Month: April 2016

  • Translations: Pyre, by Perumal Murugan

    Translations: Pyre, by Perumal Murugan

    “The mob was frantic with delays and would hear to nothing but burning at the stake.” In 1899, newspapers in Florida reported the lynching of Sam Holt, a black man who was tortured, mutilated and burned in front of 2,000 people. In 1997, almost exactly a century later, 58 Dalits were massacred in the village […]

  • Speaking Volumes: Swadeshi Essence and asli nationalism

    Speaking Volumes: Swadeshi Essence and asli nationalism

    The firm of Kundoo & Chatterjee, of Cornwallis Street, Calcutta, did a brisk trade in “Swadeshi Essence” in the 1920s. They offered essence of moharaja bukul, moharaja dildaria (“it really makes mind cheerful”), motia, chameli, white rose, cherry and Indian Bouquet: “It is in no way inferior to the Foreign Cashmere Bouquet and is long-lasting.” […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The Lives of Women

    Speaking Volumes: The Lives of Women

    As recently as 2005, you could search for writings by women on their creative lives that mapped their younger selves too and come up near empty-handed. I remember picking up The Paris Review’s Latin American Writers at Work, published in 2003, and feeling the cold wind of exclusion. Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Julio Cortazar, […]

  • Speaking Volumes: When Breath Becomes Air

    Speaking Volumes: When Breath Becomes Air

    As a species, we suck at handling death. Except for a few evolved souls and practising Tibetan Buddhists, the rest of humanity hurtles towards the one part of their lives that is inevitable and unavoidable with a blend of screaming fear and absolute denial. Atul Gawande wrote about this movingly in Being Mortal, reflecting that […]

  • In translation: Bhisham Sahni’s truths

    In translation: Bhisham Sahni’s truths

    Only four episodes of Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas had been shown on Doordarshan when Ramesh Dalal petitioned the courts in the 1980s, asking them to stop the telecast. He felt that Tamas could disrupt public order, promote feelings of enmity and argued that “truth in its naked form may not always be desirable to be told […]

  • Speaking Volumes: Into the abyss

    Speaking Volumes: Into the abyss

    One of the few joys of researching blasphemy, a crime with increasingly bleak consequences for those found guilty of it, is that it’s a fine excuse for watching a Satanist rocker for a Polish death metal band spin his hair expertly as he belts out the lyrics to ‘Christians To The Lions’. In September 2007, […]

  • The post-Partition booksellers

    The post-Partition booksellers

      In the days when Balraj Bahri Malhotra set up Bahrisons, Khan Market was a refugee market, not the upmarket, slightly soulless South Delhi hangout it is now. Sovereign Dairies, Empire Stores, grocery shops and small mithai shops kept him company for decades before the invasion of luxury brands and smart restaurants. Bahri died last […]

  • Book review: Incarnations, Sunil Khilnani

    Book review: Incarnations, Sunil Khilnani

      “India’s history is a curiously unpeopled place,” Sunil Khilnani writes, in the very first sentence of Incarnations: India in 50 Lives. “As usually told, it has dynasties, epochs, religions and castes – but not many individuals.” The individuals were mentioned in blurry sheets of emperors or Leaders Of The National Movement sandwiched in between […]