Writing

Published and unpublished writing on art, books, cities, food, travel and other reportage.

The Philosopher’s Tome

Accidental Magic, Keshava Guha’s debut novel, ponders Harry Potter fandom but is light on geeky delights. ♦ Originally published in India Today. Since Harry Potter debuted in 1997, books, films and fan material related to J.K. Rowling’s novels have proliferated faster than cursed objects in a vault at Gringotts. There are academic treatises, pop literary …

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Mother of Invention

Perumal Murugan remembers Amma in his latest book. ♦ Originally published in India Today. I’d been waiting a couple of days to hear back from the writer Perumal Murugan, via an editor who promised to translate my questions into Tamil and his replies to English. That this kind of exchange is possible at all is …

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The Great Trotter Resurrection

Irwin Allan Sealy’s Trotter-Nama comes alive for the third time. ♦ Originally published in India Today. It’s hard to imagine that the author of a book as gargantuan, complex and exuberant as The Trotter-Nama ever suffered such a crisis of faith in his creation — which had been out of print for an extended period — that …

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Exile and the Kingdom

An ongoing exhibition of miniatures inspired by the Ramayana, at the Met in New York City ♦ Originally published in India Today. Far from the bustling, big-ticket shows of Dutch Masters or Camp fashion, beyond the high-ceilinged galleries of large American canvases, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a maze of jewel-box galleries. Hosting exhibitions …

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East is Beast

Book Review ♦ New Kings of the World: The Rise and Rise of Eastern Pop Culture, By Fatima Bhutto Originally published in Open. As 2014’s feeble monsoon faltered to a close, India burnt for Fawad Khan. The Pakistani actor had just crossed over into Bollywood with Khubsoorat, reducing women across the country ‘to wobbling blobs of …

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The Book of Waswo

The new miniatures from the studio of Waswo X. Waswo are as captivating as his latest photobook. ♦ Originally published in India Today. Nearly two decades ago, when Waswo X. Waswo was travelling in Pushkar, a group of camel herders started referring to him as “Chacha”. “The name just stuck,” the artist tells me in …

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Greener Pastures

Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha is a world apart, capturing the slow rhythm of daily life in a kothi in Lahra, Uttar Pradesh, without embellishment. ♦ Originally published in India Today. One of the most striking things about Tanuja Chandra’s first documentary, which premiered internationally last month and features her 93 and 86-year-old aunts, is her …

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Floods and Streams of Anarchy

William Dalrymple discusses his new book on the rise of the East India Company ♦ Originally published in Mumbai Mirror.  â€œAt the dawn of the nineteenth century all seemed dark; the stars were paling, and it was not by any means plain what the day was likely to be,” wrote orientalist historian HG Keene in …

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The Writer’s Endurance Test

Book Review ♦ The Assassination of Indira Gandhi: The Collected Stories of Upamanyu Chatterjee, Volume I Originally published in India Today. From the ‘hazaar fucked’ slang of English, August through six subsequent novels and a novella, linguistic playfulness has always been a central feature of Upamanyu Chatterjee’s style, enamouring as many readers as it puts …

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