Posted by: John Elliott | August 1, 2009

A Year of Elephant Rides – with over 50,000 hits

A year ago today my Riding the Elephant blog began its independent existence here after 15 months on Fortune magazine’s website.

Since then, there have been about 53,000 hits, or visits as they are called in web jargon, some on the old Fortune website posts that are now here on this blog – so thank you all for finding Elephant and for coming back.

I’ve written a total of nearly 80 posts on subjects ranging from India’s politics and Pakistan’s troubles to the Indian modem art market, the Jaipur literary festival, and Tata’s Nano car.

The consistently most popular has been a piece I wrote for Fortune in June 2008 on Tina Ambani, wife of Anil who runs one of India’s two warring Reliance business groups, spending a record $2.5m on a painting by F.N.Souza at a Christie’s auction in London.

Whether it is the Ambani or Souza name that pulls in readers every few days I am not sure, but the fact that an article on Mukesh Ambani, the elder of the two squabbling brothers, building an outrageously expensive multi-story home in Mumbai is the third most popular might provide the answer.

Second comes a piece on Jawaharlal Nehru period photographs. The pull there I guess is my mischievous headline – Nehru was lost for years in a trunk, which wasn’t quite true – find out why by clicking here.

The fourth is a promotional piece I wrote on an anthology of foreign correspondent articles that Penguin India published last year to coincide with the Delhi-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s 50th anniversary – (with a link to Penguin India for local purchases, or you can buy it from outside India).

After those four, the most popular have been a range of pieces that reflect the past very active year on the Indian subcontinent. While Pakistan has sunk into an ever deeper crisis, and the Sri Lankan government has defeated (for now, at least) the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, terrorist attacks have increased.

India has elected a new government that looks as if it is going to make a better job of running the country than the past stable but deeply divided coalition. The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has emerged stronger from the election, and the country has been hit far less seriously than many others by the international financial crisis. The corrupt and bullying tactics of the country’s main communist party, the CPI(M), have at last led to it losing its 30-year-plus grip on the state of West Bengal and national politics.

Elsewhere, corruption rampages on in many areas of Indian life – mentioned explicitly or implicitly in stories here on subjects such as Satyam computers, highway construction, telecoms, aviation and foreign direct investment.

I was on holiday, mainly in the UK, for most of July and will not be back in India till August 7, so have not been writing as much as usual. But I’ll be back more frequently soon, with something almost immediately on Britain and Afghanistan, and then other planned pieces on privatisation and how some of the new ministers are faring.

So do keep reading – and please comment more. The main thing missing over the past year is a regular flow of comments!


  1. I am reading your blog for the first time and am truly impressed by the range of your thoughts and depth of your understaning. a lot of times we having been born and brought up here miss a lot of things and it requires a new set of eyes to show them to us.
    great reading

  2. thanks for this summary, I don’t find Indian’s greatest interest in Ambani clan surprising , I think it’s reflective of this new aspiring middle class that has access to internet these days ,probably most of your readers will be in their mid to late 20’ees.

    What I like in your writings is the western sense of rationality in the way you look at India yet not writing as a total foreigner unlike the folks at FT, NYT etc. So we get best of both worlds. It irks me the Indian media spends realms of paper analyzing a broken pillar in Delhi metro while ignoring a virtual civil war in half of the country (naxal).It’s important to imbibe the western sense of rationality ( by that I don’t mean British media’s near tabloid way of dealing with Labor govt.) into all the writings of contemporary India and not chuckle on every little progress this country makes in its small islands of brightness in the large ocean of darkness it really is. It’s crucial to maintain this balance.

    Thanks for this cool blog.

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