The Other Side of the Divide

Pegged on journalist Sameer Arshad Khatlani‘s visit to Pakistan, The Other Side of the Divide provides insights into the country beyond what we already know about it. These include details on the impact of India’s soft power, thanks to Bollywood, and the remnants of Pakistan’s multireligious past, and how it frittered away advantages of impressive growth in the first three decades of its existence by embracing religious conservatism.

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The Last Cherry Blossom

Downstairs in the kitchen, I took one look at the breakfast on the table, and my stomach reeled as if filled with ocean waves. I decided to skip breakfast and have tea instead. As I finished my cup of tea, I spotted Machiko across the street hanging laundry. She was working the afternoon shift at the factory, and if I wanted to speak with her, I needed to do it that morning. I slipped on my shoes and ran out to catch her before she went inside.

Suralakshmi Villa

Pratul strode off into the woods taking the girls with him. The three lads had disappeared already. Suralakshmi and Tara stood undecided, wondering whether they should follow, when their attention was caught by a large boat drawing up at the ghat. It had about twenty passengers. There was a party of Muslim bauls, recognizable from their shaggy beards and motley coloured robes. Two of them carried chimtas – huge tongs with bells attached to them – and one had a drum strapped on his back. The others seemed to be ordinary villagers. Some wore dhutis and some, lungis with gamchhas on their shoulders. There were women in the boat as well as children of different ages. All had a festive air about them as though looking forward to a good time.

Never at Home

I arrived in Bombay towards the end of the monsoon. This had always been one of my favourite seasons as an adolescent, but I now found myself looking at it in a different way. It made a mess of the roads, and the city seemed to founder under it. I realized with a certain wonder that I was seeing it as a foreigner; that I was seeing it as a foreign city, though it was less than five years since I had lived there. My encounters with people I had previously known had a certain dreamlike quality: their personalities, familiar before, now seemed seen through a kind of mist. I was treated with some awe, because I had won the Hawthornden. I assumed a posture of arrogance, and secretly felt a little ashamed. The newspapers spoke of the book I had come to write.

My Son’s Father

Missing my father is my first real memory of him. The summer before he went to war he had been a loved, distant figure, sitting at evening on the verandah of our flat with a sequence of young English officers on their way to the Burma front (the poet Alun Lewis, who died there, was one of them), all inhaling the rich flesh of cigars, sipping beer, talking: not my world that summer. My world was in the oval park outside our flat in Bombay, a park eyelashed with palm trees, above which, like a school of enormous airborne white whales, barrage balloons floated.

Vintage Chughtai

Seated on a divan covered with a white sheet, her hair whiter than the wings of a heron, grandma looked like an awkward mass of marble; it seemed as though there was not a single drop of blood in her body. White had crept up to the edges of her grey eyes which, lusterless, reminded one of casements that were barred, of windows hiding fearfully behind thick curtains. Her presence, shrouded in what could be likened to a stationery cloud of finely-ground silver, was dazzling, and a snowy-white, blinding radiance seemed to emanate from her person. Her face shone with the glow of purity and chastity. This eighty year-old virgin had never known the touch of a man’s hand.


Nirav Modi did not leave Belgium as a successful entrepreneur, nor did he have any kind of work experience with top Western jewellery houses. While it’s not clear what he intended to do when he returned to India, what is certain is that by around 1999 Nirav Modi had arrived in Mumbai and begun his tutelage under Mehul Choksi. Why did he not, instead, join hands with his other uncle, Chetan Choksi, who was already in Europe? The answer is that there wasn’t much love lost between him and Chetan. Aside from his rapport with Mehul, another factor may have motivated his return. India was at a crossroads after the liberalization of its economy. The future was wide open and for a young entrepreneurial expatriate who had returned to start with the support of an entrenched player, India was a land of endless opportunities.

Calling Elvis

The story goes that the first time Sting was in Bombay as the frontman of The Police, sometime in the early ’80s, he took on the cops. After a few men in uniform started to hassle a young crowd, trying to pin down those who were exhaling a particularly strong hue into the breezy night, Sting screamed into the microphone: ‘This is The Police telling the Bombay Police to f*** off.’

If the authenticity of that quote couldn’t be verified, blame it on the air that night. But any band that could fuse reggae, rock and standout bass riffs and come up with an album titled Zenyatta Mondatta was capable of anything.

Step Up: Women’s Journey to Identity, Success and Power

What is the meaning of this experience for this leader I shared about? Every time he stood in front of a large group, suddenly his personal history appeared along with the memory of feeling stuck and frozen on stage. It was all happening unconsciously. It showed up in ways that choked him, blocked him and he would lose his voice each time. In that moment he would forget the successful leader that he is because he was in a different place and time, inside himself.

The Life of Z

A radio buzzing in a corner, the transmission is unclear, the signal seems to be wavering. I adjust the antennae that we have fixed near the roof of the room. The voice on the side becomes better. By this time, I had repeated this ritual several times. However, the crackling commentary of the cricket match on the other side made up for all the hard work and irritation. Both me and my younger brother are stuck with the radio for the whole day. Our parents are not at home. My mother wanted to call our grandma and therefore she went to the post office to book a trunk call. It would take few hours of waiting before her turn comes and she can speak over the government run public land phone, before returning home.

Dara Shukoh

In the majlises at his residence, Dara revelled at the prospect of pitching the proponents of different faiths against each other, in a theosophical joust. For a while, Jesuits, with their fervour of preaching and advocating the superiority of their faith, were the fashion of the season in Dara’s mansion. Father Estanilas Malpica, Pedro Juarte, Henri Buzeo and Heinrich Roth shocked and regaled those present, and later, after the debate was over, sat at table with the Prince and shared the wine together. As regards the Prince’s own views in the matter, as Bernier, who came to know him personally, commented: ‘Dara was in private a Gentile with Gentiles, and a Christian with Christians.’ This stemmed not from any innate sense of diplomacy – indeed, Dara had none – but a firm belief in the commonality between religions, an advocacy of the tenets that sustained like an unbroken thread across them, rather than the rituals and doctrines that separated them, causing strife and suffering.

The Doctor and Mrs A.

In the early 1940s, Mrs A. was a young housewife, three years married. She was unsettled, ill at ease in her new home, in what should have been a comfortable, secure life during a heady time. War was still on, the young men of her city and its surrounding countryside offered up as the rank and file in the British Army. Friends were away fighting, and those who were not debated their country’s future and wondered which vision of society would shape it. Her hero, Jawaharlal Nehru, was in prison, which upset her greatly.

The House of Twining Roses

His eyes were cold steel. Like the one he once held in his hands, he said much later. It was a cool March morning on the first day of our Annual North East Media Fellowship Seminar in the wood-scented north-eastern hill town of Shillong. We took in the view across the lawns of Hotel Pinewood, one of Shillong’s finest.

Of the twenty gathered, Mr. Sharma, Sumana and I were the organisers. We gorged on our English breakfast early. Plenty of bacon and ham, usually not a staple if the seminar were to be elsewhere in India. We North-easterners, often touted as omnivores, were pleased with the menu although there was aloo paratha and lassi too. The nine o’clock introductory session was where we all formally met.

Coming Back to the City, Mumbai Stories

In Parel’s Jupiter Mills chawl—one of the few remaining in Mumbai—live many long-time residents. Among them, Pooja, restless and trapped in an unhappy marriage, who finds joy in her flourishing dabba service and attempts at learning English, even as her husband Mahesh flirts with the underworld and dreams of zipping through the streets in his boss’s yellow Mercedes-Benz. Pooja’s friend, Vasudha, a scheming single mother who hopes to give her daughter a better life in the treacherous city. And their upstairs neighbour, Dr Joshi, a famed artist, who has hidden away two paintings—one of a murder he witnessed, and the other a striking portrait of Pooja.

Till the Next Wave Comes

Sarita Jenamani’s poetry collection Till the Next Wave Comes does not approach life and the human condition through some pre-conceived notions or readily-available formulae. Resultantly, she comes up with stuff that is at once dense and profound. Her treatment of it is subtle and sharp, the poems of this book offers its readers to experience the extraterritorial existence that entails a sheer sense of non-place-ness – not much far from the one proposed by French ethnologist Marc Augé – finds a haunting presence here.

Blue Vessel

This poem, “Love story Between Composing”, is excerpted from Nabina Das’s first poetry collection Blue Vessel (2012), published by Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark, edited by Sebastien Doubinsky.  This particular verse has also been translated to Hindi. Peg Boyers, poet and director at New York State Summer Writers’ Conference, Skidmore College, wrote in the foreword to Blue Vessels: “Nabina Das’s beautiful poems are a daring blend of modern times avant-garde and traditional motives that sets her as a leading voice among today’s Indian poetry scene.”

As Slow as Possible

The gate closed, bell unanswered, basketball court

stripped bare to lines and sparrows.

July is never the month for learning.

A school on Clear Water Bay Road, yet no water

bay, nor road. A bridge, along the scar of a hill

through the Lotus-flowered Magnolias I used to cross over

to the clamour of books.

Tales from my Tail End, My Cancer Diary

Love Again: We are all diehard romantics at heart. Thus, most of the love (or lack thereof) that we give or receive is nothing more than an expression of romanticism. Real love goes deeper than that. It is far more enduring. It is less pleasing and comforting, but harder and real. It is a lot like being grounded, while romance is about flying high. ‘Hmm,’ I say gravely. ‘True love is like a hard mattress. Tough in the short run, good for the back in the long run.’ He speaks in a wonder-filled voice, ‘You may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but you do light up sometimes.’ I am not sure if it’s a compliment or an insult. It must be the hard mattress stuff.

Footprints in the Bajra

We go from place to place. In Durjanpur, to nearby villages in that temporarily parched but exquisite Bihar landscape, in schoolyards and open bazaars. We present our play to young and old, masters and servants, women and men. We drive by expansive bajra and wheat fields, breathtaking floral carpets of white sesame and purple bush beans, starving peasants clutching their ribs and staring at us by roadsides and motorcycle-borne landed gentry – supposedly the most powerful and influential folks in the region – asking us city folks where we are headed next. None of these rural folks have ever seen a street play where actors don’t wear flashy make-up or gaudy clothes but just a pair of jeans and a shirt, where a woman acts and touches the men, and where no nachanias or dancers sway their hips to raunchy music – a staple non-family entertainment by travelling troupes in rural north India. The very first day we arrived in Durjanpur, I remember kids went running helter-skelter announcing us to the villagers. “Nachanias have come, nachanias have come!” they screamed, to which married women and young girls covered their face with an extra hard tug of the dupatta or the sari and hookah-smoking men sat in shock thinking the old headmaster has gone crazy inviting this impudent city bunch that is bound to corrupt good moral village folks. I am quite aware that nachanias connote immorality for them.

That Bird Called Happiness

After the initial pleasantries, Shree Madhavan put the same question to me: ‘Mr Rao, are you happy with your life?’

I was prepared for this. ‘Yes Sir,’ I instantly replied, ‘I am a happy man.’

Shree Madhavan leaned forward. ‘What makes you happy, may I ask?’ ‘Sir?’ ‘Why do you think you are a happy man?’ Another absurd question! I was breaking into beads of perspiration but I had to think of a convincing answer. ‘Well Sir, I do not want much. My parents are alive, and they are decently off…’

Those yellow-tinted white of his eyes could perhaps see through my effort. ‘Hmm…’ he said, ‘okay, you may leave now. Namaskar.’

The Billionaire Raj

So rapid had Adani’s rise been, and so large did his holdings become, that he eventually attracted the attention of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a veteran journalist who made it his business to pore over the dealings of India’s more controversial business empires. Guha Thakurta made his name taking on the Ambani brothers in a controversial 2014 book called Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis, which detailed the fierce disputes between the two men’s respective energy businesses following their 2005 fallout. In the book he laid out various allegations of cronyism, which both Ambani brothers denied, and which Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries countered with an unsuccessful defamation suit. Undeterred, Guha Thakurta turned next to Adani, a man who was viewed by many in India as the purest inheritor of the industrial spirit of the Ambani family.

Summer Holidays

It was Mira’s first day at IIT Bombay. They both had to rush. Rishi packed his bag and hers, dropping a set of duplicate keys into her bag before they left.

‘You know how Kohli sends the ball soaring towards the boundary?’ Rishi asked as they rode his bike. ‘He stands erect as the ball comes from the front and swerves it towards the left like this.’ As they approached a crossing, the red lights turned green and Rishi took a sharp turn towards the left, emulating the skipper’s bat.

The Assassinations

The Assassinations

The evening sky had deadened to the colour of cigarette ash by the time Jaswant left his office. On his way home, he passed cars and buses on fire, burnt shells of shops and houses billowing smoke, dead bodies of Sikhs cremated alive, bands of goondas brandishing machetes and crowbars… It was as if Partition had descended one more time. The stench of fire and smoke, the hapless victims and their remorseless tormentors, even the mob’s war cry of khoon kabadlakhoon. Everything was the same, right down to the dread rising from his soul.

New Brazilian Poems

New Brazilian Poems

New Brazilian Poems: A Bilingual Anthology after Elizabeth Bishop is a labour of love. When I came to Brazil in January, 2016, I had no idea about the rich world of Brazilian poetry or literature. I had read poems of Vinicius de Moraes and João Cabral de MeloNeto, fellow poet-diplomats of Brazil, thanks to The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry edited by J. D. McClatchy. I was also e-introduced by poet-diplomat Indran Amirthanayagam to Marcos Freitas, a Brazilian poet whom I had requested to contribute a poem on Brasilia for CAPITALS – An Anthology on Capital Cities, I was editing those days. I had also read a poem on Brasilia by Sylvia Plath.

Paradise at War

Paradise at War

In April 1993, the same month Prime Minister Sharif promised Prime Minister Rao that Yakub Memon would be extradited to India, the valley was rocked by a JKLF occupation of Hazratbal, a delicately beautiful Shia shrine built in white marble, rising from the banks that separate the majestic Dal and dreamy Nigeen Lakes. Hazratbal was the most popular shrine in Kashmir, a place that Sunnis also worshipped at and that Sheikh Abdullah had made a centre of his political mobilization. The JKLF controlled the streets and outlying areas of the Hazratbal area and had gradually moved to occupy the shrine and adjoining buildings in the Hazratbal complex. The Indian Army cordoned off the mosque and, after negotiations led by Rajesh Pilot, then minister of state for Home Affairs, the guerrillas accepted safe passage in return for vacating Hazratbal.

Patna Blues


During the month of September, Arif shut himself in his tiny study room, spending all his waking hours preparing for the mains. The previous month Amma had made Abba buy two large cylindrical steel containers to store grains, and these were then placed in the corridor outside his study room. A mason had been deployed to cut through the brick wall and construct a window that opened into the backyard. Amma had also got the study room whitewashed and the table and chair had been given a new coat of polish.

‘My son needs privacy to prepare for a prestigious and difficult exam like this,’ Arif had heard her saying to Abba.



The status and role of women is an issue which affects every Muslim home. When The Prophet and his group arrived in Medina they noted the different behaviour of the Medina women. Umar, the champion of male privilege, commented, ‘We men of Quraysh dominate our women. When we arrived in Medina, we saw that the Ansar let themselves be dominated by theirs. Then our women began to copy their habits.’ One day when he was railing at his wife, she answered him in the same tone of voice. When he expressed his shock and disappointment, she replied, ‘You reproach me for answering you! Well, by God, the wives of The Prophet answer him.’

Eucalyptus Sextet

Eucalyptus Sextet

The Itch

I sipped love from your lips
and warmed my soul against your body,
then left you sleeping
while I wrote of love.
The best was that morning
flavoured with delight:
After a night
spent drinking your body
I arose to write it down
before I lost the savour
and you slept, not knowing
I had turned satisfaction
into a number of words.

The Eight-eyed Lord of Kathmandu

The Eight-Eyed Lord of Kathmandu


I lead the way to Mt. Everest, paving the path through snow
and ice, fearless of losing fingers to frostbite.

Conquering Everest your face glows like a field of poppies.

Descending the mountain my feverish body breaks.

Your weight on my back. A few dollars in my hand.

The Bride’s Mirror

Bride's mirror-1

The Bride’s Mirror (Mirat ul-‘Arus) was the first bestseller in Urdu. First published in 1869, within twenty years it had gone into several editions and sold over 100,000 copies. An English translation was published in England in 1903 by G. E. Ward, and the book has been almost continuously in print ever since. The novel tells the story of two sisters, Asghari and Akbari, who are married to two brothers in Delhi. Akbari, the spoilt, mean-tempered and impetuous sister, fritters away all the advantages she is offered and makes a mess of her life. Asghari, who has to contend with all sorts of disappointments and setbacks, prevails in the end and makes a success of everything she turns her hand to.

Ultimate Grandmother’s Hacks

Ultimate Grandmother Hacks

There has never been any doubt about the great love that we Indians have for all things dairy, from milk to all the products that milk can churn out—yoghurt, buttermilk, butter, cottage cheese, you name it. Perhaps this has always been so because of the abundance of buffaloes and even cow milk here. There never was any doubt about its importance in our diet, and the goodness it bestows on our body, for both children and adults alike.

Dead Serious (Walang Halong Biro)

Walang Halong Biro copy

On How Silence Can Be Shrill
by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles
Translated from Filipino by Kristine Ong Muslim

Research shows that plugging
the ear of a bat
can make it go “blind”—

Restless: Chronicles of a Policeman


Every human being, at some point in time, needs to develop a concept of life. Science rests on two principles— experimentation and repeatability—before accepting any hypothesis. I decided to employ the same method on spirituality. In a way, it is easy to accept something by faith, and all religions demand faith, to begin with.

My theory goes somewhat like this: the life of an individual is the story of his evolution towards full potential, which, in other words, can be defined as the purpose of their life. I might have had smaller objectives and aims within this framework, such as aiming for a good education, making a career, earning well and starting a family.

Like Earth to Stars

Like Earth to Stars is Shiva Prakash’s second collection of poems in English forthcoming from Poetrywala, Mumbai. The first, In Other Words, was also published by Poetrywala. It presents his poems written between 2008 and 2014. The book has some of his most mature poems and exhibits his finest creative abilities. Deceptively simple, these poems are a confluence of a variety of subjects and styles. They bear witness to one of the most creative minds of our times mediating with and meditating upon the immediate, the ephemeral, and the perennial.

Daughters of the Sun

Daughterrs of the Sun

Roshanara is now forty years old. She has lived a muted life in the shadow of her glorious sister, whose every action is celebrated. Jahanara is so universally loved and personally discreet that Roshanara knows she is beyond rumour and scandal. But there is one person who is not so faultless, and who can be brought low—Dara Shikoh. From the zenana of Shahjahanabad, Roshanara observes and forwards to Aurangzeb Dara’s many transgressions.

Qandeel Baloch

Qandeel Baloch

She is struggling to find work, despite Mansoor’s connections. Some people promise work in exchange for what he calls the ‘cast couch’. But that is all mischief. Once she does the ‘cast couch’, the girl realizes there is no work to be had. Mansoor feels Qandeel is fighting to survive. She is making some money from the morning show appearances, and for a few days she left for Dubai to do a photo shoot there. But it isn’t enough. She calls Mansoor one day and says that her brother is visiting and she needs some money. Can she borrow some from him? While he is trying to arrange that, he receives a message from her. Don’t worry, she says. I’ve gotten it from someone else.

Paper Asylum

Rochelle Potkar 2

Every time he read a book, burnt plastic, swatted an insect, or shot a bird for lunch, Jade was stamped right back.

He was hiking through the forest and stung by bees, he ran a cross-country race and was scarred by bush fire, he camped on a summit and was struck by lightning.

After discarding his mobile phones, TVs, computer, electronic appliances, when he camped in the woods of Thailand, he lost his way and had to eat camouflage plant that grew rashes all over his body. (Maybe he ate up its defences too.)

Jugaad Yatra

Jugaad Yatra

Throughout 2015 and 2016, the Twitter hashtag, #JugaadNation became a social media sensation with popular websites like BuzzFeed showcasing the ‘hilariously creative ways Indians get shit done no matter what’. There was a bicycle where a missing handlebar was replaced with a car steering wheel, a broken shower head replaced with a taped plastic water bottle pricked with dozens of holes at the bottom. Household irons were shown being used to straighten women’s curls or upturned as hotplates to boil milk. Air conditioner units with missing grills became chillers for beer while a desert cooler was adapted to cool two neighbouring rooms by attaching a pair of old trousers to divide the flow, one leg for each. There were pressure cookers propped up by two bottles and heated by burning candles taped together, a shattered clock missing numbers 1 to 7 made good with the digits scrawled onto the wall on which it hung, and endless varieties of crop-sprayers and ploughs made from bicycle wheels, discarded oil barrels and bits of old scrap metal.

Indian Cultures as Heritage

Indian Cultures.

Many Indian scientists, competent in their fields of specialization, know less about science as a form of knowledge, or the kind of reasoning involved in the scientific method that can also be applied to other forms of knowledge. This might explain their surprising and tacit acceptance of some of the more ridiculous statements made by non-scientists on the fantasy-based claims pertaining to science as supposedly practised by our ancient ancestors. This reduces their ability to recognize the difference between the remarkably impressive knowledge of premodern Indian thinkers in some of the sciences, and the infantile fancies that are often projected in their name by those ignorant of science in both premodern and in current times.



The bell in the old church rang five times to signify the hour of the day. Shweta’s granny had been up much earlier though. An early riser all her life, here at Shashank’s place, she found it difficult to lie in bed after five. Nonetheless, she forced herself to be under the bright maroon quilt, keeping her eyes closed, as she knew that if she switched on the light, Shashank, sleeping in the adjacent room, would be up as his sleep would be disturbed by the light.



Bass Notes

“How come your hair is so silky?”
the black musician asked, and she,
half-asleep, said Hong Kong was full of gloss
and sometimes the place got into your hair.

He was a professional, and they were playing
games with each other, fine-tuned notes
on silken skin.



Because we forget that even words have childhoods, Nayan cannot be sure that he has heard it right. Then the phone line goes blank—it might have choked on his silence, or it might have been Kabir’s tempestuous indifference to the listener. Whatever it is, it is no longer new, his son’s disappearance for days, sometimes weeks, his unpredictable resurfacing before his restless migration into silence again.

Reshaping Art

Reshaping Art

Art is not an accident; it does not happen by mistake. It is a deliberate, conscious act of creating an art object; it is a willed human endeavour. Art does not depend on a general acceptance of attractiveness. In fact, subjective notions of beauty are entirely secondary to the act of art creation.

Strangers No More: New Narratives from India’s Northeast

Strangers No More -- Sanjoy Hazarika

… let’s leave aside historical treatises, myths and accounts and move to the present. Step by step, brick by brick, walls of difference, discrimination and division were meticulously built. Thus, over the past 150 years, the Northeast has been kept aside not by people from the region but by successive governments in New Delhi, and earlier Calcutta (the former capital), first by the East India Company which was the wealthiest and most powerful corporate house in the world that ran the political system and economic life of a subcontinent. Company Raj was followed by British Raj and then by the government of free India. In his compelling book about the Company, The Corporation that Changed the World , Nick Robbins dwells on the vast extent of not just its riches but how it intervened to shape political history in India, China and Africa by dealing in cotton, tea and opium apart from spices and other goods. It was a model (albeit ultimately a failed one) for the modern multinational.

Race Course Road

Race C Road

Gaurav Agnihotri was apoplectic with anger. The editor-in-chief of the News Tonight Network (NTN) paced up and down his office, as his deputy editor and production in charge quailed in their seats at the conference table in the corner. The bank of televisions that covered an entire wall was showing what was playing on all the other news channels. By now, every news network had managed to get their OB vans into AIIMS and was broadcasting from there. The only channel whose reporter on the spot was calling in on the phone was NTN. Apparently, there was some glitch in the network, which the technicians were working to fix.

Love and the Changing Seasons: India’s Poetry of Spiritual & Erotic Longing

Love and the Turning Seasons

The twelfth-century Gīta-govinda of Jayadeva has a reputation as the last great poem in the Sanskrit language. It holds two other distinctions. First, it appears to be the first full account in poetry of Radha as Krishna’s favorite among the gopis or cowgirls of Vrindavana. Secondly, it seems to be the first historical instance of poetry written with specified ragas or musical modes assigned to its lyrics. The poem-cycle occurs in twelve cantos with twenty-four songs distributed among them, about 280 stanzas in total. It presents the love affair of Krishna and Radha as an acutely human love affair, from initial “secret desires” and urgent lovemaking to separation — nights of betrayal, mistrust, longing, feverish anguish, strange Imaginings — and finally to a consummation as spiritual as it is carnal. Jayadeva’s birthplace is uncertain — some think Orissa, some Mithila, some Bengal. Accounts make it clear he had carefully trained himself as a poet in the Sanskrit tradition, learnéd and in command of classical metrics, when he took a vow to wander as a homeless mendicant, to sleep no more than one night under any tree.

Burning the Sun’s Braids: new Poetry from Tibet

Burning the Sun's Braids

Burning the Sun’s Braids is perhaps the first collection in English of new poetry from Tibet. As the blurb of the book states, the poems are ‘…cryptic, metaphoric, ambiguous or brutally straightforward’ resonating with ‘people’s resentment and defiance as well as speak to the violence – both visible and invisible – that they undergo everyday under occupation.’

Do We Not Bleed

Do we not bleed

Do We Not Bleed? Reflections of a 21st-Century Pakistani is a passionate, illuminating book about contemporary Pakistan. Comprising original profiles of diverse Pakistanis—some of whom are internationally feted and many others who are relatively unknown—as well as essays that examine the major fault lines in Pakistani society, the book offers the reader an insider’s perspective on the state of affairs in the country today.

Life Among the Scorpions

Jaya Jaitly - Life Among the Scorpions

CONSPIRACIES AGAINST PEOPLE PERCEIVED TO be in ‘power’ are meticulously planned and have a carefully orchestrated process. The perpetrators are efficient, stealthy, networked and rich. It is easy to go after unsuspecting innocents and paint them as criminals. With ample help from a blood-thirsty media, a gullible and inflammable public and the cynical adage that ‘politics is not about fact, it is about perception’, they always have an advantage.

On 22 June 2000, George Fernandes, Digvijay Singh and I were on a morning flight to Rajkot to attend a state Samata Party conference. The Times of India was at hand. On the very front page was a small column headed, ‘Jadeja fixes a good match’. It stated categorically that ‘cricket star Ajay Jadeja has married Aditi Jaitly, the daughter of Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, in a secret wedding’ (see photo section). A ‘close friend from the ITC golf course’ is quoted as saying, ‘Jadeja confessed that he has married Aditi’ with additional information about him keeping it a secret because he planned to make a film with Sonali Bendre and it would ‘affect his star status’. We were stunned.

The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil

The Chocolate Saints

In incandescent prose, award-winning novelist Jeet Thayil tells the story of Newton Francis Xavier, blocked poet, serial seducer of young women, reformed alcoholic (but only just), philosopher, recluse, all-round wild man and India’s greatest living painter. At the age of sixty-six, Xavier, who has been living in New York, is getting ready to return to the land of his birth to stage one final show of his work (accompanied by a mad bacchanal). As we accompany Xavier and his partner and muse ‘Goody’ on their unsteady and frequently sidetracked journey from New York to New Delhi, the venue of the final show, we meet a host of memorable characters—the Bombay poets of the seventies and eighties, ‘poets who sprouted from the soil like weeds or mushrooms or carnivorous new flowers, who arrived like meteors, burned bright for a season or two and vanished without a trace’, journalists, conmen, murderers, alcoholics, addicts, artists, whores, society ladies, thugs—and are also given unforgettable (and sometimes unbearable) insights into love, madness, poetry, sex, painting, saints, death, God and the savagery that fuels all great art.

Narrated in a huge variety of voices and styles, all of which blend seamlessly into a novel of remarkable accomplishment, The Book of Chocolate Saints is the sort of literary masterpiece that only comes along once in a very long time.

The Bengalis by Sudeep Chakravarti

The Bengalis 2

The Bengalis are the third largest ethno-linguistic group in the world, after the Han Chinese and the Arabs. A quarter of a billion strong and growing, the community has produced three Nobel laureates, world-class scientists, legendary political leaders and revolutionaries, iconic movie stars and directors, and an unending stream of writers, philosophers, painters, poets and musicians of the first rank. But, bald facts aside, just who are the Bengalis? What is the community all about, stereotypically and beyond stereotype? In order to find the answers to these and related questions, the author (a Bengali born and steeped in his own culture but objective enough to give us a balanced reckoning of his fellows) delves deep into the culture, literature, history and social mores of the Bengalis. He writes with acuity about the many strengths of the community but does not flinch from showing us its weaknesses and tormented history. He points out that Bengalis are among the most civilized and intellectually refined people on earth but have also been responsible for genocide and racism of the worst kind. Their cuisine is justly celebrated but few remember the cause and effect of millions of Bengalis dying of famine. Renowned for their liberal attitudes, they are also capable of virulent religious fundamentalism. Argumentative and meditative, pompous and grounded, hypocritical and wise, flippant and deep… Bengalis are all this and much, much more. With erudition, wit and empathy, this book manages to capture their very essence. Unarguably, it is the definitive portrait of one of the world’s most vibrant and distinctive communities.

An Unsuitable Woman by Shinie Antony

An Unsuitable Woman

Weaving together the narratives of non-conformist women from real life with those imagined, An Unsuitable Womanintroduces you to the everyday heroines in the Indian society confronting patriarchy.

This book includes seventeen inspirational and touching contributions in the form of prose and poetry, from writers like Anand Neelakantan, Madhavi Mahadevan, Sukla Singha, Humra Quraishi and Mitra Phukan, among others. It offers fascinating glimpses of everyday rebellion against patriarchy by a handful of women—from Amrita Sher-Gil, the rebel artist to Leila Seth, the first female chief justice of a state High Court, and to Social Activist Chandraprabha’s unassailable belief in her reforms; the legendary Nangeli who severed her breasts to assert her dissent against an unjust social order to Jahnavi Barua’s nameless protagonist who renders all social stigmas.

Plunge into the world of these ‘unsuitable’ women and partake of their undaunted spirit.

Accumulation by Segregation: Muslim Localities in Delhi (2017) by Ghazala Jamil

Muslim Localities in Delhi

Political assembly and protest are also performances of citizenship status and claims. While enactment of violence by protesting publics with non-Muslim identity markers are considered routine and normalised, an assembly of protesting Muslims is potentially just another site of their fatal targeting. Another important example that effectively illustrates the preceding analysis is the case of the ‘Sealing Drive’ in Delhi in 2006.

The importance of this instance in the recent history of Delhi unveils complex dynamics of the political economy of built environments, the material logic of segregation, contestations, and negotiations of elite circuits with the unorganized sector in claiming their vision of the city, and biopolitics of the state.

The case exemplifies a tussle between big capital and elite networks represented by RWAs on the one hand, and traders and small manufacturers on the other. Elite RWAs insisted in getting this case filed at the High Court of Delhi that their sense of security, peace of mind, tranquillity, and aesthetic sensibilities were being off ended by business establishments within residential areas (Ghertner 2011; Bhuwania 2016). An appeal for preventing mixed land use was in line with the vision of the Delhi Master Plan, and on the agenda of previous Delhi state governments headed by the BJP and the Congress. The judge presiding over the case, Justice Sabharwal showing keen interest in the case passed a verdict which effectively read as a mass eviction notice to lakhs of establishments which were ‘illegal’ (Mehra 2012).

Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician by Zafar Anjum


Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician is the story of Urdu’s greatest contemporary poet – the man who wrote Sare Jahan Se Acha Hindustan Hamara and was later considered the national poet of Pakistan. On one hand, Allama Muhammad Iqbal is considered the Spiritual Father of Pakistan, while on the other hand his message of Eastern revivalism gets him on the list of the twentieth century’s major intellectuals. The book explores Iqbal’s evolution as a poet, philosopher and politician. The book highlights some of the lesser known aspects of his life from his transformation into a poet of Islamic revivalism to his life in Europe and his role in bringing about the Partition. This book is a must-have for those interested in the life and work of Muhammad Iqbal.

Singha Durbar: Rise and Fall of the Rana Regime of Nepal by Sagar S.J.B. Rana


Singha Durbar: Rise and Fall of the Rana Regime of Nepal is one of the most important recent historical accounts about the kingdom nestling in the Himalayas that has been ravaged by violence in modern times. The author, a descendant of the Rana clan, presents a balanced and frank account of what happened in the years till 1951, an important period in the history of Nepal; he writes about family, historical facts and misrepresentation of facts regarding the Ranas of Nepal who ruled the country for a little more than a century, brought stability to the land but were also criticized for economic and religious excesses.

Behold, I Shine by Freny Manecksha


Set in Kashmir, Behold, I Shine focuses on the struggle of women and children in Kashmir, on what it means for them whose children are missing, who live the lives of half-widows; on what it means to stand up to authority, to ikhwanis and to the horrors unfolding everyday in their lives. It brings into focus activists like Parveena Ahangar who go through insurmountable losses yet fight back to start human rights organisations that help other women like her to fight for their rights. Behold, I Shine puts together the narratives of such women and their spirit in fighting against multiple odds.

Eve out of her Ruins by Ananda Devi

Eve out of Her Ruins_Cover Spread

With brutal honesty and poetic urgency, Ananda Devi relates the tale of four young Mauritians trapped in their country’s endless cycle of fear and violence: Eve, whose body is her only weapon and source of power; Savita, Eve’s best friend, the only one who loves Eve without self-interest, and who ha plans to leave but will not go alone; Saadiq, gifted would-be poet, inspired by Rimbaud, in love with Eve; Clélio, belligerent rebel, waiting without hope for his brother to send for him from France.

Eve out of her Ruins is a heartbreaking look at the dark corners of the island nation of Mauritius that tourists never see, and a poignant exploration of the construction of personhood at the margins of society. Awarded the prestigious Prix des cinq continentsupon publication as the best book written in French outside France, Eve out of her Ruins  is a harrowing account of the violent reality of life in her native country by the figurehead of Mauritian literature.

Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan

Described as ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude kicked into another gear’, Beauty Is a Woundcombines history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humour and romance in a sweeping polyphony. The novel begins with the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, during World War II. Dewi Ayu, a beautiful half-Dutch, half-Indonesian girl, is captured by Japanese soldiers along with twenty others and brutalized. After the US Army frees Indonesia—and Dewi—from the Japanese, Dewi finds her family untraceable and their mansion occupied by American soldiers. Struggling to survive, she turns to prostitution and soon becomes the most sought after prostitute in the land.

Dewi Ayu gives birth to three daughters, each as stunning as herself. Over the course of their lives, Dewi and her daughters are beset by incest, murder, bestiality, rape, insanity, monstrosity, and the often vengeful undead. However it is Dewi’s fourth daughter—named Beauty in a cruelly inverted joke—who draws them all together and brings this epic tale to its final conclusion.

Drawing on local sources—folk tales and all-night shadow-puppet plays, with their bawdy wit and epic scope—Kurniawan’s gleefully grotesque hyperbole functions as a scathing critique of his nation’s troubled past: the rapacious offhand greed of colonialism; the chaotic struggle for independence; and the mass murders of perhaps a million ‘Communists’ in 1965, followed by three decades of Suharto’s despotic rule. Kurniawan’s distinctive voice brings something luscious yet astringent to contemporary literature.

This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab 

Faiqa Mansab’s accomplished and dazzling debut novel explores the themes of love, betrayal and loss in the complex, changing world of today’s Pakistan. Set in Lahore, This House of Clay and Water explores the lives of two women. Nida, intelligent and lonely, has married into an affluent political family and is desperately searching for some meaning in her existence; and impulsive, lovely Sasha, from the ordinary middle class, whose longing for designer labels and upmarket places is so frantic that she willingly consorts with rich men who can provide them. Nida and Sasha meet at the famous Data Sahib dargah and connect–their need to understand why their worlds feel so alien and empty, bringing them together.

On her frequent visits to the dargah, Nida meets the gentle, flute-playing hijra, Bhanggi, who sits under a bargargh tree and yearns for acceptance and affection, but is invariably shunned. A friendship—fragile, tentative and tender–develops between the two, both exiles within their own lives; but it flies in the face of all convention and cannot be allowed.

The Boy from Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra

It is 326 BC, and Alexander, the barbarian king of Macedonia, has descended upon Bharatvarsha with a multinational horde of Yavanas, Pahlavas, Shakas, and Bahlikas.

As the invader advances relentlessly and wins bloody battles in quick succession, as local rulers fall over each other to shake hands with the enemy, and as the students of Takshashila University break into open revolt, one young man is faced with a terrifying choice, a choice that threatens to tear his carefully constructed world apart. For Aditya is the boy from Pataliputra, the boy who was once a reckless and carefree aristocrat, but who has now been forced to become a man with a purpose—to fight for honour and love.

With a sweeping narrative and interesting everyday characters like the smelly, old dhaba owner Tanku; Philotas, the unlucky Greek soldier; the no-nonsense medical student Radha; Pandi, the hard drinking mercenary; and the lovely Devika, The Boy from Pataliputra is not just the mesmerizing story of a young man’s growth to maturity, but also, equally, a story about the rise of a nation.

Jaffna Street by Mir Khalid

In 1989, an adolescent schoolboy from downtown Srinagar watched as his elders extricated themselves from university campuses, high-school grounds, handloom machines and farms to bear arms and   fight a war of attrition against the Indian state.

Twenty-two years on, Jaffna Street was born from his explorations of the human dimension of the conflict appositely termed the Kashmir tragedy. Combining anecdotes, personal memories and extended interviews,  the  author  takes  us  behind  the  scenes  and  headlines  into  Srinagar  city’s   ‘notorious’ perpetually politically charged downtown as well as its upper cityside belt to create a panoramic portrait of recent Kashmir history. He profiles ordinary people—hitmen, insurgents, artisans, failed Marxist  intellectuals,  mystics,  exiles,  gangsters  and  ordinary  individuals—who  wouldn’t  make  it even to the footnotes of history but have been crucial first-hand witnesses, participants or victims      of some of the important events that marked the tumultuous and violent years of the insurgency.

Jaffna Street attempts to trace these individual trajectories by exploring significant events in their lives within the wider adumbrate of history, without losing sight of the big picture.

The Devil is a Black Dog by Sándor Jászberényi

War-torn Africa, a Middle East in crisis and post-Soviet Eastern Europe form the backdrop to the stories told in The Devil Is a Black Dog—stories based on the extraordinary experiences of acclaimed photojournalist Sándor Jászberényi. From Cairo to the Gaza Strip, from Benghazi to Budapest, his characters contemplate the meaning of home, love, family and friendship in the face of brutality.

Immersed in the societies he reports on and heedless in the face of war and revolution, Jászberényi observes mothers, martyrs, soldiers, and lovers who must confront the extremes of contemporary experience. In spare, evocative prose, he combines fact and fiction to create a profoundly true portrait of the humanity behind the headlines.

The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows by Siddharth Dasgupta

Across lives, cities, and continents, melancholy and its tentacles inhabit spaces that are often left unexplored. Through ten stories and ten main protagonists, this book paints a portrait of the universal emotion that strikes the deepest and lingers the longest—sorrow.A nuanced narrative of the eternal human existence, this collection embraces light, laughter,hope, and that silently pulsating craving called love, delivering a communal meditation on mortal failings and human persistence.The stories traverse the length and breadth of the world picking up a train of melody from the sonorous sound of the Bosphorus to the resounding refrain of the Qawwali, from the quiet streets of Isfahan to a crowded city in Japan, from two lovers fraught with desire in Bombay to one man’s spiritual awakening in Lebanon.Each story, mired by the undercurrent of simple occurrences and profound epiphanies, also forms an unwitting part of a Sufi’s journey as he navigates the world in his mystic inquiry of the unknown.

The Theft of India by Roy Moxham

In the three centuries that followed Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route from Europe to India, European powers made a beeline for India’s fabled riches, its spices, gold and gems. Though they ostensibly came for trade and commerce and the thrill of discovering a new land, the lines between exploration and exploitation soon blurred.

The Theft of India documents the intense rivalry for spoils that played out between the British, the French, the Dutch and the Portuguese and the impact this had on Indians. It details the political intrigue, the agreements and the betrayals, the oppression, swindling and greed of these foreign powers as they each tried to strengthen their grip on this vast and ‘exotic’ land.

White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings by Tsewang Yishey Pemba

White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings is a historical fiction set in the breathtakingly beautiful Nyarong Valley of the Kham province of Eastern Tibet in the first half of the twentieth century. The book authored by late Tsewang Yishey Pemba is published by Niyogi Books.

Dr Pemba skillfully weaves a dazzling tapestry of individual lives and sweeping events creating an epic vision of a country and people during a time of tremendous upheaval. The novel begins with a never-told-before story of a failed Christian mission in Tibet and takes one into the heartland of Eastern Tibet by capturing the zeitgeist of the fierce warrior tribe of Khampas ruled by chieftains. This coming-of-age narrative is a riveting tale of vengeance, warfare and love unfolded through the life story of two young boys and their family and friends. The personal drama gets embroiled in a national catastrophe as China invades Tibet forcing it out of its isolation. Ultimately, the novel delves into themes such as tradition versus modernity, individual choice and freedom, the nature of governance, the role of religion in people’s lives, the inevitability of change, and the importance of human values such as loyalty and compassion.

The Exodus is Not Over by Nandita Haksar 

‘These [migrant] men and women are, like the Naga warriors before them, above all survivors. And this book is an ode to them.’

Economic deprivation, insurgencies and deadly ethnic clashes have driven thousands of impoverished men and women from the Northeastern region of India to seek a better life in the towns and cities of mainland India and further abroad. Some find themselves working amidst the unimaginable opulence of five-star hotels, casinos and cruises. However, for many, their jobs in Delhi, Bengaluru, Goa and other metropoles make them targets of racism, sexual harassment and class exploitation.

In response, communities of migrants discover ways of reproducing their cultures in alien soil, to act as oases in a hostile environment. And in doing so, they build bridges between communities—Nagas, Kukis, Meitei—which have been at war with each other back in the Northeast.

The Exodus Is Not Over features first-generation migrant workers from Northeast India, especially Manipur—a young schoolgirl who comes to Delhi and works long hours in a series of restaurants; her brother, whose ambitions to be a professional singer remain unfulfilled while he tries to earn his livelihood; an ambitious waiter now proudly in charge of his own restaurant in Goa, and many more. They tell their own stories of resilience in the face of exploitation and discrimination for the first time in such intimate and harrowing detail.

Nandita Haksar’s detailed understanding of the histories of the Northeast and deep respect for the people she writes about lends these narratives an added depth. Written with passion and a committed engagement, The Exodus Is Not Over provides a revealing and necessary look at the lived experiences of migrant workers today. A significant addition to migrant studies, it is a pioneering effort to document the conditions of migrant workers both in their homelands and during their quest to find work elsewhere. It is equally a story about a changing India, where globalization and development have led to a rapidly increasing gap between the rich and the poor.

Nobody Killed Her by Sabyn Javeri

Nobody Killed Her is a literary thriller set around a court trial, following the murder of a female political leader, Rani Shah, in an unnamed Muslim country. The suspect on trial, Nazo Khan is her assistant and confidant who, surprisingly, escapes unscathed in the blast that rocks Rani to her death. The style is unusual–an experimentation of form- an attempt to involve the reader directly into the narrative. The writing is deliberately sparse and staccato; the plot- a fast moving page-turner.

The anti-hero, Nazo, is the main narrator. She is a young asylum seeker who escapes to America (where Rani is in political self-exile) after witnessing her family massacred by the Army in a dictatorial military coup. The experience has hardened her and she is keen to climb the political ladder to bring about change, especially for the women of her background who are treated worse than animals under the General’s dark regime. Although a hardcore realist, she is impressed by Rani Shah’s idealism and comes to work for her. With the course of time her skepticism turns to adulation which gradually turns into an obsession.

On the other hand, Rani has been thrust into the world of politics by circumstances. She carries the weight of the world’s expectations while still grieving for her father, a political leader killed by the General. When Rani returns from her self-exile to fight for democracy, Nazo is by her side. Together they take on the General fighting for free and fair elections till Rani does something that leaves Nazo feeling sidelined. She marries for love. As Rani moves into motherhood and her priorities change, Nazo’s paranoia increases.

As the novel progresses there are signs that Rani’s idealism is only skin deep and what she craves more than running a country is a simple life of domesticity. But for Nazo, that is nothing less than betrayal.  Can a world leader be allowed such a concession as wanting the ordinary?

Dramas like ‘The Crown’ have explored this and this book takes it a step further by pitting female ambition against motherhood. Nazo has had to fight for even basic rights like education. She knows what it is like to be a poor, uneducated woman in an orthodox society and she begins to resent Rani for wasting her privilege and agency. With time Nazo’s own ambition begins to show, making the reader doubt her reliability. It is here the question lies-will the love of power surpass the power of love?

A surprise twist at the end lets the reader decide.

In the trial scenes intersecting the main narrative, we have conflicting points of view, which add to the tension in the story — thus making the reader question as to who is telling the truth. The unreliable narrator features a big part of this novel but it is up to the reader to choose who that is. The themes of love and betrayal are at once familiar and unknown.

Along with being a fast paced political thriller, it is a novel with depth and insight as to what it means to be a woman in a man’s world. It is not a story about politics but about people to whom politics happen. With Hilary Clinton’s recent defeat due to the binaries set by her gender, it is, finally, a novel about our times.

The Party Worker by Omar Shahid Hamid 

A burnt out New York cop; an eighty-year-old Parsi sitting in a decaying Karachi mansion; a hitman whose days are numbered; a journalist who dreams of the big time.

When a Jewish woman is killed on the steps of the Natural History Museum in New York, disparate lives are thrown together for one purpose: to bring about the downfall of the Don, the uncrowned king of Karachi.

The Party Worker explores the Machiavellian politics of Pakistan’s busiest city, where friends come bearing bullets, and enemies can wait patiently for decades before striking.

Gritty, disturbing, and compelling, this is Omar Shahid Hamid at his best.

How I Became a Tree by Sumana Roy


In this remarkable and often unsettling book, author Sumana Roy gives us a new vision of what it means to be human in the natural world in How I Became a Tree, published by Aleph Book Company.

Increasingly disturbed by the violence, hate, insincerity, greed and selfishness of her kind, the author is drawn to the idea of becoming a tree. ‘I was tired of speed’, she writes, ‘I wanted to live to tree time.’ Besides wanting to emulate the spacious, relaxed rhythm of trees, she is drawn to their non-violent ways of being, how they tread lightly upon the earth, their ability to cope with loneliness and pain, the unselfishness with which they give freely of themselves and much more. She gives us new readings of the works of writers, painters, photographers and poets (Rabindranath Tagore and D. H. Lawrence among them) to show how trees and plants have always fascinated us. She studies the work of remarkable scientists like Jagadish Chandra Bose and key spiritual figures like the Buddha to gain even deeper insights into the world of trees. She writes of those who have wondered what it would be like to have sex with a tree, looks into why people marry trees, explores the death and rebirth of trees, and tells us why a tree was thought by forest-dwellers to be equal to ten sons.

Mixing memoir, literary history, nature studies, spiritual philosophies, and botanical research, How I Became a Tree is a book that will prompt readers to think of themselves, and the natural world that they are an intrinsic part of, in fresh ways.

Women at War by Vera Hildebrand


I want a unit of brave Indian women to form a “Death-defying Regiment” who will wield the sword which the brave Rani of Jhansi wielded in India’s First War of Independence in 1857.’ ¬– Subhas Chandra Bose

The Rani of Jhansi Regiment (RJR), the first all-female infantry fighting unit in military history, was created in Singapore in July 1943 by Indian nationalist and visionary leader Subhas Chandra Bose to liberate India from British colonial oppression.

His young recruits were girls from Indian families of the diasporas in Singapore, Malaya and Burma and consisted entirely of civilian volunteers lacking any prior military training. These soldiers, deployed to the steamy jungles of Burma during the last two years of World War II, were determined to follow their commander to victory. Seven decades later, their history has been forgotten, their service and the role played by Bose himself having remained largely unexplored.

Through in-depth interviews with the surviving Ranis – in their eighties and nineties – and meticulous archival research, historian Vera Hildebrand has uncovered extensive new evidence that separates the myth of the Bengali hero and his jungle warrior maidens from historical fact. The result is a wholly fresh perspective on the remarkable women of the RJR and their place in Indian and world history. The truth is every bit as impressive as the myth.

Dvarca by Madhav Mathur


Welcome to a land called Dvarca. At the turn of the 22nd century, the world is a mess of warring factions (surprise!). The powers-that-be have fought insanity with an equal and opposite insanity. India has been remodelled under a new bicolour flag, and a State religion called Navmarg. Anyone who does not belong, is a threat.

Madhav Mathur’s Dvarca is a dark and humorous satire that follows the life of an ordinary family, struggling to get by, in this totalitarian regime. Gandharva, is a patriotic and pious low-level bureaucrat at the Ministry of Finance and Salvation, working hard on his status and overdue promotion. His dutiful and curious wife, Jyoti, works at Dvarca Mills and witnesses a ghastly act of terror, leading to perilous flirtations with dissent. Their two little children, Nakul and Mira, are model students in their predestined streams, indoctrinated and well on their way to becoming faithful and productive citizens.

The State religion and cutting-edge science combine to create new ways to make citizens safe, and to hound and hunt those who do not conform. Everything is ‘perfect’ in this controlled and policed system, until one fateful night, a man happens to break routine . . .

Out of War: Voices of Surrendered Maoists by Swati Sengupta


Over the course of two intense years Swati Sengupta spoke to dozens of surrendered Maoist soldiers. In this book she focuses on their complex individual narratives and examines the reasons for, and the methods and contexts of, their surrenders. The disquieting voices of these foot-soldiers of the Maoist struggle reveal a harsh, on-the-edge world.

Suman Maity gave up his family, friends and school at the age of thirteen to become an armed Maoist cadre. He quickly became a terror in the forested regions of West Midnapore but, ravaged by uncertainty and betrayal, he surrendered because he ‘did not want to die in an encounter’. Champa was shot in the arm when a police team swooped down and started firing while she was on sentry duty at her camp. She lost consciousness and woke up in a hospital under police custody. A portion of her arm is now simply a lump of flesh. When the police gave her the option of surrendering instead of facing arrest, she chose to surrender—and now survives with difficulty by running a tailoring shop. A disillusioned surrendered Maoist, whom the author met in Kondagaon, told her that the so-called ‘camaraderie’ displayed in the camps is often faked for the media and the real conditions—which are actually neither equal nor congenial—are hidden away like ‘family secrets’.

Out of War is an insightful, poignant and often disturbing book about an unrelenting conflict where, despite all the idealistic fervour, there is injustice, even brutality, on every side and the most vulnerable people pay the heaviest price.

This Wide Night by Sarvat Hasin


This Wide Night authored by Sarvat Hasin is a haunting debut novel that tells of an eccentric Pakistani family and the lonely outsider who wants in. The book is published by Penguin.

The novel reintroduces a classic story, retelling Little Women from the point of view of its chief male character, in the context of Pakistan.

The Maliks live a life of relative freedom in 1970s’ Karachi. Four beautiful sisters—Maria, Ayesha, Leila and Bina—are warily watched over by an unconventional mother. Captain Malik is usually away and so the women forge the rules of their own universe, taking in a few men: Amir, the professor who falls in love with Maria, and Jamal or Jimmy, the neighbour who narrates this tale. The curious young man is drawn in by all four sisters, particularly rebellious Ayesha. But slowly, it becomes clear he will never completely penetrate their circle, just as they will never completely move with the tide that swirls so potently around them.

In the quietly seething world of This Wide NightLittle Women meets The Virgin Suicides in Pakistan. Moving from Karachi to London and finally to the rain-drenched island of Manora, here is a compelling new novel from the subcontinent—and a powerful debut to watch.

The Essential Ambedkar by Bhalchandra Mungekar


One of the pillars of Indian democracy who played a pivotal role in shaping the Indian Constitution, Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is also known for his radical, no-holds-barred views on the discrimination against the backward classes, particularly the Untouchables, and the caste politics practised by Hindus. His path-breaking ideas, most of which are relevant even today, are reflected in his writings.

In The Essential Ambedkar, the finest extracts from Ambedkar’s impressive body of work have been selected and thematically arranged, covering issues such as caste and untouchability, the philosophy of the Hindu religion, the making of the Indian Constitution, the emancipation of women, India’s education policy, the Partition and much more. Both a handy reference guide as well as a useful introduction to readers unfamiliar with Ambedkar’s works, The Essential Ambedkar is a befitting tribute to the legacy of Babasaheb.



Named after a tragic figure in Indonesia’s and India’s shared mythology, Amba spends her lifetime trying to invent a story she can call her own. When she meets two suitors who fit perfectly into her namesake’s myth, Amba cannot help but feel that fate is teasing her. Salwa, respectful to a fault, pledges to honour and protect her, no matter what. Bhisma, a sophisticated European-trained doctor, offers her sensual pleasures and a world of ideas.

In this devastating novel of love and redemption, empathy and forgiveness, Amba, Bhisma and Salwa attempt to undo the ancient legend of the Mahabharata—that timeless allegory of war within a family—with tragic consequences, as the story moves from rural Java to Europe and to the prison camps of Buru Island, where approximately 12,000 alleged communists were incarcerated without trial during the Suharto dictatorship. Through its memorable cast of characters—each of them a metaphor for the vast diversity that is Indonesia—the novel asks us not to see history in terms of ‘black’ and ‘white’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but highlights, instead, the grey zones of human existence and the human spirit. It also shows us ways in which men and women often attain their highest humanity at the point of destruction.

The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam


From the acclaimed author of Maps for Lost Lovers and The Blind Man’s Garden, a brave, timely, searingly beautiful novel set in contemporary Pakistan about a community consumed by religious intolerance.

When shots ring out on Grand Trunk Road, Nargis’s life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud—a fellow architect—is caught in the crossfire and dies before she can confess to him her greatest secret. Under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer who demands that she pardon her husband’s American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people’s secrets from the minarets of the city’s mosques and, in a country where the accusation of blasphemy is currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike.

Against this background of violence and fear, two outsiders—the young Christian woman Helen and the mysterious Imran from Kashmir—try to find an island of calm in which their love can grow.

In his characteristically luminous prose, Nadeem Aslam reflects Pakistan’s past and present in a single mirror—a story of corruption, resilience, and the hope that only love and the human spirit can offer.

Son of the Thundercloud by Easterine Kire


After losing all his family in a terrible famine, a man leaves his village with just the clothes on his back, never once looking back. For endless miles he walks through a landscape as desolate as his heart. Until two ancient women who have waited for rain for four hundred years lead him to the Village of Weavers where a prophecy will be fulfilled. A single drop of rain will impregnate the tiger-widow and her son will slay the spirit-tiger. The traveller will help the woman bring up the boy. He will witness miracles and tragedy and come close to finding a home again. And he will learn that love and life are eternal.

In her new novel, Easterine Kire, winner of the Hindu Prize, combines lyrical storytelling with the magic and wisdom of Naga legends to produce an unforgettable, life-affirming fable.

One Thousand Days in a Refrigerator by Manoj Kumar Panda 


It took nearly five minutes for her ashes to cool down. Afterwards, someone held out a handful. “Here she is, your Lara. Take her.” The agony stuck within me like an iceberg for one thousand days shattered without warning and drowned me in a flood of tears.

A man sits before his wife lying comatose in a refrigerated chamber and tells her the thoughts he had never dared express when she was conscious; ‘When the Gods Left’ follows Rajula Dip, a carrion-picker, as he goes about his business and himself becomes carrion; in ‘Fragments’, a woman takes a bus to her rapist’s house to speak to him and to his family; God himself appears in court to give testimony in a case where justice has been miscarried; and in ‘The Hunt’, after a tiger kills a shepherd, the entire village turns on the victim’s family in revenge.

One Thousand Days in a Refrigerator includes fourteen stories of great power and beauty, startling in their variety and ambition. It showcases a writer at the very peak of his considerable abilities.

Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray


The son of a penniless refugee from Lahore, Arjun Bhatia has worked his way up from being an arms smuggler in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh to the most influential power-broker in Delhi.

But when the shadows of the past – of a friend he has lost forever and a woman he can never be with – finally catches up with him, Arjun finds himself fighting the biggest battle of his life. For at stake is not just his iron hold over the government, but something even greater – his family … and his soul.

Spanning five decades and two generations, Sultan of Delhi: Ascension is an explosive saga of ambition, greed, love and passion.

Gandhi on Non-Violence edited by Thomas Merton


Gandhi on Non-Violence brings together the political and moral philosophies central to the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, pared down to their essentials. Philosophies which have influenced generations and inspired some of the world’s most transformative leaders and its greatest movements; from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Steve Biko to Václav Havel and Aung San Suu Kyi; from the Civil Rights movement in America and anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa to non-violent battles for democracy in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

The principles of ahimsa and satyagraha as practised by Gandhi were selected for this volume by Thomas Merton, theologian, social activist, and one of the most influential religious thinkers of the twentieth century. In his comprehensive introduction, Merton describes ahimsa and satyagraha as not merely political tools, but a response to evil itself. Which, if followed with truth and faith, can bring men—and nations—to their ‘right mind’ and free them forever from violence. And emphasizing the universality of ahimsa and satyagraha, Merton describes how they are linked to the traditional concept of Hindu dharma, the teachings of the Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato, and to Christian thought, especially the act of forgiveness.

Challenging, provocative and eternally valid, Gandhi’s principles are, as Merton himself puts it, ‘required reading for anyone who is seriously interested in man’s fate in the nuclear age.’

Things to Leave Behind by Namita Gokhale


Things to Leave Behind follows the intertwined story of spirited Tilottama Uprety, whose uncle is hanged during the ‘Mutiny’, her troubled daughter, Deoki, missionary Rosemary Boden and Deoki’s husband, Jayesh Jonas, into Boden’s utopian Eden Ashram where artist William Dempster seeks out new Indias. At its heart lies one singular painting: a portrait of love, longing and courage.

Set in the years 1840 to 1912, Things to Leave Behind chronicles the mixed legacy of the British Indian past and the emergence of a fragile modernity. The book is published by Penguin.

Illuminated with painstaking detail, told with characteristic narrative skill, this compelling historical novel—the final one in the Himalayan trilogy, after A Himalayan Love Story and The Book of Shadows—is Namita Gokhale’s most ambitious work yet.

The Book of Dhaka: A City in Short Fiction edited by Pushpita Alam and Arunava Sinha


The Book of Dhaka: A City in Short Fiction is an unique anthology inspired by the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The book features 10 stories by some of Bangladesh’s finest writers, all translated from the Bengali into English for the first. The authors include; Wasi AhmedMoinul Ahsan SaberShaheen AkhtarSalma BaniBipradash BaruaAkhteruzzaman EliasParvez HossainSyed Manzoorul IslamRashida Sultana and Anwara Syed Haq. The book is edited by Pushpita Alam and Arunava Sinha.

Dhaka may be one of the most densely populated cities in the world – noisy, grid-locked, short on public amenities, and blighted with sprawling slums – but, as these stories show, it is also one of the most colourful and chaotically joyful places you could possibly call home. Slum kids and film stars, day-dreaming rich boys, gangsters and former freedom fighters all rub shoulders in these streets, often with Dhaka‘s famous rickshaws ferrying them to and fro across cultural, economic and ethnic divides.
Just like Dhaka itself, these stories thrive on the rich interplay between folk culture and high art; they both cherish and lampoon the city’s great tradition of political protest, and they pay tribute to a nation that was borne out of a love of language, one language in particular, Bangla (from which all these stories have been translated).
Surpanakha, Ravan’s famous sister. Ugly and untamed, brutal and brazen—this is often how she is commonly perceived. One whose nose was sliced off by an angry Lakshman and the one who started a war. But was she really just a perpetrator of war? Or was she a victim? Was she ‘Lanka’s princess’? Or was she the reason behind its destruction?
Surpanakha, which means the woman ‘as hard as nails’, was born as Meenakshi—the one with beautiful, fish-shaped eyes. She is often the most misunderstood character in the Ramayana. Growing up in the shadows of her brothers, who were destined to win wars, fame and prestige, she, instead, charted out a path filled with misery and revenge.
Accused of manipulating events between Ram and Ravan, which culminated into a bloody war and annihilation of her family, Kavita Kane’s Lanka’s Princess makes us see the familiar events unfold from the eyes of a woman more hated than hateful…

The Indian Government has repeatedly described Maoist guerrillas as ‘the biggest security threat to the county’ and Bastar in central India as their headquarters.

This book chronicles how the armed conflict between the government and the Maoists has devastated the lives of some of India’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens, starting from 2005 when a government- sponsored vigilante movement killed hundreds and drove thousands of villagers into camps to the present day when it is the most militarized region in the country. It is not a coincidence that Bastar had some of India’s biggest mineral reserves.

Based on extensive filed visits, court testimonies, government documents and an active participant role in the events she write about, Nandini Sundar also tracks the responses of political parties, the media, human rights activities and the judiciary to the ongoing crisis.

An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor


An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India originated from a speech made by Shashi Tharoor at the Oxford Union in 2015, that went viral across digital platforms clocking 3.5 million hits.

In this explosive book, the author reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous British rule was for India. Besides examining the many ways in which the colonizers exploited India, ranging from the drain of national resources to Britain, the destruction of the Indian textile, steel-making and shipping industries, and the negative transformation of agriculture, he demolishes the arguments of Western and Indian apologists for Empire on the supposed benefits of British rule, including democracy and political freedom, the rule of law, and the railways. The few unarguable benefits—the English language, tea, and cricket—were never actually intended for the benefit of the colonized but introduced to serve the interests of the colonizers. Aleph Book Company  will serve to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history.

Emperor Chandragupta by Adity Kay


Emperor Chandragupta is the story of a youth who must fight against all odds – within and without – to become one of the greatest emperors ever known. This is the story of Chandragupta Maurya.

Building an empire is not easy, especially when there are enemies everywhere and no one you can trust. India, 326 BCE. The world’s greatest conqueror, Alexander, the Greek emperor, is at its doorstep, having arrived at the Indus seeking to establish his dominion over the entire known world. In the east lies Magadha, ruled by the Nandas, a dynasty driven by greed, lust and hunger for power. From the embers of that lust and avarice a boy has been born, raised by a tribe of peacock-tamers – a boy named Moriya forced by the Nanda clan to be on the run. Aided by Chanakya, a political strategist at odds with his former rulers, who trains him in the ways of the world and christens him Chandragupta, the young man ventures across the vast Magadhan empire to form an army of his own and seek out the foreign invader. But being a warrior prince, he finds, comes at a heavy price – assassins appointed by the Nanda kings will stop at nothing to eliminate him, a rival prince seeks revenge through cruelty and friends are no longer what they seem…

Stained by Abda Khan

Stained draft.indd

Stained is British Asian lawyer turned writer Abda Khan’s debut novel. The novel was published in October 2016 by Harvard Square Editions in the USA.

The novel revolves around an 18-year British Pakistani girl who is raped by a trusted friend of the family. After the attack, she goes to extreme lengths to prevent bringing what she perceives as shame to her widowed mother’s door, and to avoid tarnishing the family’s honour and reputation. However, this leads her down a dark dangerous path from which there may be no return.

The Truth Seekers @ Haji Lane by Maryam Amelie


The Truth Seekers @ Haji Lane is a romance novella about a Singaporean girl, Sufiah, who was seeking her vocation in life as well as her imam or Mr Right. Raised in a Malay/Muslim family, Sufiah, the youngest of three children was schooled in a madrasah for ten years, before she chose to continue her education in the polytechnic, just because of the dress code. In the polytechnic, she was able to don the hejab unlike the junior college, eventhough this meant she had to enter a less prestigious institute of learning. As a teenager, she also had girly ambitions, one of which is to find love – a husband whose taqwa-metre (piety to Allah) is higher than hers.

Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside by Quincy Carroll

Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside

This November, Inkshares published Quincy Carroll’s debut novel, Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside, which tells the story of two Americans living and teaching in rural China (Trade Paperback; $15.95). The first, Thomas, is an entitled deadbeat, content to pass the rest of his days in Asia skating by on the fact that he’s white, while the second, a recent college graduate named Daniel, is an idealist at heart. Over the course of the novel, these two characters fight to establish primacy in Ningyuan, a remote town in the south of Hunan, with one of their more overzealous students, Bella, caught in between. Quincy Carroll’s cleverly written debut novel examines what we bring from one country to another.

Muslim Politics in Bihar: Changing Contours by Mohammad Sajjad


This book is a study of participation of the Muslim communities, with their intra-community socio-economic stratifications, in the politics of India’s eastern province, Bihar, during colonial and post-independence period. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in the resistance against the Bengali hegemony, the Urban educated middle class of Muslims along with their Hindu counterparts, more specifically the Kayasthas (the Hindu community of scribes), organized themselves along the lines of ‘regional patriotism’ or ‘subordinate nationalism’ and succeeded in creating province of Bihar out of the Bengal in 1912. The Congress made its significant headway in Bihar only after that. Gandhiji’s intervention (1917) in the Champaran Satyagraha (which had intermittently been manifesting since the 1860s under the leadership of local intelligentsia, and had re-intensified since 1907), and the subsequent Khilafat-Non Cooperation Movements (1920-22) galvanized the Bihar people in anti-colonial popular struggle once again, after the movement of 1857.

Contesting Colonialism and Separatism: Muslims of Muzaffarpur since 1857


Contesting Colonialism

This study attempts to explore the social features, political behaviour and economic conditions of the Muslims and the way the Muslims of this locality were negotiating for their share in the power-structure. Also, what are or were their anxieties, problems and prospects in this regard? The monograph attempts to enquire as to whether or not the localities mirror the regional and all-India setting. The regional and local studies would enable not only a ‘greater approximation to reality but also a more searching analysis’.
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I arrived for my 6.30 pm meeting with Zia Mody, possibly India’s best-known corporate dealmaker and legal eagle, expecting that she was going to be at the end of her working day and relaxed for a long chat with me. I was mistaken. Read More

Happy Birthday


We enter a narrow muddy path with jhopadpattis on both sides. Lalit apologetically turns his head towards me; the car can move no further. Seven or eight dusty children in ragged clothes surround our car, their noses pressed flat against the windows, their teeth white through the tinted glass. If we leave the car here they’ll scratch the silver-grey paint, sit on the hood or steal the rear-view mirrors, so I tell Lalit, ‘I don’t trust these slum people. I think you better stay in the car.’

‘Memsahib, I can take you to Mary’s house,’ he says gently.

‘How would you know the way around this kachra place?’ I ask. Read More


Chakra_Ritu Lalit Book

“Guruji, they are all gathering,” twelve-year-old Sumant, his cheeks covered with a fuzzy growth of beard, peered through the flap of the tent and informed the old man.  He was skinny and looked as though he had recently shot up in height, and his clothes had not kept up.
The man addressed as Guru, or Teacher, sighed and stood up, his old bones aching.  There was a time when he had considered the weather a non-issue.  It had just been a matter of mind over body.  But age had caught up, and he realized that even Japas could feel cold.  It was freezing in the desert; he peered out of the tent at the full moon.  He had read somewhere that the full moon in January was known as the Wolf Moon.  How apt, he thought as he stepped out, his aged joints creaking.  He felt a slight unease arising from his base chakra.  He inhaled deeply and said, “I smell danger.  This peace among them will not last the night, I know it.” Read More

Bead Bai


I was born in Nairobi on the day when the colonial soldiers opened fire on the crowd protesting against the imprisonment of Harry Thuku. Harry Thuku, a soldier in the Kings African Rifles, the star battalion at the legendary parades of the British army in Nairobi, had just returned home to Kenya from the war in Burma. He now defied the governor’s order on the wearing of the hated kipande. The kipande itself was just a numbered metal identity pass that all native casuals in the Indian business streets and plantation labourers in the White Highlands had to wear with a chain around the neck. But it was because of the memories of chained slaves that were not so distant from the workers’ minds that they could not but see their new metal ID as a symbol of slavery. Thus it did not surprise anyone when the bazaar folk talked cagily about the growing numbers of disgruntled workers around the country who objected to the wearing of the pass. “But,” they would argue, “it’s the law of Kenya Colony that all native subjects of the king must be seen with the metal ID at work.” What they did not know was what I learnt much later in my adulthood, that if the law was not peacefully obeyed, it would be brutally enforced. The Empire needed to recover from the war by developing its colonies as quickly as possible so it would be ready for another war. And for that a disciplined African labour force like Indian commerce and skilled builders, was essential. Read More

The Bliss and Madness of Being Human


The Bliss and Madness of Being Human
The Bliss and Madness of Being Human

In this post-post-modern world without a discernible centre, personal becomes the political. In his poetry, Betageri attempts to connect personal with the universal. In the cosmological sense of the word. “The centre of the universe is where my/consciousness begins to throb…” he says in the poem entitled ‘At the Centre of the Universe’: “… I fling myself like a handful of sand/ over the sad limited space of the earth/ and begin to grow unchecked, unrestricted, uncontrolled.”

1. I Am Water
2. At the Centre of the Universe
3. The Quiet and Rising Tension in the Jaw of the Common Man
4. Walking in and out – of Apparitions
5. Summer
6. Evening at Tagore Park (Birdsounds)

This set contains 6 sounds, total time: 10.25

Buy the book from Flipkart

A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna

Alef Book Company


This was the 18th March of 1974. It was the day after my eleventh birthday, and I stood on the roof of my parents’ home in Patna, along with my family and some visitors from Arrah and faraway Saharsa, who had been unable to leave because of the curfew imposed all over Patna. There were reports that police had fired into the crowds of rioting students who had marched on the state assembly. We were playing antakshri, in our small group, because one young woman with us, a distant relative, was a wonderful singer. She had light brown eyes, and her hair curled over her forehead in the manner of a Hindi film-star of that decade. The horizon was grey with smoke rising from burning buildings.

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The Black Coat

Hamish Hamilton


March 17, Wednesday.  Hundreds and thousands of my countrymen are on the road today. They are marching toward the city’s central public square where the Awami League – Sheikh Mujib’s party – has organised a massive open-air ceremony for his birth anniversary. The Awami League government, which has declared him Father of the Bengali Nation, has deployed an extravagant number of security personnel to maintain order. They are guarding local street corners, nearby highway intersections and strategically important rooftops, and stopping vehicles to look for dangerous goods. Hundreds of party workers are assisting them; they are carrying rods, pipes, batons and bamboo sticks, and are regularly applying them to anyone who appears to be unruly and suspicious. Dozens of loudspeakers mounted on electricity poles are announcing the arrival of national leaders and intellectuals as well as acclaimed singers and musicians who will perform after the speeches.

As I sit at the Shaheed Minar stairs and look at the posters, festoons and banners I think back on a different time. I hear a distinctively trenchant voice: ‘You have betrayed us! You have betrayed us!’ It was thirty-five years ago. He was a part of my soul – a brilliant man, an immaculate heart.

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