Sunday, January 25, 2015


I wrote this short story for the Indo-Oz compendium of speculative fiction/graphic short-fiction/Young Adult collection called EAT THE SKY DRINK THE OCEAN ( ). There are a number of lively, quirky and just plain unusual stories in the collection. This one ("Cool") was republished by the online site called Antiserious.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

PERFORMANCE ART, short story in GRANTA online now

This is my most recent short story. It's just been published in GRANTA's online edition. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Hindu Lit for Life Festival in Madras

Hindu Lit For Life, Day One, Jan 16th.

9.40 a.m. We, my sister Geeta Doctor, her grand-daughter and I, got to the venue a few minutes late. The inauguration was already underway. The auditorium was full -- that was already heartening: the day after Pongal and Madras was ready to attend a festival of Literature! Of course, there was also a shadow hanging over the whole event, on account of Tamil author P. Murugan's decision to "die" as an author, as a result of harassment from social and political forces.

10.00 a.m. The first session for the day was between Eleanor Catton (New Zealand), winner of last year's Man Booker Prize and Parvathi Nayar. We were told that Catton, 28 years old, is the youngest Booker Prize winner and her book (832 pages) is the longest to win. She was endearingly unaffected about her tremendous success. The audience was extremely appreciative and receptive. The lady sitting beside me, for instance, nodded enthusiastically at regular intervals. When asked to comment about youth and literary eminence she had a very good point to make: Mary Shelley was even younger, when she wrote "Frankenstein"! So youth can sometimes be relative to the age in which we live.

11.05 a.m. There was a slight overlap of sessions. My sister Geeta was the moderator and her two panelists were Ritu Menon and Nayantara Sahgal. Two important issues were the focus of the session -- freedom of speech issues and Sahgal's unique family history, the deep bonds she shared with her famous cousin, Indira Gandhi and the special hardships that accompany the privileges of such a position. It was a warm and personal talk, made a little stressful for me and my grand-niece (G's grand-daughter) because we both knew that Geeta has been quite unwell for the past several days with a chesty cough and breathlessness. But, trooper that she is, while she was on stage, though she apologized for her "sexy morning voice" -- she managed not to cough once. The audience clapped several times for Sahgal especially in reference to the need to stand up for our rights to freedom of expression.

Then the three of us left the venue to go home for lunch -- and for G to rest up, because as soon as she was off the stage, she was coughing again. Home happens to be five minutes away from the venue, so we didn't have far to go.

The atmosphere inside and outside the hall was mutedly celebratory: there was a wonderful mix of people, young and old, academics and raw young readers. I was very touched, for instance, to meet a couple who had travelled all the way from Calicut to attend the Fest. She is a lecturer and when she came up to me, it was to say that she teaches my play HARVEST in her college and had told her students that she hoped to have a photograph taken with me. They had wanted to know if she would have one with Chetan Bhagat! For me to meet even one person like this and to have a picture taken with her makes everything worthwhile.

 Geeta is very well known in Madras so it was no surprise that she had many friends to greet but I was happy to notice a number of my friends too -- Alagu Muthu (Meyappan in school) from my school in Kodaikanal, Karthika V K of HarperCollins, Salil Tripathi from long ago Bombay days, Renuka Narayanan from Delhi/Target days and Ranvir Shah my only patron-n-friend combo (with a wink and a thank you). Rachna Davidar was of course an integral part of the Festival and it was good to meet Nirmala Lakshman, festival curator too. Behind the scenes there are scores of young volunteers but the person who I and my co-panelists interacted with was Lata Ganapathy, festival coordinator.

2.30 p.m. I returned alone to meet with the members of the session I would be on. Karthika was the moderator, with Janice Pariat and Nina McConigley, both young writers, well reputed, with recent short story collections to their name. We met in the Authors' Lounge, where lunch was just being cleared away. Janice is from the Northeast, but looks very much a global citizen with her hair in a short bob and a slender slip of a figure. All three of us were on the look-out for Nina, but it turned out that she hadn't heard about the Authors' Lounge! Anyway. Our session got off to a good start, post lunch and with no jitters. Our subject was The Art Of The Short Story and we were all happy to talk "process" with one another and with the audience. Karthika is the ideal moderator because she kept us at our ease and she knew our work well enough to be able to keep us talking.

Afterwards there were yet more friends to meet -- in particular Radhika Menon of Tulika, friend and publisher for me, Irwin Allan Sealy and his wife Cushla.

There were more events and also a party in the evening at Sharon Apparao's gallery, but I made my excuses to get away for the day. I plan to spend much of tomorrow at the venue, attending sessions as a member of the audience.


Hindu Lit For Life, Day Two, Jan 17th.

10.00 a.m. A Voice of One's Own: Dayanita Singh in conversation with T.M. Krishna. It was like watching an exhibition match between two gifted artists, each known for a particular art and also for their strong views and active participation in other arts. Singh is a photographer and Krishna a musician and they talked about breaking through and past the boundaries of such one-dimensional definitions. They were both extremely articulate so it was good to listen to them but I would have preferred to have seen/heard their art. I like Singh's work and have watched her evolve over the years -- she is provocative and daring and I always look forward to seeing more -- but I haven't heard Krishna, so it was (for me) a bit like listing with only one functioning ear. Not their fault at all, of course!

10.50 a.m. The Deeper Truth of Fiction: David Davidar in conversation with Irwin Allan Sealy (India), Eleanor Catton (New Zealand) and Damon Galgut (South Africa). There was a pleasing seriousness and depth to the way the three novelists responded to the questions posed to them by Davidar. It is very attractive to listen to people who are secure and confident in their own skin and in their work that they can talk about it in an honest and unaffected way. Sealy spoke about continuing to write regardless of how his books perform in the marketplace and Catton (Man Booker Prize winner) talked about knowing how lucky it was to have a publisher who believed in her. Galgut, who has been short-listed for the Booker twice talked about being always conscious of being an outsider in some sense to the country of his birth. They talked about the necessary presence of non-fiction within fiction and the many ways in which they wrote almost-truths within a fictional framework.

12-ish: I had lunch with friend and publisher Radhika Menon at a nearby eatery called OX AND TOMATO -- a dinky little place serving "conti" (that's chef-speak for Continental) food. We talked shop over fish and chips, and firmed up plans for my next illustrated book. Since I am much too uptight to reveal details about work in progress naturally I can say no more! But it will involve the same small orange cat who starred in "Where's That Cat?" getting lost again.

2.30 p.m. The Hindu Lit Prize ceremony. The hall was packed and (I think) all 6 finalists for the prize were present. However, before the prize-winning to get underway, N.Ram of the Hindu group of newspapers made an important announcement about a resolution regarding the need to defend Freedom of Speech in India. This was of course in reference to the Tamil author P. Murugan and the way in which his voice has been silenced -- first by social and political pressure and second by himself, by his public declaration that he was "dead" as a writer.

After the resolution was read out and formally seconded and passed, two prize-giving ceremonies took place. The first was for the Prakriti Poetry Festival contest and Ranvir Shah, the creator of the Prakriti initiative, introduced the audience to the prize, showed a brief video presentation about the poets and different moments during the various levels of the competition, followed by the young prize-winner being announced and coming up to receive the prize. (I'll post the winner's name in a subsequent edit because the Prakriti Prize wasn't part of the Hindu Lit Fest brochure).

Then it was time for the lit prize. We were given a quick tour of the six authors who had been shortlisted: Shovon Chowdhury (The Competent Authority); Shashi Deshpande (Shadow Play); Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar (The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey); Anita Nair (Idris: Keeper of Light); Ashok Srinivasan (Book of Common Signs); Deepti Kapoor (A Bad Character). And then with little further ado, Justice Leila Seth, (80+ and wearing a flame orange sari!) announced the winner, ASHOK SRINIVASAN. Very charmingly, when he came up to receive his award the heavens overhead opened and showered him with sparkling confetti. He looked up and around himself, blinking a little and smiling.

The judges were K. Satchidanandan, Tabish Khair, Arunava Sinha, Malashri Lal and Githa Hariharan, all present on the stage and looking rather pleased at their selection. It IS unusual for a collection of short stories to win, so it was a happy moment for all short story writers -- Janice Pariat, sitting next to me, gave a soft gasp of pleasure when the winner's name was announced "How nice! Short stories!" she said.

8.00 p.m. Dinner and drinks at the Taj Coromandal. The hotel was bursting at the seams -- there were two mega-weddings taking place -- but our event was by the pool and in one of the basement ball-rooms so we weren't really affected. I don't like going out at night so I had a nice long chat with Allan Sealy and his wife Cushla, had a Manglorean "sanna" for dinner alongside lamb curry and chutney, with a minute chocolate tartlet for dessert. Whisked myself away home by 10.15. *phew* How do society butterflies keep up with their hectic lives, I wonder? It's hard work, this social life!

Hindu Lit For Life, Final Day, Jan 18th.

10.00 a.m. U.R. Ananthamurthy: A Homage: I arrived just in time to catch the last few minutes of what seemed to have been a lively conversation between Shiv Vishwanathan, N. Manu Chakravarty and K. Satchidanandan. I came in just as an audience member rather angrily defended the late Ananthamurthy's memory by saying that the panelists had mis-represented him by suggesting that he was only interested in "gossip". Vishwanathan firmly defended the panelists' position by saying that in no way was Ananthamurthy's memory being defiled, as he championed the importance of gossip as a medium of social truth. It is surely a sign of a creative person's power that even years after his death, his name and reputation can provoke lively debate!

10.50 a.m. Writers Are Readers First: Arunava Sinha led a discussion between Amitabha Bagchi, T.N.Murari and [me], leading off with a reading by each of us from a 'favourite book'.

I had thought about this before arriving in Madras -- in part because I worried about having to carry a book with me for the sole purpose of this session -- in part because I didn't want to find myself reading some dry bit of prose that perhaps no-one else would find equally interesting. There's nothing as disheartening as to share something dearly beloved with others only to have them sneer at it.

I also felt very sure that the other two authors would choose some literary mega-heavyweights to read from. No doubt it's true of all cultures, but certainly it can be said of Indian writerly types that we do love to parade our credentials to being high-brow whenever possible. And even though many published India authors really are extremely well-read, have excellent memories and can truly quote accurately from all manner of literary masterworks, it's also true that very few amongst us willingly admit to lighter pleasures or ever present ourselves in a less-than-high-brow light.


I HAD to do something different, right? I also had to be true to the purpose of the session. I chose a passage that is indeed a great favourite of mine, from a book that I have loved and cherished from the time I was a small child ... that's right, I chose a children's classic.

When I consulted Arunava about my choice he agreed at once -- and he also told me what the other two had chosen. I was SO not disappointed! It was almost too perfect. I also asked Arunava to let me go last and he was kind enough to agree.

Bagchi went first and his choice was MARCEL PROUST. Murari's choice was GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ. Imagine my delight, then, when I was able to say that my selection was LEWIS CARROLL! From Through The Looking Glass. I chose that wonderful moment when the Red Queen tells Alice "... it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place"!

11.50 p.m. The Kite Flyers: author and skin-specialist Sharad Paul in conversation with Ranvir Shah. I was sitting next to the author's wife (just by chance), who was so utterly enthralled with her husband's presentation. It was quite endearing. I briefly wondered what it might be like to have a family member who behaved with such absolute conviction in me ... then had to give up, because my imagination refused to go in that direction! It is completely alien to my experience. Maybe it's something common to professional male writers? I'm guessing that most women neither receive nor would like to receive, that particular kind of total devotion from their spouses.

12-ish:  I was called away to be interviewed by Rajib Aditya of Author TV ( He had been in touch with me before I arrived in Madras and I'd spoken to him at dinner the night before. He spoke about his memories of growing up in Silhet, of being a young child during the Bangladesh war, of seeing scenes of battle from his doorstep. A thoughtful and interesting person, not a mere media-hound. It was a relief to discover that he was posting the interviews on the web, not broadcasting on TV. It was a brief and quite pleasant session -- I talked only about the short story collection called THREE VIRGINS because his format asks for each author to talk about one book. We were done in about 15 minutes.

12.30: Lunch was in the Author's Lounge for me this time and I had it in the company of Githa Hariharan -- we argued amicably about which one of us was the least-appreciated author, based on who had the lowest count of Lit-Fest attendance (of course I won, since I have only been to three before this one and never yet to Jaipur). We were joined by Ritu Menon and also Rachna Davidar just as I was wondering whether to sample the second dessert option(I did; it was a slightly soggy slice of bread-pudding but worth it nevertheless).

I went home after that and had a bit of a nap.

3.40: My sister Geeta Doctor and I returned to the venue, where she was a panelist at a Workshop conducted by Sharan Apparao on Art Appreciation. The other panelists were M.D. Muthukumaraswamy, Dayanita Singh, Anita Ratnam, Renuka Narayanan, Pradeep C- (not quite sure of the name; will confirm tomorrow) and Sadanand Menon. Each of the panelists presented his/her personal experiences as artists and/or curators of artistic experiences.

Several interesting points were made but I think it became clear that the allotted time could barely hope to graze the outer perimeter of the topic! Still, the audience listened attentively and produced a couple of very plaintive questions: (1) How can I help my 17-year-old daughter overcome her fear of engaging with Art? (2) What does it mean when an abstract painting featuring (for instance) a line and three dots is priced at Rs 15 Lakh? These may seem like very basic questions but they are very real and, for many people, the source of intense intellectual discomfort. Sadly, there wasn't time enough to answer them.

5.10 p.m. The Way Things Were: author Aatish Taseer in conversation with Ranvir Shah. Okay, so I've got to say this: Taseer is Tavleen Singh's son and he's also seriously good-looking. Seriously. Like Mel Gibson with a tan and a cool accent, sort of International Chic. So it was a bit distracting to listen to him talk about his book but Shah succeeded in dragging our attention away from the writer to focus instead on the writing.

The book sounds to be powerful and engaging and I do plan to FlipKart it when I get back to Delhi (it looked a little heavy to haul away in a suitcase). One of the questions Taseer fielded was about his experiences during the Sikh riots of 1984, which he wrote about in an earlier book. He said he was all of four years old at the time and his mother had gone to Amritsar, on assignment. He remembers being taken to his grandparents' home for safety; seeing the broken glass from where a friendly neighbour had smashed the identifying name on the gate; his grandfather sitting inside the house, facing the front door with a shot gun across his knees.

Powerful stuff.

And with that the Lit Fest ended for me. To celebrate, I bought a copy of Damon Galgut's book, In A Strange Room. I'm enjoying it and will write about it here when I'm done.


Thursday, January 15, 2015



Most often short story collections are reviewed as one-line descriptions with just a few stories picked out for longer treatment. I think this collection deserves better. 

Many of these stories are great classics while others (like the one by me, called FEAST) are very new and untested by time. I thought I'd write slightly longer descriptions of each story, reporting on them as if reading them for the first time, sharing whatever I find to appreciate. So this isn't a review of the book or the stories, but an appreciation.

Here are all 39:

1) Rabindranath Tagore: The Hunger of Stones; trans by Amitav Ghosh. A traveller on a train-journey tells the narrator an extraordinary story of a time when he was seduced by a … was it a ghost? Or a deserted marble palace? … but the journey ends before the narrator gets to hear the end of the story. Wonderfully evocative, melancholy and romantic.

2) Munshi Premchand: The Shround; trans by Arshia Sattar. We are introduced to a father and son, a pair of wastrels, who are roasting potatoes while the son's wife lies "thrashing about in labour" nearby and out of sight. The shroud will be for her but the father-son duo appear unrelentingly callous. Even in death, however, she shares the bounty of her existence. An allegory, perhaps, on how we as humans treat the Earth … 

3) R.K.Narayan: A Horse and Two Goats. A penniless elderly goat-herd encounters an "red-faced" American tourist. The story sparkles with wry humor as they engage in a long lively conversation in which neither understands the other's language! Yet a business deal is concluded and both parties retreat to their respective lives, satisfied. 

4) Buddhadev Bose: A Life; trans by Arunava Sinha. A modest Sanskrit teacher embarks on a great project, that of creating a comprehensive dictionary of the Bengali. The story proceeds in the way of a great river that might start out as a tiny mountain stream. The conclusion is foregone -- we can guess where this river will go -- but it's the sights along the way that catch at the heart.

5) Saadat Hasan Manto: Toba Tek Singh; trans by Khushwant Singh. After the Partition, the governments of India and Pakistan "… felt that just as they had exchanged their hardened criminals, they should exchange their lunatics." So begins a story that I found gently satirical despite the jagged shards of history that poke up through the fabric of words.

6) Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai; The Flood, trans by O.V. Usha: As a flood devastates his village, Chennan "the pariah" first attempts to save himself and his family from the rising waters, then gives up and accepts being rescued. But he leaves his dog behind and what follows is a heart-rending description of an animal's desolation. Even in its despair the poor creature attempts (but fails) to defend his master's banana trees and hay-rick from thieves. 

7) Vaikom Muhammad Basheer; The Blue Light, trans by O.V.Usha: A man, a writer, searching for a house to live in finally decides upon a building named 'Bhargavinilayam' that he finds intensely appealing. Just as soon as he's put down two months' rent, he discovers that it's haunted by the ghost of a young woman, Bhargavi. All his friends warn him not to stay but he, determined not to lose his deposit, prefers to court the ghost with friendship and kind words, calling her "Bhargavi Kutty"! Quite a charming variation on the typical Vengeful Ghost theme. 

8) Gopinath Mohanty; The Somersault, trans by Sitakant Mahapatra: Jaga Palei of Sagadiasahi (Orissa), a young man of modest means, wins a local level wrestling match and qualifies for the finals and the All-India title. He rockets to fame but he remains unswayed by the attention. His devotion is to his guru, to his training and to his knowledge of his station in life. 

9) Khushwant Singh; Portrait of a Lady: The famous writer paints a portrait of his grandmother, "... so old that she could never have grown older" when he knew her as a little boy. He tells us that he could not imagine her being pretty, yet she was beautiful "... like the winter landscape in the mountains, an expanse of pure white serenity breathing peace and contentment." What seems like a fragment of autobiography is lifted into the realm of story by a moment of great sweetness at the end.

10) Ismat Chughtai; Quilt, trans by Rakhshanda Jalil: The protagonist tells us that she was an unruly young girl whose mother lodges her with a lady "... whom she considered as close as a sister", Begum Jan. This Begum has a personal attendant called Rabbo who is by her side day and night. During her stay with the Begum, the narrator describes the Begum's quilt undergoing strange transformations at night ... The power of the story lies in the way we see with the eyes of a child as well as our own adult eyes.

11) Amrita Pritam; The Stench of Kerosene, trans by Khushwant Singh: The story's soft texture seems at odds with the harsh title -- but it isn't, really. A village couple who married for love are undone by other kinds of love and other urgencies. 

12) Anna Bhau Sathe; Gold from the Grave, trans by Vernon Gonsalves: If this were a painting, it would be in strong colors -- blacks, reds, lighting blue, metallic gold -- a surreal portrait of a violent character, plundering the graves of recently deceased wealthy people, for the bits of gold they are buried with. 

13) D.B.G.Tilak; The Man Who Saw God, trans by Ranga Rao: What begins with an elopement -- Gavarayya's wife elopes with "the sewing machine man" -- turns into a saga of a village pitted against one obstinate but wealthy man. It is told with wit and compassion, contrasting the shallow morality of pious village elders with a man whose only real crime is that he is not obliged to bow his head to anyone. Not even God.

14) Harishankar Parsai; Inspector Matadeen On The Moon, trans by C.M.Naim: A bitter satire told in the form of space fiction, in which Inspector Matadeen, "investigating officer of a thousand and one cases" is invited by the Moon Government to help them catch criminals. His methods involve every form of police corruption, from planting evidence to fabricating FIRs to coaching witnesses, with the aim of finding solutions to every crime. It is clever and would be very funny too, if it were not so close to the truth.

15) Mahasweta Devi; Draupadi, trans by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: A story of extreme injustice, told in a powerful jerky style, of a tribal woman hunted like a wild animal until she is cornered and caught. Unlike her mythological namesake however, she rejects the verdict of humiliation and instead triumphs over her own victimhood.

16) Vijaydan Detha; Countless Hitlers, trans by Christi Merrill & Kailash Kabir: Five brothers, five Rajasthani farmers, buy a bright red tractor with their accumulated savings. Their pleasure in the purchase is balanced against the message in the title. A taut and well-orchestrated tale of strong passions told against the backdrop of the unforgiving desert landscape.

17) Nirmal Verma; Mirror of Illusion, trans by Geeta Kapur: Diwan Sahib is an old man when we meet him, living by the light of his past glories. His daughter Taran is trapped with him in the bungalow, yearning to escape yet paralyzed by her sense of obligation, of duty, of memories.

18) Sundara Ramaswamy; Reflowering, trans by S.Krishnan: A tale told in a small textile shop in a Tamilnadu backwater. A blind "bill-maker" called Rowther is able to keep his job because of his extraordinary skill with numbers. But then a mechanical innovation enters this world of veshtis and small towels: a calculator.

19) U.R.Ananthamurthy; Mouni, trans by H.Y.Sharada Prasad: Like a classic documentary film, we watch the story of two men, two Bhattas, unfold. They live in a small village in Karnataka, making their living from managing areca nut plantations leased from the local temple. The two men are bitter enemies on account of "an old enmity, its origin lost to memory". A clear-eyed lack of sentiment coupled with a wonderful eye for detail makes this a powerful portrait of rural life.

20) Nisha Da Cunha; Old Cypress: Radha and her husband Rohan decide to buy a cottage called Old Cypress, in the hills. The cottage, Radha's memories and the people Radha befriends create a textured memoir of a genteel life that has reached its peak and is just starting down its final slope.

21) Ruskin Bond; The Blue Umbrella: A gem-like story, told with economy and gentle whimsy, of a little girl called Binya and the blue umbrella she covets, owns, loses, recovers and ... well, that's the story!

22) Gulzar; Crossing the Ravi, trans by Rakhshanda Jalil: A Partition story told in spare language with no extra frills. All the hardship and agony are contained in the harsh simplicity of the telling, as if there was nothing to spare during that time of unspeakable anguish, no sweetness, no tears. Just pain.

23) Anita Desai, Games at Twilight: Children at play in the heat-parched afternoon of a distant summer's day. Hide 'n' seek is the game and one little boy hopes to foil the boy who is "It" by hiding in a place so secure that he cannot be found. But he discovers that never being caught isn't quite the same as winnning.

24) Vilas Sarang; A Revolt of the Gods, trans by the author: During the Ganesh Festival in Bombay, a photographer with his own small studio is witness to a mass 'revolt' of the Ganesh idols being carried in procession to the water's edge. The idols were seen coming to life and moving out of sight. The story has a surreal, sarcastic edge, like a laddoo wrapped around a slice of lemon.

25) Ambai; In a Forest, A Deer, trans by Lakshmi Holström: An evocative story, told from a child's perspective of an aunt who was rich with stories but childless. We glimpse her story as if watching a deer walk, now stopping, now starting, always afraid, through a dense forest. Not quite sure of what we have seen but grateful nevertheless to have seen it.

26) Paul Zacharia; Bhaskara Pattelar and My Life, trans by Geeta Krishnankutty: Told with extreme intensity, this is the story of a criminal gang-lord as seen through the eyes of a loving henchman. The narrator appears to have the consciousness of a crazed puppy for whom violent emotions are the norm.

27) Devanoora Mahadeva; Tar Arrives, trans by Manu Shetty and A.K.Ramanujam: The elements of the story are assembled like characters on the stage-set of a small village in Karnataka -- the bad characters, the village opinion-setters, the outsiders. Then "tar arrives" in the form of a road-construction team and the little drama plays out. Echoes of this story can be heard wherever and whenever Modernity rams itself into the soft flesh of Tradition.

28) Irwin Allan Sealy; First In, Last Out: Baba Ghanoush is a perceptive and well-educated autorickshaw driver who witnesses the aftermath of a crime. He decides to take a hand in punishing the pair of scoundrels involved, using his trusty three-wheeled vehicle as his batmobile. Yes, he's clever and he may even be rather likable but … is he fighting on the side of the angels or the demons? That's for us to decide!

29) Vikram Seth; The Elephant and the Tragopan: A fable told in vivacious verse, about a delegation of animals that sets out to beg human beings to be more considerate towards their fellow creatures. It is as charmingly told as it is wise and worldly.

30) Manjula Padmanabhan; Feast: about a European vampire who visits India as a tourist. [as this is my story I can't allow myself to say anything more about it]

31) Githa Hariharan; Nursing God's Countries: The protagonist is that woman in white whom we barely acknowledge, the Malayali nurse. A woman we rarely think of in terms of her needs and desires because her occupation is built around the needs of others. This is the story of one such nurse, one of the more successful ones: a job in Canada and a child back in Kerala, with whom she hopes to be reunited. But muteness is her song. In her silence, the stifled dreams of millions of young women.

32) Cyrus Mistry; Proposed For Condemnation: Ajay, a young man in Bombay, finds release amongst women, while dressed as a woman. No tawdry "eve-teaser", his passion is keen and his adventures in the Ladies' Compartment of Bombay's suburban commuter trains are like a fever-dream of heat and lust.

33) Shashi Tharoor; Trying To Discover India: We find ourselves aboard a famous ship, alongside a famous explorer, en route from Spain to discover a Westward route to the Indies. The narrator is an Indian, from Kerala and alas he has little respect for the famous explorer, because he has guessed that their destination cannot be what it is supposed to be. With sly winks and nods towards the reader he retells history from his alternative perspective.

34) Upamanyu Chatterjee; Desolation, Lust: The descriptions of Bombay as seen through the eyes of an unhappy, disenchanted young man, traveling with his unlovely -- and unlovable -- girlfriend, are unsparing. Yet there is a bleak grey humour twitching in the rubble-strewn landscape he shows us. We champion his cause even as we despair for him.

35) Vikram Chandra; Kama: This is a long story -- so long that I was nervous, as I approached it, having grown used to the highly condensed narratives of most of the other tales in this collection. But it is told with cool control, from the perspective of a Sikh police inspector in Bombay and includes a large cast of characters. It clicks along like a powerful, well-oiled machine, touching all the points that one might expect in a 'romain policier' -- then goes a few steps beyond.

36) Anjum Hasan; Wild Things: A wayward schoolboy runs away from his village school to spend a day with his cousin Natesha who works in a restaurant in Bangalore. The story is told with wit and sympathy, as Prasad, an Indian Tom Sawyer, tests the limits of his unruliness.

37) Amrita Narayanan; Stolen: Four women in a wealthy home, on an afternoon of heat and lust. Three of them are domestic workers, one is of the employer class. Steamy and fragrant as a bowl of tropical fruit left out in the sun at the height of summer, the story is like a single glimpse stolen from behind the screens of a hidden world.

38) Shahnaz Bashir; The Gravestone: An old man, once a skilled craftsman, is on his way to his son's grave. He carries with him the tools of his trade, intending to correct a mistake in the inscription on the headstone. But in the way of Fate, that carves what it will on the granite of each person's history, the old man's hand slips and he removes more than he planned.

39) Kanishk Tharoor; Elephant at Sea: An elephant is on its way to Morocco from Kerala, requisitioned by the whim of a young princess. The story is told in a tone of light allegory, as the great beast arrives, is greeted with fondness and some bewilderment, then left to enjoy the hospitality of the Royal Garden. There it remains, like a fable untethered from its home culture, beloved, admired and wholly misunderstood.

Monday, January 12, 2015

ELSEWHERE, USA -- One year of my columns in BLink, Business Line's Saturday Magazine

Below is a list of links to all 24 of my fortnightly ELSEWHERE, USA column in BLink, the very lively Business Line Saturday Magazine from The Hindu's family of newspapers. If you'd prefer to go directly to BLink's on-page with all the columns together, click here: ELSEWHERE Links.

It's been fun to keep the column going but No. 24 marks an end as well as a beginning: I will continue to write a column but (a) it'll be weekly and (b) it'll include another character and ( c ) there might be a drawing or two included in the mix (d) it'll have a different name. We're still working on it.

I plan to post links here on a monthly rather than bi-annual basis but … bloggers often make promises … and some many of them of them are broken.

Anyway! For now, here's the list: