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The Caravan

The Caravan January 2019

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

6 min.
disc world

“Let me introduce you to everyone before we start practising,” Hariharan K, a tall, lanky 24-year-old, said to me. It was a September night at Chennai’s Besant Nagar beach. We were next to a brightly lit Ferris wheel. A generator for an ice gola stall whirred loudly. A few steps away from it, a large group of boys and girls were huddled close together, watching YouTube videos. Hariharan, the captain of the Fly Wild Ultimate Frisbee team, gathered them in a circle. There were around twenty-five players, 12 of whom were girls. They gather thrice a week to practise under the floodlights on the beach. Each session is preceded by a warm-up, sprint and other games. While I watched a practice game, an argument broke out between one girl and a…

12 min.
hearth of a nation

Down in a basement, on a lane in south Delhi, lie manuscripts by the most renowned writers of modern Indian history: Tagore, Faiz, Manto. They are accompanied by paintings and sketches, which also come from the sort of figures known by a single name: Souza, Raza. Then there are documents autographed by political leaders, including Jinnah and Nehru. This hidden pantheon aims at comprehensiveness, but it also elicits surprise. A signature by the former prime minister VP Singh is accompanied by an abstract drawing of Ganesha. The physicist CV Raman adds to his signature a credo: “Light reveals the hidden soul of truth!” And Amartya Sen’s signature is featured alongside an unattributed caricature seemingly not available online—suggesting it might be a self-portrait. The man who collected all these singular bibelots, Satnam Singh…

7 min.
from the rough

The doorman of any five-star hotel is invariably a busy man. “It’s been a busy morning,” an apologetic Luis Nhaca told me when we met at Maputo’s Hotel Serena Polana in February 2015. “The queen of Spain was here. Can you come back at nine?” Built in 1922, the Serena Polana resembles a cross between the Grand Budapest Hotel and a European casino, plopped down in Mozambique’s capital. Its 153 rooms have housed a number of illustrious guests, including the current Aga Khan, former American presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as Queen Elizabeth II. Nhaca has met most of them—or at least held open the door for them. When I returned at 10 am, Nhaca was all smiles, inviting me to stand with him at a shady spot near…

8 min.
under illusion

The disconnect between the Delhi commentariat and political reality becomes most evident when the time comes to analyse a defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party. This was underlined after the latest state elections, which saw three states in the Hindi belt change hands—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Congress’s less-than-thumping victories, with the thinnest of margins in the two most populous states in play, were enough to get the capital talking of the end of the Narendra Modi era. In liberal drawing rooms and watering holes, many who maintained a studied silence for the last four years are rediscovering the language of dissent as they prepare themselves for what they see as an impending regime change. But political reality has no regard for such expectations. The Delhi chatter was sustained by…

7 min.
damned lies and statistics

Narendra Modi rose to power on the promise of creating 20 million jobs. Contrary to expectations, the past four years have seen a record decline in employment creation. According to the latest data collected by the International Labour Organisation, the number of unemployed people is expected to rise to 18.9 million this year, from 18.6 million in 2018. In an interview to the right-wing magazine Swarajya, the prime minister said, “more than a lack of jobs, the issue is a lack of data on jobs.” As part of a larger mistrust of existing unemployment statistics, a task force instituted at Modi’s behest in 2017 scrapped the Employment–Unemployment Survey—carried out by the National Sample Survey Office every five years since Independence—and replaced it with a completely new data-gathering methodology. As a…

14 min.
a plague of promises

On his way to the prime ministership in 2014, Narendra Modi promised that, if his Bharatiya Janata Party won power, the government would raise the minimum support prices paid for crops such as rice and wheat to guarantee farmers a 50-percent profit on their production costs. The benchmark was first proposed by the Swaminathan Commission, formed in 2004 to address farmers’ economic plight, and Modi castigated the incumbent Congress-led administration for not implementing the commission’s recommendations. The BJP’s campaign manifesto repeated Modi’s pledge, and promised other measures “to enhance the profitability in agriculture,” such as lowering the cost of agriculture inputs and credit. After Modi was elected, the gargantuan Food Corporation of India stopped procuring foodgrain from states that paid farmers bonuses on top of existing minimum prices. This led states…