Assam, which shares borders with Bhutan, Bangladesh and used to border Myanmar and China, is the largest state in India’s volatile Northeast region. Many of the Indian states that now border Assam; Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, were all carved out of Assam’s territory post-Independence following fierce political battles for representation and autonomy. Therefore a study of Assam is vital not just for understanding events in one of India’s most geopolitical important regions, but for understanding wider South Asia politics.
If one thought, as I admit I did, that a book with “Silk” and “History” in its title would be (yet another) about China and the Silk Road, one will soon be disabused. Aarathi Prasad, a biologist and science writer, opens with the Lepidoptera floors at London’s Natural History museum. Silk, argues Prasad, has a much more complicated story that the conventional one of China and the Chinese silkworm Bombyx mori: “there is not just one silk, there is not just one story of silk. Not one road, one people who found it, nor who made it.” Indeed, some of the earliest silk cocoons ever found, from Xiyin Cun some two hundred kilometres west of Shuanghuaishu and dating from 3500 BCE, aren’t Bombyx mori at all.
Nod Ghosh begins her new novella, The Two-Tailed Snake, with some wise words from the perspective of a snake.
It is appropriate (and perhaps not entirely coincidental) that John Zubrzycki’s Dethroned: The Downfall of India’s Princely States—the story of how India came to be a unitary state rather than a patchwork of autonomous if not independent polities—appears during India’s 75 anniversary.
When we think of Nepal, we think of its high Himalayan mountains, or maybe the highlands of Kathmandu. But somewhere between a quarter and a third of the country is nothing like that: marshy, forested, malaria-infested swampland, along the southern border with India.
Shah Hussain was a 16th-century Punjabi Sufi poet based in Lahore. His kafis, (mostly) short rhymed poetry with refrains, referring to the relationship between God and devotee with metaphors of lover and Beloved, or Murshid (literally, the master but also a metaphor for God as well) and mureed (disciple), are sung and relished even today as rhapsodic expressions of love, longing, and devotion. Considered scandalous by clerics as well as by people in general for his relationship with Madho, a Brahmin boy who became his devotee, he is today venerated as Madho Lal Hussain at his dargah (tomb) in Lahore with Madho buried by his side. Sarbpreet Singh’s new novel The Sufi’s Nightingale turns to this mystic and his strange love story that challenges gender and religious boundaries erected by the people of his time while redefining what it means to be in love.
The characters in Nishanth Injam’s The Best Possible Experience, his debut short story collection, are like many in India or in Indian communities in the United States: Working hard and enduring hardships to try to get a better life for themselves. They don’t always succeed—and even those that do lose something along the way.