At the start of Sandeep Ray’s debut novel, A Flutter in the Colony, a young woman named Maloti is approaching George Town by ship as she and her young family arrive in Malaya to start anew. Maloti’s husband, a Mr Sengupta who goes only by “the young man” in the story, has found a job working in a rubber plantation and has left Calcutta behind. As the title suggests, the story takes place during British colonial times, but perhaps the word “flutter” should be changed to the plural since the setting is in both in pre-Partition Calcutta and pre-independence Malaya.
The exploration of the Himalaya contributed vastly to scientific knowledge. From botanical discoveries, to understanding of how human bodies work at altitude, to pioneering the use of new scientific equipment, the mountain range had an immense importance. Yet its hostile environment meant that this knowledge was not easily gained. Moreover these scientific endeavors were by no means apolitical. Empire and imperialism was a central aspect of these activities. Despite the notional purity of science and scholarship, these western surveyors, naturalists and scientists were taking part in the imperial project.
In India, a land of many languages, not all languages are created equal. In particular, the government has designated a half dozen as being “classical” and therefore deserving of special support. One of these is Sanskrit, but others are still being spoken (albeit in versions very different from the ancient times). One of these officially venerable languages is Telugu, spoken in two southern provinces Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The “best” in Telugu: The Best Stories of Our Times—a collection of works from 26 writers, selected by award-winning Telugu writer Volga and translated by by Alladi Uma and M Sridhar—is not meant as a superlative or subjective but rather as a reflection of Telugu-speaking society since the 1990s: the “our times” of the title.
Bangladeshi writer Shahidul Zahir’s “Life and Political Reality”, the first of two novellas in this collection and more aptly described as a long paragraph, is a breathless account mostly of two days fifteen years apart—and to some extent a few days in between. The first day is the day the then-West Pakistani army enters Lakshmi Bazar, a small neighbourhood in East Pakistan in 1971.
After the Buddha died or, as believers hold, attained Mahaparinirvana, the remains of his body—tooth, hair, bones—were reportedly disseminated to different Buddhist stupas in India. These relics have been understood to be at the centre of various miracles and legends since then and have also been highly coveted objects. Rulers of various kingdoms have wanted to get hold of these relics in their bid to legitimate their sovereignty with the Buddha’s blessings. As a result, each relic has interesting stories around its existence—about being lost, stolen, refound, and even destroyed.
Nepal has undergone immense social change since 1951 and the end of the Rana dynasty. It has been transformed from a feudal autocratic monarchy to a federal republican democracy. Its politics, society and economy have been irrevocably changed by coups, civil war and political movements. So vast and far reaching are these changes that Jeevan R Sharma dubs them Nepal’s “great transformation”. Political Economy of Social Change and Development in Nepal is an attempt to provide a concise overview of these changes, and the effects they have had on Nepal’s politics, society and economy. At just 208 pages, this is a good one-volume primer for those seeking to understand Nepal’s great transformation as well as it’s idiosyncrasies, faults and discontents.
We’re celebrating our one-year anniversary with this interview, and so I wanted to introduce a special guest for today: Nur Nasreen Ibrahim, talented writer, journalist and dear friend.