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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: Of smaller towns, Mughal and Rajput paintings, book reviews, and more

Read this week's interesting stories here!

Updated: September 26, 2021 9:42:19 am
Vasudha and Sanjay Sondhi at their estate (Courtesy: Parvada Bungalows@VS Fruitree Estate)

Why are people leaving big cities for smaller towns

“Mama, chhi, chhi,” squealed two-year-old Rudra. He was in a park with his mother Neha Dara, when he walked into a puddle on a rainy day. Dara, a travel writer who has spent most of her working life trekking in the Himalayas and exploring local markets in small towns, was horrified. Not because of the slush on his sandals, but his reaction. There had to be a better way he could connect to the natural world.


Eight films and shows that take you into the country side

COVID-19 pandemic, films and shows, pandemic binge-watching, films and shows set in country side, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news Have you seen these shows?

Panchayat: The 2020 sleeper hit, warmed its way to our hearts by its earnest portrayal of Indian village life. The show takes us into a small village in Uttar Pradesh where an urban, engineering graduate, Abhishek, has to take up a government job as a “sachiv”, and live there. Abhishek, who goes from hanging out at malls and taking selfies with his corporate friends, now has to tackle power cuts, making lauki ki sabzi on a stove, and walk the tightrope between local traditions and red tape even as he tries to implement government policy. Available on Amazon Prime.


How to smell a Mughal and Rajput miniature painting

Bagh-e-Hind, virtual exhibition Bagh-e-Hind, Mughal and Rajput miniatures, scents and smells, perfumes, paintings, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news From “Kewra” section: Kamod Ragini from Kota, Rajasthan. c 1770-1775. (CREDIT: Freer and Sackler Galleries)

In a miniature painting from 18th century Rajasthan, now in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, a dressed-up Radha, seated on a bed of flowers in a clearing framed by a thick forest, waits for her lover Krishna. It’s twilight. Will Krishna turn up for this tryst? Or is he going to stand her up?

The painting is part of a ragamala (a set that illustrates Indian classical-music ragas) and conveys the pain of longing. Radha’s desire seems to be projected on the forest, set with blooming shrubs and birds in boughs. Instead of vague floral decorations, the artists of Kota went for detail and specificity — creamy frangipani and champaka, pink oleander, thick sheaths of a plantain, velvety celosia, and spiky flowers of the pandanus, called kewra in parts of India. We can see the fragrant forest, but what if we could smell it, too?


In his Alkazi-Padamsee family memoir Enter Stage Right, Feisal Alkazi revisits the beginnings of modern Indian theatre

Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi/ Padamsee Family Memoir
By Feisal Alkazi
Speaking Tiger
256 pages

In narrating his father’s — theatre doyen Ebrahim Alkazi’s — life story, the noted theatre director also narrates the history of Bombay-Delhi-Indian theatre, in that order of its evolution


Two new children’s books, Aai And I and The World Awaits, explore identity and acts of kindness

children's book A curated recommendation list for the young ’uns

If Sanket Pethkar’s earthy hues sparkle Mamta Nainy’s South Asian references in one, Nomoco’s bright colours light up Welsh spoken-word poet Tomos Roberts’ — whose The Great Realisation went viral last year — cheerful, uplifting words in the other


No child left invisible

parenting Each child is wired and inspired differently. (Source: getty images)

As schools gradually open and welcome children back, there’s a sense of trepidation among adults — “They have lost the skill of socialising”, “they have become addicted to screens”, “there is no routine”. The children have another perspective on it, “I’ve put on so much weight, will I be body-shamed?”, “Will everybody act like everything is back to normal and how much will we have to catch up on our studies?”


Akash Kapur blends history and memoir in a fascinating book, Better to Have Gone, on his hometown Auroville

Better to Have Gone book cover Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville, by Akash Kapur, Scribner, 368 pages, Rs 699

Akash Kapur’s Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville is an ode to two loves: his wife and his hometown. It is also a celebration of other loves: filial, devotional, communal and botanical. Kapur presents all of these through the haunting story of his childhood home, an “intentional community” in south India called Auroville.


A new English translation of Gyan Chaturvedi’s Hindi classic satire Baramasi kindles nostalgia but labours emotionally

sunday eye Set in Bundelkhand, Chaturvedi’s novel Baramasi sparkles with a wit intrinsic to the language and culture it is located in. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Gyan Chaturvedi is a Hindi writer of dazzling brilliance. His novels are often riotously funny. But they also open up windows to underlying existential tragedies. His first novel, Narak Yatra, was set in the corrupt world of Indian medical colleges, where the exercise of petty power is the raison d’etre of education, more than the healing of the body or enriching of the mind. The novel is like a dark Raag Darbari (Shrilal Shukla’s 1968 novel) of Indian education. There is a particular genre of Hindi literature that is hard to describe. It is not quite satire because it does not mean to mock. But it is not quite idle humour either. It is a form that is acutely realist in its descriptions. But it is laced with comic effect, not because it is making fun of reality, or because it makes light of human suffering. It is comic because characters use language that embraces a kind of absurdity. This is their way of holding onto meaning in a world that otherwise does not make sense.


The breathtaking flight of dragonflies

The creature outflies and has a better kill ratio than all the birds, beasts and most insects. Mother Nature got this design dead right 320 million years ago. Except for their size, dragonflies haven’t changed at all. (Photo: Ranjit Lal)

Recently, I waxed eloquent on the astonishing prowess of birds that hunted flying and moving prey — from glamorous peregrines and super-fast swifts to acrobatic flycatchers. Alas, they all have been completely outgunned — as have other terrestrial hunters (African wild dogs, lions and tigers) — by, worse, a creature that evolution designed perfectly 320 million years ago. They were much larger then — the dragonflies (and their slender cousins, the damselflies) — and we ought to be thankful for that!


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