Sikhs, at least Sikh men, are conspicuous among Indians by their ever-present turbans and their less noticeable but similarly ever-present daggers. Mistaken for, and sometimes attached as Aghani Muslims after 9/11, they can also be misunderstood in their native India, mocked as dim-wits in the Sardarji jokes and, followingt the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguard, targeted by state-sponsored propaganda and violence. Sikhism itself is, to non-adherents, obscure relative to Hinduism or Buddhism.

At a time when the Notre Dame and the Cathedral at Pisa were yet to be constructed, Southern India, ruled by the Chola dynasty, produced great works of sacred art. The bronzes from the era are now housed—as symbols of human creativity at its best—in the museums such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Asia Society Museum in New York.

In her debut novel The Illuminated, Anindita Ghose weaves together stories of personal grief and struggle with larger socio-political afflictions. The personal stories of the women in the book are timeless and universal; these are stories of self-effacement and self-discovery that feminist writing deals with anyway. But Ghose refreshingly sets the stories in contemporary India and connects them with the impact that the rise of fundamentalism is likely to have on women. Apart from this well-balanced personal-political equation, Ghose offers a hopeful vision that,  fortunately, all is not bleak: the women in the novel strive to find a political space that protects their personal space.

Victorian poets such as Matthew Arnold and Alfred Tennyson are celebrated for having survived the test of time, as literary historians would put it. But it is someone else, an “Oriental” poet from England and a popularizer of Buddhism in the West, in Asia, and even on the Indian subcontinent who has been translated into 13 European and 22 Asian languages.

Love makes for a great story, yet love stories are so much hogwash, especially those emerging from India via Bollywood. In Indian reality, love is all too often a scandal with grave consequences for lovers, consequences that arise out of a perception of love as “affairs” that bring dishonor to families’ prestige. Sunjeev Sahota goes deeper into this experience of love as a scandal in his new novel China Room, a story set in a remote village in Punjab of 1929 about a child bride who merely wants to know whom she is married for to, her mother-in-law, Mai, sends her sons to the wives only in the dark. But Mehar is audacious and she pays for it: her love is crushed by those who see the unfolding events—a case of mistaken identity, love and adultery—as an act of transgression.

Sindh, the “homeland” of the eponymous ethnic group, is in what is now Pakistan. In India, Sindhis often call themselves the Jews of India because they do not have a territory of their own, especially in a nation that is internally organized around linguistic ethnicities. Their request for things that other linguistic communities enjoy, such as having a government-owned Sindhi language channel, largely go ignored. Time and again, they are questioned for their loyalty: sometimes for naming their local businesses after Karachi, and sometimes for the removal of the word “Sindh/Sindhu” from India’s national anthem. But it’s not that a defined territory would guarantee political success for the Sindhis in Sindh are not doing very well either, politically, economically, and culturally. A look at Asma Faiz’s book In Search of Lost Glory: Sindhi Nationalism in Pakistan confirms this by showing that Sindhis in Sindh have also been struggling to assert their identity.