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Book review: Taj Mahal Foxtrot, by Naresh Fernandes February 27, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Nate Rabe

Think of India and music and your mind conjures sublime ragas from Ravi Shankar and swirling musical whirlwinds from Bollywood. But what about swinging hot jazz, fancy dress balls and black American jazz expatriates playing in luxury hotels on the Arabian Sea? You are to be forgiven for never joining such things together but as the new book Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age (Roli Books, 2012) by Mumbai-based writer Naresh Fernandes deliciously details, India once upon a time hosted a very ‘hot’ jazz culture.

In 1935, a black jazzman from Minnesota, Leon Abbey, brought an ‘all negro’ band to Bombay for the winter season at the grand Taj Mahal Hotel. Abbey’s ace band, members of which had backed Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins back home, took the colonial city by storm. Abbey’s version of hot swing jazz garnered ecstatic reviews in the press. One local fan gushed: “The music went to my head that evening and when Leon started beating up a rumba I left my table and my partner to shake the maracas that were offered me. In those few moments I forgot my whole upbringing, forgot that I was back in the land of my fathers, through which the Ganges flowed, and that the Seine was far, far away.”


The Delhi gang rape can be explained by India’s gender ideologies February 26, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

Riding a bus in New Delhi was always intimidating. I still remember how, in the early 1990s, a largish, unknown man just flopped on my lap on the aisle seat. When I mildly expressed displeasure, his demeanour switched between menacing and casual, forcing me to shut up and leave him the seat. This was not an isolated experience: many women, whether in Delhi or Bangalore, have had similar experiences in their daily lives and felt amazed at how ‘naturally’ traditional gender ideologies are ‘performed’ in public.

So is what came to be known as the Delhi gang rape case different (and if so, how and why) from the myriad forms of violence that Indian women face every day, whether in urban or rural India, at home or in public, from close family members, spouses or completely unknown strangers?


Sri Lanka: still difficult to ‘bell the cat’ February 23, 2013

Posted by auriolweigold in : Gordon, Sandy, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Commissioned by East Asia Forum and previously published in Future Directions International

Sri Lanka is a small country of about the population of Australia. Its location astride the major energy sea lanes of communication (SLOCS) of the Indian Ocean and just south of behemoth India, however, puts it in a strategic box seat for the forthcoming struggle for influence over the liquid energy requirements of the East Asian economic giants, including China.

Until about a decade ago, the island was a Western-leaning democracy, but one with a generational civil war involving human rights violations on both side. The denouement of the war in May 2009 saw the death of the head of the Tamil Tigers, Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Few who were not Tamil Tiger loyalists would have mourned the passing of the homicidal head of the feared organisation.  Fewer still would have regretted the ending of a civil war that had lasted since 1983 and caused an estimated 80,000 deaths.


Hate speech in Hyderabad: Why the Congress is faltering in Andhra Pradesh February 6, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Kimberley Layton

Prior to the 1989 parliamentary elections, the Indian National Congress Party dominated India’s political landscape, commanding impressive parliamentary majorities and forming what were reasonably stable and efficient governments. However, contemporary Indian politics is profoundly different. The decline of the Congress party has ushered in the rise of smaller, regional parties that are critical to forming successful coalition governments.

Akbaruddin Owaisi speaking before his supporters

The Congress party (which fronts India’s governing coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II) is currently undergoing a crisis of confidence among coalition members in states that it currently controls, such as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. (more…)

Corruption and political correctness: a severe case of intellectual lazines February 3, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Ashar, Meera, India , comments closed

Meera Ashar

Ashis Nandy has been called, rather, accused of being, many things—sociologist, historian, political theorist, public intellectual, philosopher, psychoanalyst, leftist, centrist, right wing, Dalit, Christian, Brahmanical, casteist (he describes himself, more poetically, as an intellectual street fighter and reason buster)—but ‘politically correct’ has never been one of them.

Ashis Nandy at the Jaipur Literary Festival

This time, Nandy’s political incorrectness has cost him more than before. As in the past, he has been attacked by politicians and the popular media for presenting his analysis of social phenomena—for doing his job well. (more…)