Although “Subjunctive Moods” is the name of the second of the stories in CG Menon’s debut collection, it is apt for the entire collection. In grammar (albeit less so and increasingly rarely in English), the subjunctive is used when a condition of uncertainty or conditionality prevails; “if I were the author,” for example, “I might have chosen just this title.” Even a slight perturbation in reality can result in a different verb conjugation or, as it is called, “mood”. Most of Menon’s protagonists are none “too steady on their feet”, as two of them say of themselves, whether literally or as an existential condition: if lives could be conjugated, these would be in the subjunctive.
Nagaland is located in the north-east of India, with an eastern border to Burma, the name by which Myanmar is referred to throughout this book. The population of Nagaland is about two million people and consists of 16 tribes, each of which retains to this day its own traditional customs and language.
China shares borders with 14 other countries, more than almost any other nation. Its near neighbors represent a diverse collection of countries, from dominant powers such as Russia and India, to the smaller emerging nations of Laos and Bhutan. Throughout China’s history, it is through these borders that the influencing forces of trade, ideology and imperialism have traveled. China’s border regions have resumed their importance in recent years with political protest among the country’s ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the development of the One Belt, One Road initiative—which seeks to further bind China’s neighbors to its economic agenda through the creation of a “New Silk Road”. As it currently stands, China’s borders represent an opportunity for trade and cultural exchange, but also a risk from political agitation, terrorism and even military conflict.
According to the ancient Indian Hindu scriptures called the Puranas, the Earth is shaped like a disc and it rests upon different animals in different versions—the cobra, the elephant or the turtle. In her new book Terrestrial Lessons, historian Sumathi Ramaswamy says that in the process of signing treaties and carrying out diplomatic negotiations with the rulers of the various small kingdoms in the subcontinent from 18th century onwards, the officials of the British East India Company saw an interesting opportunity in these myths.
East is East, and West is West, but the twain did meet and influenced each other unpredictably. For instance, the post-colonial Asia encountered Christianity during its first interactions with the West. The fruit of such a meeting is the post-colonial religion that is practiced in different parts of the continent as Christianity. Jesus is a protagonist of the stories of transformation of thought and practice of the religion in Asia.
In 1934 Gendun Chopel, a former Tibetan monk, arrived in India in the company of an Indian scholar, Rahul Sankrityayan, just after giving up his monastic vows. He would remain there for some time before returning home in 1945 and getting himself arrested on a (probably) trumped-up charge of forging banknotes. While in India, he lived in penury as he wandered around from place to place, gathering material for what would eventually become The Passion Book, a work completed in 1939 which started circulating in manuscript form and was eventually published in 1967, sixteen years after its author’s death.
It is so difficult to live in Mumbai, an old Bollywood song about Mumbai goes, for there is everything here—cars, trams, mills— everything except a heart. Perhaps it is because of this absence that the heart is invoked in so many ways in countless songs and love stories set in the city. Dil Dhadakne Do: Let the heart be. Dil toh Pagal Hai: The heart is mad. Dil tera deewana: This heart is crazy about you.