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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. These days, he makes his living playing poker as he works on his second novel.




My Friend Sancho

My first book, My Friend Sancho, was published in May 2009, and went on to become the biggest selling debut novel released that year in India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and had earlier been longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.


If you're interested, do join the Facebook group for My Friend Sancho


Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.


My posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.


Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

The Importance of Profiling

This is the 28th installment of my fortnightly poker column in the Economic Times, Range Rover. Poker at its heart…

The Endowment Effect

This is the 27th installment of my fortnightly poker column in the Economic Times, Range Rover. There’s something strange that…

The Shame Game

This is the 9th installment of Lighthouse, my monthly column for BLink, a supplement of the Hindu Business Line. One…

The Tournament Lottery

This is the 26th installment of my now fortnightly poker column in the Economic Times, Range Rover. I write these…

The Second Game of Dice

This is the 25th installment of my weekly poker column in the Economic Times, Range Rover. The Mahabharata is an…

12 April, 2007

Compassion doesn’t scale

That’s the conclusion of a new study that explains just why the story of one dying child may move us to tears, but the news of a genocide where a million people died hardly affects us. Paul Slovic, a researcher, is quoted as saying:

We go all out to save a single identified victim, be it a person or an animal, but as the numbers increase, we level off. We don’t feel any different to say 88 people dying than we do to 87. This is a disturbing model, because it means that lives are not equal, and that as problems become bigger we become insensitive to the prospect of additional deaths.

There is a lesson in this for journalists. When we cover events that have caused many deaths, the most effective way to convey the effect of the carnage is to focus on stories about individuals. When I was travelling through Tamil Nadu after the tsunami, for example, I ignored the bigger numbers and just tried to blog about the small stories, hoping that they would be more evocative. (Examples: 1, 2.) A better example: The Gujarat riots of 2002, which can either be represented by a list of casualties, which would mean nothing to most people, or a single photograph like the one below, of Qutubuddin Ansari by Arko Datta.

image

If there were five such people in that picture, our attention would be diffused and the impact, I suspect, would be far less.

(Link via email from Sanjeev Naik.)

Posted by Amit Varma in Journalism

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