“Pack” from And the Walls Come Crumbling Down by Tania De Rozario (Gaudy Boy, 2020)

It’s rainy season by the time I’ve booked my flight and the weather is seeping into every aspect of my life. Above and around the house, it pours. Plastic groundsheets line the floor and plastic buckets catch drips from my leaky ceiling. Nothing seems to hold water these days and I feel as though I, too, am leaking. This is the fourth house since leaving my mother’s flat. Occupied for less than a month and already it is purging me out.

We thought this had been the one. But then again, for eight hundred dollars, any house would have been the one. You and I shared two rooms—one to sleep in and one to work in. We sublet the rest of the house to other artists who used the third room and the kitchen as workspaces. It was the ideal home. A place everybody could afford, in which beautiful things were created every day. 

An interesting glimpse of this book- Delhi in Historical Perspectives by Late Professor K. A. Nizami and Dr Ather Farouqui based on the fascinating and chequered history of the city of Delhi. (Oxford University Press, 2020)

3

GHALIB’S DELHI


Like the personality and thoughts of Ghalib, the history of Delhi had two distinct periods. The events of 1857 caused a dramatic break from the past for Delhi and its inhabitants. In its 800-year-long history, Delhi had changed its form many times—Siri, Kilokeri, Tughlaqabad, Ferozabad, and Shahjehanabad to name but a few of its incarnations—but each was an added layer which seamlessly connected with the past. The events of 1857 shattered the historical links with the past and Delhi was, as English poet Matthew Arnold has said in a different context, ‘wandering between two worlds, one dead the other powerless to be born’. Ghalib too suffered the tribulations of Delhi. The old Delhi was breathing its last and the new had not yet been conceived. The Ghalib from before 1857 was entirely different from the the one after it. For the inhabitants of Delhi, it was difficult to make sense of a present that bore no relation to the recent past. Ghalib opens up his wounds to friends thus:

Saheb, do you understand what the matter is and what has happened? That was a birth when both of us were friends and there was an exchange of love and affection in our dealings with each other. Together we recited our poetry, compiled our works … suddenly the times changed; no more were those friends, that cordiality, mutual discourse, happiness. Afterwards there was the rebirth, albeit the forms of the two were exactly the same. That is, the city where I am bears the name of Delhi and the locality of Ballimaran is also the same, but I do not find the friends of my earlier birth.


A glimpse from Anuja Chandramouli’s Mohini – The Enchantress (Published by Rupa Publications India, 2020)

Prelude: A Hint of Hope Borne on a Dream 

The storytellers tended to go into raptures describing her sublime, flawless beauty, waxing eloquent about the perfection of her form and features, not to mention the heaviness of her bosom, supported as it was by an impossibly narrow waist. Captivating eyes with so much depth that most wanted nothing better than to plunge into those twin orbs, exploring the secrets within for the rest of time; lustrous tresses that cascaded in waves of silk, nearly caressing the earth over which she glided with effortless grace; luscious lips that mischievously promised endless delights and so on and so forth. 

Though they were mostly males who could not or did not want to look beyond the sumptuous perfection of her physical attributes, none of it was an exaggeration. For she was bewitching and her beauty had a power of its own, which could simply not be discounted. And yet, when it came right down to it, her beauty was almost beside the point. 

A glimpse of Malathi Ramachandran’s epic historical romance, Mandu- The Romance of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur (Published by Niyogi Books, 2020)

The evening gathering of music lovers – the mehfil – would begin after the day cooled and the sun sank, leaving the world poised and quivering with anticipation,  a cacophony of  bird calls filling the ears like clamouring silver bells,  The evening skies would scurry away to dress themselves up in honour of another bewitching night in Mandu. They would return when the lamps had been lit all over the city and the sounds of music and ghungroos rang in the air; and they would  glimmer gold in the waters of the lakes and fountains and flicker silver in the shadows of the forests. So enticing was the night life of the city, that they say even the creatures of the day, the peacock and the pigeon and the partridge, would hide behind pillars and in the crevices of rafters to catch a glimpse of the celebrations, night after night, in hall after hall.

A preview of There’s a carnival today originally written by Indra Bahadur Rai in Nepali and translated into English by Manjushree Thapa (Published by Speaking Tiger, 2017)

The old couple could never forget their own wedding. They’d had an arranged marriage on the sixteenth day of the month of Falgun exactly thirty-one years ago today, with a nine-piece musical band in the wedding procession. Kaase Darzis had blown narsingh trumpets from a platform on the roof, sounding out the auspicious news of the wedding. Lamba Lama, Hukumdas Sardar and Doctor Yuddhabir Rai (the poor men had all since passed away) had danced all night to the sweet melody of the shehnai. Kaji Saheb had taken a photograph when Bagam Kanchha, who was home on holiday from the army, had dressed up as a maruni in women’s clothes and danced, spinning a plate in each hand. They’d had to set another pot of rice on the boil after eighty kilograms proved insufficient to feed the wedding procession. Nowhere in today’s Darjeeling would you see members of a wedding procession sitting in rows to eat in the courtyard while being attacked from all sides by chickens, which, when shooed away, raised clouds of dust with their wings.

A preview of Osman Haneef’s debut novel, Blasphemy – The Trial of Danesh Masih, where a Christian boy in Pakistan is accused of blasphemy―a crime punishable by death. (Published by Readomania, April 2020)

The Visitor

‘So, why is Islam the best religion?’ Sir Amjad, the substitute teacher, asked. The seven- and eight-year olds relaxed. They knew the answer because Mrs. Bukhari had taught them the answer. Mureed, a young boy who was keen to impress, raised his hand and was promptly called on.

Mureed stood up and gave the rote-learned answer that had been drilled into each of them. ‘It is because the Prophet was illiterate and uneducated yet the recitations of the Koran are more poetic and more beautiful than even Shakespeare! How could the Prophet, an uneducated man, come up with such beautiful poetry all by himself?’ the eight-year-old asked, clenching his sweaty palms. Once Mureed had finished his explanation, Sir Amjad, with a calm unchanging expression, motioned for the boy to sit down.

An excerpt from ‘Preface to the Special Anniversary Edition’ in Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)longing in Contemporary India, Special Anniversary Edition by Parmesh Shahani, published by SAGE Publications India.

PREFACE (pp. xviii-xxi)

Another change personally over the years has been my own persona. From being someone who was rather shy 15 years ago, to being a flamboyant over the top fashionista who is regularly featured in our country’s fashion magazine “best dressed” lists, it’s been quite a ride! In fact, my fashionista journey began in 2008 with one of the first Gay Bombay book release events at the office of the fashion magazine Verve that I had just taken over as Editorial Director of. I wore a rather risqué rani pink silk kurta for that party with most of the top buttons open. I had also painfully waxed my chest – never again. (The risk-reward ratio just isn’t worth it!) From there to being a regular at fashion weeks and parties over the years, even though I’m not directly involved with the glamour business any more – what can I say except that I’m loving every moment of it. Whether in fashion or in business, or as a blue tick holding micro influencer in the digital world, I am in a different place today than I was in 2008, and I consciously use my vantage point to push for queer visibility and inclusion, wherever and whenever I can.

A preview of Long Night of Storm – a collection of stories originally written by Indra Bahadur Rai in Nepali and translated into English by Prawin Adhikari (Published by Speaking Tiger, 2018)

Morning came early in the jungle. Bullocks were put to the yoke again. The departure was full of more bustle than the grim march the day before. Duets were being sung since the morning. Jayamaya had joined that crowd. Wilful young boys wanted to shoot down any bird that settled on the crowns or branches of trees. If they hit a mark, they would stop their carts to go into the jungle to search for it. Nobody had any fear. Everybody was laughing. It seemed the journey of a merry migration—it seemed as if they were travelling from Burma into India for a picnic. ‘Is your name Jayamaya?’ A beautiful, thin boy who had had to abandon his studies to be on the road, and who had been blessed with his mother’s tender face, asked Jayamaya. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘My name is Jaya Bahadur,’ he said.

A glimpse from the ‘slice of life’ stories penned by Manjula Pal from her book Who wants to marry a mamma’s boy and other stories. (Published by Rupa Publications, 2019)

When Krishna Came to My House

Delhi experienced its first monsoon showers. It came as a big relief after days of sweltering heat.

It was evening. Streets that had been deserted were now abuzz with people coming out of their homes, seeking the fresh air, much relieved after their claustrophobic, air-conditioned confinement. The smoky smell of freshly picked soft corns roasting over charcoal and smeared with salt and lime, filled the air. Right from children to the adults, everyone was enjoying the roasted corn pods. The hawkers selling corns on pavements and on pulling carts were doing good business.