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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: Pickles, travels, books, climate and more

Can everything that grows under the Sun be pickled? In India, possibly yes. A look at the staple household condiment — and its long history in the sub-continent

Updated: November 24, 2019 3:31:03 pm
pickle jars, pickles, Indian pickles, Sunday Eye, Eye 2019, Indian Express, Indian Express news Pickling, as a way of preserving food, is almost as old as cultivation. Whenever there was a glut of a particular kind of food, it was pickled so that it could be eaten during the lean months of the year. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

Down in Jungleland: Get Down and Dirty

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In a world full of computer screens and smartphones and iPads, how on earth do we expect the modern child to develop an interest in nature? By religiously watching a plethora of natural history, wildlife and “survival” documentaries? Be warned, some will only teach you that all of Mother Nature’s critters in the wild are out to get you — which they are not. They are out to get out of your way mostly, but that’s another matter.


From Babur to Jahangir, how the Mughal empire enriched Indian cuisine

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Babur, by all accounts, disapproved of most things he found in India. “Hindustan is a place of little charm,” goes an oft-quoted line from his autobiography, Baburnama. A lot of the scorn, the first Mughal emperor poured on the land he had conquered in 1526 owed to his being a food snob.

“[There is] no good flesh, no grapes or muskmelons, no good fruits.. no good bread or food in their bazaars,” he grumbles.


‘The core of a writer doesn’t change much’

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British Sri Lankan writer Romesh Gunesekera, 65, on his new novel, his relationship with the English language and the Sri Lanka of his imagination.

What led you to your new novel, Suncatcher (Bloomsbury, Rs 599)?

The story has been hanging around for a very long time, I didn’t find a way of writing it. I think 2013 is when I started on it but it was probably 2015 onwards when I worked on it in earnest.


In Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, mud volcanoes and petroglyphs hide beneath them a world of secrets

It looks like a thick, dark stew bubbling on the stovetop. Or a bulbous living being trying to escape from the black sludge on the ground. It is, however, none of those, but the natural forces acting up at the mud volcanoes in Gobustan (also called Qobustan), close to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. Azerbaijan is rich in natural oil resources, a place where volcanic activity below the earth causes strange phenomena — like the fire burning non-stop through wind and rain on the mountain at Yanar Dag for probably hundreds of years now, and the wide craters spewing a thick magma-like substance at the mud volcanoes of Gobustan.


An odyssey into the past

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In Washington, DC, the four walls of museums offer an insight into the history, arts and culture of the US. While many of these museums, most of the Smithsonian Institution, have existed for decades, several new ones have come up to document the histories of people on the margins.

At the Smithsonian American Museum of Art, which holds one of the largest collections in the world, one can spend hours exploring the “American experience” through works of popular artists Nam June Paik, Jenny Holzer, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, among others. But what truly defines American art is the gallery dedicated to folk and self-taught modern artists, like Emery Blagdon, who came from a small farm in Nebraska, or Bessie Harvey, a mother of 11, who used branches and roots to make her sculpture, Birthing (1986), portraying an African girl giving birth to a baby.


In Ladakh’s landscape, shaped by a formidable nature, people find strength in community

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We grumbled, disappointed that the teashop was shut. Having walked non-stop for three hours, even reaching out for our bottles for rationed sips of water seemed like an effort. We did rest, though, on makeshift stone benches, while some of us made half-hearted attempts to photograph the cloudless dazzling blue skies and the stark brown hills around us. Only Gurmet Angmo noticed the wilted sunflowers. She got up quietly, filled a plastic bottle from the shallow stream, and watered the plants. The shop wasn’t hers, and neither were the flowers.


Where it All Started

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Iss debate mein ghusne se koi bhi bewakoof hi lagega (only a fool would engage in this debate).” Prateek Vats, 35, has a note of exasperation in his voice when he talks about the ongoing protests by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students over the fee hike proposed by the university authorities. For him, the debate over equitable education is a non-starter: Rights are not bargained for.


Author Tracy Chevalier on her new book that threads lives through the years

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Tracy Chevalier has always been, sort of, an outsider. Growing up in Washington, DC, a “company town where the company was the government”, she watched her father, a photographer with The Washington Post, document events from the sidelines. “Just like it is with photography, I think it’s important for a writer to be on the outside, looking in. I went to a racially integrated school, which was mostly black, so I was in the minority there; later, I moved to England to study, and even though I’ve knocked the edges off my American accent, and I don’t speak loudly, I’m still very American, and for my whole adult life, have lived as an outsider,” she says during our conversation at the recently-concluded Tata Literature Live! Festival in Mumbai. It makes sense then, that the 57-year-old American-born British writer has consistently been fascinated by those who once lived on the fringes of society, overlooked and underwritten — it so happens that they are almost always women.


Ethiopia to Mexico via Colombia, and back: A Punjab man’s four-month-long nightmare

Soon after Manpreet Singh landed at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he overheard the three other men who had boarded with him from New Delhi making plans for their onward journey. Singh, 21, realised that something was amiss. “What? US? Aren’t we going to Canada?” he asked them.

Singh says that’s when he realised he had been duped by the Jalandhar-based agent, to whom he had paid Rs 15.50 lakh for a Canada visa. He was now part of a group making a circuitous and dangerous journey into the US as an illegal immigrant. “I panicked and called my parents. What could they have done? They told me to simply stay with the others and stay safe,” says Singh, whose parents had sold half of the family’s two-acre land to pay the agent’s fee. He only had a bag of clothes, a phone, Rs 7,000 and the $300 that the agent had given each one of them to cover their travel expenses.


WhatsApp Uncle on raising high fees in JNU and the Mahabharata

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My family… today i am remembering Mahabharat tales for many reasons… Great history of Lord Ram is good for understanding all good things… how to be good father good leader good son good husband good Big Brother…. BUT MAHABHARAT IS BOOK FOR UNDERSTANDING ALL REAL THINGS OF LYFE AND PROBLEMS OF SOCIETY…u see let me tell u very frankly… even in NEW INDIA where it shud be RAM RAJYA we have BATTLES AND POLITICS LYK MAHABHARAT…


Decoding the Indian culinary art of the achaar

Durga Sivaram can pickle anything. “Starfruit, bamboo shoot, soya chunks. Whatever you give me, I will make a pickle out of it,” declares the Pune-based homemaker. The 59-year-old is well known in her circle for making any kind of pickle and frequently takes orders from family and friends. One New Year’s Eve, a few years ago, at a dinner she was hosting at home, she served a large bowl of pickle that was wiped clean before the end of the meal. “My guests loved it. They kept asking me what pickle it was, and I told them to guess. They finished the bowl, but they couldn’t guess,” she says. So, what was the pickle made of? “Green apple,” she says, laughing.


Surviving a new world

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It wasn’t so long ago that global warming — climate change hadn’t become the phrase of choice then — was seen in India and across the global South as something of a first world problem. In 1991, environmentalists Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain described a report by a US-based think tank and the UN as “an excellent example of environmental colonialism” (in the paper “Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism”). They wrote that the report tried to blame countries “like India and China” for the rise in global temperatures. This view, articulated in 1991, formed the bedrock of India’s climate diplomacy, and, for a long time, India stuck to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR). Simply put, the argument was that countries whose time had come would not sacrifice their development to pay for the excesses of the developed world.


Discovering the Indian soldiers in World War I who were cared for in France

India, France, Indian soldiers, Eye 2019, Sunday Eye, Indian Express, Indian Express news A still from Vijay Singh’s 2016 film Farewell My Indian Soldier (Mademoiselle France Pleure)

A few days ago, I was in Merville, a small town in the north of France, to present my film Farewell My Indian Soldier (2016) on the occasion of the World War I Armistice Day (November 11). As part of the weekend-long commemoration devoted exclusively to WWI Indian soldiers, mayor Joël Duyck and Ramesh Vohra, president of the Interfaith Shaheedi Commemoration Association, also installed, with full official honours, a bronze stele at a prominent site in Merville. Listening to the French and Indian national anthems being played by a French band in a slumberous, rain-soaked town of 10,000 inhabitants, I must say my first thought was that the memory of the subcontinental WWI soldiers had travelled a long way. Just a handful of years ago, when I started the spadework for this film, virtually no one in France had heard of around 1.4 million Indian soldiers who had fought in WWI, of which 1,40,000 alone had battled in the north of France and Belgium, with 7,000 killed. And if, in some select quarters — history lovers, Indian officials, etc. — there was some knowledge of the fact, there was certainly no mainstream awareness about our soldiers’ story.


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