Books

Floods and Streams of Anarchy

William Dalrymple discusses his new book on the rise of the East India Company ♦ Originally published in Mumbai Mirror.  “At 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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Gossip Folks

From feuding queens to rebel sultans, the dead are alive in Manu Pillai’s books. ♦ Originally published on VICE India. When Manu S. Pillai (“the S is important”) and I sat down to talk, gossip was at the top of the table. We were at a mutual friend’s apartment, our chat getting progressively boozy as …

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The Angst of Being a Modern Indian

The Cosmopolitans ♦Anjum HasanPenguin India, 309 pages, Rs 499. “Being a modern Indian is hard work,” a former king tells Qayanaat, the protagonist of Anjum Hasan’s The Cosmopolitans. If this is true for the King, the dispossessed monarch of fictional, small-town Simhal, it’s certainly so for Qayanaat, a 53-year-old single woman who lives in Bengaluru, subsisting …

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Crash of Civilisations

City of Spies ♦ By Sorayya Khan Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, 2015, 239 pp., Rs 295 (PB) ISBN 978-93-83064-78-6 Pakistan was scorchingly hot during the summer of 1977, the narrator of City of Spies recalls: “the newspapers were filled with worry that rain might never come”. And the persistent Cold War chill in relations between the United States of America and the Soviet Union only …

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A Strange, Familiar Place

This Place ♦ By Amitabha Bagchi Fourth Estate / HarperCollins, New Delhi, 2013, 253 pp., Rs 499 (HB) ISBN 978-93-5116-018-2 After being suspended from his government job, Naresh Kumar, the title character in Amitabha Bagchi’s previous book, The Householder (Fourth Estate, 2012), finds himself a stranger in his own house. He waits desperately for the evening, …

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Shelved selves

Unpacking literary baggage ♦ The first library I fell in love with was my great-grandfather’s study in Shimla. An angular room with thick glass windows, dark wood furniture and a scuffed, burnt orange carpet, it looked out over the misty tops of ragged pine trees and rounded hills. Like any good study, its architect knew …

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