Just when one thought that the theme of Europeans in India during Mughal rule had been nearly exhausted, Pius Malekanda-thil’s book came for review. The author, how-ever, seems to have produced new wine from an old bottle exploring various dimensions of Portuguese activities in India.
Seven Leaves, One Autumn: the very title is poetic, evoking the vivid shades of yellow, orange and red through which autumn leaves pass as they turn from green to brown. This collection brings together the work of seven award-winning women poets: Zohra Saed from Afghanistan, Julie Boden from Britain, Clara Janes from Spain, Kishwar Naheed from Pakistan, Ute Margaret Saine from the USA, and the two editors, Savita Singh and Sukrita Paul Kumar, both from India.
Like ‘cutting chai’, ‘chawls’ is a very Bombay/Mumbai term. Not many who live outside this megapolis will understand what it means. And if they do not, it is unlikely that they ever will because chawls are an endangered species, a built form that is disappearing even as Mumbai goes through changes that are inevitable for all big cities.
I read this book from cover to cover in just three sittings. It was indeed enthralling as I have virtually been part of most of the stories it unfurls. Reading about Lucknow, culture capital of India and city of my birth, Aligarh, seat of the educational Taj Mahal where I studied and taught during 1961-66—and Ghalib’s Delhi where I have lived for forty-five years, made me nostalgic.
The book under review Public Hinduisms has a captivating title and an even more engaging set of questions that it seeks to explore: ‘How does Hinduism become public? What forms of translation or disciplinary processes inform the passage of ideas about what it means to be a Hindu as they are expressed in a range of different public environments? Who feels empowered by such transitions, and who feels dispossessed?’ With these evidently broad and complex set of questions for a single edited volume of 500 and odd pages, it gives an impression of being many books in one.