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Showing posts from July, 2011


It was lovely to find that Jillian, of the Delirious Kitchen blog, read An Atlas of Impossible Longing  and concocted out of it.... a mango chutney! You can look up the recipe her e and her blog here . I know the feeling -- that need for a deep red glass of good wine, softly ageing camembert cheese and herbed olives that charges at you exactly five and a quarter pages into A Year in Provence . Miles away from both in Ranikhet, I saved myself pain and shut the book on the sixth page -- but Jillian's is a better solution. Talking of chutneys, an eighty-plus writer I knew used to sit out in a square of sun in front of his cottage and drink gin and lime. A glass jar with decaying pieces of lime stood on the window sill next to him and he claimed it was lime pickle in the process of being made: each time he squeezed drops of lime into his gin, he tossed the used piece into the jar, sprinkled a bit of salt over it and shut the lid. Sure enough, a few months of perseverance led to a w


It is a pastoral idyll within the squalor of East Delhi: a cool lake, patches of purple water hyacinth, ferny leaves overhead and twisted fingers of keekar below. An egret contemplates its dinner on a little island halfway across. On the other bank, a line of full moons have dipped from the sky to the ground. Except that the full moons have trousers bunched below them and what they are doing is releasing into the water the odoriferous still-lifeform known as Turdus giganticus . Delhi has the overwrought elegance of Nehru Park and the ancient stone grandeur of Lodi Gardens. And far away from the bureaucrats and embassies, it has Sanjay Gandhi Park. This is a seven kilometre park that begins in Mayur Vihar and ends in Trilokpuri, linking middle-class Delhi with the urban badlands that terrify the middle-class. I began going to the park when a curly-tailed puppy adopted me. The park was an enormous stretch of wilderness from which paths were being hacked out. It had a sparkling la

THE FOLDED EARTH, an extract

My companion in the bus that morning reached her stop, still chattering of Would-be. She said smiling, “Tomorrow I’ll bring you a card; you must come for my wedding!” I got off two stops later, and walked towards Father Joseph’s office, feeling disembodied, weakened and sleepy, as if I would be compelled to sit on the pavement and then not know how to get up again. I found myself outside a hotel painted pink and yellow, and walked through its gates to a swimming pool at the back. There was a sheltered staircase next to the pool. I sat on one of its steps, before the shining blue emptiness of the water, the stretch of green tiles around it, the damp towel discarded on a chair. There was a line of plate-glass windows on the other side that produced mirror images of everything I saw. A bird passed overhead, low enough for its shadow to ripple across us. At the other end of the pool, a little girl was being urged by a swimming coach to plunge from the diving board. She shoute


1) Can you tell us about yourself? What can I say about myself? As a child I lived all over India because my father was a field geologist and this work made him move around a lot. Thirty or forty years ago when phones and television and internet had not connected everyone, moving from one part of India to another was like moving to another country. The language, food, culture, architecture: everything changed totally. I went to many schools, then moved to Calcutta for college and then to Cambridge for university — so I have roots everywhere and nowhere and am an insider and outsider simultaneously anywhere I find myself. It was only when I began working at a publisher’s office in Delhi that I first spent a long stretch of time in one place and now I live with my husband and dog partly in a tiny town in the hills and partly in Delhi. 2) When and how did you get the taste for writing ? What did your write first? I’ve written stories ever since I can remember. I published my first


Tolstoy hated Chekhov's plays. And Chekhov's only consolation was that Tolstoy did not like Shakespeare either.  Some brilliant vignettes from a writer's life here, from the soon-to-be published  MEMORIES OF CHEKHOV by Peter Sekirin. (And if you like Chekhov, then Janet Malcolm's book slim little book on him, READING CHEKHOV, is an unimproveable combination of travel, biography and literary history.) Ivan Bunin, “Chekhov,” from  The Russian Word  (1904) I got to know Chekhov in Moscow at the end of 1895. I remember a few specifically Chekhovian phrases that he often said to me back then. “Do you write? Do you write a lot?” he asked me one day. I told him, “Actually, I don’t write all that much.” “That’s a pity,” he told me in a rather gloomy, sad voice which was not typical of him. “You should not have idle hands, you should always be working. All your life.” And then, without any discernible connection, he added, “It seems to me that when you write a short story, you