The Many Ways of Celebrating an Indian Christmas

In the 1950s and ’60s, women baked cakes in the abandoned ammunition boxes left behind by British troops in the villages of Nagaland, a state in northeast India. The Naga writer Easterine Kire recalls how wives of Christian missionaries taught English and cake-baking to young girls, including her mother. While they didn’t really pick up the language, the tradition of baking cakes was passed down “from mother to daughter and from daughter to granddaughter.” It was the men who thought to repurpose

Pakistani Pop Culture Has Had a Global Year

Spotlight is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday. Sign up here. Between the first Pakistani win at the Grammys, the first Pakistani film to be selected at the Cannes Film Festival, a Pakistani song topping the most-searched list on Google, local actors featured in international series, and the highest-grossing film in the history of Pakistani cinema, 2022 has been a banner year for Pakistani art. Pakistani music a

Indians Celebrate UK’s First PM of Indian Origin

An old photo of British politician Rishi Sunak with his dog Nova, a fox red Labrador Retriever, at his former address at 11 Downing Street in London has been making the rounds on social media in India. It is accompanied by photos of a sign that says “Dogs and Indians Not Allowed” — a reference to the ubiquitous sign that was placed outside British clubs and establishments when the empire ruled over India. That humiliation resonates with Indians till this day. “Karma strikes back,” wrote Viral Bh

Support for Iran Protests Highlights Indian Celebrities’ Predicament

Spotlight is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday. Sign up here. Last year, when American pop superstar Rihanna tweeted about the internet shutdown during the farmers’ protest in India, all hell broke loose on the internet. It was followed by similar tweets by climate activist Greta Thunberg and attorney Meena Harris, who is U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece. India’s external affairs ministry issued a statem

Fight to Protect Pakistan’s Trans Rights Law

Spotlight is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday. Sign up here. When a talk in Pakistan by trans activist and popular social media influencer Dr. Mehrub Moiz Awan, at the upscale International School Lahore, was canceled recently, it was cause for vehement debate on the internet. However, just a month later, the entire nation became embroiled in a conversation about trans rights, and activists and community members

Cushion and Swipe: The Indian woman’s evolving relationship with love, sex and dhokha

The apps have created instability in relationships, as the idea that a better match may just be a swipe away won’t let people settle in easily. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock) Namita (name changed) had been married for 11 years, when she downloaded Gleeden on her phone last year. “For some time now, I had stopped feeling sexy. I was lonely. I felt that only my role as a mother counted and it made me unhappy,” she recalls. Gleeden is an extramarital dating app which originated in France. Its I

‘Without actually being on the frontlines, we were on the frontline all the time’

“An unforgettable work that refuses silence” is how Ethiopian-American writer Maaza Mengiste describes Kashmiri writer Farah Bashir’s Rumours of Spring, a personal account of her adolescence spent in strife-torn Srinagar in the 1990s. In this interview, Bashir, 43, who currently works as a communications consultant, speaks about why there are hardly any accounts by women on life in the Valley in those years, and the impact of the silence on her. Edited excerpts: How did the book evolve? I was

Overwhelmed with distress calls, say home chefs catering to Covid patients in Delhi

“I have six missed calls as I speak,” says Kusha K, who has been cooking and delivering food to over 40 Covid patients for the past few days. “My heart is breaking, people are calling and requesting me but I am cooking on my own at home with limited help. I am trying to serve as many people as I can… but I don’t have a commercial set up,” says the Kalkaji resident. Home chefs who have volunteered to cook and serve Covid patients have been flooded with distress calls from entire families who hav

Oxygen, beds and more: Social media influencers, citizen volunteers pitch in as Covid crisis deepens

For over a week, citizen volunteers across the country, ranging from students to social media influencers, have been responding to SOS requests on Twitter from Covid-19 patients seeking oxygen, ventilators, hospital beds, plasma and medicines. The social media platform has become the ground zero for family members and friends raising requests for their loved ones — or just receiving reassurances that all will be well. And there are thousands of them. “Last year, when people would call me, they

What happened when virtual meetings took over our lives and we became the WFH generation

It’s been a year since Trisha Pandey (name changed) last went to her workplace and she misses the banter with colleagues, the coffee breaks and working in a team. What was once a monthly allowance that she availed to “work from home” for a day or two has now become her normal life. “And I am hating it,” says the 27-year-old. In early March last year, the Delhi-based production company she works with moved their operations online, with the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Since then

Queer, Muslim and at ease

QueerNaani is ready with warm chai and biscuits to welcome questions of every kind, be it the clothes you want to wear or doubts about one’s sexuality, when to have sex or how to say no. Unlike most agony aunts, she isn’t here to pass judgement or let acerbic wit get in the way. “I have grown up reading agony aunt columns in fashion magazines. While I liked the khurafati tone and the naughtiness to it, I didn’t like the judgemental, privileged space it came from. I wanted this to be a space whe

‘Art cannot exist in a vacuum’: Actor Nakuul Mehta on the poetry special Too Much Democracy

In Too Much Democracy, a poetry special penned by writer-director Ajay Singh and presented by actor Nakuul Mehta, Mare Tum is the last of the 12 poems. “By then we had almost covered everything — from the four pillars of democracy to draconian laws like Love Jihad, and politics of drug addiction in the film industry. If we took on the right-wing in Nafrat ki Vaccine, we also took on the Left and the politics of dynasty in Kaikeyi. All that was left was to speak about people themselves. Mare Tum

Documentary film Treasures of Grasslands highlights the lesser-known Indian Wolf

A group of nature enthusiasts and photographers from Pune, in constant search for new subjects to document in the wild, came across the Indian Wolf in the lesser-known grasslands of Saswad, 30 km from the second-largest city in Maharashtra, in 2009. What followed was a decade long documentation of the varied fauna of the region that has resulted in a documentary film titled Treasures of Grasslands. It has been doing the rounds of film festivals in India, and was recently screened at the All Livi

Explained: Who is Amanda Gorman, the poet at Joe Biden’s inauguration event?

Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to perform at a United States presidential inauguration on Wednesday when she recited her poem, The Hill We Climb, at the swearing-in ceremony of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. Gorman, 22, performed alongside Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez at the inauguration which was themed ‘America United’. Gorman joined the likes of Elizabeth Alexander, who read at Barack Obama’s inauguration, Maya Angelou, who read at the first inaugura

‘My vantage point gave me a good balance of distance and affinity’

In June 1947, as British India descended into chaos, soon to be divided into the two nations, for months the violence and civil unrest escalated and created havoc. With millions of others, British barrister Marina Wheeler’s mother Dip Singh and her Sikh family were also forced to flee their home in Sargodha in Punjab (now in Pakistan) to Delhi, never to return. Decades later, Wheeler goes back in time through her mother’s memories, accounts from her family in India and her own research in both

Explained: Who is Fran Lebowitz, interviewed by Martin Scorsese in a new Netflix series?

A decade seems like a good enough time for filmmaker Martin Scorsese and cultural critic-writer Fran Lebowitz to return to the screen. The two close friends first came together for an HBO documentary Public Speaking in 2010, directed by Scorsese, which introduced Lebowitz to a new generation and helped established her continued relevance. The film, a mix of interviews and clips of Lebowitz, is similar to the recently released seven-episode Netflix limited series, Pretend It’s a City. Sitting acr

An investigative documentary follows the illegal trade pipeline of manta rays from the Indian Ocean to China

At the All Living Things Environmental Film Festival held virtually last month, Green Oscar-nominated investigative documentary Peng Yu Sai was screened, which dives into the illegal trade of manta rays from India’s oceans. In the film, Malaika Vaz and Nitye Sood follow the illegal trade pipeline from fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean to the Indo-Myanmar border and finally in the wildlife trafficking hubs of Hong Kong and Guangzhou in China. Along the way, they meet with fishermen, middlemen,

‘Recollecting life in Kashmir almost felt like a return’

A necessary, beautiful novel, written from a place of love. Sandeep Raina has the great gift of memory and empathy. It is a novel that has been in the making for decades, a novel Sandeep had to write to be able to live,” says journalist Basharat Peer about A Bit of Everything (Rs 599, Context) in the blurb on the back of the cover. Inside, we enter English professor Rahul Razdan’s life with the young and old in Kashmir’s Varmull (also known as Baramulla), nestled amidst the Pir Panjal range and

Explained: How pandemic has impacted Christmas traditions globally

Partial lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing norms have surely dampened the holiday spirit as people are gearing up to celebrate Christmas amid the coronavirus pandemic. While some Christmas traditions and festivities have been toned down, others have been altered to reflect the pandemic. Christmas tree farms in Australia are shutting up shop earlier than usual as pandemic-weary consumers eager for some festive joy are opting for fresh pine trees over the plastic versions. Meanw
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