Fashion Icon Waris Ahluwalia

Waris Ahluwalia is an Indian-American designer and actor. Born in Amritsar, Punjab, India he later moved to New York at the age of five. His company, House of Waris, is based out of New York. (Photo of Waris in Gap’s Holiday 2013 ad campaign):

In The Aerogram: 5 More Reasons to Love Fashion Icon Waris Ahluwalia

In WSJ: 20 odd questions for Waris Ahluwalia

The untold story of how Tibetan Buddhism first came to America

In Tricycle:

The combined efforts of Geshe Wangyal and Takster Rinpoche at the birth of the organized Tibetan resistance made it possible for ST Circus, the CIA’s codename for its anti-Chinese effort, to achieve its most notable success: the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet. Fortuitous contact by members of the first class of US-trained Tibetan resistance fighters with the Dalai Lama’s escape party in March 1959 allowed the CIA to be informed daily of the Dalai Lama’s whereabouts throughout the grueling ordeal. At the time, 50,000 People’s Liberation Army soldiers and dozens of spotter planes scoured the Tibetan side of the Himalayas trying to thwart his escape—or, as they suggested, to rescue him from kidnappers.

 Besides keeping their CIA patrons updated on the escape party’s coordinates, the guerrillas used Geshe-la’s telecode to request from Prime Minister Nehru’s government political asylum in India for the Dalai Lama, his cabinet, and his family. Three years earlier, Nehru had turned away a similar request and essentially forced His Holiness to return to Tibet after a brief religious pilgrimage to India. It was thus a great relief when Nehru’s consent to the asylum request, after traveling through several bureaucratic levels of the US and Indian governments over a 24-hour period, was relayed to the Dalai Lama’s Lord Chamberlain by the CIA-trained guerrillas. That message permitted a then ailing Dalai Lama to cross into Indian refuge ahead of his pursuers.

 His Holiness’s decision to leave Tibet at that time, almost nine years into China’s occupation, and the details of how and whether he was eluding the Chinese army became fodder for international journalistic speculation as hundreds of newsmen flocked to India’s remote Himalayan outposts hoping to witness his arrival. Few can remember today that this was the most internationally covered cliffhanger of that era, one that resonated well in the existential drama of the ongoing Cold War.

 Once His Holiness the Dalai Lama was safely in India, Geshe Wangyal would soon discover that the follow-up task of bringing His Holiness to the United States might be more daunting than the just-concluded escape. For that project, he would need other allies—and plenty of patience. More:

The ad everyone is talking about

Indian jewellery retailer Tanishq has come up with a commercial for Diwali that moves away from the stereotype of blushing, fair-skinned brides and introduces the concept of remarriage — possibly for the first time in Indian advertising.

Read more here and here

Talisman: Ganesh

Francine Prose in Virginia Quarterly Review:

It’s been almost forty years since I bought an image of Sri Ganesh, the elephant-​headed Hindu god, from a street vendor in the Chor Bazaar—​the Thieves’ Market—​in Mumbai, which at that time was still Bombay. I’ve had the picture, surrounded by a simple black frame and protected by a durable pane of glass, on my writing desk ever since.

When I say desk, I mean desks. I carried the Ganesh with me through the moves and dislocations of my peripatetic late twenties. And later, when I traveled with my husband and two sons to take a succession of visiting-​writer jobs at various colleges and universities, Ganesh’s portrait was among the first things I packed to bring along, the first things I unpacked when I came home. One way to know what you value is to see what you can’t stand to leave behind.

Of course, there’s no “scientific” evidence to prove that I would stop writing completely and forever if I tried to work without the calming, steady gaze of the half-​human, half-​elephant deity presiding over my efforts. But I’m by nature a believer in many garden-​variety superstitions (no open umbrellas indoors, please!) as well as some that are purely of my own invention. I’ve always had a sense about the Ganesh, a feeling that I’ve never been able to shake and never wanted to put to the test. More:

Aatish Bhatia: The physics of sperm vs. the physics of sperm whales

Also watch “3 Simple Ways to Time Travel (& 3 Complicated Ones)

Aatish’s blog: Empirical Zeal

Anoushka Shankar – Traces Of You ft. Norah Jones

Dr. Arjun Srinivasan: The end of antibiotics

Dr. Arjun Srinivasan is an associate director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He spoke with Frontline about the need for more action at the local level to combat the problem of antibacterial resistance.

Explain to me why the discovery of antibiotics was so important for medicine.

Antibiotics were one of [the most], if not the most, transformational discoveries in all of medicine. Infections are something that we struggled to treat for many, many years, for centuries before the advent of antibiotics, and infections were a major cause of death before the advent of antibiotics.

So with the discovery of this new class of drugs, we overnight had an ability to care for people and offer them not just a treatment but a cure for an illness that previously would have taken their lives in a rapid manner. They really are miracle drugs, and not only have they saved the lives of millions and millions of people … but antibiotics have opened up new frontiers in medicine that would be impossible without them.

Like what?

For example, organ transplantation. One of the major causes of death in patients who would have an organ transplant would be an infection. Without antibiotics, we wouldn’t be able to treat any of those infections. More:

Chinese provinces and Indian states

The Brookings Essay by William Antholis:

Bo Xilai and Narendra Modi are but two of the many prominent figures in the 60-some provinces, states, territories, and other major administrative units that make up China and India. For a sense of how many people are involved, take the United States and add Mexico, Brazil, plus the rest of North America and South America, then add the 500 million people living in the European Union. That adds up to roughly the 1.3 billion people who live in China alone. India is only slightly smaller, with 1.24 billion.

While Bo and Modi have governed districts the size of major nations, they are cut off from western centers of power. Bo and Modi gained international reputations, which makes them the exception, since most outsiders tend to follow only those politicians based in Beijing and New Delhi. Reporting from capitals and scattered consulates is important, but it gives us partial and often distorted glimpses of what is going on in the rest of China and India.

In early 2012, my wife Kristen and our daughters Annika and Kyri joined me in a five-month odyssey. We visited 20 states or provinces in the two Asian giants. We travelled by plane, train, automobile, boat, three-wheeled motorized rickshaw, and bicycle, as well as elephant and camel on occasion. We interviewed national and local political leaders (including Modi). We also met with corporate executives, journalists, academics, diplomats, religious leaders, teachers, farmers, slum dwellers, and—not just inevitably but usefully—waiters and taxi drivers.

The questions we asked fell into three categories: How do Chinese provinces and Indian states work? How do their leaders seek to balance local and national priorities and value systems? How do their citizens as well as their leaders view various global issues? More:

Tired of making rotis? Get this.

[Via 3quarksdaily]

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil

[via 3quarksdaily]

Samanth Subramanian: My memories of my grandfather

In Aeon magazine:

A curious thing happened when my grandfather died, the sort of thing that seems more and more curious as the years pass, investing itself with significance. At the time I was living in New York, and since this was the middle of the last decade, I was always only a phone call away from my family in India. What we weren’t able to do, though, was text each other; I had been told by my mobile provider that the network systems in the two countries were misaligned in some key manner. This had sounded too vague — too 20th-century — to be truly credible, so my sister and I attempted a number of times to exchange texts, out of habit and idle hope, before admitting that we were wholly defeated.

Then in March 2007, when the old man passed on after a long illness, my sister took another crack at it. She couldn’t call right at that moment but she wanted to let me know, so she fired off a text, expecting it, as always, to sink into the void. On this occasion, however, the iron laws of telecommunications unbent themselves and the message made it through, into my phone, waking me up in the dead of night. Just this once. Even five seconds later, when I tried to reply, the channel had snapped shut, and it never opened up again.

A final flare of mystery from a mysterious man, I thought. He was 94 when he died, and he and my grandmother had stayed with us, whenever possible, for much of my life; my father was their eldest son. I should have known him far better than I do, I realised upon his death. I grew up around him, accustomed to his presence at home: to his shirtless torso, brown as a violin; to the angle at which he arced his leanness over the newspaper; to the ellipses of sunlight in which he liked to sit, in feline habit, next to the window; to the low bicker of his voice in prayer; to his twitchy handwriting; and, in his final years, to the degree of cloudiness in his fast-fading eyes. These were the precise aspects of a precise man. More:

Wild gold chase

Ashok Malik in The Asian Age:

India is perennially the land of mixed metaphors. It is appropriate then that senior government agencies have begun a wild goose chase for gold. This has happened in Daundia Khera village of Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district. A sadhu had a dream that 1,000 tonnes of gold had been buried near a Shiva temple. He contacted and persuaded minister of state for agriculture Charan Das Mahant, who then visited the temple.

Convinced of the legend (or the dream), the minister spoke to his seniors in the UPA government, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was asked to start excavating. Apparently, the gold had been buried and hidden there by Raja Ram Baksh Singh, a feudatory of the nawabs of Awadh, who had taken part in the conflict of 1857. The Raja was eventually hanged by the British and stories of his lost treasure have been doing the rounds in the region for the past century and a half.

If the only “evidence” of a hidden treasure in Daundia Khera is the sadhu’s dream, the ASI is making a laughing stock of itself. In pushing the archaeologists to trace the gold, the UPA government can only have sensible people shaking their heads in despair. A previously unknown village in Unnao has become the magnet for the national media as well as turned into a fair ground for people from neighbouring districts. More:

World’s worst cities for air pollution

According to WHO [Click on the image}

 air-pollution-by-city

Dispatches from India-1: First impressions

Usha Alexander in Shunya’s Notes:

So here I am living in Gurgaon for the last four months. We arrived in the hottest days of the year and to summer’s sweet deluge of fruits—mangos, lychees, jamun, watermelon—which we enjoyed daily. Within three days of arrival, we found a furnished rental with adequate water and power backup, and we lucked upon the services of an excellent cook and a cleaning woman, both recent migrants from West Bengal. We soon identified some take-out places, a barber, dairy outlet, and other services in the small bazaar two streets over. And we found a gleaming mall with a modern gym, theater, grocery stores, bookstores, and electronics, just a 15-minute walk from our door, across lots filled with cows, stray dogs, mansions, and shanties.

In our earliest weeks, we spent a lot of time reconnecting with old friends and family in the area. We had to relearn how to get around Gurgaon, which has reconfigured itself in the grand makeover this so-called Millennium City has undergone during the seven years since our previous stay here. Most of these changes have been very useful, from our perspective: the completion of the Delhi Metro line serving Gurgaon; the impending completion of Gurgaon’s own Rapid Metro; improved roads (apart from those still under reconstruction); and the easy availability of familiar international products, like fresh basil and avocados in the grocery store, and hummus and falafel takeaway. So in many respects, our landing has been soft and picking up new rhythms of life has been easy. More:

Dispatches from India-2: On Hiring Domestic Help in India

The death of the Urdu script

Can Microsoft and Twitter save the dying Urdu nastaliq script from the hegemony of the Western alphabet and an overbearing Arab cousin? Ali Eteraz at medium.com:

urdu

A few years ago the Swedish store IKEA changed its font from Futura to Verdana and the Futura loyalists, fifty years faithful, created a veritable media storm. But most of us didn’t care, because to us both fonts are very similar.

Now imagine if the Futura loyalists had been faithful for hundreds of years; had produced poets of Shakespeare’s caliber that had written in Futura; and had institutions and schools where the stylish rendering of Futura script was mastered over the course of a lifetime, only to one day be told that not only could they no longer write in Futura, but they had to write in Braggadocio, and if they didn’t like that then they could write in Chinese. Would it be justified for the Futura people to be angry then?

Well, when it comes to the digital world, this exact scenario is playing out for Urdu, a South Asian language spoken by anywhere between 100 — 125 million people in Pakistan and India, and one of Pakistan’s two official languages. Urdu is traditionally written in a Perso-Arabic script called nastaliq, a flowy and ornate and hanging script. But when rendered on the web and on smartphones and the entire gamut of digital devices at our disposal, Urdu is getting depicted in naskh, an angular and rather stodgy script that comes from Arabic. And those that don’t like it can go write in Western letters. More:

I got hired at a Bangladesh sweatshop. Meet my 9-year-old boss

Raveena Aulakh from Dhaka in The Toronto Star. Do click on the link and watch the video:

Some days are good for Meem, others she likes to forget as quickly as possible.

The first time I saw Meem, which was also my first day at work at a sweatshop, she was having a good day despite the wretched heat. She sat cross-legged on the concrete floor, a tiny, frail figure among piles of collars, cuffs and other parts of unstitched shirts.

She had a pair of cutters in her hands, much like eyebrow tweezers, and she was trimming threads from a navy collar. She cleared one collar after another of threads until the big pile, which had been bigger than her, was no more. It took her all morning and she didn’t look up much, did not join any conversation. When it was done, she took a few gulps of water from a scrunched bottle, walked around for a bit, her little hands rubbing her back, and went back to trimming threads — this time, from navy cuffs.

She did that from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., except for an hourlong lunch break. More:

Where the women rule

In one of the most quickly developing countries in the world, women still fight for equality. But on trains in India, there’s one place women can feel safe. Kanan Gole at The Smart Set:

A man in tattered clothing jumped into the car as the train lurched forward violently, sending him unintentionally crashing into a group of five women near the door. They radiated femininity in their colorful Indian outfits and ornate jewelry, but their soft faces contorted with fury as they unleashed unexpected hell onto this imposter. Suddenly the women were screaming and beating this man. As quickly as he had leapt onto the train, he was thrown off. The concrete platform seemed to do him no harm; he bounded up immediately and pursued the train, cursing the women who cursed right back at him.

From my seat, I watched the spectacle with wide eyes.

“It happens every day, on every train. Sometimes it’s a lot worse,” a lady wearing an elegant salwar-kameez, a traditional Indian outfit, sitting next to me said in a dialect of Gujarati, since my expression revealed that I hadn’t seen this before. More:

Malala Yousafzai in the NYT and on The Daily Show

[via 3quarksdaily]

Mumbai’s Parsi cafe culture

Rosie Birkett in The Guardian:

I eat the best creme caramel of my life in 26C heat, with life-sized cutouts of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smiling down at me from the dining room’s slightly slanting balcony. A pigeon snoozes on the lone chandelier, dusty beneath peeling turquoise paintwork, and ceiling fans whirr above crowded, chattering tables. I’m sitting in Britannia and Co Restaurant (Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road), one of the last remaining Parsi cafes in south Mumbai (or south Bombay as the locals so protectively still call it), and I’m full of food.

Opened in the 19th-century by Parsi settlers – Zoroastrians from Iran – these cafes, with their magnificently faded, time-capsule dining rooms and speciality dishes, are a gloriously eccentric part of the fabric of Mumbai. They are also democratic and inclusive places, where people of all backgrounds, classes and sexes meet, so you may find a Sikh next to a Hindu or Zoroastrian or a group of young female students dining alone.

They are also a dying breed. In 1950 there were about 550 of them, many of which grew from humble tea stalls; now only 15 to 20 are still open. More:

Video: Ramachandra Guha Talks to Vinod Mehta

Gandhi Before India is a play on words of his earlier book, India After Gandhi. In this book, historian and writer Ramachandra Guha talks about the formative years Mohandas Gandhi spent in South Africa, the people who influenced him and how his later philosophy was formed there. It’s about little-known people who were his mentors, friends and followers in Joha­n­n­esburg, who are never given eno­ugh space in the Gandhi story. Vinod Mehta,  editorial chairman Outlook group, spoke to Guha.

Nero’s Guests by P. Sainath

Nero´s Guests is a story about India’s agrarian crisis and the growing inequality seen through the work of the Rural Affairs Editor of Hindu newspaper, P Sainath:

India’s Mars mission

India-Mars

How do you ship a spacecraft in India? By Tata truck, of course. [Click on the image for Emily Lakdawalla's post and more photos]

The 400-million kilometres, 299-day, Rs 450-crore (about USD 74 million) voyage to Mars, set to launch on October 28.

Ahead of the rollout of the spacecraft—the 1,343-kg main bus carrying the 15-kg Mars Orbiter—prayers were conducted for success and blessings were sought for the spacecraft.” Johnson T A on the mission in The Indian Express

More photos here

A lexical sampler — The shape of words to come

Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph:

Indian speakers of English, though, have no dictionary of Indian usage to fall back on. But we are lucky in that the internet is, metaphorically, one vast searchable dictionary and we can (individually if need be), upload into this ether, words and neologisms and their contemporary meanings. Why? So that posterity doesn’t have to puzzle out usage that will, in time, change or become obsolete.

What follows is a lexical sampler, a handful of words that are looking for traction, for purchase, in desi usage and sometimes finding it.

modi~fy: to shift the blame for violence on to its victims. Thus, ‘Amit began to modify the history of the Gujarat pogrom in 2002.’ This transference can be helped along by the use of the dangling modi~fier and its uncanny knack of recasting victims as passive-aggressors: ‘Eyes bloodshot, hoarse with vengeful shouting, the ghetto was burnt to the ground by the mob.’ Bloodshot, vengeful ghettoes aren’t likely to attract much sympathy even if they are burnt to the ground.

modi~fication: the parent process, the projected transformation of India into Pakistan. modi~fication can also be used as a generic term for majoritarian transition, the conversion of a country into a state owned by its religious majority. Thus, Sri Lanka under the Rajapakse government becomes a nation where modification is complete.

modi~cum: an infinitesimally small, therefore negligible, quantity of anything good. Thus ‘a modicum of tolerance’; ‘a modicum of kindness’; ‘a modicum of humanity’ etc. More:

How two madmen brought the world to the brink of a third great war

surrender

An extract from ‘The Blood Telegram: India’s Secret War in East Pakistan’ by Gary J Bass (Random House India), in Open magazine:

Back on November 23, Kissinger had enticingly suggested to a Chinese delegation in New York that India’s northern border might be vulnerable. Now, on December 6, Nixon told Kissinger that he “strongly” wanted to tell China that some troop movements toward India’s border could be very important. “[D]amnit, I am convinced that if the Chinese start moving the Indians will be petrified,” the president said. “They will be petrified.” He shrugged off the obvious problem of winter snows in the Himalayas, admiringly recalling China’s bravery in the Korean War: “The Chinese, you know, when they came across the Yalu, we thought they were a bunch of goddamn fools in the heart of the winter, but they did it.”

Kissinger had personally and repeatedly promised Indian leaders at the highest levels— including Haksar and Gandhi herself— that the United States would stand with India against threats of Chinese aggression. Now the Nixon administration was secretly doing the opposite.

Kissinger was heartened at US intelligence reports of truckloads of military supplies flowing from China into West Pakistan. But the CIA insisted that China was “keeping its head down,” neither prepared for nor capable of a full-scale war against India. In harsh mountainous terrain, it would be tremendously hard to move forces fast enough to matter. The CIA argued that it would take at least two months for China to get ready for a moderate amount of combat with India. Still, the CIA noted, with India’s “traumatic” memory of the last war with China, Chinese saber rattling and harassing attacks could cause real trouble for India, even without a war. India would have to divert large numbers of troops to guard its northern flank. As Kissinger wrote to Nixon, the CIA did think that China could launch smaller but still substantial military efforts, from “overt troop movements” to a “limited diversionary attack.” More:

Ramachandra Guha on ‘Gandhi before India’

Ramachandra Guha has just published “Gandhi Before India“, a new work chronicling the life of Mohandas Gandhi before he became the Mahatma. Interview in WSJ:

WSJ: What do you think Mahatma Gandhi would have made of Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s main opposition party?

Mr. Guha: I don’t want to say what Gandhi would have made of Modi, after all he died 65 years ago. But clearly Modi departs from the Gandhian mode of politics in many ways.

The obvious departure is that under Modi’s regime thousands of Muslims were butchered and hundreds of thousands still languish in conditions of poverty and insecurity.

Gandhi died for the cause of Muslim-Hindu harmony. You could argue that his attempts to keep India united failed, but he recognized this. He spent his last years fasting and taking on the might of Hindu fundamentalism and it was a Hindu fundamentalist from the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization] who killed him.

Modi is true to the RSS view of Hindu supremacy and in that sense he’s clearly not a Gandhian. But the question is that of personality. Gandhi was an open-minded questing person, always curious about other people’s views, always conscious of his own fallibilities.

Whereas Modi is a megalomaniac; It’s all ‘me, I, myself.’ This is a man who in terms of his authoritarian personality is as far removed from Gandhi as any Indian could be and any Gujarati could be, since he’s also Gujarati.

Of course I don’t want to single out Modi. There are other politicians who dissemble, who lie, who are secretive, Indian politicians who are hypocritical including the Congress party, which violates Gandhi’s teachings on an almost daily basis. More:

 

A guesthouse that channels the spirit of Gandhi

 After extensive restoration, the original 1907 thatched roof rondavel (hut) has been turned into a museum dedicated to Gandhi and his philosophy. [Image: The Satyagraha House]

After extensive restoration, the original 1907 thatched roof rondavel (hut) has been turned into a museum dedicated to Gandhi and his philosophy. [Image: The Satyagraha House]

In Gardenista [forwarded by my friend Pradeep Sachdeva]:

A hundred years ago, Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi lived for a year in a house called The Kraal, built by German architect Hermann Kallenbach. French company Voyageurs du Monde overhauled the property a couple of years ago, creating a guesthouse/museum called Satyagraha House. Johannesburg architect Rocco Bosman oversaw the renovations and the construction of the new guesthouses, while Christine Puech and Amit Zadok of Voyageurs du Monde designed the interiors. With yoga masters on call, a vegetarian menu, and no WiFi or alcohol, an ascetic Ghandi-like experience is guaranteed.

See more images here

Go to The Satyagraha House

Raghuram Rajan takes charge at the RBI

Mark Bergen in The Caravan:

India-RBI-GovernorBy the time I met Rajan at the RBI’s offices in Mumbai on 13 September, he was an unlikely celebrity. His modest disavowal of the “magic wand” had been forgotten by the media, and Rajan had become “The Guv”. The overheated market for speculation about Rajan’s superhuman powers peaked earlier that morning, when the Economic Times published a column by Shobhaa De crowning the handsome RBI governor India’s newest sex symbol. (“The guy’s put ‘sex’ back into the limp Sensex,” De wrote. “His chiseled features are as sharp as his brain.”)

We met in the RBI visitor lounge, an angular room on the 18th floor of the bank’s headquarters, whose windows offered a sweeping view of south Mumbai; Rajan’s own office, across the hall, peers over the rest of the city and the sea. Rajan—Raghu to anyone who shakes his hand—sat in front of a wall of small portraits of the governors before him. The painting of his predecessor, Subbarao, had yet to be completed.

When Rajan took over nine days earlier, he immediately introduced measures that many credited with undoing the damage wrought during Subbarao’s last months on the job. The “Rajan rally” made good copy, but he was characteristically cautious in describing his shift in direction: when I asked if the policies introduced in July and August had been reversed, he replied they had merely been “fine-tuned”.  More:

And in The Economist:

You can tell Raghuram Rajan has become important in India because government bigshots ring him up to ask where the rupee is trading. You can tell Mr Rajan is worried that India is in a tight spot because he answers to a decimal place without checking his BlackBerry or computer.

On September 4th he became the 23rd governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), perhaps the country’s best institution. The outgoing governor has challenged him to redefine how emerging-market central banks work. On his first day Mr Rajan duly struck a modernising note, promising to liberalise India’s financial system—and adding he did not expect to win many Facebook “likes”. But his immediate task is dealing with India’s worst economic mess since the crisis of 1991. Growth fell to 4.4% in the quarter to June and the current-account deficit is too high. The rout in emerging markets has hit the rupee hard. It has shed 18% against the dollar this year. India’s banking system is reeling. More:

The meaning of “Desi”

Ben Zimmer in WSJ:

 When Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America earlier this month, most of the news centered on the fact that she is the first winner of South Asian heritage. Or, for those savvy in ethnic-identity matters, she’s the first “desi” Miss America.

“Desi” as a noun or adjective has become the typical way for people of South Asian ancestry to identify members of their diaspora. With South Asian-Americans like Ms. Davuluri achieving more prominence in popular culture, “desi” will no doubt become a more widely known buzzword as well.

The word comes from Hindi, with roots in ancient Sanskrit. It originally referred to someone or something native to a certain country, or “desh.” Like the English word “country,” “desi” can also suggest a rustic or unsophisticated background. More:

Video: Jhumpa Lahiri at work

In The New Yorker:

Jhumpa Lahiri, who has been publishing stories in The New Yorker since 1998, has a new novel out this week, “The Lowland,” which tells the story of two Calcutta-born brothers during an attempted Maoist revolt, in the late nineteen-sixties. One of them eventually emigrates to the U.S., and part of the book is about his painful reckoning with the past as he tries to establish a new life.

During a visit to Lahiri’s house in Brooklyn (she currently lives full-time in Rome), we asked how she went about writing the book.

See video here

Mumbai moment

Jil Wheeler in The Morning News::

Mumbai, meri jaan—my life, my love. It’s a city that was once described to me as New York, Los Angeles, and Lagos all wrapped into one. It’s a city I left, a city I returned to, and now it’s a city that I am really just this close to writing off.

 I’ve spent nine months now defending my adopted hometown as safe for women, half a sub-continent away in distance and culture from the headline-worthy rapes in New Delhi and northern India. I’ve justified my safety to my friends, to my family, to my husband, and—most importantly—to myself. And last month this came crashing down with the gang-rape of a female photojournalist as she was poking around an abandoned mill with a male colleague, before sunset and in the center of town.

 I don’t feel as much scared or angry as I feel betrayed by a city I praised and defended more than its own natives did.

My first “Mumbai moment”—what I’ve termed a feeling of joy and peace at being here and not there—came some evening in early 2009 when I was walking with friends along Marine Drive. The pedestrian walkway runs for two miles along the sea; walking north, there are six lanes of traffic and shabby Art Deco low-rises to your right, crashing waves to your left. We had just left an Asia Society talk on the fate of the euro or trends in microhousing or maybe developments in contemporary Chinese punk music. The feeling all over Mumbai was of great optimism. The economy was booming and the world’s eyes were on the city—whether for an Oscar-winning movie about the reality TV triumph of a slumdog or the well-publicized construction of a $3 billion single-family home. More: