I have been horrified by how people from other countries have been tracking India’s record over the past few months. They say our unplanned lockdown failed miserably, adding that our government had all the time in the world to put safety measures into place and failed. They talk about how our biggest cities don’t have enough hospital beds, how we have never taken testing seriously, and how we aren’t sharing data with anyone else because we don’t have access to it ourselves.

This is all a lie. I am sure India has managed the Covid-19 crisis as well as the…


I am always amused when someone in my extended circle of acquaintances refers to my fellow Indians as intelligent. They base this on the usual clichés trotted out by NRIs, about how Indians run Silicon Valley. They also base this on random WhatsApp forwards that have increased over the past five years, touting our superiority in every sphere of human activity without any proof whatsoever. These inane forwards allow the senders to conveniently ignore the fact that there are few signs of intelligence among the 1.3 billion people who make up this country.

How is one to quantify the intelligence…


I was recently called a ‘ricebag convert’ by some well-meaning folk on social media. This wasn’t a surprise, because the people doling out these labels were all supporters of a government that hands out rewards based on how abusive one can be. I didn’t react because I liked the idea of descending from people who had presumably abandoned a religion in exchange for bags of rice. …


Ask any single woman you know what life in India is like. It doesn’t matter which part of the country she is in, because the only thing that will change is the level of depravity she must confront and deal with on a daily basis. If this sounds like an exaggeration, it will only to those who haven’t been listening. I would suggest you track the news, but that is no longer a viable solution given that much of what masquerades as journalism now is little more than an exercise in whitewashing.

Thousands of young women from across India come…


Two things disturbed me more than the lockdown I had to deal with after a pandemic was declared earlier this year. First, an announcement that popular skin-lightening product Fair & Lovely would now be called Glow & Lovely to seem more politically correct. The second was an attack on students from Nigeria and Ghana at the Roorkee Institute of Technology in Uttarakhand. …


Prizes can be superfluous. I say this because we all know how frustrating they can be, year after year, as debates about the best film, album or book pop up at dinner tables. We know these decisions are subjective, and almost always political, but wait for them anyway because celebrating these achievements makes us happier to be human, if only for a little while until the next shortlist appears.

The Booker Prize longlist will appear this July, and while it will be Earth-shattering only to the rapidly shrinking number of people who still think about literature while the world burns…


On February 2 this year, the poet Ilya Kaminsky posted the following to his Twitter account: ‘My grandmother, who was sent to Siberia for 10 years, said that in February, birds would freeze to the ground. So, prisoners, who were sent to work, would grab small birds, put them under their armpits. By the time prisoners got back to barracks, the birds would thaw out & fly away [sic].’

For those who follow the Ukrainian-American, it was an arresting anecdote of the kind they had long grown accustomed to, a few sparse sentences conjuring not just vivid images, but a…


I was a college student in December 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished. My life until that point had been a fairly sheltered one, growing up as I had through the 70s and 80s, untouched by the malice of militant political parties like the Shiv Sena that had, by then, already begun the slow process of destroying a once beautiful city.

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Rudra Pratap Sinha-Jim Carter: Creative Commons

When the Masjid fell, it took with it an innocence that had long clung to Bombay; at least it seemed that way to a 16-year-old. A number of things changed dramatically that month, in the aftermath of that…


One

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Photograph © Lindsay Pereira

‘Danger. Mines.’ T-shirts bearing those words can be seen all along the streets of Siem Reap, in the kingdom of Cambodia. They are printed above garish images of a skull and cross-bones, with a map of the country beneath. You can buy one for 3 dollars US, or two for 4.

“Take the red T-shirt,” a dealer suggests when I stop by. “Good quality.”

UNICEF believes Cambodia has the third-highest number of landmines in the world. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre estimates there may still be as many as six million mines in the country. Since 1970 — when…


I realize now that 2004 was an awful year for English poetry in Bombay. It didn’t seem particularly terrible at the time, because it takes distance to allow us a sense of measure; to gauge what we have won or lost. And so, with a decade and a half lying between then and now, I see how it was a death knell that first sounded on January 9 that year, with the passing of Nissim Ezekiel.

One of the most prolific and well-known poets of his era, Ezekiel slipped away struggling to hold on to memories that had been fading…

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