In everyday usage, the “Middle East” is generally taken to mean the region that runs more or less from Egypt to Syria to Iraq and the Gulf. It has, especially in recent decades, come to overlay the issues of oil, the Arab-Israeli conflict and terrorism (Islamic or political). Conventional wisdom has it that the word came into use with the fall of the Ottoman Empire as, among other things, a replacement for the less precise and less useful “Near East”. In other words, the general perception is that the expression is either self-evident or that it emerged thanks to a sort of natural evolution in terminology.

India and China share a physical border. Indeed, that is the element of their proximity that stands out the most thanks to the 1962 war, briefly revisited in the form of border skirmishes in 2020. But the two great nations also share common ground in veneration of the Buddha and trade exchanges that span centuries. The Chinese learned about the message of the Buddha from India and, to their immense credit, they also preserved it through translations of the ancient Buddhist texts whose records did not survive in India. This history of healthy spiritual and commercial exchange has more recently been shadowed by increasing distrust and even contempt. Politics and commerce is not however the only way in which two countries have interacted.

Ashoka the Great (3rd century BCE) of the ancient Indian Mauryan dynasty (4th to 2nd century BCE) remains something of a mystery. He was emperor of one of the largest and richest kingdoms of the ancient times that covered Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern parts of India. However, he was forgotten in India (while continuing to be revered in China and Southeast Asia, thanks to his appearance in Buddhist narratives) until the 19th century British scholars researching Indian antiquity discovered him as texts and inscriptions in the previously unreadable Brahmi script came to be newly deciphered.

There is more to festivals of India than commemoration of events rooted in Indian mythology—Diwali is a big one with Rama defeating the Ravana. Christmas celebrations in India are a testimony to the eclectic mix that the country is. In Indian Christmas: Essays, Memoirs, Hymns, editors Jerry Pinto and Madhulika Liddle have put together a sweet collection of reminiscences, poetry, photographs, and paintings to provide a glimpse of the Christmas spirit as it inhabits different neighborhoods in India.

Problems arising from the Internet are generally thought of in terms of misinformation, violation of privacy, addiction to gadgets, depression brought on by social media, and manipulation of personal data for advertising and political ends by the Big Tech. In Asia, these problems take on even graver proportions as governments play a greater role in regulating access to the content available on the web. 

A new anthology of Indian authors writing in, and translating into, English, Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing creates a new sense of contemporariness on the Indian literary scene. This arrangement distinguishes the book from other anthologies of Indian literature which are for the most part organized around a linguistic binary: they are collections either of Indian writing in English or of Indian writing in regional languages English translation, while the project of anthologizing as a whole also seems to be restricted to English for it is difficult to recall any anthologies putting together regional literatures in a single volume.  

Long related orally, the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata is believed to have been composed in written form  between 300 BCE and 300 CE, the epic narrates the tale of greed and compassion between two clans, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and has life lessons that transcend any particular civilization. The family feud over a kingdom speaks of sacrifice, love, lust, and enmity.