Tag Archives: The Times of India

Vignettes from Life: My Delhi

By Mitali Chakravarty


Delhi was a beautiful town — a lifetime ago, an age ago, an era ago.

Gulmohars and Amaltaz blooms announced the onset of summer and before that a spray of different flowers — verbena, phlox, pansies, sweet peas, calendulas, roses, dahlias, chrysanthemums, gladioli and many more — announced the onset of winters and spring in Delhi. Gardens and roads bloomed with the colours of nature. The residents of Delhi were considered lucky by people from other parts of the country. I remember an uncle from Calcutta saying that Delhi was comparable to London!

Surely, the buildings are still there — but right now one needs to skirt past pan stains, turds and the stench of urine when one explores the lordliest of structures in Delhi — the Connaught Place. Earlier there was a huge fountain in the middle of Connaught Place in a large circular garden. The fountain spewed water the colours of rainbows with lighting at night. To me, it was the most fascinating sight on Earth — watching the water change colours and sometimes even become like a candle flame.

There was no Shaheen Bagh. And roads had cosmopolitan names — Curzon Road, Minto Road, Shah Jahan Road and many more. I remember the name Curzon particularly because I went there to visit my future aunt for the first time. She lived in an apartment in Curzon Road. She eventually became my aunt when my uncle opted to marry her— an aunt whose mother was a Kashmiri and father, a Punjabi. My uncle of course was a Bengali. We grew up in a Delhi where our neighbours came from diverse cultures, where we mingled with people from diverse religions and lived in harmony with differences. Tolerance was not a problem. I remember we had a boy in our school whose father was a Hindu and mother a Christian. We even had family members of mixed heritage. That was in the 1970s and 1980s. Read more

Book Excerpt: Calling Elvis: Conversations with Some of Music’s Greatest: A Personal History by Shantanu Datta



Title: Calling Elvis: Conversations with Some of Music’s Greatest: A Personal History

Author: Shantanu Datta

Publisher: Speaking Tiger, 2020

Links: Speaking Tiger 




Englishman in India

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.

Much later, in 1988, yoga and ‘causes’ got to him and he was in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman, singing Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up for Amnesty International. I was there, having scaled the 10-feet steel mesh wall to get on the ground from our seats in the stands (Rs 300) to be closer to the mammoth stage that had been erected. The JN stadium gig was one of twenty concerts held across the world over six weeks to raise awareness about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on its 40th anniversary and the work of Amnesty. It was sponsored in part by Reebok Foundation and presented in India by The Times of India. And with a line-up such as that, who could resist a trip to Delhi.

Peter Gabriel sang Biko, his eulogy to anti-apartheid activist Steve who died in police custody, and Games Without Frontiers, a critique about belligerent nationalism, with stage lights on cranes that seemed to follow him obsessively. Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen played everything, from Dancing in the Dark, The River, I’m On Fire and of course Born in the USA, his set running into more than two hours and bringing the curtains down at 3 a.m. on what was the largest-ever conglomeration of rock stars on a single night in India.

‘It’s nice to be back in India,’ screamed Sting and over 50,000 of us screamed back. Springsteen joined him in his rendition of Every Breath You Take that he once described as a ‘cool, seductive song about the ill-effects of being possessed by someone you love.’ He opened his set with If You Love Somebody, the antithesis of Every Breath… celebrating the very essence of love, which is, as the song goes, Free, free, set them free. If you love somebody set them free. Read more

Prostitution in books and movies:  Has She got a ticket to ride?

By Ratnottama Sengupta



Gauhar Jaan, a singer and dancer who cut six hundred records in more than ten languages between 1902 and 1930, a woman who popularised Indian classical.


Chhaya. Tagar. Basana. Maanada-Panna-Radha. Hasina. Angelina. Gauhar Jaan… What do the narratives of these ladies have in common? They are all engaged in sexual activity for money.

So, what are the sobriquets for them? Prostitute, street walker, wench, call girl, escort, harlot, hooker, hustler, vamp, whore, temptress, tart, puta, fillet de joie, bawd, moll, courtesan, lady of pleasure, woman on the game, lady of the night, scarlet woman, concubine, paramour, cocotte, strumpet, trollop, wanton woman, devadasi, tawaif, baiji, ganika, randi, veshya

This is less than half the 75 synonyms in Thesaurus for the ‘woman of ill repute’. And this is without going into the term sex worker, coined by a certain Carol Leigh, in the last century that has seen people become ‘porn star’, ‘sex educator,’ ‘sexual trainer,’ and even ‘actress turned prostitute’.

Where has the word ‘prostitute’ come from? From the Latin word prostitus, found since the 16th century? But the past participle of prostiture — whether interpreted as ‘to expose publicly’ or read as ‘thing that is standing’ — does not have the abusive association the most ancient profession has. For that matter, the very phrase ‘oldest profession’ — a euphemism for prostitution when delicacy forbade the use of the word — is said to have acquired its opprobrious nuance only in the last lap of 19th century, after Rudyard Kipling used it in ‘On the City Wall’ (January 1889), a short story about an Indian prostitute. Kipling begins by citing a biblical reference: Read more

A Lost World by Ratnottama Sengupta


It took me a while to recognise Herbert.

I was visiting my parents in Bombay after some years, and a friend had dropped in. When I walked her to the gate, Herbert was standing across the road. As he crossed over, he greeted me, “Utuma!”

But for that, I would not have known him, for the yellow-eyed, shabbily clad dark youth had little in common with the chubby, curly haired neighbourhood boy who had anglicised my name in our childhood.

“Seeing you after a long time!” Herbert exclaimed.

“Fifteen years at the least,” I replied.

“Where are you living now?” he wanted to know. I told him that I had moved to Delhi and asked him when he had got back from Kuwait.

“When Mummy died,” he said. “You know that we’ve sold the house?”

Read more

Kitaab interview with C. P. Surendran: ‘Indian publishing needs a kick in its lazy fat ass’

by Zafar Anjum, Editor, Kitaab

CP_HadalC. P. Surendran is a well-known Indian poet, novelist and journalist who lives in Mumbai. As a journalist, he has worked with India’s top newspapers such as The Times of India, Times Sunday Review and Bombay Times, among others. He was resident editor of The Times of India in Pune for three years and senior editor with The Times of India in Delhi. Until recently, he was the chief editor of a daily, DNA. A selection of his poems was included in Gemini II (1994) and since then he has published several collections of poems: Posthumous Poems, Canaries on the Moon and Portraits of the Space We Occupy. His first two novels are An Iron Harvest and Lost and Found.

His most recent novel is Hadal, which has attracted a great deal of attention in India because of its unusual theme and the choice of narrator. It is ‘a tale of international espionage, loves lost and found, desire and power’ set in Kerala, Surendran’s home state. It’s based on a true story. At the centre of the plot is Miriam Zacharias, a young woman from the Maldives who has lost her family in the tsunami. When she appears in the novel,  she has resigned as a minor security officer assigned to the president of the island nation. Just out of her marriage,  she wants to pursue ‘her dream of writing a novel’.

‘She comes to Kerala, where she seeks out a former lover, Roy, who happens to be a senior scientist in the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). She also runs into a disgruntled policeman, bearing the unlikely name of Honey Kumar, who has been banished from Delhi for a routine misdemeanour involving a bribe. These three people find themselves embroiled in an increasingly sordid tale of love and lust and power and intrigue, driven largely by Honey Kumar’s overwrought mind and underserviced libido, which coagulates stickily into an international spy scandal. The time and place for these lives to converge in the most unfortunate way is the visit of the Maldivian president to his ancestral village in Kerala. And when you learn that the president has a double, you know that the plot of this novel is in fine shape…’ (From Hadal’s review in Mint).

Surendran has also written a film, Gour Hari Dastaan which releases in theatres on August 14. The film, directed by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, is a biopic depicting the real-life travails of Gour Hari Das, a freedom fighter who fought the government for 32 years to be recognised as such.

We recently interviewed Surendran over email and asked him about his new novel and his writing life:

When I heard of ‘Hadal’ I was intrigued by the title. What are you trying to show in this novel?

A process of the mind. How deceptive we are instinctively. A woman– Miriam in Hadal for instance– could be a notion. A crowdsourced product. An Indian genius is the telling of the story. The oral traditions in India are strong even now. The fact that the average Indian is a liar is part of that grand narrative. I hope I don’t sound judgmental, because that really is not the intention of the novel. When I say lie, I’m conscious that a lie is often a wish. When a man or a woman lies about her age, she merely wishes she was younger. In the case of Honey Kumar, the prurient, corrupt and imaginative protagonist of the novel, the ability to fabricate is natural. When he builds out of his head a whole alternative reality with the active help of other people to present Miriam as a spy, the crowdsourced nature of the process takes a life of its own, involves institutions and systems and turns Miriam’s universe upside down. She is caught in the currents and physical laws of another world. It may not be true, but is it any less real for all that? Hadal is about the social media nature as if it were of our reality. Read more

The art of the fellowship: Rajat Chaudhuri explains how to win writers’ residencies

Rajat Chaudhuri“This year I won the Charles Wallace Creative Writing Fellowship and was based for three months at the University of Chichester, United Kingdom where I was working on a new book,” says novelist Rajat Chaudhuri in an interview with the Times of India. “In 2013, I won a Korean Arts Council Fellowship and travel support from India Korea Centre (InKo) to work for a month at the Toji Cultural Centre in South Korea. Sangam House International Writers residency offered me a fellowship in 2010.” Read more

Indian playwright Girish Karnad protests against the “dirty tricks” of an Indian newspaper

GIRISH_KARNADJnanpith award winning director and playwright Girish Karnad suddenly found himself in the eye of a storm when the Times of India quoted him as giving a good chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even though he had earlier been a strong critic of the BJP leader and then Gujarat chief minister.

TOI quoted him as saying, “Narendra Modi is our Prime Minister, and we should accept it. I had expressed reservations about the post-Godhra carnage in Gujarat when Modi was chief minister. But after that, there have been no incidents to bring him a bad name. He has provided good governance.” Read more

‘Crucial evidence has fallen through the cracks’: Manoj Mitta on Modi and Godhra

The co-author of When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath on his upcoming book The Fiction of Fact-finding: Modi and Godhra: An interview in The Outlook

manoj_mittaManoj Mitta’s first book When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath, co-authored with H.S. Phoolka, received critical acclaim when it was published seven years ago. Now, The Times of India senior editor who specialises in legal, human rights and public policy issues, has returned with The Fiction of Fact-finding: Modi and Godhra, a searing critique of the 2002 violence in Gujarat under Narendra Modi’s watch. His close, thorough examination of the voluminous material generated due to the Supreme Court’s monitoring of the probe reveals the gap between the findings that have been handed out as the SIT’s closure report filed in 2012 and what the evidence suggests. Indeed, as he forcefully argues, the anomalies of the SIT’s closure report point to far more than the relativism of the truth; they mock India’s commitment to its national motto: Satyameva Jayate (truth alone triumphs). Excerpts from an interview with Sundeep Dougal:

First, why another book on 2002 or Modi? Read more