you guys in the last to last Hafta. I was more on the “snowflake” (no intention of demeaning) side of the narrative before and supported safetyism solely because I thought it was a way to prevent foreseeable attacks on mental health and emotional security.

But now, after obsessing over this stuff for a week and reading all sorts of narratives, I think we as a society will be better off without safetyism.

While I think mental health and emotional security must be prioritised in this lonely and constantly expanding world, one must also consider that sub-cultures like safetyism are a threat to freedom of expression in major life-altering ways. I have a Bramhastra kind of an example to prove this and hope I cause a lot of listeners to rethink their views using this example.

So, here it goes. Just imagine the predicament we’ll be in if safetyism becomes prevalent and legit and our honourable prime minister could opt out of unbiased interviews simply by saying that he doesn’t feel safe around Ravish or Karan and we all would have to live with it! There are a lot of negative consequences to safetyism as opposed to some constructive changes. Which basically means that there are far more exceptions in it for them to be considered "exceptions", and there’s a very narrow space or rather no space at all for modifications there.

So, I am with Abhinandan on this one and I take back calling his views “basic”. In the last Hafta, a person named Sahil said a lot of things which were twisted and somewhat out of context; yet I’d find it interesting to address all that stuff in a debate with him or with anyone whose views resonate with his.




Dear NL Hafta team,

I am a subscriber for the last few years and absolutely look forward to the weekly NL Hafta.

I usually listen to the Hafta (and other Newslaundry podcasts) when I am running/walking and so I believe that you may have contributed to my health in some way.

Each panel member of the NL Hafta brings in a different perspective to discussions and there have been times when I have changed my opinion about a topic midway in between the Hafta.

I enjoy listening to Anand Vardhan the most; while I may not agree with his view, he brings a feeling of rationality and an almost professor-like quality when airing his opinions.

I am a big fan of the "other side". By that I mean I am always keen to understand the other side of any discussion and sometimes go out of my way to initiate a debate on a particular topic by taking a contrarian view — even though I myself may not agree with it. For this very reason, I subscribe to two news sites which, in my opinion, are as far away from each other's philosophy as chalk and cheese: Newslaundry and Swarajya.

Independent media is absolutely critical to the well-being of any democracy and I laud Newslaundry for sticking to this principle. "When the public pays, the public is served..."

I will always support independent media and I hope that you continue to churn out the amazing reports, videos, etc that I am so fond of.

All the best to Newslaundry.


Rahul Pradhan


Hi NL team,

I’ve been a long-time subscriber since 2015 and have always loved your work. Especially Hafta has had a huge impact on my thought process after being a regular listener over a period of time. So much so that I instinctively picture what Abhinandhan or Manisha would say when I react to and make sense of any contemporary issue. I thought of writing to you guys many times in the past about topics that caught my interest but the letters that are read in Hafta are of such high quality that I felt insecure to write to you guys. 😊

I’m currently writing after listening to episode 288 where Abhinandan compared the public reaction in 1992 vs 2000 and used it as a yardstick to judge how far away we’ve come (or gone) in terms being a secular nation.

While I generally agree with most of the points the panel discussed and share the fear of the danger posed by the communal politics of the current dispensation, I would like draw an important distinction that in 1992, people were reacting to the act of the “destruction” of a masjid while now in 2020, it’s the “construction” of Ram temple. I don’t think we can draw any broad conclusions based on public celebration.

My limited point is: given that it’s been 30 years since the demolition and as Abhinandan rightly pointed out it’s totally reasonable for general Hindu population to wish for a mandir at the birthplace of Ram, I don’t think a vast majority of people were celebrating Hindu assertion nor necessarily condoning it when they cheerfully watched the bhoomi pujan. I feel drawing such premature conclusions may be dangerous because if that becomes the general consensus, no opposition party will seriously attempt to challenge the communalisation of discourse in India. It’s too early for anybody to concede any defeat over secularism when Modi himself often couches his controversial political decisions in a liberal idiom. For example, banning triple talaq as addressing women rights issues, abrogating Article 370 as ensuring equal rights for J&K citizens, etc.

Also, I would like to know the panel’s views on how much of the BJP’s increased support (from 19 percent vote share to 38 percent at a national level between 2009 and 2019) is because of a voter’s rightward ideological shift vs Modi’s personality as a self-made leader who has made it to the very top. I would guess almost all of this incremental share is Modi’s vote, given that at the state level, the BJP has been losing a lot recently (electorally speaking). Also, the recent NRC-CAA nationwide protests also indicate India hasn’t really rejected secularism.

The real crisis I feel is the dearth of political talent in the parties claiming to be secular. BJP, for all its pitfalls, is meritocratic — where a Narendra Modi can raise the ranks to become the supreme leader. As Prashant Kishore put it during a recent interview with Karan Thapar, Modi developed his phenomenal political skills over 45 years: 15 as an RSS pracharak, 15 as a grass roots organisation man, 15 as the chief minister of a large state. This gives him an almost unique and massive advantage which no contemporary peer seems to match. On the other hand, a majority of the opposition is family-run who, over a period of time, has systematically suppressed all the political talent to avoid a palace coup.

Finally, I felt you really should’ve got Anand Vardhan on this episode when you discuss an issue as historic as the Ram temple to provide a counter-narrative, as he usually does. Also I wonder how the other Anand (Ranganathan) reacted to the Ram temple event. As a long-time listener I remember he used to say on Hafta that the real justice would be to "rebuild a mosque at the disputed site". Surely he isn’t saying those things when he is on Arnab’s show these days :D

Kartheek Ponnuru


Hi NL Hafta Team

I was recently binge-watching old NL interviews. I realised how abruptly people changed their political standpoints after the commencement of Modi 1.0. Anand Ranganathan, contributing editor of NL, turned into a troll. Rahul Roushan is now associated with OpIndia. Comment on this and also your status quo with these people.

Secondly, whenever a new NL interview comes, the name of the person along with the title is written in Comic Sans. There might be disputes about Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid, but one thing we can all agree on is that Comic Sans is a terrible font.

Since the past few episodes of Hafta, Abhinandan has been getting a lot of flak for his views on safetyism. Safetyism is an American issue more than it is Indian, so is Black Lives Matter. The inner activists of all Indians awaken for these issues while they remain dormant when it comes to Indian issues like casteism, mob lynchings, majoritarianism, etc. Tell me what you think about that.

Please don't dodge these questions and also tell me when is the podcast on RSS dropping.




Dear Hafta panel,

I'm writing this letter in response to the one from the last Hafta where a subscriber mentioned she had her name butchered her entire childhood and this safeyism debate. I spent the first 17 years of my life in Chennai, and being a Punjabi whose name is "Shoe-bum" in a city where no peer/senior had ever heard such a name, it led to my name being butchered for most of my childhood.

Now, trying to decipher who was making fun of me and why they did it was a massive waste of headspace. Obviously I was affected by this growing up but does this does not mean I start calling all these people insensitive, racist, etc. I just dusted my shoulders off and moved on. This among a million other experiences makes me who I am.

To coddle the minds of young adults and to "protect them from the universe under the garb of mental health" is just going to create a generation of grown men and women who cannot deal with anything outside of their worldview.

This entire safetyism debate reminds me of this beautiful quote by G Michael Hopf: “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”

Lots of love,

Shubham Chawla



Many thanks for the amazing podcast you put together. Abhinandan mentioned Yogendra Yadav's article in the Print as an example of the kind of shallow analysis Yogendra engages in. xD

While I have found Yogendra's critique of atheism as well as his aversion to leftist ideology to be shallow (in my very humble opinion), I didn't find much of anything in the recent article that can even be analysed to be shallow or otherwise. There is only one paragraph in the article which actually engages with the question of how/why secularism failed in India:

"Today, we must recognise that secularism was defeated because its custodians refused to engage in a battle of ideas among the people. Secularism was defeated because the secular elite talked down to its critics in English. Secularism was defeated because it disavowed our languages, because it failed to connect with the language of traditions, because it refused to learn or speak the language of our religions. Specifically, secularism was defeated because it chose to mock Hinduism instead of developing a new interpretation of Hinduism suitable for our times. The secular ideology was defeated in India because it failed to distinguish itself from knee-jerk pro-minorityism, even as it learnt to turn a blind eye to minority communalism. Secular politics was discredited because it turned from conviction to convenience and then to a conspiracy to keep minority voters hostage."

I do agree that one of the major reasons secularism was defeated was a combination of the elitist image of secularism and the anti-secular appeasement of minorities. However, it seems quite dubious a claim that secularism would have strengthened itself if it had spoken the language of our religions. Given that this claim was supposed to be the central thesis of the article, I expected Yogendra to actually present an argument in favour of it rather than dropping it as a single line towards the end of the article. I wonder if Abhinandan referred to this utter lack of actual content itself as the shallowness of the analysis, or was there anything of substance in the article as well which was shallow?

In any case, outside of the topic of secularism/religion, I usually find Yogendra's work inspiring and/or in the right direction. If you could refer to other places where you think his analysis is flawed, I would be interested in checking it out. Thanks again for all the fantastic work you people do.


Dvij Mankand


Hafta folks, you need to stop giving lazy excuses when people point out something that you are doing incorrectly.

This is email is specifically about mispronouncing Tamil Nadu, Kannada and Karnataka.

You guys seriously didn’t know how Tamil Nadu, Kannada and Karnataka are spelt and pronounced? They are spelt with vowel sounds in the end.

I don’t understand this arrogance of people from other regions within India when South Indians complain that they are repeatedly pronounced wrongly. Don’t even start comparing with names from foreign countries.

FFS, adding a vowel sound of "a" or "u" at the end is not a tongue-twister.

Himaja Mylavarapu


Hey Newslaundry team,

Long-time subscriber and fan of all of you. I have been wanting to write for a long time and maybe I will write a bit more praise for you all some other day (and some gripes). I listen to all your podcasts, especially HOMP and Awful and Awesome. I really appreciate the value Hafta adds to Newslaundry as there are times I want to avoid the news at all costs, but then a casual discussion of news is still okay to digest. Newsance is really great and I have been promoting Newsance a lot in my friends circles and online platforms.

And lastly, the reason which pushed me to find time to write this email is:

Abhinandan, (saada nikku bhra) for your birthday, I will gift 12 months' worth of subscription to Newslaundry students' programme. Let me know how to proceed.


Amrik Deol


Hi Team Newslaundry!

This unprecedented lockdown led to an unprecedented NL Interviews binge-watch. My favourite one has to be the Abhinandan-Tavleen interview for it showed the crazy of an otherwise renowned journalist. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to Arun Shourie. For all the complaints in the Hafta letters about a RW voice, I should point out that his (or Pavan Verma's) is a voice that the RW would consider Right no more.

I wanted to talk about two things:

- Interviewer credibility:

In the Manisha-Srivastava, Madhu-Rajat or even the Madhu-J Katju interviews, there is a direct attack on the interviewer's credibility; it was particularly pronounced in the first case. It was perhaps an attempt to avoid questions, but the comments section presented a different story. How do female journalists recover from that and maintain a hard line of questioning? Also, it was in stark contrast to the Abhinandan-Tavleen interview where he gets back at her.

- Mental health and comedy:

In the light of Navika and Ankita's learned judgements on depression, I wanted to share this stand-up. And this one, for the safetyism listeners. But also, maybe, we should have cancelled Times Now and the likes long ago.

PS: Please get Shovon Chowdhury to write for you again!

Thanks a lot for the work you are doing.

Best regards,

Ushma U


I was going to write to you after I heard your views on the holidays on Hafta 286. I got lazy and then saw that Sonali did a fine job representing part of my views. I might have let the matter lie had I not heard your response to her.

The crux of your response to her was to fixate on the concept of "rights" vs duty. But that's not what elicited your original comment, was it? Was this person who wanted a day off on one particular day that the Michael Jordan of her team played Game 5 of the World Series? What do we know about how important that person's presence was on the day s/he asked for a holiday? Nothing. That didn't stop you from viewing the request negatively. So, it's specious to bring in examples of a journalist missing a big election day or Scottie Pippen sitting out a crucial game because they simply do not apply to the example at hand.

Here's what you're missing about the concept of holidays as a "right". While it is a right, the only expectation one can have of the employee is that s/he aligns with their supervisor on the when. The why shouldn't matter to the employer. Ninety percent of us (and it appears to be true of the example being quoted) do not work in jobs where absence on any one day can have catastrophic consequences for the team. So why should anyone sit in judgement on whether someone wants to spend a day scratching one's nether regions on the couch in front of the TV, or needs a day off for a more "genuine" reason?

I've worked in India for nine years, and worked outside of India for another nine. I've worked in Europe (an employee's paradise) and in the US which has a well-earned reputation for not being a very employee-friendly society. I've worked for Indian managers in Europe, and Indian managers in India. Nowhere have I encountered the Indian attitude to vacations. Employers and line managers in India treat vacations as some sort of privilege, a favour being doled out to employees and something that requires a "justification" to take. Only in India will you hear the concept of "applying for leave" and being rejected. And only in India will you hear about the phenomenon of lying to take a holiday because there's a list of "valid" reasons to take a day off (Manisha talked about it).

Wage slavery may be an over-statement, but the mai-baap mentality of employers and bosses in India appears to be alive and well :)

I don't mean to hector you into changing your opinion; I just felt your arguments were on really weak grounds and perhaps lacking awareness. Thank you for continuing to engage with criticism in good faith.


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