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The Caravan

The Caravan October 2017

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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12 Issues

in this issue

6 min.
identity crisis

Isis Singh, a 28-year-old woman born to a Punjabi Hindu family in Delhi, has a first name that is about as rare as her surname is common. Her family named her “Isis” after the Egyptian goddess of fertility and womanhood. So, in October 2015, when Singh saw her first name splashed across television news shows in upper-case letters, she was confused. She soon learnt that the channels were using “ISIS” to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria: a violent extremist organisation that had beheaded a group of Christians in Syria who refused to convert to Islam. Things soon started changing for Singh. Friends joked about how she was wreaking havoc around the world. Some of her colleagues teased her about her name, once even pasting a cutout from a…

6 min.
the illusionist

Fourteen-year-old Manideep Reddy stood at the centre of a well-lit hall in a building in Secunderabad, surrounded by a crowd of children. It was a morning in mid August, and Reddy, wearing a black suit and red bow tie, was the oldest child present. The other children and I watched as he took out a piece of rope from his pocket, held it up at both ends and showed it around. Reddy then turned to me—the unsuspecting adult he had chosen to help him—and asked me to examine the rope closely. “Let’s cut it into two equal halves,” he said, folding it at the centre and passing me a pair of scissors. I cut the rope at the folded end. When Reddy unfolded it, however, he showed us that one of the…

7 min.
what lies beneath

“Onkalo,” which means cavity, or cavern, in Finnish, is an apt name for Finland’s repository for radioactive waste. Touted as a “100,000-year tomb,” the Onkalo facility on Olkiluoto—a small island in western Finland—is currently being built at a depth of 450 metres, inside bedrock. It will be the world’s first permanent disposal site for spent nuclear fuel. Other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany, Canada and Japan have attempted, for years, to set up nuclear-waste disposal sites, but their plans have stalled because of political, environmental and social roadblocks. Finnish leaders, on the other hand, have managed to drum up popular support for the repository by convincing locals that it will be a financial asset to their community. The Finnish government granted Posiva—a nuclear-waste management company—the…

5 min.
hate stories

One evening in March, 15-year-old Ayat Hariri—a Syrian refugee in Lebanon—emerged in front of a packed house at a popular bistro in Beirut. She began narrating the story of how when she first came to Lebanon five years earlier, she had thought she was a tourist. “I was wondering, why is it taking so long at the military check points?” she said, recalling the 80-kilometre drive from Deraa, a city in Syria. Just ten years old at the time, Hariri had not understood the chaos descending on her country. Her parents had told her that the family was on a holiday to meet her father, who lived and earned handsomely in Beirut. After having lived a year in Lebanon, Hariri’s family finally enrolled her in a school. This is when she…

6 min.
state graft

In December 2012, the Communist Party of China’s political bureau, or politburo, the highest political body in the country, adopted a document that spelt out eight regulations for the functioning of its own members. Among these were that members should reject extravagance, reduce inefficient meetings, avoid unnecessary travel abroad and remain in close contact with the grassroots. Xi Jinping had taken over the previous month as the party’s general secretary, and the eight regulations were seen as his way of initiating a campaign against corruption in the party. Beginning this 18 October, when the party, also called the CPC, meets at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, for the party congress meeting—which convenes every five years and will be held for the nineteenth time—much of the party’s leadership will…

10 min.
the reluctant philanthropist

The initial hostile stance of the BJP government, evident in the advisory, spoke to its Hindu-nationalist followers, who are largely unsympathetic to the predominantly Muslim Rohingya, with some even spreading lies about the community on social media. On 14 September, an Indian Air Force aircraft landed in Chittagong with 53 tonnes of relief materials, including food, salt, cooking oil and mosquito nets. The delivery was meant to help Bangladesh cope with the vast influx of Rohingyas—a minority community in Myanmar that is facing large-scale violence there. This was the first tranche of assistance India said it would provide, as the refugees continued to arrive, crossing the Naf—the river that marks the border of south-eastern Bangladesh and western Myanmar—and swelling overcrowded, makeshift camps that have emerged on a narrow strip of land…