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The Caravan June 2021

The Caravan is India’s first narrative journalism magazine. Stories are reported in a style that uses elements usually reserved for fiction—plot, characters, scenes and setting—to bring the subject to life. Like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Granta, the context of a Caravan story is something more substantial. In India, this niche—one for the intellectually curious, the aesthetically inclined and the upwardly mobile, has remained vacant. That is, until The Caravan.

Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Pte LTD
12 Issues

in this issue

6 min
starting from scratch

About three years ago, as I walked past a musical instrument store in Maharashtra’s Amravati town, I was astonished to find “Signature” guitars, a brand from my hometown of Kolkata, hanging at the shop. I later learnt that these low-priced guitars—usually bought by beginners—had travelled far and had a long history. The shopkeeper told me that nearly all Indian-made guitars came from Kolkata and were distributed across the country. Back home, Gautam Das, the proprietor of a music store at Bagbazar, confirmed this and suggested that I meet “the man who started it all: Mukunda Biswas.” Crossing the Ganga, an overcrowded bus took me to Belur in the neighbouring town of Howrah. A short e-rickshaw ride and a walk down a narrow, water-logged lane later, I reached Guitar Research Enterprise, a…

11 min
the long game

The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress delivered an unexpectedly comprehensive victory in the West Bengal assembly election. In the lead up to it, almost all articles had spoken of a close contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which led a high-decibel campaign in the state. The TMC’s victory, in turn, led to various think pieces on the exceptionalism and pride of Bengalis that halted the Hindutva juggernaut. And yet, the electoral campaigns and a breakdown of the results show that the state is increasingly subject to the same forces that shape the politics of the Hindi belt. Rather than confining ourselves to the political history of the state, it makes sense to consider these elections results in light of what is happening in the rest of the country. The BJP’s basic strategy…

14 min
mind migration

It took a week after the results of the Assam assembly election last month for the Bharatiya Janata Party to name the state’s chief minister. In a polity dominated by numerous tribal and ethnic groups, the party chose Himanta Biswa Sarma, a Brahmin, over the incumbent Sarbananda Sonowal, from a small ethnic Assamese community. Having returned to power at the head of a victorious alliance, the BJP called the result what it was: a resounding consolidation of pro-Hindutva forces in a state long known for its politics of jatiyota-bad—ethnonationalism. Assamese exceptionalism, based on a self-image of an inherently tolerant and secular people unaffected by the majoritarian impulses of the mainland, seems to have run its course. Once the BJP came to national power in 2014, it sensed an easy opportunity to…

18 min
cracks beneath the surface

“Our society is based on the legacy of renaissance,” Pinarayi Vijayan said during his first term as the chief minister of Kerala. He was addressing a public meeting in October 2018, at which he spoke of the Left Democratic Front government’s commitment to progressive principles. It was a pivotal moment. The Supreme Court had just ruled that women of menstruating age could enter the Sabarimala temple, triggering widespread protests in the state. “People like Sree Narayana Guru, Chattampi Swamy, Ayyankali, Aiyya Vaikuntadar and Poykayil Kumara Guru Devan removed the evil customs in the society, bringing in the light that we have in Kerala today,” he said, referring to anti-caste intellectuals and social-reform activists of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. “We should remember that all of them stood for the breaking…

14 min
viral images

A distant, top-angle view shows a tightly packed housing tenement and an empty plot adjacent to it. The plot is scattered with incandescent spots—the brightest of these resembles a bonfire. If you look long enough, in the darker areas you can see fires that are dying out, with the last embers glowing next to blocks of wood and circles of ash. This is a drone photograph of the cremations of COVID-19 victims at Delhi’s Old Seemapuri ground by the Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui. As a brutal second wave of COVID-19 swept through the capital in April, this image was one of the first to visualise the massive scale of the crisis. While a still photograph typically displays a particular moment, this image evokes a period of time, a continuous cycle of…

11 min
final cut

The film fraternity was blindsided by the sudden abolition of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal in early April. The FCAT is a statutory body that came into existence in 1983 to provide an avenue for redressal for filmmakers unhappy with decisions made by the censor board. The move is part of the Modi government’s wider attempt at reforming tribunals and was brought in through an ordinance, after a bill that would have abolished the tribunal was rejected by parliament in February. Typical of this administration’s style, the measure was imposed with little consultation among those it is affects most. (Among the other tribunals that have been scrapped are those relating to copyright, patents, customs and farmers’ rights.) Several prominent figures in the film industry expressed their consternation. The director Vishal Bhardwaj…