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Oppressors

V.G.​ Kiernan

18 September 1986
What’s happening to India: Punjab, Ethnic Conflict, Mrs Gandhi’s Death and the Test for Federalism 
by Robin Jeffrey.
Macmillan, 249 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 333 40440 8
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Lions of the Punjab: Culture in the Making 
by Richard Fox.
California, 259 pp., £25.50, January 1986, 0 520 05491 1
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... Jeffrey is illuminating on religion as a profession, a respectable livelihood particularly for younger or neglected sons, such as he shows various Sants in the recent limelight to have been – Fateh Singh, Longowal, Bhindranwale. Of this last and most colourful figure, head of the extremists who perished in the Golden Temple, he gives a convincing description. Bhindranwale, like most others of his ...

Diary

Audrey Gillan: The drubbing of Mohammad Sarwar

22 January 1998
... this month. That March morning at the cash and carry, Sarwar told me that he knew of the case from the girls’ brother Nadeem, and when I told him what I had learnt in Pakistan, he said he would go there himself if he had to in order to secure the girls’ safe return. I contacted the editor of the BBC’s Frontline Scotland and suggested that they might want to film the journey. Within a few ...
18 July 1996
India’s Economic Reforms 1991-2001 
by Vijay Joshi and I.M.D. Little.
Oxford, 288 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 19 829078 0
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... sad janitor, and after the General Election in 1989, Congress found itself once again with too few seats to form a government. The unlikely coalition that did, made up of the Janata Dal under V.P. Singh (Rajiv Gandhi’s former finance minister who’d resigned in disgust at what he claimed had become pervasive corruption at the top), the Bengal Marxists and the now lively and strikingly well ...

The View from Malabar Hill

Amit Chaudhuri: My Bombay

3 August 2006
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found 
by Suketu Mehta.
Review, 512 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 7472 5969 0
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... in hindsight, that what he or she thinks is interest or curiosity is really an obsession) is what makes me restless and resentful when I find myself invited to other cities, but with no excuse to go to Bombay. It’s presumably what drove Mehta, who moved to New York when he was 14, to go back. It’s what made the poet Arun Kolatkar, author of the classic Jejuri, set out every Thursday from his ...
6 June 2019
... contest seats in a number of constituencies, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader, would not even be in the new parliament. As the results started coming in, a veteran Congress leader in Bhopal, Ratan Singh, had a heart attack and dropped dead. A tragedy overlaid with symbolism. There was some resistance to the BJP, especially in the south: in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the BJP didn’t win ...

A Necessary Gospel

Sean O’Brien

6 June 1996
Dear Future 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 206 pp., £14.99, March 1996, 0 7011 6537 5
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... begin to press in on Red Head and the rest of the family. With the approach of elections, the party of government, bent and in hock to the IMF, seizes on a national tour by the great wrestler Singh to represent its own prowess and symbolise its forthcoming triumph at the polls. Singh, wooed away from the Opposition, has never been known to lose: indeed his attraction lies in the fact that his ...
1 June 2000
The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography 
by Simon Singh.
Fourth Estate, 402 pp., £16.99, September 1999, 1 85702 879 1
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In Code: A Mathematical Journey 
by Sarah Flannery.
Profile, 292 pp., £14.99, April 2000, 1 86197 222 9
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Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption 
by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau.
MIT, 346 pp., £10.50, April 1999, 0 262 54100 9
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... The English mathematician G.H. Hardy, who worked in the purest of all mathematical fields, the theory of numbers, used to boast in his patrician way that nothing he did in mathematics would ever be useful. He must be turning in ...

Enemy Citizens

Siddhartha Deb: The Story of Partition

1 January 2009
The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan 
by Yasmin Khan.
Yale, 251 pp., £9.99, October 2008, 978 0 300 14333 1
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The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories 
by Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar.
Columbia, 288 pp., £29.50, October 2007, 978 0 231 13846 8
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... Toba Tek Singh’ is one of a number of stories about Partition by Saadat Hasan Manto, a brilliant, alcoholic Urdu writer who himself moved from Bombay to Lahore in 1948. It is set in a Lahore asylum whose inmates ...

Other Eden

Amit Chaudhuri

15 September 1988
Tigers, Durbars and KingsFanny Eden’s Indian Journals 1837-1838 
edited by Janet Dunbar.
Murray, 202 pp., £13.95, April 1988, 0 7195 4440 8
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... half our followers bring their followers’) and 20 elephants. Later, she accompanied (with 12,000 others) her brother, the Governor-General, to the court of the last great King of the Sikhs, Ranjit Singh. The mixture of scepticism and humour, unwillingness and curiosity, with which she set out is recorded early in the journals, and prepares us for what is to come: ‘Do you think we shall get safely ...

Bitter Chill of Winter

Tariq Ali: Kashmir

19 April 2001
... with a fanatical vigour that shocked the nobles. Fifty years of Afghan rule were punctuated by regular clashes between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Worse lay ahead, however. In 1819 the soldiers of Ranjit Singh, the charismatic leader of the Sikhs, already triumphant in northern India, took Srinagar. There was no resistance worth the name. Kashmiri historians regard the 27 years of Sikh rule that followed ...

Diary

Carol Singh: While Britain Burns

21 November 1985
... I used to walk through it going to school, years ago. It’s landscaped, but when I’m flying through it to get to the Labour Exchange on time I don’t linger to admire the scenery. Every time I go past the fountain, near where Henry Royce’s statue used to stand, I mutter and tick away to myself: ‘Fkin bastids fkin bastids fkin bastids’. I saw that on a wall once and it seems to express ...

Other Indias

Walter Nash

15 September 1988
Ice-Candy-Man 
by Bapsi Sidhwa.
Heinemann, 277 pp., £11.95, February 1988, 0 434 70230 7
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Mistaken Identity 
by Nayantara Sahgal.
Heinemann, 194 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 434 66612 2
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Baumgartner’s Bombay 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 434 18636 8
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... her employers’ house. Thus Lenny becomes the friend and pet of Masseur (who massages), of Ice-Candy-Man (who sells popsicles), of Imam Din (who cooks and polygamises), of Hari (a gardener), of Sher Singh (a zookeeper), of Sharbat Khan (a knife-grinder) – all of them rich personalities in their own right, and all, for the purposes of the story, representative of the religious and ethnic mix, Hindu ...

Cardigan Arrest

Robert Potts: Poetry in Punglish

21 June 2007
Look We Have Coming to Dover! 
by Daljit Nagra.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 571 23122 5
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... poster boy’. But Nagra employs a self-critical metacommentary across the collection which anticipates and argues with these reactions, while deliberately not resolving them. In ‘Booking Khan Singh Kumar’, for example, he directly asks the audience whose applause he seeks: ‘Did you make me for the gap in the market/Did I make me for the gap in the market . . . Can I cream off awards from ...

At the Atlantis Gallery

Peter Campbell: The Survey of India

6 November 2003
... school to work for the Survey of India. I have no idea how many of the Survey’s employees were spies, but one of them did do the kind of secret work Kipling describes. He was a schoolmaster, Nain Singh. In 1865 he entered Tibet – forbidden to foreigners on pain of death – disguised as a lama, and mapped Lhasa. Like Kim, he had learned to measure miles by walking without ever altering his stride ...

Spot the Mistakes

Thomas Jones: Ann Patchett

25 August 2011
State of Wonder 
by Ann Patchett.
Bloomsbury, 353 pp., £12.99, June 2011, 978 1 4088 1859 6
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... royal chapel and shooting everyone down with machine-guns. The vaporous metaphorical role played by music in Bel Canto is taken in Patchett’s new novel, State of Wonder, by medical science. Marina Singh is a mild-mannered 42-year-old research scientist at Vogel pharmaceuticals in Minnesota. She used to be a gynaecologist but switched to pharmacology after an emergency caesarean section went ...

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