I’m finally back after a long hiatus during which I travelled a lot, ate a lot, slept a lot and did nothing a lot. Shantiniketan-Siliguri-Kalimpomg-Siliguri-Suntalekhola-Siliguri-Darjeeling-Siliguri-Sikkim-Siliguri-Calcutta with a trek thrown in between, it was quite a grind though fun all the way. Meeting friends in Darjeeling, Gangtok and Siliguri were the high points.
The view from Gangtok’s Baker’s Cafe of rain (occasionally accompanied by hail that bounced off corrugated asbestos roof) falling in the valley below while the sun teased through flimsy clouds above has frozen like a frame in my memory. And I bet it was sheer ecstasy that overwhelmed me like epiphany when my chhang-fed musician friends worked up an impromptu gig inside a narrow wooden kitchen that had barely enough space for all of us to sit. The classical guitarist strummed from a low stool by the fireside, which was waiting to be lit, and the “percussionist” accompanied him on an empty vessel. Stars shone like lights on the facing hill, the ugly concrete jungle vanished in the dark.
Well, while I was having fun, vegetating or just listlessly hibernating, some of my stories that I had filed before embarking on the holiday got published. You get to read three of them below.
In collaboration with friend and colleague Vishal Arora I did a piece on the rising fundamentalism in Buddhism for the Religion News Service.
To many Americans, Buddhism is about attaining enlightenment, maybe even nirvana, through such peaceful methods as meditation and yoga.
But in some parts of Asia, a more assertive, strident and militant Buddhism is emerging. In three countries where Buddhism is the majority faith, a form of religious nationalism has taken hold:
Click here to read more of the story in the Washington Post.
Tibetan refugees born in India were given the right to vote for the first time in the general elections. During my trip to Dharmashala in March I saw that not many were keen to accept the offer.
“It is magnanimous on the part of the Indian government to recognize the Tibetans as natural citizens as they, like me, are born in India,” Tenzin Tsundue, 40, a poet-activist, said sardonically.
Click here to read the whole story on the India Ink blog of the New York Times.
And finally, an interview of Sugata Bose, the Harvard historian who is now a Member of Parliament after winning the elections with an overwhelming majority. In this interview, which was done before the elections, he tells me of the prospects of a third front government at the Centre. We speak of his books, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Southasia.
Click here to read the whole interview which was published in the Diplomat.