“History has not been kind to Himalaya,” writes historian and travel writer John Keay in his latest book Himalaya: Exploring the Roof of the World. The region, nestled between India, China and Central Asia, has long been subject to political and imperial intrigue–and at times violent invasion. But the region also provided a wealth of scientific information, like geographers puzzling over how these tall peaks were thrust upwards by plate tectonics.
This study identifies the latent and emergent drivers behind the mounting acrimony in South Asia—notably, India’s ambitions as a “rising power” coupled with the resurgence of China and Pakistan’s strategic anxiety as the United States unmoors itself from Afghanistan and embraces India. India is similarly concerned as China advances its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) across the region, developing a network of economic and strategic hubs and bringing India’s neighbors into China’s embrace through its strategy of peripheral diplomacy.
The most substantial selection in English of short stories by Dhumketu, a pioneer of the short story form in Gujarati literature, is brought together in this new translation by Jenny Bhatt. Dhumketu, the pen-name of Gaurishankar Govardhanram Joshi, was a prolific writer in the first half of the 20th century, producing 500 short stories, over 35 novels and several plays. He also published travelogues, essays, translations and literary criticism.
John Keay has written well over 20 books, ranging from European to Middle Eastern history, but it’s his writing on the Subcontinent that he’s best known for. His new book draws on decades of research to provide a comprehensive portrait of the Himalaya from geology and politics to revolution and religion.
In her new book High, Erika Fatland traverses the Himalaya. Her journey starts in Kashgar in Western China. From her starting point in Xinjiang, she crosses the border into Pakistan and travels down the Karakorum highway onto Gilgit, Chitral and the Swat Valley. Dropping down to Lahore her journey takes her across the Punjab and into Indian Kashmir, then Leh, Manali, Dharmsala, Darjeeling and Sikkim before venturing onto Bhutan and Arunachal and Assam. Then in a second later trip to Nepal, Fatland goes trekking to Everest base camp, down to Lumbini and onto Upper Mustang then to before crossing into Tibet and onto Lake Manasarovar. After a short visit to a tightly-controlled Lhasa, her journey finishes in Zhongdian, the so-called Shangri La in Yunnan province.
For a book that is fundamentally about hope, Philippe Sands’s The Last Colony is a depressing read, not just its in its tale of colonial injustice, but also in its recounting of the US and Britain’s refusal to abide by the norms, the “rules-based order”, that they demand of others. “One rule for you, another for us?” as Sands succinctly puts it.
While celebrations kicked off in August to mark 75 years of Indian and Pakistani independence, a second more somber anniversary also took place, remembering the largest human displacement in history, an event which has shaped and defined the sub-continents past, present and future: Partition.