Archive for June, 2011

Dayanita Singh

June 14, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)



Just returned to New Delhi after hugely successful shows in Boston, Bogota, Amsterdam, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, and, most spectacularly, the Venice Biennale.

Sunrise, New Delhi, June 12, 2011

June 13, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)







Ratnagiri Journals: 2

June 12, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

Ratnagiri, March 7, 1998


The town is clustered on a hill, turned away from the sea.


There is a huge old banyan in the centre of the road that goes down the hill and a Ram Temple near it. This area is known as Ram Naka – after the the Ram temple – also as the Ram Naka Bazaar.








The main bazaar is the Hatora Bazaar and it is more or less the centre of the town: a few interlocking lanes with bright, bauble-filled shops all around it, and lots of cloth and copper vessels and other odds and ends.

The Kuchcheri is the centre of the civil lines; some of the old buildings are still in place – beautiful old laterite and brick buildings; with red-tiled roofs, but interspersed between them now are many all purpose concrete matchbox structures.


A road leads off from the kuchchehri to the side – this is, I think, the Civil Lines area. There’s a wide maidan at the centre; and a college building – quite possible this was earlier the court and the collectorate. The old collector’s house etc must have been somewhere in that area.

I couldn’t figure where the earlier Thebaw bungalow [where the last king of Burma spent most of his years in exile] might be. Asked everyone – no one seemed to know – all said that Thebaw lived in Thiba-palace. But I went to the market to get a shave and the barber told me that there was an earlier bungalow, called ‘Outram Bungalow’  – it is now known as the Bunglaow of the Asst Superintendent of Police  – and that Thiba-raja used to live there. He said it was on Jail Road. Will have a look tomorrow (but I do remember that Desai* said the earlier bungalow had been torn down).

* W.S.Desai, author of India and Burma: A Study (Orient Longmans, Calcutta, 1954) & Deposed King Thebaw of Burma in India, 1885-1916, Bharatiya Vidya Series, Vol 25, (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1967).


Agha Shahid Ali journals: 2

June 11, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (1)

April 26, 2001

[Speaking of Begum Akhtar, Shahid said:] ‘The morning after one of her concerts there were many reviews in the paper. She said to Shahid: ‘parh ke sunao (read them out)’. Shahid read some of them out to her – they were all raves. After a while Shahid tired of reading and said – ‘You know what’s in all of them, why go on?’ Her response was: ‘Keep reading – it’s always nice to hear good things (achhi baat sun-na to achha hai).’ Shahid added: ‘I love to hear praise. I never tire of it. You know how shameless I am!’

June 8, 2011

June 9, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (1)


Met the BBC’s arts correspondent, Razia Iqbal








at the new Docklands Museum near London’s Canary Wharf.









Tried to imagine the wharves crowded with sailors and lascars;





a forest of masts and sails on the water; the paving stones slippery with whale oil and rum…






Then lunch at ‘L’Autre Pied’ (5-7 Blandford St., just off Thayer St.)





Although booked at random it turned out to be a startlingly good restaurant. Highly recommended.


Then serendipitously chanced on this near Manchester Square


It seemed a good augury for I loved his swash-

buckling sea-stories as a boy.




Then in conversation with Razia Iqbal at Asia House



She was one of the best interlocutors I’ve ever had.




At the signing afterwards, a gentleman who looked somehow  familiar



introduced himself as Anthony Aris, twin brother of Michael Aris, Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband.



He told me that he and his wife Marie Laure had recently visited Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon, which took me back to the December day in 1996 when I first attended one of her weekend meetings, at the gates of her house on University Avenue:





And I remembered also a book-signing in Portland, Oregon, when a tall young man handed me a copy of The Calcutta Chromosome and said it was one of his favourite books. And then, almost as an afterthought, he added: ‘You’ve met my mother in Rangoon. I’m Alexander Aris.’

On to Bath

June 8, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

from London








to Bath








Topping and Company, Booksellers








Out of this Earth

June 7, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (1)


While in London I had hoped to attend an event at the London School of Economics, organized around the recently-published: Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel by  Felix Padel and Samarendra Das (with a foreword by Arundhati Roy); [Orient Black Swan, Hyderabad, 2010]. Arundhati, Felix and Samarendra Das were all speaking at the event, so it was sure to be interesting. Unfortunately my flights were delayed and I couldn’t make it. But I did manage to catch up with Felix.



It isn’t often that an extensively annotated study of a serious subject receives a great deal of attention and even makes it on to the bestseller lists. But thanks in part to Arundhati Roy, this did indeed happen to Out of This Earth when it was published last year. It has been at the top of my reading list ever since it came out: partly because one of the co-authors, Felix Padel, is an old friend, and partly because the subject – the impact of bauxite mining on the forests and indigenous peoples of Orissa – is of obvious and pressing importance. But this is not a book to be lightly picked up – at 720 pages it is considerably longer than Felix’s great-great-grandfather’s masterwork The Origin of the Species.

The wait was well worth it: Out of This Earth is an amazing book – a monumental exploration of a subject that is of critical importance, not only to the people who are directly affected by aluminium mining, but indeed to all of us (I had no inkling for example, that there may be a connection between aluminium products and Alzheimer’s disease. I have since rummaged through my kitchen, throwing out everything made of aluminium, including foil).

I confess I had no idea of the pivotal importance of aluminium – in the chemical and geological composition of the environment, in finance, in the armaments industry, and indeed, in the political-economy of the contemporary world. Nor did I know that the hidden costs of producing aluminium are twice those of producing steel (each ton of aluminium requires 1,378 tons water).

The book demonstrates that despite all the talk of ‘reform’, ‘competition’ and ‘free markets’, the global aluminium industry is a cartel – and one that was established moreover, through Washington’s active efforts. There are eerie parallels and continuities with Britain’s role in the 19th century opium trade: the East India Company declared war on China in the name of Free Trade even as it was enriching itself through its opium monopoly in Bengal. Although the book does not point to this continuity, it does point to others: ‘India’s economic policy, and to a considerable extent its legislation too, is still controlled from London, as firmly as in the days of the East India Company and Raj, though this power is more hidden now, and operates through financial control and debt.’

Out of This Earth also demonstrates that under the fig-leaf of democracy, a ruthless corporate takeover is under way in India, at a terrible cost to the environment and to ordinary people. ‘Rural India,’ write the authors, ‘is becoming like what rural Nepal was a few years back – a battleground of violent warfare between Maoists and the counterinsurgency forces.’

The book would, I think, have benefited from some tightening: it serves up some unnecessary recapitulations of Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and others, and it sometimes strays very far afield, into explorations of such matters as the true meaning of Advaita-Vedanta and the etymology of the word ‘company’. But on the other hand it wouldn’t be what it is if it didn’t have this digressive, History-of-the-Universe quality, and I for one, found myself cheering when it took a time-out to expose some economists, like Jeffrey Sachs, who are feted in the US as anti-poverty ‘crusaders’ despite having brought ruin upon several countries.

Out of This Earth is, and is clearly intended to be, a deeply disturbing book –  yet it is not without many interesting digressions. I was particularly pleased by the many mentions of the great Oriya writer, Gopinath Mohanty: his novel about the forest-dwellers of Orissa, Paraja, is, to my mind, one of the classics of modern Indian literature.

I never had the privilege of meeting Gopinath Mohanty, but a few years ago, while visiting IIT Kharagpur, I happened to meet his son. He told me that Gopinath Mohanty had died some years before, in California, while visiting one of his children. I was both saddened and surprised to hear this – it seemed a strange fate for a writer who was so deeply tied to the soil of Orissa. But the world is indeed a very small place, and this is something that Out of This Earth reminds us of at every turn.



Now flowing through London

June 6, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (1)

The view in

June 4, 2011 in The View | Comments (0)

Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY


June 4, 2011


River boats, Vietnam, 1996

June 3, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

ucuz ukash