Category: censorship

  • Column: “It was a pleasure to burn”

    Column: “It was a pleasure to burn”

    I wrote about Fahrenheit 451, and a world gone mad from junk, for the Financial Times this week: “In Bradbury’s novel, books are outlawed in a time saturated by mindless television, loud and banal radio streams, where people fear books, silence, pedestrians. Montag’s wife Mildred, shifting between hours of watching TV shows and mowing down […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The Empire’s outdated laws

    Speaking Volumes: The Empire’s outdated laws

    July is a humid month in Calcutta, and it was sweltering in the Calcutta Supreme Court when The Reverend James Long was indicted “for the publication of various libels in a pamphlet known as the Nil-Durpan”.   As the publisher of Dinbandhu Mitra’s play, Long, an Irish Anglican priest, was fined and briefly jailed in […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The Unruly Past

    Speaking Volumes: The Unruly Past

    (Published in the Business Standard, April 14, 2014) In 2003, a study asked 569 college students what their memories of 9/11 were. Seventy-three per cent “remembered” seeing television footage of the first plane crash into the north tower of the World Trade Centre; so did the neuroscientist Karim Nader, who was in New York at […]

  • Booklove: Freedom from the British ban

    Booklove: Freedom from the British ban

    (Published in the Business Standard, August 20, 2013) The week after Independence is a good time to remember some of the less well-known achievements of the British, in the days when they ruled India. For instance, in 1910, the British government banned the wearing of a particular kind of dhoti. This dhoti, as Sisir Kar […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The reader of Robben Island

    (Published in the Business Standard, June 24th, 2013, as news came in that Nelson Mandela had been hospitalized.)  The prison rules on Robben Island allowed the incarcerated to study, with some caveats. Their most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, meant to continue reading, no matter how small his cell. The Robben Island library was limited, though […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The contested ground of Anandamath

      (Published in the Business Standard, May 14, 2013)  If it were not for the refusal of Shafique-ur-Rehman Barq, BSP member of Parliament, to join in with the singing of Vande Mataram, I might never have gone back to Bankimchandra’s Ananda Math and rediscovered its many charms. Ananda Math starts with a lyrical description of […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The unchaste page

    Speaking Volumes: The unchaste page

    (Published in the Business Standard,  May 7, 2013) The reading was at a sedate mela; literature was tucked in sideways, between the food stalls and the sellers of heavy machinery. Jeet Thayil read a passage he had read often at literary festivals. It involved a rant from a character meditating on the endless varieties of […]

  • Speaking Volumes: Emperors, apostates and absences

    (Published in the Business Standard, August 14, 2012) The price Raja Rammohan Roy paid in the early 19th century for expressing his views on Hinduism and sati was not minor. His mother ostracized the Brahmo reformer, and declared that he should not be allowed to inherit family property because he was an ‘apostate’. The Life […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The fatwa against reading

    (Published in the Business Standard on February 14, 2012)Among the many things forgotten about the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on Valentine’s Day 1989 is that it did not stop at naming Salman Rushdie for writing the Satanic Verses. The author was condemned to death “along with all the editors and publishers aware of its […]

  • #flashreads for free speech/ Feb 14th

    Update: Thanks to all those who participated in or started their own #flashreads groups in Delhi, Bangalore, Bombay, Kochi and Kolkata–what we had this year was several small groups of volunteers doing readings in libraries, markets and public parks. Special thanks to our youngest protestor in Delhi, 10-year-old Nikhil, who read from Luka and the […]