Why ‘Behind The Beautiful Forevers’ still resonates

On a freezing January morning in 2012, as a handful of publishers, journalists, writers and bibliophiles headed for the annual Jaipur Literature Festival on the early morning Shatabdi Express from Delhi, the buzz around the compartment was about one book alone: the American journalist Katherine Boo’s Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity, which was hot off the press and had created a major stir, especially in India.

Suniti Namjoshi: In the wonderland of history, fiction and myth

Few contemporary writers own the epithet of a “fabulist” with as much sass as 81-year-old Suniti Namjoshi. The word, deriving from the Latin fabula (“story”), refers to a storyteller. But it could equally mean a liar, a compulsive teller of tales. The best fabulists are masters of the art of fibbing. They inhabit a morally dubious, if exciting, universe, where conventional beliefs about life and art, gender and sexuality, right and wrong, turn topsy-turvy.

The God Of Small Things is still relevant after 25 years

In 1997, when The God Of Small Things was published, I was in high school. I had a passing familiarity with the Booker Prize but the dailies in Kolkata, where I lived then, made sure that all and sundry appreciated the enormity of Arundhati Roy’s win. After all, she was one of “us”, born to a Bengali father and Syrian Christian mother, even though she had grown up mostly in Kerala and lived in Delhi. Roy’s smiling face, framed by her then curly mane of hair, appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Questioning photography with Guftgu

In Urdu, “guftgu” means conversation, usually a dialogue that is charged with free-flowing whimsy. It’s an exchange where words cross paths with abandon, feelings intersect, emotions meander and sometimes converge into common points of truth. A similar energy flows through the nine stand-alone chapters that form the eponymous new project by Offset Projects, an art initiative conceptualised by artist, curator and editor Anshika Varma.

When fiction collides with fake news

Amitava Kumar’s new book, A Time Outside This Time (Aleph Book Company, 699), is a shape-shifting entity. Quick-witted and nimble, this odd literary beast has its ears to the ground. It slips into modes of narration that may appear radically opposed to one another but are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Interspersed with scraps of news reports, photographs and drawings, it signals its affinity with the uncategorisable genre practised, most notably, by the German writer W.G. Sebald.

Will we sleep better in 2021?

Neha Tiwari, a 35-year-old bookstore-café owner in Pune, was already suffering from insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder when the covid-19 pandemic broke out and her sleep routine went out of whack. “The pandemic has been rough for a lot of people, and it has definitely affected me, especially since I run a small business,” she says. “But it wasn’t too much of a difference, since I have always had trouble sleeping.”

From Godhra to Shaheen Bagh, there are many 1984s: Sarbpreet Singh

On 31 October 1984, as the Tinsukhia Mail was about to reach Kanpur station, the news of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards reached the passengers aboard the train. It’s not hard to imagine the consternation the rumours must have caused, but in Sarbpreet Singh’s story “The Survivor”, included in his new collection , we glimpse the human face of the tragedy vividly—first, through a haze of bitter irony, followed by a pall of horrific violence.

Sunday Lounge | Why Rohinton Mistry's fine balance matters, 25 years on

In 1995, when Rohinton Mistry published his second novel (and third book) , he had been away from India for exactly two decades, living in Toronto, Canada, since he moved there at the age of 23. In the interim, he had held a day job at a bank for 10 years, taken evening classes at the university in English and philosophy, and written a collection of short stories and one novel, which had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

What Shabir Ahmad Mir’s fiction tells us about Kashmir

Shabir Ahmad Mir finished editing his first novel for publication through the hard days of the covid-19 lockdown. For the writer, this period was not entirely unfamiliar. Born in Gudoora village in Kashmir’s Pulwama district, he studied at a local school, and then a college in Srinagar. Frequent curfews and internet blackouts have been par for the course for Kashmiris for decades now, and so it was for Mir.

But, on 5 August last year, as the Union government revoked the special status of the re
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