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The Caravan

The Caravan January 2018

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.

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Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Pte LTD
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12 Issues

in this issue

5 min.
splitting hairs

In the narrow lanes of south Delhi’s large, bustling INA market, among the shops bursting with uniforms, dupattas, fruits and vegetables, several signboards advertise human hair. On an afternoon in August, I entered a shop whose sign read “Pankaj International Human Hair,” climbed down a short flight of stairs, and found the owner, Pankaj Chitkara, in the basement. He was measuring brown hair extensions with help from his young assistant, and recording the lengths in a notebook. He showed me the six types of human hair he sold—straight, curly, natural wave, bulk hair, deep wave and wavy. They came in 11 different colours, including jet black, deep red and platinum blonde. Chitkara, who has owned the store for 17 years, told me that many of his customers are not from India…

7 min.

It was a windy June morning in Ha Lephalo, a tiny highland village overlooking rugged mountains and arid wasteland. Ha Lephalo is 50 kilometres north of Maseru, the capital of Lesotho—a small country landlocked by South Africa. That morning, I met the village chief, a 50-year-old woman named Itumeleng, who introduced herself to me as a biting wind swept across her wrinkled face. Lesotho’s steep, mountainous landscape—the country’s lowest point is at 1,400 metres above sea level—had earned it the epithet “Kingdom in the sky,” she said. This geographical position has been both a blessing and a curse. Although its majestic highlands make the country a popular travel destination, reaching water sources is difficult because of its rugged terrain. The only source of water for Ha Lephalo had historically been a…

8 min.
on shaky grounds

“Look, it’s what we’re seeing in the majority of houses,” the architect Melanie De Gyves told Edgardo Jimenez Santiago, a 30-year-old psychologist, as they stood in his house on a hot Sunday morning in mid September, ten days after an earthquake had struck off the coast of southern Mexico. “Everything looks dramatic. The lime plaster, the finishing, everything everywhere has fissures.” The turquoise walls of Santiago’s house showed cracks, and chunks of finishing had fallen off, exposing the brick beneath. All the internal walls, separating three rooms, had partially collapsed. The floor was covered in debris. Santiago’s home in Ixtepec, a small city in the southern state of Oaxaca, was one of thousands damaged by the quake on 7 September, which measured 8.2 in magnitude, making it the strongest the country…

11 min.
the “p” word

On 20 October, D Ravikumar, the general secretary of the political party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, sent Time magazine a strongly worded email objecting to its cover that month, which had gone viral on social media even before the magazine hit the stands. It featured the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and the caption read, “Producer. Predator. Pariah.” More than 80 women in the media have accused Weinstein of sexual assault and misconduct, setting in motion similar allegations against high-profile men all over the world. Ravikumar’s objection concerned a very specific aspect of the cover—the usage of the word “pariah.” “There are more than 10 million people living in India who have been and continue to be called as ‘pariah’,” he wrote in his email. “Their descendants live in many countries of…

9 min.
a matter of choice

In mid August 2017, a ten-year-old girl gave birth by caesarean section in a Chandigarh government hospital. Her parents reportedly did not tell her she had had a baby removed from her body, saying instead that the procedure was to remove a stone from her stomach. The girl was allegedly raped by her uncle, repeatedly, over several months, and taken to the hospital after she complained of a stomach ache. There, doctors discovered that she was over 30 weeks pregnant. Her parents filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court to seek approval for an abortion (under Indian law, a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy that is over 20 weeks old must prove that the pregnancy threatens her life). On 28 July, the petition was heard by a bench…

57 min.

IN A PHOTOGRAPH POSTED to Facebook in 2011, an American man named John Morgan stands on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, wearing a white dhoti. He smiles, and holds a small bag in his hand. The sun is setting over the river, into which, just moments earlier, he had scattered the ashes of his beloved cat. When the photo was taken, Morgan had been living in India for two years. Several of his friends commented on the photo. “I didn’t know that you are inclined towards Sahajiya Vaishnavism. Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism sorts that path better,” one wrote. “I’m interested in everything Vedic,” Morgan replied. “I’m not even certain that I’m really a Gaudiya Vaishnava, since I find the Sri Vaishnavas and even Advaita Vedanta fascinating.” A few comments down, he responded…