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The Caravan

The Caravan January 2021

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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
12 Issues

in this issue

9 min.
echoes of resistance

At the end of an hour-long radio episode on Bengali protest songs, the singer and oral historian Moushumi Bhoumik performed a song written by Birendra Chattopadhyay, a twentieth-century socialist poet. A witness to the 1943 Bengal famine, Chattopadhyay wrote the lines “Anna bakya, Anna pran, Anna-i chetana”—Rice is language, rice is life, rice is consciousness. Like several other shows on Radio Quarantine, Bhoumik’s programme is concerned with building an archive of regional narratives of political resistance and cultural histories. She interviews folk singers and friends from as far afield as Purulia and Sylhet, and recollects her travels through the Sundarbans to document the region’s folk traditions. Radio Quarantine was started by a group of Kolkata-based filmmakers and scholars in March 2020, as West Bengal went into lockdown in response to the…

6 min.
travelling voices

In the 1970s, when the bazaars first came to Uttarakhand’s Munsyari village, people began to purchase grain instead of growing it. Barley, one of the crops native to the region, slowly diminished in quantity and purpose. Rekha Rautela, who wrote about this, learnt about the rise and fall of the grain in her village through scattered accounts and personal reflections. Her memories of barley fields, however, are deeply personal and capture aspects of her identity and culture. Rautela’s story was published three months ago in Voices of Rural India, a non-profit online platform for rural storytellers founded in August 2020. VoRI carries digital snapshots of people both similar to, and different from, Rautela. The website functions as a novel way to offset the tourism industry’s crisis. Guides, homestay-owners and Sherpas—who make…

6 min.
catch as catch can

In January 2018, we sat in a trawler on its fishing trip out of Malvan, a fishing centre and tourist town in southern Maharashtra. The boat cast a trawl net that was dragged over the seafloor, catching not only prawn, crab, and other commercially important fish, but also thousands of other animals in its path. These “accidentally” captured species, called “bycatch,” can range from tiny fish and invertebrates that have little commercial value to animals such as sea snakes, and even sea turtles and dolphins. The massive mound of catch was piled on the deck, and the fishers began sorting through it. While precious prawns and other valuable fish were quickly sorted out and safely stored, the snakes were discarded into the water and the small, often damaged fish that made…

6 min.
contact teaching

Last summer, Anke Brueggemann, an eighth-standard teacher at the Geschwister Scholl School in the German town of Solingen, heard a teenage boy on the playground scream, “Jude.” His tone was bitter and he was clearly using the word as a slur, Brueggemann said. She remembered seeing a newspaper advertisement about Rent A Jew, an organisation that facilitated interactions of Jewish people with youth in educational institutions in Germany. “I knew it was time to invite them to meet the students,” she said. Jude—German for Jew—is a common insult on football fields in Germany. Seventy-five years after the Second World War ended, Europe’s largest economy is still wrestling with anti-Semitism, owing primarily to two reasons: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has given rise to anti-Israel sentiments in some quarters, and an upsurge of…

6 min.
pedalling dreams

In the early 1970s, a Copenhagen-based cinema operator named Søren Sögreni wanted to buy a bicycle. He could not find one that appealed to him. Despite an exponential growth in the use of bicycles in the first half of the twentieth century, the easing of fuel restrictions following the end of the Second World War had led to Danes opting to buy motor vehicles instead. As a result, cycling as a preferred mode of transport fell to an all-time low. Sögreni decided to make a bicycle himself, using tools he used at his job. So beautiful was the bicycle he designed, purely by instinct, that several young colleagues soon began requesting him to make bikes for them. Sögreni began selling handmade customised bicycles in 1981. His designs were minimalist—simple and sleek,…

7 min.
cultivating deception

In the 1920s, as the Punjab countryside was aflame in what was till then the largest mobilisation against the British Raj, the government of India noted in its files: The Sikh peasant has been committed to a policy of “self-determination” imposed by men who are not his natural leaders, and has been induced by some mysterious process of mass psychology to enter a sphere of activity hitherto [interdicted] by all traditions of loyalty and self-interest. If we substitute the term “Khalistan” for “self-determination,” and the word “misled” for “imposed” we have precisely the same framework that the government and the mainstream media is using today regarding the ongoing farmer protests against three recently enacted farm laws: of Sikh peasants being led astray by Khalistani elements. The British, writing for their own files, had…