Thursday, 17 August 2017

Breakfast for Rs 5 and meals for Rs 10 at Indira Canteens in Bengaluru

Subsidised canteens, or soup kitchens, exist across different states in India. They’re slammed as a ‘populist measure’ by critics, but it can’t be denied that they help do the job – feeding the poor.

Popularised by late Tamil Nadu CM, Jayalalithaa, other states that run similar programs are Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh.

Joining the troop is Karnataka with Indira Canteens – one of the state government’s most ambitious projects to serve affordable food, which rolled out with 101 canteens.


Here is what you need to know about the Indira Canteens:


  1. Breakfast is available for ₹5 and lunch and dinner for ₹10 each. The menu is based on Karnataka’s traditional cuisine, and apparently designed by leading chefs of five-star hotels, India Today reported.
  2. A few select canteens will have a more extensive menu, with up to 25 items on offer daily.
  3. There will be a kitchen in each of the 27 assembly constituencies, and one canteen in each of the 198 wards in Bengaluru. A single canteen can feed anywhere from 300 to 500 customers in a day.
  4. Interestingly, the canteens are designed to be built quickly. A single canteen structure can be constructed in just eight days.
  5. While idlis are the mainstay for breakfast, and rice-sambhar for lunch, the canteens also provide a variety of rotating options throughout the week.
  6. Five of the 27 kitchens have been reserved for women self-help groups.
  7. On the off chance that you do not find a canteen within close quarters, you can download the Indira Canteen app on Google Play. It tells you where to find the closest option and what the day’s menu has to offer.
  8. And wait, you can provide feedback too! Rate the canteen and file a complaint on the app, if need be.
(Source: The Better India)

Irom Sharmila defies opposition, gets married in Kodaikanal

Their wedding was devoid of any fanfare, with family members of both the bride and groom not present, says a report on TNM:

With a cream shawl draped around her head, renowned human rights activist Irom Sharmilla walked into the registrar office in Kodaikanal to get married to her British partner Desmond Coutinha on Thursday. Standing beside the bride, was CPI(ML) activist and documentary filmmaker Divya Bharathi, who held a small bouquet of roses.

In a crowded room at the sub-registrar's office in Kodaikanal, a media contingent waited with the couple and Divya. As soon as the three witnesses, all residents from Kodaikanal. turned up, the wedding was formalised.

The couple spent two months to complete legal formalities. The activist from Manipur went ahead with her decision on the location, despite opposition from various groups. They had alleged that her presence in Kodaikanal would lead to social unrest.


The couple obtained their marriage papers under the 'Special Marriage Act 1954' from the registrar office on Thursday morning. Their wedding was devoid of any fanfare and even family members of both the bride and the bridegroom were not present.

On August 4, the Hindu Makkal Katchi filed a petition in Kodaikanal against the proposed wedding of the human rights campaigner. The organisation alleged that allowing Irom to stay and get married in the hill station would ruin the peace and tranquillity of the city. Before that, in July, a social activist made the same arguments.

Irom had responded to this by saying, "I don’t know why they are scared about us getting married. It is a private life of two persons. Whether we are getting married or not, we will live together in the house in Kodaikanal. I don’t know what kind of threat a marriage of two persons could pose to the beautiful State."

Asked about her plans after marriage, Sharmila reportedly said she will be settling down in the hill-station and is set to embark on her new mission against AFSPA for bringing about peace and justice in the country. 

Saudi king orders reopening of Qatar border to pilgrims

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered the reopening of the border with Qatar to facilitate the annual hajj pilgrimage, state media said Thursday, in the first signs of a thaw after the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years.

The Salwa border crossing had been shut after regional kingpin Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the emirate of fostering Islamist extremist groups.

The announcement to reopen the border for Qatari pilgrims came after Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received an envoy from Doha, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, in the first public high-level encounter between the nations after the crisis erupted.

The king has permitted "the entry of Qatari pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Salwa border crossing to perform hajj, and to allow all Qatari nationals who wish to enter for hajj without electronic permits", a statement on SPA said.

He also ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport "to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses".

The crown prince emphasised the "historical relations between Saudi and Qatari people" after his meeting with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani, the statement added.

The Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia had last month said that Qataris wanting to perform this year's hajj would be allowed to enter the kingdom, but imposed certain restrictions including that those arriving by plane must use airlines in agreement with Riyadh.

Qatari authorities had subsequently accused Saudi Arabia of politicising hajj and jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca by refusing to guarantee their pilgrims' safety.

Some observers cautioned that the diplomatic crisis was far from over despite the apparent bonhomie.

"This is a goodwill gesture towards the Qatari people and not a breakthrough with the Qatari govt," Ali Shihabi from the Washington-based think tank Arabia Foundation said on Twitter, referring to the reopening of the border.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies shut down air, maritime and land links with Qatar, and imposed economic sanctions, accusing Doha of supporting "terrorists" and of being too close to their regional nemesis Iran.

Qatar denied the allegations and denounced what it called a "blockade" aimed at bringing the wealthy emirate to its knees.

The tiny emirate with a population of 2.6 million, 80 percent of them foreigners, ranks as the world's richest on a per capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

It holds a staggering $330 billion in a sovereign wealth fund, with assets heavily invested abroad.

The hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime, is to take place this year at the beginning of September.

More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year's hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims who can must perform it at least once in their lives.

(Source: AFP)

‘Happily-ever-after doesn’t exist’

In a recent email, Suki John and Horacio Cocchi attempted to sum up their 20-year marriage in one paragraph, which read like a grocery list. It included: 8 homes, 9 housemates, 1 foreclosure, 21 jobs, 3 layoffs, 2 miscarriages, 1 birth, 3 parents and 2 friends deceased, 1 bankruptcy, 1 set of dentures, innumerable road trips, 3 days in Amarillo waiting for parts, 9 cars, 5 billion phone calls, far too many dance performances, 5 weeks in Europe, 17 weeks in Cuba, 1 summer in Vermont, 6 mattresses, 2 bread machines, 9 espresso machines, countless bottles of extra virgin olive oil, 5 tango lessons and 2 wedding rings.

Suki John and Horacio Cocchi in a tunnel beneath Lincoln Center. The couple, who met at a cafe on the Upper West Side, were featured in Vows 20 years ago. Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times

The couple met 21 years ago, when she approached him in a coffee shop on the Upper West Side. “I saw him across the room and it was like a magnet,” said Ms. John, 58, who is as excitable as her wild, curly hair. At the time, she was a modern dancer and choreographer sleeping on a futon in a friend’s kitchen in Brooklyn. She traveled as often as possible. “I was totally uninterested in domesticity,” she said.

After she and Mr. Cocchi married on July 6, 1997, they moved into an attic apartment in the Marble Hill section of the Bronx. She became enthusiastically domestic, in part because Mr. Cocchi, 59, is such a good cook. “He’s always saying, ‘Baby, want some pasta? Let me cook you some pasta,’” she said. “He’s very nurturing and grounding. He tethered me.”

They are not a quiet or even-tempered couple. Living next door to them is probably akin to living next to trombone players. They argue often, about the symbolism of tango dancing, or which rug would look best in their living room, or whether God exists (she’s Jewish, he’s an atheist). “It’s noisy and messy and emotional,” she said. Mr. Cocchi describes their relationship as “marital blitz.”

Over the years, they have struggled with infertility, alcoholism, money, and have somehow remained lighthearted about it all. “My whole life, I have always had financial insecurity,” said Mr. Cocchi, who grew up in Uruguay and has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Connecticut. “It’s comic. I don’t pursue the goal of making money.”

Suki John, Horacio Cocchi with their son, Rafael.
Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times
While trying to conceive Ms. John had two miscarriages. “Devastating.” she said. “I was already what they call a ‘mature’ mom. It was not clear to me that I was going to be able to sustain a pregnancy.” She added: “I remember being in my garden in the Bronx and thinking, ‘Maybe I’m never going to have a baby. I guess I’ll have some plants.’”

Eventually she became pregnant with their son, Rafael John Cocchi, who was born in 2001. “I really liked the way I was with Horacio and a child,” she said. “I liked how the focus wasn’t on me. It was on the next generation. It felt really right.”

Soon after Rafael was born, they moved to Connecticut, and bought a house in 2006, at the height of the market. In 2007 Ms. John was offered a job teaching in the dance department at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Mr. Cocchi, who was happily teaching environmental planning at the University of Connecticut, did not want to move.

After a lot of arguing, he acquiesced. “My wisdom is, it’s very hard to have a long-lasting relationship,” he said. “For me, it was about how much am I willing to give up to keep this marriage growing?”

They tried to sell their Connecticut house, but the real estate market was crashing and soon their mortgage was greater than the value of the house. “We are poster children for the mortgage crisis,” Ms. John said. “We drained all of our savings to try to hold on to the house.”

They ended up declaring bankruptcy and losing it in a foreclosure. “We cried,” she said. “We felt shame. We didn’t tell anybody. But, I want people to know: You go through a lot when you’re married, and if you come out the other side, you are very strong.”

In Texas, things did not improve immediately. While she loved teaching at T.C.U., Mr. Cocchi couldn’t find work — he estimates he applied for 500 jobs — and began drinking. “I’d start cooking around 6 or 7, and drinking,” he said. “By midnight, I was intoxicated. It was part of my routine.”

She said, “It eventually became clear our family would not remain intact if he continued drinking.” So, five years ago, he quit.

“I was making everyone around me unhappy,” he said. “Nobody wants to be around a drunk.”

After passing their 20th anniversary last month, they reflected on how they have stayed together through so many crises. “Our commitment to monogamy was a big part of our ability to weather all the storms,” she said. “For me, that was essential to the idea of marriage.”

Plus, she finds Mr. Cocchi hilarious. “He’s very, very funny, and that helps so much,” she said. “We call him the ‘Naked Cowboy.’ Like, right now, he’s sitting here on my exercise ball with no shirt playing the guitar.”

Ms. John is currently creating a story ballet called “Havana Love Letters,” about the importance of resilience and realism in relationships. In conversation she often says, “Happily-ever-after doesn’t exist.”

He likes to say, “Bad times will be followed by good times,” which seems true at the moment. She now has tenure at T.C.U., and he is an adjunct economics professor at Tarrant County College. In 2016, they became homeowners again. They even have a swimming pool.

They also have a new ritual. They regularly meet at home in the afternoon, between teaching responsibilities, to take a “siesta” together. They lie next to each other in their dark bedroom. “It’s so sweet,” she said. “We just want to be with each other. I still think he’s absolutely adorable.”

(Source: NYT)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Air Koryo: The world’s only ‘One-Star’ carrier

Air Koryo is the flagship carrier of North Korea and have almost daily flights to and from Beijing, as well as weekly services to Vladivostok, Shenyang and occasionally Shanghai. They also run a number of charter flights to and from south-east Asia, as well as a number of other destinations at more sporadic intervals.

After years of being ranked by Skytrax as the world’s worst airline, national carrier Air Koryo is undergoing a revolution, according to interviews with passengers and travel agents. New planes, new in-flight entertainment options, smart new uniforms for the cabin attendants, even business class.


The communal screens that drop down from the ceiling will keep you entertained with propaganda broadcasts and concerts by supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s favorite all-female band, Moranbong. They sing patriotic songs about, well, Kim Jong Un. Bring noise-cancelling earphones. There’s no volume control.


While the food, especially in the new business-class lounge, has improved, the most-photographed component of a trip remains the famous “mystery-meat” burger.

A hamburger offered on Air Koryo
Business Class Customers are invited to use The Air China Lounge in Terminal 2. Most airlines that operate out of Terminal 2 also use this common lounge (including Korean Air, who departs at the same time as Air Koryo!).The lounge is spacious but in need of refurbishment. There is however, plenty of food and beverages on offer.

Air Koryo are just like any other airliner in the world. They take aviation safety very serious with a safe flying record for decades now. The only known fatal accident Air Koryo has suffered was in 1983 when the airline was still named CAAK, according to Harro Ranter, founder and director of the Aviation Safety Network, which has compiled detailed descriptions of over 10,700 incidents, hijackings and accidents going back to the 1950s.


(Source: Aviation CV

Four castaways make a family

"I had grown up with poverty, abuse and molestation. If my daughter wasn’t worth saving, neither was I," writes Rene Denfeld, the author of the novel “The Child Finder",  on the NYT:  

“I think you’re just right for her,” my adoption caseworker said, showing me her picture in the foster-child bulletin.

She was a dumpling of a child, her face unclear in the blurry black-and-white photo. The narrative underneath told me her private story, one I immediately embraced.

“Yes,” I said.

Only a year old, she had already been shopped across states, featured in newspapers like an ad for used furniture. As with other waiting children, parental rights had been terminated, meaning if she wasn’t adopted, she would age out of foster care.

When we met in a child welfare office, she was sitting in the lap of her foster mother, who looked so tired. My future daughter was one of too many children in the woman’s home; she was glad this one was being adopted.

“I hate to see them get bounced home to home,” the foster mother said, passing me my first child.

I held her in my lap, paralyzed. I had brought a toy phone. When she grinned and reached for it, our eyes met, and a social worker took a photo of the moment. Later I wrote on the back: “The first time I saw you.”

I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a stampede of parents to adopt her. That I would get the honor made me tremble. I was so in love I could not say her name to myself, even in a whisper, lest I be denied the joy: Luppi Milov. I thought it was the most euphonious name I had ever heard. My daughter, my love.

As far as I knew, I was capable of getting pregnant. I just didn’t want to. There were half a million children in foster care in need of an adoptive parent. And I wanted children, so this made perfect sense to me.

It didn’t make perfect sense to my friends.

“Aren’t you afraid?” they asked.

No, I wasn’t. I had grown up with poverty, abuse and molestation. If my daughter wasn’t worth saving, neither was I. Besides, I didn’t believe that biology guaranteed love. I had grown up in a biracial family, unrelated to one of my siblings and half-related to others, and I certainly didn’t love them half as much.

Adopting from foster care felt magical. There was a wildness of imagination to it, a proclamation of intent: a decision to love.

Of course, ideals are one thing, reality another. The first months of motherhood hit me like a lead-filled gunnysack, my free time absorbed by occupational therapy appointments, doctors and specialists. I stayed up late reading books, learning about her challenges. Preschool started with special education looming, but I decided she was perfect just as herself.

And just like that, she bloomed.

Three years later, my caseworker said those magical words again, with a twist: “I think you’re just right for him.” This time the photo was clearer: a darling little boy with cherub cheeks. His eyes told his story; I had seen terror like that before, in my own eyes, looking back at me from my own childhood mirror.

“I’ll call him Tony Baloney,” my daughter said, dancing around her new little brother. She was now 4 and a shot of pure joy.

We met in his foster home, where his experienced foster parents didn’t mince words. Tony had bounced from home to home. He had serious attachment issues, rage. While we talked, Tony tore after another child; I heard cries of pain from down the hall.

Back in our home, Tony pulled down the shower curtain, threw the dog dish at me, bit me, trashed his room. I often found myself in our bathroom, shaking with anger and disappointment. It’s hard to love a child who doesn’t love you back. But I knew I couldn’t fail Tony. To fail him would be to fail the lost child in myself, the memory of the anger I had and my desperate desire that someone love me through it.

I decided I would fake it until I made it. When he raged, I told him I loved him. I told him over and over.

We saw a child psychiatrist who suggested floor time, a method where you sit with the child for hours on end playing games at his lead. It sounds simple, but it was transformative. Every morning, I woke to find Tony standing by my bed.

“Floor time, Mama? Floor time?” he would ask, and before I could make myself a cup of coffee, we were on our special rug and I was nodding as Tony acted out all the hurt he had experienced. He buried children in dungeons, put them on trains and sent them away. Sometimes I was allowed to help. Mostly he wanted me to watch, to bear witness.

For all his fury, Tony never tried to hurt his sister. She followed any game he wanted to play and took his rages in stride. “He’s afraid we’re going to give him away,” she told me, solemnly.

For years, Tony kept his emotional suitcases packed by the door, seeing if we would send him away. “I’m stronger than Superman,” I told him, wondering if I believed it. “I don’t give up.”

Slowly, the rages abated until they stopped. One day, he looked up from playing with a truck on the floor, and his eyes were soft, no longer terror-filled.

“You brought me home,” he said. He returned to his truck and said in a quiet, firm voice, “I love you too.”

Another six years passed before my caseworker said it again: “I think you would be just right for him.”

This boy, an infant, was a day apart in birthday to Tony, with a strangely similar birth name, but he was pure magic too: Markel Antoine. I looked at his picture a dozen times a day, saying my secret prayer: Please let him be mine.

The answer was yes. Out came the stroller, occupational therapy games and Rolodex of specialists.


His foster parents had been trained to care for medically fragile infants. They had propped him between pillows, and he sat there, his eyes lighting up at the sight of us. Luppi and Tony were now 9 and 7. They held Markel, delighted, in their laps.

“You know he doesn’t sleep, right?” the foster mother asked me.

I knew.

“You know he screams all night?”

I knew.

“You know his future is uncertain?”

I knew.

I felt like such an old hand by now that I could handle anything. I had learned to enjoy the process with these so-called difficult children, and it was rewarding to see the growth. I was delighted by the truth that you have to accept children just as they are before they can change. Like his siblings, Markel soon flourished.

I had come to believe that the most important therapy is permanence. Children can sense when they are in a temporary home. All my children grew rapidly once settled, going from below the fifth percentile in height and weight to close to average. More important, they grew emotionally. It is love that feeds the soul, allows us all to flourish.

“Are they siblings?” people often asked when we were out and about, when they realized I had adopted.

“They are now,” I would answer.

“You must be brave,” they would say.

I never knew how to respond to that. I never felt brave. Maybe the question assumes we need special courage to mother a child we have never met, but isn’t that true of all children? Even when pregnant, we don’t meet our child until he or she is born.

To be a parent is to step into a great unknown, a magical universe where we choose to love over and over. It is an act of courage no matter what.

“Didn’t you want your own?” people would ask.

“They are my own,” I would say, softly.

By adopting from foster care, I became the mother I had needed and rewrote my own story. I got to have a childhood all over again, the right one, filled with cuddles and perseverance, safety and love. If there is such a thing as a cycle of abuse, I broke it over the wheel of my own desire.

It has been 20 years since I first adopted. Luppi, Tony and Markel are now thriving and well adjusted, working and going to school. If you met them, you wouldn’t guess their histories. But if they told you, that would be O.K., too, because there is nothing shameful about their pasts, or mine.

Recently we took a family vacation, flying from Oregon to Phoenix for four days. The kids horsed around in the pool, and I took a lot of pictures of them, grinning and full of life.

My caseworker had said all those years ago that I would be just right for them. As it turned out, they were just right for me.


What I think when I think in English

What happens when a person who speaks a native tongue crosses over to English? Read what happened to Manu Joseph, a journalist and a novelist, most recently of The Illicit Happiness Of Other People, who shares his wonderful experience on the Live Mint:  

I used to hope in English, but all my other thoughts were in Tamil and Malayalam. I was born in Kerala and raised in Chennai, a cuckoo among the crows. I did not have a faculty for languages and could speak only one dominant tongue at a time. I spoke fluent Tamil and a type of Malayalam that would make Malayalees feel dejected. I wish I had told them that I could think beautifully in Malayalam.

The way I remember my life then, my purest thoughts were in my mother tongue. When I would resolve that I would one day lead my mother to great consistent happiness, it was in Malayalam. But when I would imagine Miss SM standing in her balcony combing her hair and I, in all whites and white shoes (black heels) running in slow motion, my hair bouncing, and when I would ask the universe silently the distraught question, are girls capable of love at all, it was in Tamil.

However, by the age of 17, I was moving away from Tamil and Malayalam, and beginning to think entirely in English. Are there serious consequences when this happens or is the special-ness of language overrated?

When I was around 10, during a monthly test in school, I was asked to write the gender that would be the opposite of “Ram”. I was baffled when I realized that most of the class had got the alleged answer “Ewe”. My answer was Sita. I still maintain that I was right. No one in Chennai had ever seen a ram, at least in the tropical city, while Ram, or Rama as we used to call him, was deep culture. Everything else about English was like this—it was venerable at a distance but all wrong when it passed through me. It was a medium of study and intellect but to use it in a casual conversation seemed comically arrogant. The act of speaking in English, in fact, was defamed as “Putting Peter” in my circle. I was among the boys who carried out the defamation. My teachers were not fluent in English. When my parents spoke English, they, like all Malayalees, spoke English in Malayalam. The effect of not being colonized by English was that I was an insider in my home town. I belonged to my city and the great beautiful city belonged to me. Not for a moment was I an amateur Indian. I could talk to thugs and policemen and slum-dwellers and eunuchs.

Being Tamil, or being Malayalee, was a distinct behavioural system and only those who thought in either of those languages could play a part in it. For instance, when some Tamilian Brahmin would want to convey an insult, he would hedge the risk by putting it across as an ambiguous joke. Also, Tamilians of my childhood had the propensity to use glee to show contempt. They would laugh hard, in an exaggerated way, at the jokes of the people they despised, especially their teachers or bosses.

All this I did not observe as a boy, when I used to think in Tamil. Observation is not the act of seeing; it is the act of perceiving what has already been seen. Only when I stopped thinking in Tamil did I begin to see Chennai more clearly and deeply. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges once observed that you wouldn’t find the word “camel” in the Quran—the ancient Arabs had no reason to mention what was very common in almost every frame of their existence. Borges, it turned out, was wrong. Camels do find mention in the holy book, but the rarity of their appearance may still substantiate his larger point—that the camels were, for an Arab, “a part of reality, and he had no reason to single them out, while the first thing a forger, a tourist, or an Arab nationalist would do is bring on the camels”.

When I was growing up in Chennai, I was not proud of the city, or my home state Kerala. Maybe those days we were not seriously required to be proud of home. Love was enough. In fact, I made no special effort to learn to read and write in Tamil or Malayalam. I used them only to think and speak. I could write only in English and Hindi, both foreign to me, Hindi more than English. Then, in 1987, a film called Nayakan by Mani Ratnam was released. I was 13 and I thought it was the greatest film on earth. I still believe it is one of the greatest in world cinema. I decided that apart from being a journalist, I would also become a Tamil film-maker. I began to write many stories, all in English.

When I was 16, I thought the best way to enter the movie business was as a low-level actor. So when I heard that a film audition was under way for some extras, I went. The queue was long and the men looked impoverished and depressing, and the line had not moved after 2 hours, so I left, abandoning the idea of acting. I wrote more stories. I even co-wrote one with the milkman. Nothing ever came out of them. The Tamil sphere of creativity offered me no prospects. For me, there were no rewards for thinking in Tamil.

Meanwhile, my reading, in English, intensified. I was consumed by P.G. Wodehouse, Salman Rushdie, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Ayn Rand. I would not go beyond the first one-third of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter, but I was astonished. I did not know this level of intellect was even possible. Also, I was yet another adolescent in search of a bright future and only English promised me that in the line of work I had chosen. When I entered college to study English literature, my English diction was bad, and I had to train myself to speak only in English to improve. I did not ask myself then in what language I conducted my thoughts. But slowly, without my being aware of it, I was colonized by the English language.

I am now stranded in English. Most days I have to consciously fight its underrated influences. Unlike Indian languages, English has names for so many abstract things, including lies, that they can be misunderstood as truths, like socialism, hypnosis, sexism, liberty, human rights and plain nonsense like “quality time” and “multitasking”.

As a writer, especially as a novelist, even though I wish to write only in English, I derive all my ways of seeing from my experiences as a vernacular person. Forget subtlety. I belong to a melodramatic nation and I do not accept subtlety as a higher form of expression. And while I have accumulated a reasonably wide vocabulary as a reader, I use a very limited range of words in my thoughts, and that is what I believe I have a right to transmit to my novels. I would feel fake if I used some words—for instance, salubrious, meadows and brook. Maybe I am always trying only to write a good Tamil film in English. And while at it, I do believe that I can now see more than the insiders; I am like the outsider who is able to see the camel.

Literature map of the world shows you every country's favourite book

Everyone loves a good book right? Well, guess what. A savvy reddit user has put together this awesome literary map of the world that shows what everyone's mad for reading.
Bored of Harry Potter, tired of the Millennium trilogy, can’t be bothered to finish War and Peace? Well this map will make your morning commute that little more interesting.

Thanks to reddit user Backforward24, you can now see what the entire world’s favourite books are.

Each book represented in the map is marked by that country’s most famous or important novel.

Obviously the map is going to cause quite the stir. For Russia, for example, Backforward24 went with Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but we’re sure many of you will make a case for one, if not several of Dostoevsky’s works.


The UK has Pride and Prejudice, Spain – Shadow in the Wind, Iran – Persepolis and Ireland – Ulysses. The USA? To Kill a Mockingbird, of course and Canada – Anne of Green Gables, but it should really have been Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale…

What is amazing though, is when you scroll over places like Africa and Asia.

We’re all down on our classics (those lovely books we all had to read at school), but have you ever picked up a copy of Sony Labou Tansi’s The Antipeople?

(Source: The Culture Trip)

14 fascinating and perplexing unsolved mysteries of Indian history

If you take pride in your ability to solve even the toughest of riddles, here is a list of the greatest unsolved mysteries in Indian history published on The Better India

History  is full of lessons for us, but it also has mysteries for us to solve. Some of these mysteries are recent, others are millennia old – still waiting for answers. In India too, generations of scientists and researchers have grappled with many puzzling stories and events that have left them baffled over the years.

Let’s take a look at some of these enigmas, some of which are truly inexplicable and puzzling, to learn more about the mysteries of India. You can play detective of course and leave us an explanation if you solve any in the comment box below – we would be happy  to cross them off our list!

1. Disappearance of the Indus Valley Civilization



The Indus valley civilisation is perhaps India’s most ancient mystery. There are many unanswered questions about this great civilisation that was larger than the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations combined. The secrets behind the identity of the people who created it and their puzzling 4000-year-old Indus pictographic script are yet to be discovered. Also, perhaps the most bewildering fact about this civilisation is that all its major sites went into sudden decline and disappeared more or less simultaneously. There are several theories about why this happened but none of them have been very conclusive.

2. Alien Rock Paintings Of Charama


Puzzling ancient rock paintings have been found in caves near the town of Charama in the tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. Archaeologist JR Bhagat, who discovered them, says they depict eerie humanoids with no facial features and other paintings of flying discs. Interestingly, nearby villages have several legends of small ‘Rohela’ people who used to land from the sky in round shaped flying objects and kidnap one or two villagers. The Chhattisgarh Department of Archaeology and Culture has asked the Indian Space Research Organisation and the US space agency, NASA, to help research these compelling finds.

3. Son Bhandar Caves of Bihar


Hollowed out of a single giant rock, the Son Bhandar cave of Rajgir in Bihar is believed to be the doorway to the riches of Bimbisara, a Magadhan king who loved hoarding treasures. Son Bhandar literally translates to ‘store of gold’. It is said that when Bimbisara was imprisoned by his son Ajatashatru,  this is the place where his wife hid the treasure on his orders. Undeciphered inscriptions in the Sankhlipi script found etched on the wall of the western cave, are purportedly the clues to open the doorway. The British once tried to cannonball their way through the supposed doorway, but without success, leaving just a black mark that’s still visible.

4. The Nine Unknown Men


India’s very own version of the Illuminati, the mysterious ‘9 Unknown Men’ is believed to be one of the world’s most powerful secret societies. According to legend, it was founded by Emperor Asoka himself, in 273 BC, after the bloody battle of Kalinga that took the lives of 100,000. Each of these 9 unknown men had been entrusted with a book of knowledge on different subjects ranging from time travel and propaganda to microbiology and psychological warfare. The actual identities of these 9 unknown men are still a mystery, but it is believed that the secret society, preserved over generations, exists till date.

5. Mir Osman Ali’s Treasure Trove


The last and seventh Nizam of the Asaf Jah dynasty of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, famous for his idiosyncrasies, was also known for his stunning collection of jewellery and legendary treasure. TIME magazine called him the richest man in the world in 1937 and he is widely believed to have been the richest Indian ever. His fabulous personal wealth and most of the famed Nizam jewellery were never recovered after his death. It is believed they still lie somewhere in the underground chambers of King Kothi Palace in Hyderabad where the Nizam lived most of his life.

6. The 500-year old Mummy of Lama Tenzin


A trek in the  Himalayas to the small village of Ghuen in Spiti reveals the eerie and ancient tradition of self-mummification. Here, in a tiny single-room concrete structure, rests a 500-year-old mummy protected by only a thin sheet of glass. The remains of a 15th-century Buddhist monk named Sangha Tenzin, the mummy is remarkably well preserved, with unbroken skin and hair on the head. Sangha Tenzin’s body apparently went through a mysterious natural mummification.

7. The Royal Treasure of Jaigarh Fort


Home to the largest cannon on wheels, the Jaivana, Jaigarh fort’s history is filled with tales of intrigue and treasures. It is believed that while returning from a successful campaign in Afghanistan, Man Singh, Akbar’s defence minister, hid the spoils of war in Jaigarh Fort. In 1977, at the height of the Emergency in India, Jaigarh Fort found itself in the spotlight again when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched a thorough search of the fort on a tip-off that the water tanks hid the Mughal treasure. Nothing was found but the incident received immense publicity, also finding mention in Maharani Gayatri Devi’s book, A Princess Remembers.

8. The Disappearance of Nana Saheb


Nana Saheb, regarded as one of the important leaders of the 1857 revolt, disappeared soon after his defeat at the hands of the British. History is still unclear about his fate, with questions also remaining about what happened to his fabled treasure that today would be worth billions. Most historians believe that he was never captured and escaped to Nepal with a significant part of his treasure, although no concrete historical evidence of that exists. Even after 150 years, Nana Saheb’s fate and the whereabouts of his treasure remain among the most enduring mysteries from the British era.

9. The Ghost Village of Kuldhara


Lying 20 km to the west of Jaisalmer, the ghost town of Kuldhara was a prosperous town of Paliwal Brahmins a few hundred years ago. Until one fatal night, when all its 1500 residents left the village without a trace. No one knows exactly why but according to legend, they left the village to escape from the evil ruler Salim Singh and his unjust taxes, and while leaving, they left a curse on the area. It is also said that anyone who tries to stay in the village dies a brutal death and, till date, Kuldhara remains uninhabited.

10. Chapatti Movement


The bizarre and enigmatic distribution of chapattis throughout the country during the revolt of 1857 remains an inexplicable mystery till today. Though recent studies have theorised that the circulation of chapattis may have been an attempt to deliver food to people afflicted with cholera, the evidence is inconclusive about the actual purpose of the Chapatti Movement. Only one thing is accepted unanimously by historians – the mysterious chapatti deliveries definitely created an atmosphere of restlessness that was particularly disconcerting to the British in 1857.

11.Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Disappearance


Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s death is still shrouded in secrecy and the various conspiracy theories surrounding it make it even more mysterious. What happened after Netaji’s flight took off from Taipei to Tokyo? This has been one of the greatest mysteries of free India. A few years after Bose’s disappearance, there was speculation that he had returned to India and was living in disguise as a sadhu in North India. Although no such claim could ever be substantiated, the theory resurfaced with the news about Gumnami Baba, a revered saint of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, who many people believe was Bose himself.

12. Untimely Death of Lal Bahadur Shashtri


Lal Bahadur Shastri’s sudden demise, barely two years after his taking over as the Prime Minister of India, took place in a foreign country. This is the first time in modern world history that something like this had happened. He died due to cardiac arrest under suspicious circumstances in Tashkent in 1966, giving rise to reports of dark conspiracies behind his death. Dark blue spots and cut marks on his body at the time of death raised doubts but, mysteriously, no post-mortem was ever conducted and no official documents about the death were ever made available to the public.

13. The Reincarnation Of Shanti Devi


The reincarnation case of Shanti Devi, a girl born in a little-known locality of Delhi, was the first widely acknowledged and thoroughly documented one in India. The details Shanti Devi had given to her present family and teacher about her old house and members of her family in her previous life were all confirmed in intricate detail. It was also investigated by a committee of prominent citizens appointed by Mahatma Gandhi, who accompanied Shanti Devi to the village of her past-life recollections and recorded what they witnessed.

14. The Yogi Who Lives On Nothing


About 200 kilometers from Ahmedabad, in a place called Ambaji, lives a frail octogenarian ascetic, popularly known as Chunriwala Mataji. A brush with spirituality at the age of 11 years made Prahlad Jani a devotee of goddess Amba and he claims that he was blessed by the goddess who gave him the superhuman strength through an elixir, which drops through a hole in his palate. In 2003, a scientific research study was conducted on him by a medical research team of twenty-one specialists in which he was continuously monitored by video, but the investigations failed to explain the powers of Jani who claims to have gone without food and water since 1940.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Tagore rejected 'nationalism' — and his worst fears have come true

A century later, his book 'Nationalism' reminds us: The nation is the greatest evil for the Nation, writes Chaman Lal, a retired professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University and the author of Understanding Bhagat Singh, on DailyO

Nationalism, an important book by poet-laureate Rabindranath Tagore, was first published one hundred years ago in 1917 from Macmillan in United States' New York. After hundred years of its publication, the book has become all the more contemporary in the Indian context. Nationalism was translated into English from the Bengali by Tagore himself - and the first volume included three lectures delivered in Japan, in 1916.

The editor of the 2017 volume, Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharya mentions in his introduction that, in 1992, a new edition of the book from Rupa Delhi, edited by EP Thompson, had five poems of the Tagore collection Naivedya - which were deleted without explanation.

Sisir Kumar Das, in his edited 1996 Sahitya Akademi edition, restored one poem, which is reproduced in the latest version of the book. However, Bhattacharya does not tell us about the four other poems and why they were not restored.

Tagore wanted to dedicate the 1917 edition to then US President Woodro Wilson, but was not allowed to, as he was then thought of "being involved in anti-British plots hatched by Indian revolutionaries (Ghadrites) in America".


As per Bhattacharya, Tagore rejected the term "nationalism" as understood in the western sense. The book compiled here includes three lectures by Tagore - "Nationalism in the West", "Nationalism in Japan" and the third and final - "Nationalism in India".

The volume concludes with the Tagore poem - "The Sunset of the Century" - written on the last day of last century, meaning the eve of 1900 or 1899 evening. However, the volume leaves out the dates and venues of lectures delivered, though the year 1916 - from May to September is mentioned.

The lectures - ahead of their time
Tagore boldly declares in his first lecture that "We are no nation ourselves!"

He questions the western concept of the nation, which holds, "A nation, in the sense of political and economic union of the people, is that aspect which a whole population assumes when organised for a mechanical purpose. Society as such has no ulterior purpose. It is an end in itself. It is a spontaneous expression of man as a social being. It is a natural regulation of human relationships, so that men can develop ideas of life in cooperation with one another. It has also political side, but this is only for a special purpose. It is for self-preservation."

Tagore is very clear that a naturally-built human society is much more humane in essence than the so-called artificially created nationhood.


The present-day nationhood would have been considered "evil" by Tagore, who wrote: "When this organisation of politics and commerce, whose other name is Nation, becomes all powerful at the cost of the harmony of the higher social life, then it is an evil day for humanity."

Tagore found Indian nationhood to be abstract in 1916 - which has only worsened in 2017.

In this nation, "Punishments are meted out leaving a trail of miseries across a large bleeding tract of the human heart."

Taking the example of the British nation whose government as a nation, he rues that it is "organised self-interest of a whole people, where it is least human and least spiritual".

He asserts that "this nationalism is a cruel epidemic of evil that is sweeping over human world of the present age, eating into its moral vitality".

During the time these lectures were delivered, the World War I was on and World War II was to follow, in 1939-45, bringing into focus the extreme nationalism of Hitler and Mussolini - which caused, perhaps, more than 10 million deaths.

That is why Tagore warned of nationalism as an "evil epidemic"! In the same breath, the social thinker-poet continues to warn against this evil: "The nation is the greatest evil for the Nation, that all its precautions are against it, and any new birth of its fellow in the world is always followed in its mind by the dread of a new peril!"

Tagore did not see the birth of Pakistan in 1947 and the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, but he foresaw their consequences, which, unfortunately, proved him right as all his fears about nationhood came true.

In prescient words written more than hundred years ago, Tagore depicts the reality of the politicians of the "nation" of 2017: "And the idea of the Nation is one of the most powerful anaesthetics that man has invented. Under the influence of its fumes the whole people can carry out its systematic programme of the most virulent self-seeking without being in the least aware of its moral perversion - in fact, feeling most dangerously resentful if it is pointed out."

In the present Indian state, this aptly applies to the conduct of the cow vigilantes and "Bharat Mata ki Jai" brigades. Tagore could see it hundred years before - and that is what you call the foresight of great poets!


Tagore had raised a fundamental question: Does world humanity need "Nationalism or Humanism"? While there has been no concept of "Nationalism" in civilisational history as such, humanity has crossed various stages of life from barbarism to cultural living values, from no ownership to common natural property of our entire humanity, to the highly corporatised one per cent property holders against 99 per cent who are deprived of minimum property at the global stage.

In the name of nationalism and racial purity, humanity has suffered two world wars and South Asia has suffered one million killings in 1947 with the Partition and the creation of the new nation state of Pakistan - with 10 million people suffering untold miseries of displacement.

In his second essay, "Nationalism in Japan", Tagore emphasises the ancient culture of Japan, more than its nationhood.

In this lecture, Tagore questions European values of science and modernity and expresses his own idea of modernity: "True modernism is freedom of mind, not slavery of taste. It is independence of thought and action, not tutelage under European schoo-masters. It is science, but not its wrong application in life."

In his third lecture, "Nationalism in India", Tagore opines that the real problem of India is not political, but social. Here he comes closer to Ambedkar's ideas on the Indian society.

Tagore rejects the idea of "national history" even: "There is only one history - the history of man. All national histories are merely chapters in the larger one. And we are content in India to suffer for such a cause."

In the Indian context too, Tagore comes heavily on national jingoism: "Nationalism is a great menace, it is the particular thing which for years has been at the bottom of India's troubles. And in as much as we have been ruled and dominated by a nation that is strictly political in its attitude, we have tried to develop within ourselves, despite our inheritance from the past, a belief in our eventual political destiny.

Tagore questions the idea of political nation, if it does not bring freedom of mind, he says: "Political freedom does not give us freedom, when our mind is not free."

Tagore's book is a bold, rational and humane critique of the idea of "nationalism", which has caused so much misery in the world and continues to do so.

Presently, the United States under Donald Trump, Turkey under Recep Erdogan and India under Narendra Modi are making ordinary citizens suffer immensely in the name of the "evil epidemic" that Tagore's words warned us of!

As to when the people of these countries and the world will awaken from the slumber induced by the "most powerful anaesthetics" - again in the words of Tagore - is difficult to predict. But the poet's small book on "nationalism" is a powerful antidote to such "anaesthetics"!

Nationalism needs to be read and its readings must be held in mass gatherings.

Meet the Muslim freedom fighters who strongly opposed the Partition of India

A very few know that there were many leaders from the minority community, who had completely opposed the idea of partition.

The partition of India is one of the 10 greatest tragedies in human history. Thousands of lives were lost in the process of migrating from India to Pakistan and vice-versa. It is believed that the British policy of Divide and Rule in colonial India culminated in the form of Partition of India.

While many assumed that Muslim leaders of that time wanted another nation and didn’t want to stay in India, very few know that there were many leaders from the minority community, who completely opposed the idea of partition.

In the mid 1940s, as the Muslim League began to realise its vision of a separate nation state for the subcontinent’s Muslim population under Muhammad Ali Jinnah, it met with resistance from Muslims, including the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), a political organisation that was founded in 1919 and Jamia Millia Islamia.

The Jamia Millia Islamia was also born out of the fact that the people in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) were supporting the two-nation theory. A group of nationalist teachers and students quit Aligarh Muslim University, protesting against its pro-British inclinations and established JMI to oppose the partition of India.

Here’s a list of people who opposed the two-nation theory:

Abdul Quaiyum Khan
Belonging to the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Khan was educated at Aligarh Muslim University and the London School of Economics. He became a barrister and was one of the eminent lawyers of NWFP. Dr Shamsul Islam in his book – ‘Muslims Against Partition’, says that he had declared that his province would resist Partition of the country with its blood.

He began his political career in 1934 and joined the Indian National Congress. In 1937, he got elected to the Central Legislative Assembly and became the deputy leader of the INC in the assembly.


Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
He was an Indian scholar and a senior Muslim leader of the INC before independence. He strongly opposed Jinnah’s demand of another nation. After independence, he became the first Minister of Education of the country.

“I am proud of being an Indian. I am part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am indispensable to this noble edifice and without me this splendid structure is incomplete. I am an essential element, which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim,” Azad had said.

His contribution to establishing the education foundation in India is recognised by celebrating his birthday as “National Education Day” across India.


Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah
Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah hailed from Sindh. He held several offices in Sindh including first chief minister in 1937–1938 and being re-elected as fifth CM from 1942–1947. He too had rejected the idea of Partition.

Hidayatullah received the title of Khan Bahadur from the British government, which also knighted him in the 1926 New Year Honours and further appointed him a Knight Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India (KCSI) in the 1933 Birthday Honours.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Nicknamed as Bacha Khan, he was a Pashtun independence activist against the rule of the British Raj. Over the years, he became a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and it was then that Bacha Khan got nicknamed as “Frontier Gandhi”.

He strongly opposed the All-India Muslim League’s demand for the partition of India. “You have thrown us to the wolves,” Khan had said after the INC declared its acceptance of the partition plan.

Hasrat Mohani

Born as Syed Fazl-ul-Hasan, Hasrat Mohani was an Indian activist in the Indian Independence Movement, and a noted poet of the Urdu language. ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was coined by the Maulana Hasarat Mohani in 1921.

Speaking to InUth, historian S Irfan Habib, said that Mohani too was against the idea of two nations and participated in the struggle for Indian Independence (end of British Raj).

He was the first person in Indian History who demanded ‘Complete Independence’ (Azadi-e-Kaamil) in 1921 as he presided over an annual session of All India Muslim League.

Dr Zakir Hussain
He was the third president of independent India. He was a stern follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence policies and was against the idea of partition. Hussain believed that education was essential to make the Indian youth capable of fighting against the British and thus focused on empowering the education system.

He served as the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia for 22 years (1926-48) and made it one of the finest educational institute of India. Later, he also served as the VC of Aligarh Muslim University, as it was facing huge crisis after partition.

Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madni
In 1892, at the age of thirteen, he went to the Darul Uloom Deoband. After completing the esoteric sciences, he became a disciple of Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, who later authorised him to initiate others in the Sufi path. He migrated to Medina with his family after completing his course in Deoband. Teaching became his profession and he taught Arabic grammar there for many years.


After returning to India, he got actively involved in India’s freedom struggle. He had considerable influence over a section of the Muslims, more prominently those belonging to Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

He was one of the founder members of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Madani, too was against the inception of Pakistan and was of the view that nations are not formed on basis of ethnicity and religion, but on geographic bases. He had even debated with Allama Iqbal, a known pan-Islamist and a leading pro-Pakistan figure of the time.

Syed Mohammad Sharfuddin Quadri
A forgotten hero of India’s freedom struggle, Quadri joined India’s freedom struggle during the Salt Satyagraha movement in 1930. He supported Mahatma Gandhi in every struggle and was imprisoned in the same cell as Mahatma Gandhi.

At a time when many Muslim leaders wanted another country, Quadri bravely opposed the two-nation theory. Even after independence. He died on 30 December 2015, at the age of 114, 8 years after getting awarded with a Padma Bhushan.


Mohammad Abdur Rahiman
Born in Kerala’s Thrissur district in 1898, Mohammad Abdur Rahiman was known for his heroics in restoring peace in the riot affected areas of 1921. He was jailed for two years for the same. He was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and mobilised the Muslim masses against the two-nation theory of Muslim League.

(Source: inUth)

Partition changed India’s food cultures forever

The older cuisines like Mughlai faded away and in their place came the robust makhni gravy and tandoori dishes, writes Anoothi Vishal, the author of Mrs LC’s Table, on the Wire

At the far end of a crammed Daryaganj gulli, bustling with all manner of trade, is a heavy wrought iron gate. Push it ajar and you step into an overgrown garden defining its central courtyard. The Terrace is an old sprawling home that takes you back in time. It’s the last intact kayasth haveli in “Shahar” – “The City” – the once magnificent Shahjahanabad, the only city that really mattered for its residents.

Two years ago, on a peaceful winter afternoon, the sun streaming on to our armchairs in the garden, I met Mrs Rajesh Dayal here for the last time. She had lived here since the 1930s. I was interviewing her for my book on Kayasth cuisine and culture.

“I remember Booby,” she had said earnestly at one point in our rambling conversation. Booby, the cook from the Muslim quarters of Ballimaran, had been quite in demand back then. The Kayasths, great epicures and fond meat-eaters, called him home for family weddings, sangeets, Holi and Diwali gatherings. Booby would get to work, digging up the soft ground in a clearing by the Yamuna, lining the pit with hot charcoal, placing a big, fat degh of meat, spices and vegetables inside this pit and then covering it with earth. It was in this craftily assembled indigenous oven that he would let fabulous dishes like the shabdegh stew overnight – till the meat and turnips that went into the smoky curry were of the same texture, splitting at the touch of a spoon.

“I have never had that kind of shabdegh again. It’s a dish that disappeared,” Dayal’s voice had trembled. Dayal died before the book, Mrs LC’s Table, saw the light of the day. Along with her what passed away were memories of those elusive stews and treats and the men who had cooked these. As for Booby, like many others of his ilk, had been swallowed up by Partition, never to be seen again.

The bloody years post Second World War II up to the Partition of India in 1947 rent Delhi’s older cultural fabric in a decisive way. Cuisine was a minor but still a very significant casualty. What the city lost in terms of its artful, elaborate dishes was replaced by newer, bolder, tomato-laden flavours from western Punjab. As a new immigrant community poured in from across the new border, new tastes and techniques gained ground. Tandoori became the food of Delhi. Mughlai, the older cuisine that had come about as a result of a composite culture of Shahjahanabad, faded.

Four generations of the Gujrals: Kundan Lal Gujral (the founder of Moti Mahalwith his wife, Prakash Devi, holding their grandson, Monish. Standing next to Prakash Devi is daughter-in-law, Rupa; and Kundan Lal’s mother, Maya Devi. Courtesy: Roli Books

Some of Shahjahanabad’s fabulous Mughlai treats can still be found: shabdegh, the meat-and-turnips winter delicacy, mutanjan pulao, rich with dried fruits, gola kebab, where the art lay in removing the kebab with such dexterity from its skewer that a whole round of mince fell off on the plate, special Meerut kulfi that shaukeen denizens of shahar preferred, dil ke kebab, pieces of the heart, roasted on the sigri.

But most of these delicacies live only in faint and fading memories. “There was just one kebabchi outside Jama Masjid who did gola kebabs till about two decades ago. When he stopped, I asked him why and he replied, ‘bibi, ab woh purane log hi nahin rahe. (The old connoisseurs are all gone)’. His new customers only wanted cheaper indiscriminate kebabs,” says Salma Husain, Persian scholar and author of the book The Emperor’s Table on the cuisine of the Mughals.

Delhi’s true Mughlai food was the product of a syncretic culture brought about by the close living together of Shahjahanabad’s four original communities: The Muslim aristocracy, the educated kayasths, part of the court and the baniyas and khatris who owned businesses and banks. It was a cuisine that developed over two-and-a-half centuries, thriving on sustained patronage much after Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor of Hindustan, was exiled. Partition changed all that.

The tandoor (or “tannur”, as it is called in Arabic) is of Central Asian origin, where it is still used to bake bread. That was the tandoor’s initial use in the Punjab too. The culture of sanjha chulha in the villages of the Punjab was centred on a common tandoor, around which women gathered to bake fresh bread but to also exchange the minutiae of their lives.

Hindu refugees from the Punjab carried their clay ovens to the great metropolis of Delhi. Their grit, hardiness and enterprise was apparently no match for the culturally sophisticated but effete Dilliwallah. Businesses changed hands and Delhi’s cuisine became firmly and predominantly tandoori.

In 1947, a refugee from Peshawar, Kundan Lal Gujral, first opened a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Daryaganj, not far from The Terrace. “The building had suffered badly during the rioting; its roof had disappeared and parts of it hung dangerously,” says senior Delhi resident Anil Chandra, one of Moti Mahal’s early patrons, who got to know Gujral.

In this building, Gujral, set up a tandoor and started selling roasted chicken with naan in the style of old Peshawar eateries. “The old residents of Delhi, both Hindu and Muslim, were not chicken eaters and there was some resistance till younger people got exposed to the new flavours,” says Chandra. Dal makhni, tandoori chicken and naan aside, there was soon a demand for curry. At this point, the practical Gujral decided to use leftover tandoori chicken (since refrigeration was expensive) in a rich sauce he concocted with butter, curd, tomatoes. The makhni gravy was born and “Indian” food would never be the same again.

It wasn’t as if the old Mughlai food disappeared entirely from the old city, though. Restaurants like Flora were still famous for their Mughlai delicacies in the early decades post Partition. “These restaurateurs and caterers such as Hakim, who was one of the most famous caterers of old Delhi, chose to stay back after Partition. Some of the kebabchis and kulfi and chaat wallahs who had disappeared in the aftermath of Partition, scared and scattered, also returned,” points out Husain. But business was no longer the same. Much of the old gentry had moved out. Newer tastes were emerging – and newer ways of doing business. The old food businesses shut.

In Delhi, what also disappeared was the Anglo-Indian food. Cutlets, chops and scones were replaced by Indian snacks served up by fancy restaurants in Connaught Place, now owned by Punjabi families. Restaurants like United Coffee House and Kwality had come up as cafes in the early 1940s, catering primarily to Europeans and troops posted in Lutyen’s Delhi around the time of the Second World War. In the aftermath of Partition, as tandoori took over and the Punjabi palate gained ground, the European and Anglo Indian food these places served too changed.

The interior of United Coffee House, Delhi. Photo courtesy: Anoothi Vishal
You can still come across a certain style of “continental” food at Kwality and United Coffee House. But these old-fashioned au gratins and chicken a la kievs that we still spot on their menus are a throwback to the 1960, when a second round of “conti” appeared on fashionable tables.

It wasn’t just Delhi either that saw a change in its food culture, post Partition. Places like Lucknow and Meerut, where Awadh’s composite but inward-looking culture had engendered all sorts of fabulous delicacies for the tables of the aristocracy and rich landlords, also saw a shift. Things like kali mirch chicken appeared in stalls near the railway station with the advent of the migrant dhaba owners.

Intricate older dishes such as the malai paan lay forgotten. Shami kebab, pasande, meat-and-vegetables curries were left confined to a few homes because entertaining declined as many of the rich Muslim landlords migrated.

Umami is a relatively recent term being brandied about in the world of food these days. Much before this “fifth” taste, described as meaty or brothy, was recognised by the Western world as essential to gastronomy, the Punjabi palate had zeroed in on the tomato (naturally rich in glutamates, which contributes to the sense of umami).

Instead of the refined spicing and yoghurt-based cooking of Mughlai food, robust tomato-onion-garlic gravies bursting with umami began to define every single dish in Punjabi restaurants (which, ironically, dubbed themselves Mughlai). If Partition brought about one definite change in the history of Indian food, it was this idea of generic ‘Indian’ gravies. This generic Indian food, tailored for the Punjabi palate, was entirely restaurant created. In India, where there is such a diversity of cuisines that dishes change their character every 100 km, it is ironical that this Punjabi-restaurant creation became the template for “Indian” food both within and outside the country. Foreigners, with little knowledge of regional Indian food, still identify “Indian” exclusively with these bastardised gravies.

The dominance of this kind of restaurant food – kadhai paneer, balti meat, butter chicken et al – continues till today even within the country, though we seem to be finally rediscovering regional Indian cuisines  of late. The indomitable Camillia Panjabi who was responsible for conceptualising so many restaurants at the Taj, the Indian hotel chain, in the 1980s-1990s, says in her book, 50 Great Curries of India: “Attempts to introduce regional Indian dishes in menus always met with customer resistance, in the sense that customers continued to order the Punjabi dishes on the menu. In India, the majority who eat out as part of their lifestyle are Punjabis… Since they form the backbone of the clientele of almost every Indian restaurant in the country, restaurant owners are extremely wary of directing the menu away from Punjabi favourites.”

This culture of eating out may be finally changing with the millennials, but for most of our post-Independent life as a nation, Punjabi food that had first made inroads into Delhi post Partition defined Indian restaurant food.

Partition, of course, brought about other changes too in our food cultures. In Mumbai, as immigrants arrived from cosmopolitan Karachi, they brought with them the widespread culture of snacking in the evenings. “Chaat beyond bhelpuri only appeared with the appearance of the Sindhis, post Partition. They were the great snackers, ” says Panjabi. Chaat, a product of UP’s composite culture, had come to India’s commercial capital in a roundabout way, if we are to believe these accounts.

In Bengal, the hilsa became a source of much rivalry. As migrants from East Bengal brought their own “more refined” way of cooking (as it is widely rated), there was nostalgia for the quality of ilish from the Padma river (in East Bengal, then known as East Pakistan), which is supposed to be better than the fish from the Ganga.

“The quality in Bangladesh is better. In India, the size is also shrinking due to the demand-supply gap. They catch the fish early here and the taste is not so good,” says restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee, whose restaurant chain Oh! Calcutta has a menu that balances East Bengal and West Bengal cuisines.

Chatterjee’s wife belongs to an East Bengal family – he, on the other hand, is a ghoti (from West Bengal), and he acknowledges the superior cooking of the eastern lot. (The culinary rivalry can be as intense as any football one.) While much of the East Bengal food was brought in by the refugees to the common culinary culture of the state, some recipes and foods became elusive.

“There are recipes such as ilish wrapped in a pumpkin leaf, marinated with mango pickle masala, put inside half cooked rice and then steamed that are lost,” says Chatterjee. Dried fish shutki and special pickles from Sylhet, sweets like the malai chamcham and bhapa doi from Comilla and the kormas and kachche gosht ki biryani from the “dawaats” in old Muslim homes in Dhaka are still stuff for nostalgia.

Many of these exquisite dishes may in fact no longer exist in Bangladesh today, where the old Bengali epicurean culture has given way to a newer order. But that’s what large-scale upheavals do. Put us in the churn; some things are lost, others gained – many foods of pre-Partition days are long forgotten, but that cataclysmic event also brought new flavours to India.

What is 'Silent Angel' syndrome and should you worry about it?

The disease does not have a cure for now, but could probably have one in future through gene therapy.

A two-old year from Guntur has been recorded as the first victim of the Rett syndrome - also known as ‘Silent Angel Syndrome’ - in Andhra Pradesh. A rare neurological disease, Rett Syndrome does not have a treatment so far, and it primarily affects females.

Doctors at the Guntur General Hospital (GGH), who diagnosed the child, Sahitya, on Thursday, said that there is no cure right now, but it may be possible in future through gene therapy.

GGH Neurology Wing Chief, Dr NV Sundarachary, said that two-year-old Sahitya could not speak properly and suffered non-rhythmic opening and closing of hands.

The Times of India reported that the child was fine up to nine months, but later, she lost her ability to stand and speak even in monosyllables.

Following this, Sahitya's parents took her to a paediatrician. However, the doctor found nothing abnormal, except for her hand movements.

Later, when she was taken to GGH, after imaging and EEG, the doctors still couldn’t find anything wrong with her. “Then we worked on two important clues, that she was a female child and had stereotypical hand movements. She was diagnosed with Rett syndrome,” Sundarachary said.

The child is in observation now at the GGH.


What is Rett syndrome?
The Indian Rett Syndrome Foundation describes it as a “unique neurodevelopmental disorder that is first noticed in infancy and primarily affects girls, but can be rarely seen in boys.” It affects one in 10,000 to 23,000 cases, according to some estimates.

The syndrome is non-inherited, and is usually discovered in the first two years of life.

In many cases, Rett Syndrome is falsely diagnosed as Autism or Celebral Palsy, because the symptoms are similar to one or more development disorders. Children with Rett Syndrome have typical hand movements, slow brain growth, problems with muscles and coordination, trouble with breathing, etc.

But one of the biggest effects of Rett Syndrome is the loss of speech - the disorder is therefore also known as ‘Silent Angel Syndrome.’

While there's no cure, early identification and treatment may help girls and families who are affected by Rett syndrome.

Symptoms
While Rett Syndrome can be noticed at different ages, most babies start showing signs between 12 and 18 months. Some of the symptoms you should look out for are:

1. A smaller than normal head size, caused due to slow brain growth.

2. Typical hand movements, as if the child is constantly ‘washing’ or ‘rubbing together’ her hands.

3. A sudden decline in language skills and social skills, and extreme social anxiety.

4. Difficulty in walking and coordination.

5. Uncoordinated breathing, seizures, hyperventilation, and forceful exhaling of air or saliva.

6. Constant irritability or long fits of laughter.

Symptoms of Rett syndrome usually don’t improve over time. It is a lifelong condition. Mostly, the symptoms worsen, or don’t change. And, people affected with it mostly need assistance.

(Source: TNM)

A memoir: My grandmother’s flight from Karachi to Bombay in 1947

An excerpt from ‘Inheriting the Hamam Dasta and its Stories,’ a chapter by Maya Mirchandani in Looking Back: the 1947 Partition, 70 Years On, edited by Rakhshanda Jalil, Tarun K. Saint and Debjani Sengupta and published by Orient Blackswan:

Sometimes, on Sundays especially, I like to cook. I pull out my old notebook of family recipes and take down a beaten brass mortar and pestle to pound the spices I need. Over the years and several conversations, I have written down recipes for signature Sindhi cuisine, with my grandmother’s spectacularly revealing notes about how she conned us into eating stuff we didn’t necessarily like as children – Sindhi kadhi (no yoghurt, and lots of kokum and lots of vegetables), sai bhaji (put in all the vegetables no one likes to eat, they will never know) or sehal gosht (the easiest mutton curry recipe ever—just toss everything in together and let it cook).

In my home, I don’t think we have ever used the term mortar and pestle. We call it a hamam-dasta. And if it were a living thing, it would be the second oldest member of my family. Second only to my grandmother, Savitri, who arrived by ship to Bombay from Karachi in late October 1947 with two toddlers – my father who was two, and my aunt who turned one that month – one small suitcase of clothes and this hamam-dasta, packed for her without her knowledge by the lady who helped look after the children. So that even as a refugee fleeing the violence of Partition spreading to Sindh, she would be able to set up a kitchen no matter where she landed.

Dadima, as I call her, turned ninety-four in September 2016. She insists on living independently in her one-bedroom house in New York in spite of entreaties by her children to move in with them. On Tuesdays, she plays cards with a Sindhi friend she made there, about twenty years younger than her. Someone with whom she can speak in the language of her childhood, and what is still the language of her thoughts. If anyone drops in to see her, they will find her singularly engrossed in the rummy game. But her brood of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who get their stubborn streak from her and insist on disrupting her game by walking through the front door unannounced, never tire of her stories.

Savitri Mirchandani (née Gidwani) was born in September 1922 in Hyderabad, Sindh, to a family of zamindars – the sixth of ten children. She moved to Karachi at the age of nineteen, as a young bride in December 1941. And there she lived with her husband, a police officer, his family and two very young children. Until one day, six years later, around the end of October of 1947, when she was rushed out of the house overnight. She cannot remember the exact date, but does say that my aunt had her first birthday in Bombay – on the 19th of November.

Sindh, especially upper Sindh, and also the cities of Hyderabad and Karachi had stayed calm for some time after the bloody Partition of August 1947. Sindhi Hindus – for whom language and culture came first, and religion second – had no intention of leaving their homes and lands. After all, unlike Punjab or Bengal, Sindh was not divided, but went wholly to Pakistan, and while they were concerned about their new status as a minority community in a new Pakistan, the question of leaving hung in the air without a clear answer. But as a new Pakistan went about the business of nation-building, on the streets and in mixed neighbourhoods, anger simmered. It was only a matter of time before violence flared. As mobs began to loot Hindu homes, and her husband Sunder, was on duty round the clock, helping to maintain law and order, her safety and that of her two young children became paramount.


After having retired as one of the few Indian officials working for the British-run Karachi Port Trust, her father-in-law, Rewachand Mirchandani had become a card-carrying member of Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s Brahmo Samaj, working for social reform in the city. To him, Savitri was a daughter and given the same status and liberties as Mohini and Rukmini, her sisters-in law. He was liberal but strict – qualities Dada also inherited. But that day, there was no discussion; only an order. After assessing the danger, he came home with a ticket for a berth on a ship that was sailing a few hours later to Bombay, where Savitri’s sister Sita lived.

I often tell Dadima that I consider all Sindhis Sufi. According to what I have learned from her over the years, in many families, the first son became a Sardar and many Amil Sindhis are Nanak Panthis, or followers of Guru Nanak, and follow many Sikh traditions, especially during weddings and funerals. My Dadima still recites from the Granth Sahib every day. My grandfather, on the other hand, pursued his father’s Brahmo Samaj ideals and while he was superstitious about the stars and planets (he famously threw my grandmother’s sapphire ring into the Indian Ocean when they lived in Colombo), he didn’t believe in any religious ritual. In that regard, perhaps we are unlike many families, but in my mixed-up home (my mother is Telugu), Dadima ensured that my brother and I learned our prayers from the Granth Sahib, and even today we recite them anywhere and everywhere we feel like or in places of worship, irrespective of faith – at Gurudwaras of course, but also at dargahs and churches or at the most traditional Hindu temples.

Dadima recounts from memory the terror she felt that night. Like most days and nights at the time, my grandfather was at work. The governor of Sindh had cancelled all leaves and rejected all resignations from police officers, irrespective of their religion. After a posting in Larkana, where he made local headlines for having killed a ‘dacoit’ in an encounter, my grandfather was finally back in Karachi. The city was burning and the governor needed his men. Hindu neighbourhoods and their women were suddenly no longer safe, and her frantic arguments against leaving home, her pleas to stay, to contact my grandfather, all fell on deaf ears. Rewachand told her not to worry, Sunder would be told, but she simply could not stay.

Today Dadima loves to tell everyone that she travelled from Karachi to Bombay in the same ship and in the same cabin that Fatima Jinnah had made the reverse journey in. No one understands why she so has clung to this story. Perhaps because it allows her a chance to make sense of her hurried departure from Karachi – after all, others who had made Bombay their home were doing the same, in reverse. Sindh was part of the Bombay Presidency and the two were considered sister cities – bustling, cosmopolitan and wealthy. Telling us about the ship and of strangers tied together by a shared experience must make it easier for her to talk about it. I don’t know about Ms. Jinnah – who left behind a thriving dental practice in Bombay – but I do know about Dadima. The thought of having left for good was somehow inconceivable to her. Maybe my grandmother’s domestic help who packed her hamam-dasta without telling her knew better.

It wasn’t until after some months later, during which there was absolutely no communication, when my grandfather was finally able to resign from his job and make the journey to India; Dadima says it was a little after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948. But there was an uncomfortable condition to his resignation, a final assignment. He had to escort a train-load of Hindus fleeing from Sindh – alive, wounded or dead – across the newly created border. His resignation letter was submitted and accepted only once the assignment was complete, at Khokrapar, on the border inside Rajasthan.

Dada – Sunderdas Rewachand Mirchandani – a lawyer by training and a policeman by profession, was a man of letters. Fluent in Farsi, nothing was more valuable to him than his books. He had some time to prepare before he left for Bombay and so he carried a few things he felt were important – a book of historical essays he had received as a prize in college, a wedding photograph and the front page of The Sind Observer with the lead story of Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. And for Dadima, he brought some jwellery and her wedding sari. A royal purple organza with bunches of grapes all over, woven in pure silver zari. So delicate that it is now frayed and split into pieces, one of which I still wear on rare occasions as a dupatta, to much admiration.

Many Sindhis who arrived in similar ways to Bombay stayed on. The sea air, proximity to Karachi and the ability to speak in their own language with others from the community who arrived under the same circumstances made them feel close to the home they had left behind. In fact, Mumbai today has one of the largest Sindhi communities in the country and many of them have contributed significantly to the city’s cultural and financial character. Their entrepreneurial spirit is legendary – often admired and reviled in the same breath. In fact, my grandfather’s sister Mohini and her husband Gopal Sipahimalani (Sippy, for short) a practising lawyer in Karachi, who reinvented himself in Bombay as one of the most prominent film producers of his time, tried very hard to convince my grandfather to join them. But my Amil grandfather, who had no head for business and perhaps no stomach for painful nostalgia that gripped so many members of his family at that time, wanted to leave the lament of exile he heard all round.

For those who are unfamiliar with the class-based segregations in Sindhi Hindu society, the Amils (from the word Ámal in Farsi, meaning to administer) were well educated and mainly worked as accountants and lawyers. Some even held government positions – of the very few government positions that Indians were allowed during the Raj. Many Bhaibands – the other major Sindhi community of traders and businessmen – stayed back to protect their businesses as long as they could. But with relatively little in terms of trade and business interests to hold them back during the violence, most of the Amils fled, like so many others, across the Sindh province to India.

Savitri and Sunderdas Mirchandani (Dadima and Dada) on their wedding day,
December 20, 1941. Courtesy: Maya Mirchandani
Days after he found Dadima in Bombay (not wanting to be a burden on anyone she had moved out of her sister’s place by then), the reunited family left bag and baggage for Delhi and lived as refugees, crammed into a single room with another of my grandmother’s sisters, Kalavati (Kala) and her family comprising a husband, Rochi and two children. In the Shershah Mess refugee camp, where the Delhi High Court now stands, Rochi uncle and my grandfather searched for work, joining the line every day to meet the government recruiters who came there. Ours is a family of civil servants and so, Sunderdas Rewachand Mirchandani decided he was going to do what he knew best – serve the new India in whatever capacity he could. Several weeks and many queues later, he was re-employed as a police officer, this time with the Gujarat cadre. Together, my grandparents and their three children (my father’s youngest brother was born twelve years after Partition) travelled all over Gujarat, and then overseas, as my grandfather went up the ranks of the Indian Police Service.

In the winter of 2004, fifty-four years after she was forced to flee her home and her culture and thirty years after my grandfather died, I decided to make the journey back to Sindh with Dadima. I had heard several stories of Partition survivors breaking down and bending to kiss the earth upon arrival in their villages in modern- day Pakistan, so as a caveat, I must state that my grandmother is not a sentimental woman. In my lifetime, even though the stories are told and retold, sometimes with embellishment depending on the audience, I have never seen her express either extreme joy or extreme sadness. And so, armed with a walking stick, she wandered about Karachi as a curious tourist more than anything else. We drove around the city’s formerly Hindu areas in circles – what were empty maidans once were now built-up colonies, old bungalows had given way to swanky new buildings, all but obscuring the streets and landmarks of the Karachi that she once knew.

But Hyderabad, the small dusty town of her birth two short hours north of Karachi, was different. The city had grown, but its core felt familiar to her. In the small narrow streets of Hirabad, the formerly Hindu neighbourhood where my grandmother spent so many of her early years, the old havelis still stood (at least twelve years ago, they did). Engraved in stone at the entrance were names of the families who had once lived there and the dates they were constructed – testaments to the affluence of the original inhabitants. It is hard to say what happened to the individual residents of each home, but in all likelihood their stories must be similar to that of my grandmother’s. The journeys and histories of so many like my grandmother’s family who left Sindh and suddenly found themselves landless, homeless and most importantly, stateless, is largely undocumented. While many of the Hindu families from upper Sindh moved south into the cities after these homes were vacated, the vacuum created by the sizeable community’s departure was largely filled by Muslim refugees from India – the muhajirs, as they are called in Pakistan today. While the Muslims from Punjab settled mostly in and around Lahore, those who left Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, settled in Sindh.

So it was a more than special surprise when, while searching for my grandmother’s childhood home in Hyderabad, we were directed to an original resident in one of these havelis. For two complete strangers – my eighty-two-year old grandmother and eighty-eight-year old Dadi Leela at the time – their connection was almost immediate. In 2004, when they met, Leelawati Harchandani, better known to everyone as Dadi Leela (Dadi means older sister in Sindhi), was the oldest living Amil Sindhi in Hyderabad. Her memory was sharp, and her wit still dry. She told us the entire neighbourhood emptied out at the time of Partition, including members of her own family, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave. When I asked her why, she replied: “When I was a little girl, my headmaster told me I had three mothers. I remember getting very offended, as though he was saying things against my father. Then he explained to me who the three were. He said the first was my mother who gave me birth. The second was my mother tongue. And the third, my motherland. I never forgot that.”

My conversation with her was in Urdu; I understand Sindhi but unfortunately, cannot speak it. My grandmother and Dadi Leela, however, spoke in the language of their mothers, their childhood, and their hearts. And as I listened, half understanding their conversation – fast and furious with excitement and nostalgia – I couldn’t help but reflect on the idea of home and the nature of identity. I watched as Dadima, elegant and cosmopolitan – she who called Delhi and New York home – transformed into Savitri, the young girl from Hyderabad, Sindh.

Dadi Leela was a singer. My grandmother has always urged me to learn Sindhi kalams – odes to the Lord written by Sindhi saints like Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Shahbaz Qalander, whose shrines in Bhit Shah and Sehwan are visited every day by thousands of people. As my grandmother sat down with her on the charpoy in the sunny courtyard where she spent winter afternoons, Dadi Leela pulled out her harmonium for us, and together she and my grandmother sang these kalams of their youth, and mine – I have heard these songs sung at Sindhi gatherings in Delhi and Bombay all my life. And at the end of our visit, she told us she used to know my grandmother’s aunt, and directed us to the house she had lived in, almost next door. A family from Aligarh opened the door and their home to us and asked us to stay as long as we liked. Karachi, Pakistan’s bustling commercial hub, may have been completely unfamiliar, but this short afternoon in Hyderabad, my grandmother’s city made our entire trip worthwhile – as though we had found home.

Today, after over a decade since we went, the stories of that trip, rounded off with a visit to Panja Sahib Gurudwara in Hasan Abdal, have been added to Dadima’s kitty of tales that make up our family history. Her travels in Sindh, like her memories of 1947, are told and retold to family and friends. At home in New York, where her self-taught English has become her first language, the only one who can speak in Sindhi with Dadima is her Tuesday afternoon Rummy companion, and the occasional extended family member who visits.

It wasn’t always like this. When she first moved there in 1985, there were many like her – Sindhis of her generation who had lived all over the world and finally decided to create a home where their children had come to live and work. When they met, conversations were a happy, even if sentimental mix of nostalgia and entrepreneurship, of what home has come to mean for so many of them – where statelessness and exile were superimposed with discussions of new horizons and challenges. While Delhi and Mumbai particularly, followed by cities like Ajmer and Ahmedabad have sizeable Sindhi communities, the community has spread itself all over the world. From Japan to the Caribbean, from South America to Europe, and every place in between, Sindhis are running businesses, own real estate, and adopting new cultures and nations along the way. That is what happens when an entire ‘nation,’ in the ideological sense of the word, becomes stateless.

Dadima, like her few surviving friends, has learned to adapt to new cultures and identities, even within our family. While for some of them the adapting has been about new cities and cosmopolitanism, at home my Telugu mother has introduced the Mirchandani clan to a new cultural sensibility and cuisine; my brother is married to an American of Irish and Danish heritage. In that, I suppose we are not an oddity. Generation after generation, like with so many other cultures and communities, the ‘Sindhi- ness,’ as it were, is getting diluted. Today, even though she tells us not to disturb her concentration when we walk through the door, Dadima speaks our language and listens to our music.

I like to think, though, that the core of who we are as a culture, as a people, has not changed much. My grandmother’s resilience, her perseverance in the face of adversity are to me singularly the most impressive and abiding traits of an entire community. She has held on to them for dear life and passed them on to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, despite our mixed identities and the many places we call home. We all still look forward to our Sunday lunch. In New York, her recipes – including her famous methi fish curry – have found their way into the menu of my brother’s Manhattan bistros. And in my kitchen in Delhi, I pound my spices fresh in that precious hamam-dasta, checking my recipe book as I cook lunch for my retinue of friends who walk through the door in much the same way as we walk into my grandmother’s house – demanding our favourite food. As the sai bhaji simmers in its pot, the scents of my kitchen remind me of Dadima and the flavour of home she carries with her, and that will stay with me wherever I am.

(Source: The Wire)