Taran N. Khan takes us through the lanes of Kabul, creating an elegant cartography of poets, museums, archaeologists and local book markets.

Written on the City

The road to Kabul is made of stories. A fragment of a memory leads me to the afternoon when I first read about the city, in a book I found on Baba’s shelves. The adults were deep in sleep; the house filled with the kind of stillness in which fables begin. The short story I perused was written by the legendary Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore in 1892.

WarriorTalenthouse India, SEA’s leading creative crowdsourcing platform, and Penguin Books India have collaborated to provide a unique opportunity for one artist to have his artwork featured on the cover of the next print run of actor-writer Olivier Lafont’s powerful new novel Warrior.
Set in Mumbai, Warrior interweaves mythology, epic adventure and vintage heroism to tell a story which will change the way you see gods, heroes and demons. Artists are required to read the book and then create a new cover design which they feel will capture the spirit of the book and its hero, Saam, Shiva’s only earthly demigod child.

ramchandra guhaAt their commencement ceremony yesterday, Yale University awarded 12 honorary degrees to individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields.  Indian writer and historian Ramachandra Guha was one of those honoured, according to a press statement by Penguin Books India.

Alongside acclaimed individuals including Nobel Laureates Daniel Kahneman and Ahmed Zewail, and Timothy Berners-Lee, Guha was made a Doctor of Humanities.  President Peter Salovey’s citation when awarding the degree stated:

“As a sage voice of progressive India, you are a leading public intellectual. Your work is brilliant and varied in its scope.  You are an incisive essayist of your country’s vibrant and clamorous politics and society, a renowned historian of modern India, and the definitive biographer of Gandhi. Whether writing about cricket or commenting on contemporary Indian life, you capture the spirit of your nation and its past, while opening new understandings of its present and the promise of its future. As a gifted teacher, you have shared your talents with us at Yale, and we are delighted to have you return to campus, this time as Doctor of Humanities.”

The HindusThe news from India these days is rarely cheery. The country’s long-overdue winning streak in the international press, which saw old clichés upgraded to shiny new high-tech models, ended around 2010. Since then, the headlines have been relentlessly grim: corruption, poverty, political dysfunction, violence against women, mistreatment of maids, and the criminalization of homosexuality. On Thursday morning, the big story was a brawl inside the Indian Parliament, during which a lawmaker used a can of pepper spray against his colleagues.

The HindusDays after Penguin decided to pulp American author Wendy Doniger’s book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ following an out-of-court settlement, at least two authors hit back asking the publisher to withdraw their books, nullify their contract and pulp their books too in protest.

Academic Jyotirmaya Sharma, who has published two books with Penguin, and journalist and author Siddharth Varadrajan said they are outraged at the leading publishing house capitulating before a fringe outfit called Shiksha Bachao Andolan which alleges that the 2009 book insults Hindus.

In this funny and rollicking account, Srinath Perur travels with the Indian sex tourist to Tashkent in search of ‘full enjoyment’ (Excerpted from If It’s Monday It Must Be Madurai: A Conducted Tour of India by Srinath Perur, Penguin Books India.)

uzbekistanAt a nightclub I go to with Paras and Rajesh, there are about a dozen minimally clad women in impossible heels who take turns with the pole in the middle and stalk the room giving lap dances. At one point in the evening there’s a cry from a table near ours and I turn to see a woman fly briefly through the air and crash to the floor. For some reason, the man she was straddling has thrown her off him. His table is at the edge of a slightly elevated section of the floor, making her fall all the more dramatic. She clambers back up onto her heels, looking at the man in disbelief. Gone is her strut, her inviting smile. It’s a tired, frightened girl who totters away weeping. There are bouncers around but they say nothing to the man (who, burly and impassive, may well be some sort of alpha night manager). If this can happen in public, how vulnerable must women be behind a locked door with a stranger.