This is not chick lit: five Indian women authors who are better than the white male ones you're reading now

27 March 2015


I'm not actually into reading challenges. I think they're a good idea in theory, but I read so much anyway, and across the board, and my TBR pile is growing so high, that I don't want to add any more confusion to the list. The only thing I do ask myself is to read more non-fiction, because that stuff is hard to swallow in one swoop (and I mean investigate/researched non-fic, not memoirs). But I realised I was reading fewer Indian authors, and I made it a point to start this year with more of those. If you're looking for a starter kit, though, here are some of my SUPER FAB ALL TIME eM APPROVED FAVOURITES. This list is abbreviated though obviously there are a lot more than five (my books are really good, here buy them if you want.) so leave a comment or tweet me or something with more and we'll get a hard core list up together. Crowd sourcing FTW!



The Village By The Sea by Anita Desai

I read and devoured this book as a child, and as an adult I re-read it and saw so many themes that I had missed my first time round. It’s the story of a poor family: mother ill, father drunk, and two children, Hari and Lila who try to change their family fortunes. Set in a little village close to Alibaug, this gorgeous book is a melancholy summer read, and also a really good gift for a young adult in your life.  

Village by the Sea




A Life Less Ordinary by Baby Halder

An Indian version of The Help, written by the actual help herself. Baby Halder’s autobiography speaks of her rough childhood and her adult years as a domestic worker. She worked for Premchand’s grandson, who noted her interest when she was dusting his bookshelves and encouraged her to read and write down her own life story. This book is a must read as it sheds so much light on to the lives of people who remain mostly voiceless.  

A Life Less Ordinary



Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

Okay, so Divakaruni’s work is a little bit of exotic porn. Regardless, Palace of Illusions is a fine piece of work. It retells the Mahabharata from the point of view of Draupadi, a woman I have always been fascinated with, and does not disappoint. I didn’t want it to end, and you won’t be able to put it down once you begin.  

The Palace of Illusions




Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur

Kapur’s books are generally slow burners (which doesn't mean I don't love them), lots of family, lots of narrative, but this one, her first, is a gorgeous tale of a girl living next door to a married professor who she eventually falls in love with. It’s set in India in the 1940s, and speaks of family ties and how much you’d give up to be independent. 

Difficult Daughters



The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sunderesan

Another historical fiction author for this list, Sunderesan writes about the life of the Mughals. This particular book is about Mehrunissa, the girl who caught Jehangir’s eye and went on to marry him much later, and ruled the kingdom in his stead. It’s sort of brilliant, and you’ll never look at Indian history—or in this case, herstory—the same way again. My friend Charu Shankar is starring in the TV version of this called Siyasat, which I hear is terrific too.  

The Twentieth Wife




(A version of this story was originally published on POPxo.com)



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What I'm Reading: Link List #5

25 March 2015

Hello gentle readers. I'm back after a long vacay, and besides having to give up smoking again from scratch (smoked like a fiend on holiday, like a convict going to the gallows or something), I'm not sinking into that deep depression also known as the post-vacay blues. Trees are in full bloom, summer is very nearly here and my cats are still douchebags, but lovable ones.

Reading! I didn't get many links done on holiday, so here is a slightly more abbreviated list than usual:

This story in Indian Express about a missing girl and a cop whose mission it is to find her is awesome, and I saw it (deservedly) linked in a zillion places, but just ICYMI, here it is again: Girl No. 166

The case eventually moved to a special team, but everyone in the police station knew he was the man who continues to look for Pooja. “We are afraid he will have his breakfast and walk into the police station some day, just to check on her case. He has forgotten himself in these two years,” says constable Manoj Desai, 38.
In a green diary — he calls it his personal “missing detection granth” — he has neatly noted down all the cases in blue and black ink. Once a person is found, that entry is struck off in red. There is probably no smear of red on the page which has Pooja’s case history. “I cannot show you that page. I am superstitious. I haven’t shown it to anyone,” he says.

Reddit is always good for a time-sink, and this thread on the "glitch in the Matrix" is worth several hours of your workday. Read at your own risk! 

My dad had this little toy monkey that he used to call his "favorite child" and tease me and my siblings with it. Not in a bad way, but it was really frustrating to us and we spent hours trying to steal it from him.
Well anyways, one day we finally got it and threw it into the garbage after drawing on it and mangling it for a bit. We My dad laughed and searched for it a bit but basically figured we had thrown it out and gave up after a week or so.
Anyways, a few years later (when I was about 17), I'm walking down the street in Toronto (I don't live in TO, was just visiting friends) and see this little orange object on the side of the road. When I walk over to it, I pick it up and see that it was the EXACT SAME FUCKING MONKEY. It even had the black sharpie lines on it from when we drew all over it. I honestly cannot even come up with the chances of that happening, especially considering our garbage is sent to a local dump and is nowhere near Toronto.
EDIT: I actually took it with me and killed it with fire just so I knew it wouldn't come back again.
Salman Khan, Mumbai's favourite murderer, has a restaurant dedicated to him now. Missing memorabilia: one sidewalk with dead people on it.

A lot of thought has gone into the planning of the restaurant, nevertheless (check out the pictures below), including a special comic book food menu that has a breakfast section named 'Anda Apna Apna' and a beverages section called 'Ek Garam Chai Ki Pyaali Ho'. They have three delivery bikes, all of whose numbers end with '2712' — alluding to the superstar's birth date. "We paid double the money to get those particular registration numbers," says Kanal. "But it was worth it." Also in the works — a life-size Salman figurine that will greet visitors at the entrance.

Doordarshan has a really cool books show called Kitabnaama. I've been on it a few times, and here I am in conversation with Ananya Banerjee, author of Kitty Party Sanyasins. Totally want to be on TV now. Who wants to give me a books show?



And finally, since Goa is very much on my mind (WE'RE DOING IT WE'RE DOING IT), here's an amazing story in Rural India Online (which is an amazing resource) on the Bhadel, female porters of Goa:


The introduction of the Konkan railway in the late 1990s brought in migrant workers from neighboring states, affecting the women’s earnings – cheap labour, sturdy young men were tough to compete with, leaving the women without work, resting their feet. But local merchants swear by the trustworthiness of the Bhadels. They leave their shops open in their care and do not hesitate to send them to the bank to deposit large amounts of money.
 The Bhadels earn anything between 50 to 200 rupees a day. As things stand in 2015, carrying a medium sized shopping bag will fetch three rupees, hauling a steel cupboard will bring in 50 rupees to be divided by the number of women involved and carrying 50 kg goods will earn them 20 rupees. 

And that's my week's wrap up! As always, if you're reading anything fun, top me up in the comments. 
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These Are The Best Facebook Groups For Indian Foodies

24 March 2015

Foodies and Facebook seem made for each other in this digital age, as much as bread and butter and coffee and two sugars. I’m a grazer—I like to lurk on food groups seeing what’s hot and what’s not (actually, the “what’s not” reviews are always more fun to read), but there are loads of people who take the art of food writing—and by extension, food commenting and food sharing—super seriously on their various Facebook communities.

Do you love to eat? Do you love to talk about what you eat? Do you love to ask food related questions? Most importantly: do you love to lurk and enjoy a little schadenfreude? HAVE I GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!


SNARF.


Name: EatTreat
Vital Stats:
--> 21, 483 45,381 membersStatus: Open group
Good for: A bit of a smorgasbord. Recipes. Asking for recommendations (eg: “What should I eat in Bangkok?”) And also for making a complaint about a restaurant—the restaurant owners monitor it, so it’s a good place to get something redressed. Plus, a good group to just lurk for reviews of new places.
MAN I COULD EAT BRIE ALL DAY TOO, ALICE


Name: Sikandalous Cuisine
Vital Stats: 17,460 23, 105 members
Status: Open Closed group
Good for: A dedicated recipe focused food group, where members post pictures of what they’ve cooked along with how they cooked it. Plus super convenient because all the recipes are searchable. And you can ask the author of the recipe for clarifications if you’re trying to make something they did. Pretty cool.

Basically Bruno at every meal

Name: Good Vegetarian Food of Calcutta 
Vital Stats: 10,822 members 
Status: Open group 
Good for: Super specific about Kolkata’s vegetarian food and sweets. If you’re a resident of that city, or simply a Bongophile, this is a great place to lurk. Especially for excellent vegetarian Bengali recipes—not something catered to a lot on the world wide web.  THIS GROUP NO LONGER EXISTS, SO IN EXCHANGE, HERE ARE MY FOUR FAVOURITE FOOD GROUPS (right now. I'm a woman of evolving tastes) WITH WHERE TO GET THEM IN DELHI

1) Burgers: Monkey Bar, Ploof, Hungry Monkey
2) Pizza: NYC.Pie, Diva (all Italian), although NYC.Pie SUCKS because they used to deliver to Nizamuddin and we were super happy and they just randomly stopped, and now we'll never be able to eat there again. Boo. I hate these geographic-ist places, so just Diva then.
3) Indian: Indian Accent, Nasir Iqbal, Beliram Degchiwala, Ghalib's, Toddy Shop, Carnatic Cafe.
4) Asian: Fuji, Guppy by Ai.



Have you tried Fuji in Connaught Place? This is my face there. IT'S AMAZE.


 Name: Gourmet Planet
Vital Stats: 15,794,  19,772 members
Status: Closed group: send a membership request
Good for: Events. If you join, you’ll be notified of all of Gourmet Planet’s dinners—usually meals at amazing new restaurants at a discount. Much like Eat Treat, there are reviews and feedback of new restaurants, but slightly kinder.

No one is judging you


Name: Indian Restaurant Spy
Vital Stats: 853  2638 members
Status: Closed group: send a membership request
Good for: The group to be when you want the down and dirty on a new restaurant. Full of “insider knowledge”, you should also read the blog by group founder Sourish Bhattacharyya.

Chee so much jhoota


Name: Indian Food Freak 
Vital Stats: 13,918  22778 members
Status: Closed group: send a membership request
Good for: Reviews again. A companion Facebook group to the website, this group aims to collect recipes and share “candid and trustworthy” information. Plus they have a volunteer group called IFF Cares, which works to create opportunities for chefs specializing in regional Indian cuisine.

This is me as a little girl with my mum


Name: My Continental Kitchen 
Vital Stats: 3,419 12834 members
Status: Open group
Good for: I actually just stumbled upon this group recently, but they’re doing good work. From the about section: “Hands on basic and advanced Continental food, prepared with ingredients available in Indian Metros.” I know a lack of ingredients is a huge problem when you’re trying to whip up something fancy, and this group helps.

Oh, ALSO, if this is a problem when you're baking, I love, love, love Pooja Dhingra's The Big Book Of Treats and have baked my way through it. Seriously worth it.


                                                 

Literally never been so neat eating bhutta
(a version of this post appeared on popxo.com)
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Balcony cats

23 March 2015

Sniffing the flowers back when we first got her
Back in Delhi for a bit now after a few months of being in and out and there is so much spring cleaning to be done! I sneeze every morning, which sucks, but we haven't been opening any windows or the balcony door because our three cats, unlike TC The Great And Glorious, are not super trustworthy when it comes to the outdoors. Or so we thought.

This morning, Olga da Polga got out in the five seconds the Good Thing had stepped into the balcony for, and as is her practice, clambered into the huge neem tree adjoining it. We called and cajoled (bribed her with bangles, see below) but she'd keep making eye contact and dashing off. Finally, after she did a good explore of the tree, she coolly jumped off the branch and back on the balcony ledge, walking past us as if to say, "Guys, chill, I can totally handle this." In this time, Bruno got out too and was sunning himself by the wall  and Pablo Squishy stepped out, his eyes full of wonder, and it was so nice to have sun, and they were so happy, Olga was rolling around in the dust, her eyes closed, her tail spelling out paroxyms of pleasure. We also thought of our friends' Goa cats, in and out of the house, happy healthy cats, and while living in the city means we can't let them out (dogs, cars, unfriendly people), we could at least let them get some fresh air.

So, cautiously, we left a balcony door open, and Olga The Explora only went out to sniff about, before retreating to her cool spot on the living room floor. Pablo Squishy is hiding out under a chair outside, having ousted Bruno from that spot, and Bruno has found himself a place to nap and to dream.

Indoor cats are often bored and look for trouble (scratch marks on my legs from Pablo Squishy trying to amuse himself by jumping on me) or eat a lot. If I give them enough credit for being smart animals who still have their hunting instinct, I have three happy occupied cats. And apart from Olga, the other two are too cautious to take any flying leaps.

Meanwhile, our windows are wide open and my sniffles are subsiding.

UPDATE: Maybe I spoke too soon. Leaving the windows open led to Olga leaping down onto a ledge, and performing acrobatics from there, giving me heart attacks. We tempted her back, and she scornfully walked in, only to leap out again, taking Copycat Bruno with her. Urgh. They're now ignoring me completely and gazing at the trees. Douchebags.

As far as indoor/outdoor cat spaces go, it could be worse. We're on the second floor, completely surrounded by tall strong trees, and the neighbouring plot is a temple, so the cats aren't going to get stuck in someone's house or something. 

I still wish they'd come in though. So hard to let go!








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You're either on my side or in my way

22 March 2015

Indian men had a rough week recently. Of course, as a card-carrying feminist, it is also my duty to add here that Indian women have been having rough weeks since weeks began, more or less, but since that is par for the course, and we so seldom talk about the downtrodden Indian men (insert sarcasm font) this has been a week we outrage for the Indian man.

Jokes apart, two fairly serious things occurred to make us rethink our rape narratives. One, in Dimapur, Nagaland, an angry mob stormed a prison and pulled out a prisoner, suspected of raping a local woman. Images of the violence inflicted upon this man were then liberally shared all over the internet: in one, you can see him hung up, as if crucified, his head hanging low, his body already limp. News reports have taken to calling him the ‘rapist’ in inverted commas, tsk-ing over how violent we are.

The crucifixion image is especially powerful, because it rewrites his crimes, makes him a man who dies for us instead of by us. It makes him an innocent man, and the media took this one step further by interviewing his mother and telling us all how “devastated” she was. To top it all of, the victim/perpetuater was also suspected to be an illegal refugee from Bangladesh, which apparently made the crowd even more angry. A chance to point fingers and call stranger danger is always welcome.

Of course, hanging up a man and killing him is no better than what the man’s actual crime was, and no one is denying that. Violence should never be met by violence, says the Indian government sagely, before ordering up a whole round of death penalties for various people. Of course, also people who ordered a ban on The Documentary, the British Here-Is-The-Rape-Problem-In-India docu-mentary, are nodding their heads. “This is what happens when we don’t ban things,” they think, conveniently forgetting that the ban led to more rage and more covert watching of the film than letting it air would. In many ways, a country is like a teenage daughter en masse. The more you tell it not to do something, the more it wants to.

But back to rape narratives. One of the reasons the people in charge didn’t want to air the documentary was because they thought it would tarnish the image of glorious India or some such rubbish. And you know what? They were kind of proven right when a German professor refused an internship to an Indian man because of “India's rape problem.”

That is an excuse I have never heard of to turn someone down for a job, and it is right up there on the creativity scale, perhaps even better than that old standby to turn down a perfectly qualified woman: “But what if you meet someone, get married and have babies and, therefore, become a potentially bad employee?” Yes, it’s not a great reason to turn someone down for a job, and the professor has since apologised, but I couldn’t help have a little shot of glee pass through me when I heard it. People are being turned down for jobs because of India’s rape problems, which means the rape problem is bigger than the woman who will just not shut up talking about it at parties ruining the taste of your whisky-soda with her outrage.

This means that it’s a problem that potentially men will also have to deal with. Like the people who ignore the garbage mounting up in the alley next to their house until they have fancy guests coming over and then they think, “Oh dear, I should clean up that alley.” Maybe this will be the wake-up call India’s men need to clean up their alley, so to speak.

Because men, we want to be on your side and fight for you. Because, cities, we need you to keep your anger in check so that we can argue for proper justice for your victims. Because we need to clean up our messes, but it’s best if we can all see the mess instead of sweeping it under the carpet.


(A version of this appeared in mydigitalfc last week.)
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Life's a beach

17 March 2015

We're in Goa, the Good Thing and I, and as always wondering why we don't just move here. The same arguments hold: neither of us has an office, Goa is beautiful and cheap, and we have good friends who have already forged the way.
So why not, we ask ourselves. Can we afford to hang on to our Delhi flat for emergencies? Will our cats adjust to travel and the move? Why not why not why not.
It's in the air. Just putting it out there as our goal for the year. Four to six months in Goa starting October? Why not?
Have any of you given up big city life for a chance at the slow? Have you moved with pets? Tell me all about it. Give me some motivation!
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Life In Instagram Part Three

13 March 2015

Previously in this series: Life In Instagram, and Life In Instagram Part Two

Death, doom and disaster everywhere I look today, so I'm taking deep breaths and reliving the past with some pretty pictures. Here's what I've been up to! (TRAVEL. BOOKS. CATS.)


I've been travelling like someone who travels for work, and it has been amazing. We don't have that much spare cash, but what we do, we spend on travelling, with not so much back in Delhi. Who needs a new dress when you can have NEW VIEWS, right, RIGHT? (In fact, I'm off to Goa tomorrow, and I haven't visited in over a year, so I'm such an enthu cutlet, my bag is already packed and zipped and ready to go.)


First, we went to Gulmarg again, which was a complete winter wonderland this time. The last time I skiied, there was barely any snow, so I had to work with one little teeny tiny patch. This time there was so much snow that my feet sunk into the ground. Amazing.  I took along wellies that my last ex's mum gave me, which barely get any use here in Delhi and they were perfect winter shoes. 
We stayed at the Nedou's like last time, which was cozy and warm, even if the food was a bit same-ish. I recommend it highly though, the service is fantastic, the hotel is warm with hot running water, and it's super pretty.

I made my first snowman! The Good Thing and I burbled "Do you want to build a snowmaaaan?" at each other and wound up with this weird snow troll (?) creature. I was quite proud of it, and so I licked his ear, just so a bit of my DNA would stay on him even if he melted or whatever. 


The only thing I didn't like about Gulmarg and Kashmir was how much everyone tried to scam you of your money. I get that it's a rich people's destination, but we were on a fixed budget, and I grew super tired of arguing with people who charged you double, quadruple normal rates just because they could. I finally blew a fuse at the airport on the way home when the taxi driver demanded more money because he took a detour (on his suggestion, because of a jam, with no mention of this extra money then.) I told him people had been trying to cheat me since I landed, and all anyone cared about was money, money, MONEY, and I might have got a bit emotional, but he grumbled and drove off anyway. Oh well. It felt good to rant.


Meet Pablo Squishton Escofur/Purruda/Picatto. This is yes, yes, a foster kitten, who I grew so attached to, I begged the Good Thing to let him be a Valentine's Day present, a decision I regret every morning, which is when Squishy (Pablo when he's older) is at his WORST, scratching everything, dancing around like a monkey and generally being the opposite of me, a slow starting morning person at the best of times. I love him when he's curled up asleep or just about getting to drowsiness, his throat throbbing with purrs, but OMG HE WOKE ME UP AT 8 BLOODY AM AND I KNOW HE'LL OUTGROW THIS BUT I AM FULL OF BLOOD AND SCARS. Little rascal. 



I have been reading SO MUCH, thanks to a book fair haul, and Aleph/Rupa sending me review books (more on those later, still reading!) This is one of my favourites and I wish I had read it when I was reviewing food for a living a few years ago. This is REAL food writing, not just "we went there and we ate this" and I wish all the Indian food review places would take a few tips. If you're at all interested in food or writing about it, read this immediately. 



Achievement unlocked! I was asked to speak at a panel discussion at LSR! I felt very old especially because of the fresh faced young things gazing up at me, but I did manage to keep it together enough to take this photo in front of the cafe, now always a "cafe" because there's a sign up to let people know "it's NOT a CANTEEN."

I also went off to Pushkar, but looking through my photos I have SO MUCH to say that I'm going to save it for another post. That's my life. How's yours?


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Game Of Thrones? Bitch please. (Some bad-ass Indian queens to up the history vs fantasy ante)

12 March 2015

Obviously, my favourite character in Game of Thrones is Daenerys Targaryen (followed in very close succession by Arya Stark.) It got me thinking about India’s queens, and whether there were real life equivalents to the Mother of Dragons. Everyone knows the Rani of Jhansi, but there are some other pretty cool queens whose names aren’t said nearly often enough. Minus fire breathing reptiles, plus the awesomeness. (A version of this was published on POPxo.com)

Casually caressing a phallic symbol
  Ahilyabai Holkar (13 May 1725 to 13 August 1795): Ahilyabai ruled the Malwa kingdom after the death of her husband and father in law. After she ascended to the throne, she didn’t keep purdah anymore, instead appearing in public every day to listen to any problems her subjects might have.

What makes her badass: Being an awesome ruler. She was all for the rights of widows—letting them both inherit their husbands property, and adopt sons. She also built up her city of Maheshwar into a cultural hub, sponsoring poets and seeing to an active textile industry. The Brits sung her praises in written history, and there’s even a poem that goes:

"For thirty years her reign of peace,
The land in blessing did increase;
And she was blessed by every tongue,
By stern and gentle, old and young.
Yea, even the children at their mothers feet
Are taught such homely rhyming to repeat
"In latter days from Brahma came,
To rule our land, a noble Dame,
Kind was her heart, and bright her fame,
And Ahlya was her honoured name."


Strapless bra keeps falling off? FIXED IT.
Rudrama Devi (1259 to 1289 AD): One of the few queens to rule as a result of direct accession to the throne, Rudrama was called Rudradeva after a formal ceremony designating her as a son. She took over the throne at 14, after her father died.

What makes her badass: She loved a particular form of dance, Perini, part of the Tandava school, so much, that she had all her soldiers learn it as part of their battle training. While some of her noblemen and cousins resented her rising to the throne as a woman, she wore male clothing and sat on the throne anyway. She also won several wars, chasing a Yadav king back into his own kingdom and forcing him to make peace.


Hey. HEY. Does this statue make me look fat?
Kittur  Chennamma (October 23, 1778 to February 21 1829): Much like the more famous Rani of Jhansi, Chennamma was trained in horse riding and sword fighting, and led a rebellion against the British in her district in Karnataka
 What makes her badass: After her son died, Chennamma tried to adopt another, but the British rulers weren’t having it, ordering his expulsion and trying to seize her assets. She led an armed rebellion against them, which she won, when she asked for the war to stop. However, they captured her later and tossed her into prison, but that aside, she continues to be a symbol of the Independence movement.



It is my ambition to one day star in an ACK comiv


Razia al-din (1205 to 1240): Possibly the first person in history to use a version of that old line, “Don’t call me babe.” Razia refused to answer to Sultana, but insisted that everyone call her Sultan. Again, she ascended the throne after her father died, but Muslim nobility overthrew her and put her brother on the throne instead. 

What makes her badass: So, the brother got himself assassinated, and there was Razia on the throne herself after all. She dressed like a man, and was a fantastic politician by all accounts. She was the first female monarch of the Delhi Sultanate, and played the game very well, making rebel forces fight with each other instead of with her. Her downfall was love (let that be a lesson, ladies), and when she appointed her lover to a high position, nobility revolted again, and she was imprisoned, only let go when she agreed to marry the leader of the rebels.



Am I bothered by burning boats? I DON'T THINK SO
  Abbaka Chowta (16th century): The closest thing this list has to a dragon, Abbaka is known in legend to be the last person to use a fire arrow. She was also perhaps the first sort of freedom fighter in India, leading a war against the Portugese when they invaded her her capital in Karnataka. 
What makes her badass: First of all, the name she went by among her subjects was Abhaya Rani, or fearless queen. She dumped her husband and returned to her kingdom after marriage, which made him join the Portugese against her. When they charged, she hid in a mosque, gathered 200 people and attacked in the night, killing the general, and forcing the troops to evacuate the fort they had taken over. Apparently, she also had two daughters, who she trained in the arts of war, and who fought alongside her.


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What I'm Reading: Link List #4

6 March 2015

Happy Holi, you guys! I've skipped a week of this feature and as a result I have a reading list a mile long for your long weekend pleasure. In other good news, I have FINALLY finished the edits of my new book, a collection of short stories called Before And Then After due out this year with Westland. I hope you'll all love it and buy it in vast quanties and shake the assumption that "no one reads short stories." Please? Thank you.

Let's get right into it!

Latest first, I did an op-ed for Economic Times thankyouverymuch on the documentary ban. I finally watched it last night. It was fucking powerful and needs to be watched. An important part of the dialogue but not the whole dialogue. I hope you'll get your hands on it somehow.

Whose modesty are the Delhi Police — along with our venerable members of Parliament — trying to protect by prohibiting the broadcast of the documentary? Ours, or their own? Are they ashamed that this creature from Tihar speaking without shame or guilt in Udwin’s film crawled out from the underbelly of a city they claim to watch over ‘with you, for you, always’? And whose thoughts is Mukesh Singh spewing in the interview? Just his own?


Presenting another side, here's women's right activist Kavita Krishnan (someone I admire) on why it should be banned.

Many are asking, why has the courts and the government restrained the Indian media from airing India's Daughter? Is India "wishing away" bad news, shooting the messenger? Rape culture exists, Mukesh SIngh and his lawyer and their odious views on women exist, so why not let everyone see and hear them?

Well, first, Indian women's movement activists have appealed to the media too, not to air the film yet. Why? A letter by these activists to a media channel states, "Airing the film India’s Daughter at a time when the appeal [in the December 16 rape case] is still pending, is counter to the culture of law and justice and the rule of law, which we defend for all citizens."


Nat Geo Traveller India knocks it out of the park with this super fun guide to where to get awesome cheese in India. Yum.

For a glimpse into Sikkim’s pantry, spend a few hours browsing through Gangtok’s Lal Market. The women selling nettles, spices, and all manner of fermented pastes, are always chatty, and happy to explain how the produce is used in their own kitchen. It’s a great place to stock up on pickles, and cheese. Look out for the leaf-wrapped cultured yak butter, and the churpi(both young and aged). 


There's a monkey called Chunmun who is richer than you.

Chunmun is a monkey who lives in an air-conditioned room at the home in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, of Savista and Brajesh, who have willed all they own to him.

Savista says she saw the monkey's mother fall to her death while delivering him and brought the infant monkey home. The couple did not have children and raised the monkey as their own child. 

Dustin Silgardo writing for Mint really really doesn't like music festivals:

Most campsites now feature deluxe tents, with attached bathrooms and power supply. At some festivals, the soi-disant rustic set-up seems nothing more than a pretentious attempt to have well-off urban people play at being intrepid. The goMAD festival, in Ooty, for example, says it provides a camping experience “in the wilderness”, but the campsite hosts a special “pampering area” where girls can, among other things, get their hair straightened, presumably to create a comfortable bed for their flower crowns.



 Jonathan Franzen continues the impression that he'd be absolutely insufferable at parties.

SL: There’s been heated discussion lately about the uptick of adults who read literature written for young adults. Recently in Slate, the journalist Ruth Graham declared that adults should be embarrassed if what they are reading was written for children, and that it would be a shame if readers substituted “maudlin teen drama” for the complexity of great adult literature. What are your thoughts?
JF: I don’t care what people read.
SL: You have no opinion on the question of whether or not readers might be cheating themselves if they’re reading YA lit?
JF: If it’s a loss, it’s their loss, not mine.

India Real Time did a super fun story on Delhi's very shiny sweater-vests and the history behind them. 

Most of the sweater wearers we spoke to had wives, aunts and sisters who had been busy with knitting needles to create their winter body warmers. This bike, below, loaded with yarn belongs to a man named Jai Prakash who calls himself “the wool wala,” which means the wool guy. He sells shiny wool—on the top row here—door to door for around 80 rupees, or about $1.30, for a skein. His sales of sparkly wool are up 50% from last year.

Here's a blog I came across with a very young voice that sort of (can I say this?) reminded me of me back in the day. It's fun, young and Delhi, if you're missing that sort of thing over here these days.

I am now significantly aware that I am one of innumerable ‘cheapie-types’ that frequent the pretentious little lanes of this debauch Delhi hole. I am of that imposter elite, that which the authentic elite furrow their designer brows at while they sit at some obscure winery, sipping a 1859 Bordeaux (these are just some words. I’m a wine philistine. I prefer a good 2015 Tropicana Grape). 
Oh, Air India, Air India.

In the video, a young female passenger was seen crying and begging the staff to let her board the flight as her mother was ill and in the hospital.
The Air India staff however kept flaunting the rules and refused to let anyone board the flight.
You MUST check out these historic photos on someone called Lakshman Bisht's Facebook. It's a public album so you can see them all. My favourites: 



Hung for the revolt of 1857

The last photo of Gandhi

Sarla Bajaj, the first Indian woman pilot

And finally, here's a post I did for Huffington Post India on how I finally learned to embrace my Crazy Cat Lady-ness.

In my thirties, as in everyone's thirties, I began to get more comfortable with the parts of me that I had always swept under the carpet. It began with a sudden overwhelming love for my body--not a fit body, not a fat body, just a regular human body that I was used to gazing in the mirror at, dissatisfied. This extended into embracing the curly hair I had spent my whole life denying, even getting a new haircut that made it stand out around my face in the very same haircut I wept about when I was twelve. Slowly, I started to confront my personality--I was okay with things, I liked being me, I sunk into my skin like a person kicking off high heels to wear house slippers at the end of a very long night, I could almost feel my soul saying, "Ahhh." And in all this, my distinctly uncool, not fitting with my glamour image, love for animals just decided to come out and party.
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This is how you lose him

4 March 2015

(With due apology to Junot Diaz)

First, take a man you’ve known for a while: any sort of man, and add intimacy worn thin from a few months or years or weeks, whatever it takes for all that is shiny to become dull. The dullness should resemble the gold around the edges of your grandmother’s sari — bright when she was a teenage bride — worn to skinny threads from years of disappointment.

This man should be the kind of man you wanted a few months ago (let’s say six) and now no longer do; this man should be the sort of man who is impossible to get rid of, because each time you try, he gazes at you with forlorn eyes, he sends you message upon message, and it’s sad, almost pathetic, because with every attempt he makes to ingratiate himself with you, it’s like he’s putting a noose of neediness around your throat.

Scenario One:

“Be honest,” say your friends, and so you try honesty.

“I’m sorry, this isn’t working out.”

And he bursts into great, noisy tears, or if he’s a macho man, a relic of a time gone by, he’ll call you a bitch or a cunt. Delhi men love to toss around the “b” word liberally; just smile and think of your pet Labrador, a ten-year-old bitch, with the sweetest disposition of any dog you know.

Honesty is really the best policy because it will drive home your point, and sure, you’ll get name-called for a while, but likely, as soon he leaves you, he’ll call his friends and get very drunk and you’ll never hear from him again except in a drunk dial.

Scenario Two:

Perhaps you’re more of the blushing flower type. You hate conflict, any bad blood makes your stomach tie up in twisty little knots harder to get rid of than the airport zip tie on your suitcase.

Ghost it. Vanish quietly from his life, making yourself scarcer and scarcer until he’s not sure whether you ever really existed. He will message you incessantly, he will call till you wonder how many missed calls your phone can even register. He will appear at your work, at your home.

He might be thick-skinned, like the Greater One Horned Rhinoceros, but sadly, unlike that species, his type isn’t extinct. Far from it. You’ll have to ghost till you wonder whether you had a relationship at all, so far have you run from it. 

It is imperative to make sure all versions of you have also vanished: and this includes your social media. That means compulsive tweeters will have to keep their thoughts to themselves, Instagrammers will have to deal with all that food and no one to see it, and Facebookers will have to do that dreaded status update: “Taking a break from Facebook for a while!”


Scenario Three:

You haven’t had any fun in a while (you poor thing.) Maybe there’s a way to make this enjoyable for you. Take inspiration from two of history’s greatest divas: Scarlett O’Hara and Lindsay Lohan. You’ll teeter totter between the two like you’re wearing seventeen-inch heels on a slippery ramp, with tape stuck over your nipples.

As Scarlett, you bat your eyelashes at everybody and nobody goes free, not even your best friend’s husband. You laugh a lot, and toss your hair, and stomp all over his feelings. Perhaps in the same seventeen-inch heels. “Why didn’t you call me back yesterday?” he might ask, and you say, “Did you call me yesterday? Oh, silly me, I must have forgot.” Perhaps as Scarlett, you’ll even want to keep him around for a bit, another adoring lapdog for your brood.

As Lindsay Lohan, there are no lines for you to cross: unless it’s a line of cocaine. You dance on table tops at fancy bars, every night, there’s a Uber cab calling you for directions and you “simply don’t have any time, darling, maybe we can meet next week.”  He might leave you for a more domestic model, a Maruti to your Mini Cooper, but he might also be so excited by your new wild self that he’ll never leave. And you’ll wonder as you carry your heels in one hand climbing up the stairs: how long can I keep this up?

A caveat: don’t get arrested, don’t drive drunk, and try and not do any drugs. 

(Wrote this originally for POPxo, a while ago.)
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