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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Sunday Long Reads: Love for momos, Indian textile heritage, Left vs Right, skinks, books of 2022, and more

Don't miss out on this week's must-read stories!

New Delhi |
Updated: January 11, 2022 11:28:57 am
Dolma AuntyDolma Tsering selling momos at her shop Dolma Aunty Momos in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar market. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

What momos, which clocked over 1 crore online orders last year, mean to those selling them

Get in line! Distance banake rakhiye (maintain some distance),” hollers Dolma Tsering, reminiscent of a school teacher trying desperately to discipline an unruly bunch of students. Except, everyone standing in front of her is an adult — few masked, fewer heeding caution. They all seem to be galloping towards Tsering’s shop in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, weaving through the crowd to get to a plate of piping-hot momos.


How the Rashtrapati Bhavan has preserved Indian textile heritage

RB textile The Ashoka Hall carpet has a deep-red base with flora motifs in green, blue and white, rust-coloured curtains with gold motifs, matching the murals on the ceiling (courtesy The Rashtrapati Bhavan)

Since ancient times, the Indian textile industry has been much sought after, and its story one of the oldest in the world. The earliest known reference is to be found in the Rig Veda. Romans apparently gave gold coins in exchange for Indian textiles of the same weight. The textile industry raked in gold and silver, India-made silk and cotton found buyers in ancient Greece, Egypt and the Arab world, and, later, in Europe under colonial rule. Medieval India’s economy reached its pinnacle of glory, and the Indian artisan, with his master skills, caught the eye of European travellers and traders.


Why we need to reach out across the divide

democracy, Indian democracy, democracy in India, Indian politics, Left and Right, Left vs Right, political ideologies, poltical rallies, jingoistic nationalists, fascism, ultra-nationalism, woke-secularism, demagogues, Suvir Saran column, eye 2022, Sunday Eye, indian express news This is the Left’s wake-up call to not to become mere reactionaries, and for the Right to be cognisant of the old diktat that what goes around comes around. Today, it is the other they are going after. Tomorrow, that other will be from within the fold. (Credit: Suvir Saran)

It’s a pulsating loud, wildly raucous rally in a huge stadium. The crowd is on its feet and thumping. There could easily be a stampede, but nobody would care. They would gladly die for the cause. Every word coming out of the speaker’s mouth is going directly into each person’s heart, touching a raw nerve, making them proud of their country, proud of their religion, proud of their skin colour, and proud of their place in the world, determined that they must protect their own kind. They have willingly and enthusiastically placed themselves in the hands of the puppeteer.


Why lizard’s cousin, the commonly found skinks, are difficult to spot

Ranjit-Lal-Skinks Skinky Tails: Only the juveniles of the common garden skinks have a red-hot tail, which, like in lizards, are shed to startle a predator as the skinks escape at top speed. (Source: Ranjit Lal)

When I first sighted it on the dining room carpet that morning, I thought it was a highly anorexic lizard of some kind, whose limbs had stopped growing prematurely and whose sharp-ended tail had somehow got severely sunburnt or stuck in the toaster. The creature was long and very sinuous, the top of its back tan, with cream edging on either side, the entire body profusely spotted as if pins had been pricked into it. Or, was it a tiny (about 9 cm long) genetically mutant snake of some kind that was, perhaps, trying to morph into a lizard? My Man Friday declared it to be extremely venomous, that it moved lightning fast. At the moment it seemed dead.


Can consonants wage a war against vowels?

Roy Phoenix’s book Alphabetica, characters, vowels, consonants, symbols, numbers, Eye 2022, Sunday Eye, indian express news Alphabetica: A Satire on Majoritarianism; by Roy Phoenix; Notion Press; 220 pages; Rs 549

We live in dark times. Just as it seemed that the world was beginning to overcome the virus, it seems to have raised its head again. A scourge that affects all of us would have made humanity put up a common front. But nothing close to it has happened. We had been riven by conflict much before the microbe struck. Our capacity to make well-informed decisions constrained by internecine rivalries, between identities that are a complex combination of lived realities and toxic political imaginations, often championed by authoritarians who don’t brook any dissent. Amid all this, humour has been a salve despite dictators not liking being mocked at. That’s why Roy Phoenix’s Alphabetica is a book for our times. Its charm lies in making complex things simple with wit and irony, while never losing sight of its purpose.


Former NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya’s book on his father is also an insightful account of 20th-century Indian history

maharana pratap Of particular interest was the section about Panagariya’s challenge to the views of scholars about the figure of Maharana Pratap as portrayed in history books. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

My Father: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is an interesting, personal story of Baloo Lal Panagariya, straddling the pre- and post-Independence period, and spans most of the 20th century. While largely biographical, it is also a political and social history of Rajasthan.


When India decided to field Justice Dalveer Bhandari, a second time, at the International Court of Justice

icj The seat of the International Court of Justice at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. (Source:

Getting the better of a member of a permanent member (Big Five or P5) of the Security Council at the UN is always a moment to cherish but if the P5 member happens to be the colonial power that lorded over you, for nearly two centuries, the flavour has much more than a tinge of sweet. India’s win over the UK at the UN in 2017 for a seat at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was just that and is the tale of the book, India vs UK, authored by Syed Akbaruddin, known as Akbar in the diplomatic fraternity.


Can India push China off its dominant perch?

china and india In the book, the authors analyse India’s potential to narrow the widening economic gap with China. (Photo: Express Archives)

When six former public servants and scholars of unique distinction conjointly author a book on China, it cannot be disregarded. A well-written, analytical, empirically rich and policy-oriented product, it deserves to be in the “must read” lists of the year.


Waiter, I need a fly in my soup

Chapulines, grasshoppers and guacamole snack traditional Mexican cuisine from Oaxaca mexico A traditional Mexican snack of chapulines grasshoppers and guacamole. (Source: Getty Images)

In February last year, Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr created something of a stir in the nascent edible-insects industry when he made a case for protein derived from mealworm larvae in an interview with The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert. The product the actor presented to Colbert was from a company that he happens to back, but there’s more to this episode than a simple case of an investor getting people to buy a product he has put money into.


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