Partition: Oral Histories

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(Source: Wikimedia Commons) He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect, But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot, And a bout […]

Verghese, Abraham

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Biography Verghese was born in 1955 to well-educated, South Indian Christian parents who migrated to Ethiopia (See Christianity in India, Transnationalism and Globalism). After starting his medical education, Verghese was forced to leave Ethiopia in 1973 due to the unstable political situation. Upon arriving in America, he began work as an orderly. Eventually, he returned […]

Vassanji, M. G.

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Biography Moyez G. Vassanji was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1950 and raised in Tanzania. His family was part of a community of Indians who had emigrated to Africa. When he was 19, Vassanji left the University of Nairobi on a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied nuclear physics in which he later […]

Victorian Women Travelers in the 19th Century

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Why Women Began To Travel Women began to travel in the nineteenth century for many personal and political reasons. Some women sought to further a cause, like missionary work, while others traveled to satisfy personal curiosities of “exotic” lands. Most women, however, traveled to escape gender oppression in Europe (Stevenson 2). One form of gender […]

Spice Trade in India

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Introduction Buying black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and other spices  is so inexpensive now that it seems hard to believe that once,  they were valued as highly as gold and silver. Archaeologists estimate that from as far back as 50,000 B.C. humans had used the special qualities of aromatic plants to help flavor their food. The […]

Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

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The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked. Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not […]

Partition of India

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“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” – Jawarharal Nehru, “Tryst With Destiny” speech celebrating Indian independence Whether the partition of these countries was wise and whether it […]

Nuclear Proliferation in the Third World

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Introduction Monday, May 10, 1998 marked a day that will not soon be forgotten. It was the day India began nuclear testing, much to the horrified shock of the U.S. and Western European superpowers. According to Arundhati Roy, a widely and extensively lauded and criticized Indian author, it is a day that will live in […]

Goshthi, Mushaira

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  This page was developed to mark the establishment of a multilingual, multi-religious poetry club for the community in Atlanta, and for faculty and students  at Emory University. The club is no longer active, but this page has been retained to furnish introductory information about the traditions of Mushairas and Goshthis in the Indian subcontinent. […]

Maps in Colonialism

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Introduction Maps as we know them today are the result of millennia of study and observation. Unlike modern maps, which focus on the exact lay of the land, the creations of ancient European mapmakers emphasized roads, cities, rivers, and safe harbors, since other details were not as important to travelers and traders at the time […]

Magical Realism

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Magical Realism A literary mode rather than a distinguishable genre, magical realism is characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a so-called rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as prosaic reality. Magical realism differs from pure fantasy primarily because it is set in a normal, modern world […]

Kerala and The God of Small Things

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A full understanding of and appreciation for Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things requires that the reader be well acquainted with the land and culture through which Roy weaves her tale. Roy achieves the rich descriptive texture and vivid imagery of her novel by writing about something with which she is intimately familiar. […]


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Introduction Kathakali, literally translated as “story-play,” is a classical Indian dance rooted in Hindu mythology. This dance, which is briefly mentioned in Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, is indigenous to Kerala, a small state in southwest India. Thematically, the dance focuses on the “treasure-trove of the ancient Puranas chronicling the lives, loves, and conflicts of […]

Jews in India

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A unique and multicultural group of people, the Jews of India add exciting flavor to India’s already diverse population. Centered in three main communities in Bombay, Calcutta, and along the Malabar Coast, these unusual sects of Jews have combined many of their ancient Israelite customs with traditional Indian lifestyle, and have created a rich culture […]

Hybridity and Postcolonial Music

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Ethnomusicology Bruno Nettl, a music and anthropology professor at the University of Illinois, lists some of the various definitions for “ethnomusicology.” Meanings, in terms of the material that is studied, range from “folk and what used to be called “primitive,” i.e. tribal or possibly ancient music,to “all human music” (The Study of Ethnomusicology, 2-3). Definitions […]

Gandhi’s Salt March to Dandi

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The Salt Tax After proclaiming the Declaration of Independence of India on January 26, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi came to an impasse in his political career focused on freeing India from British rule. A new anti-government campaign was imperative for achieving the secularization of India; it remained unclear, however, to Gandhi what form was most appropriate […]

Divorce in India

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The Law All major religions have their own laws which govern divorces within their own community, and many have separate regulations regarding divorce in interfaith marriages in India. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains in India are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Christians by the Indian Divorce Act, 1869; Parsis by the Parsi Marriage […]

Communism in India

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Literature and the Communist Movement in India Having a general understanding of the communist movement in India is incredibly important in fully comprehending and appreciating several postcolonial novels, such as Arundhati Roy‘s The God of Small Things and Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh. Along with the politics, it is also important to recognize how nationalism, the caste system, and violence […]

Christianity in India

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Introduction Christians constitute the second largest religious minority in India next to Islam. The 21 million Christians in India account for 2 percent of the total population. With 16.5 million adherents to the faith, Roman Catholics form the largest single Christian group in India. There are approximately 4.5 adherents to the Protestant faith (Europa 1740). The […]

Caste System in India

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Background The caste system in India is an important part of ancient Hindu tradition and dates back to 1200 BCE. The term caste was first used by Portuguese travelers who came to India in the 16th century (see Spice Trade in India). Caste comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word “casta” which means “race”, “breed”, […]

Bollywood and Women

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Brief History of Indian Cinema India was first exposed to motion pictures when the Lumiere Brothers’ Chinematographe showed six soundless short films on July 7, 1896, in Bombay. By 1899, Harishchandra Bhatvadekar shot two short films, which were exhibited with Edison’s projecting kinetoscope. Throughout the first two decades, the trend continued with filmmakers such as […]

Arranged Marriages, Matchmakers, and Dowries in India

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Arranged Marriages in India Arranged marriages have been part of the Indian culture since the fourth century. Many consider the practice a central fabric of Indian society, reinforcing the social, economic, geographic, and the historic significance of India (Stein). Prakasa states that arranged marriages serve six functions in the Indian community: (1) helps maintain the social […]

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty

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Introduction While she is best known as a postcolonial theorist, Gayatri Spivak describes herself as a “para-disciplinary, ethical philosopher”– though her early career would have included “applied deconstruction.” Her reputation was first made for her translation and preface to Derrida’s Of Grammatology (1976) and she has since applied deconstructive strategies to various theoretical engagements and textual analyses […]

Nandy, Ashis

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Biography Ashis Nandy is a prolific political psychologist, sociologist, and cultural critic. Nandy has also coauthored a number of human rights reports and is active in movements for peace, alternative sciences and technologies, and cultural survival. He is a member of the Executive Councils of the World Future Studies Federation, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, […]

Bahri, Deepika

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Works Bahri has a particular interest in aesthetics, and has worked to develop this area in postcolonial studies. In Native Intelligence: Aesthetics, Politics, and Postcolonial Literature (2003), she writes about the “aesthetic dimension” of postcolonial literature, borrowing a phrase from the Frankfurt School theorist, Herbert Marcuse (see also Theodor Adorno).  This book argues that postcolonial literature needs to […]

Tharoor, Shashi

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“In writing of Indian culture, I am highly conscious of my own subjectivity; arguably, there is more than one Indian culture, and certainly more than one view of Indian culture.” – Shashi Tharoor (HAPR) Introduction As a diplomat and writer, Shashi Tharoor has explored the diversity of culture in his native India. By exploring the themes […]

Seth, Vikram

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Biography A small, wiry soap opera enthusiast with well-defined features and a ready smile, Vikram Seth was born in Calcutta in 1952 (also the home of Indian literary giant Rabindranath Tagore). Throughout Seth’s childhood, his father Prem Seth was a shoe company executive and his mother Laila Seth served as a judge. Vikram Seth is […]

Rushdie, Salman

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Biography Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay in 1947, just months before the Partition of British India. His father, Ahmed, was a businessman and his mother, Negin, was a teacher. He grew up loving the escape literature and film offered, and he wrote his first story when he was ten years old. He encountered some […]

Roy, Arundhati

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The information provided on this site for Arundhati Roy is spread across multiple entries. Please click on the following entries for more information about Roy and her most famous novel, The God of Small Things. Kerala and The God of Small Things Caste System in India Christianity in India Communism in India Divorce in India Kathakali

Ramanujan, Attipat Krishnaswami

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Biography A. K. Ramanujan, born in Mysore, India in 1929, came to the U.S. in 1959, where he remained until his death in Chicago on July 13, 1993. Not only was Ramanujan a transnational figure, but he was also a transdisciplinary scholar, working as a poet, translator, linguist, and folklorist. Although he wrote primarily in English, he […]

Nasrin, Taslima

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Introduction “She is either the bravest or most foolish person I’ve ever met,” a friend of Nasrin’s is quoted as saying (Weaver 49). There is no question about the bravery of Taslima Nasrin — the daughter of a county physician father and a devoutly religious mother, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight after the angry […]

Nair, Mira

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Biography The highly acclaimed director and producer from India, Mira Nair leapt into the world’s spotlight with her film Salaam, Bombay! which was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award. Mira Nair was born in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa to a civil servant in 1957. She went on to attend the University of New Delhi […]

Naipaul, V.S.

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Biography Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad, on August 17, 1932. His Hindu grandfather had emigrated to Trinidad from West India as an indentured servant. His father, Seepersad (1906-53), was a journalist, whose literary aspirations were inherited by V.S., and his brother, Shiva. The family moved to Port of Spain, where Naipaul attended […]

Mukherjee, Bharati

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Biography Bharati Mukherjee was born on July 27, 1940 to wealthy parents, Sudhir Lal and Bina Mukherjee in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. She learned how to read and write by the age of three. In 1947, she moved to Britain with her family at the age of eight and lived in Europe for about three […]

Mootoo, Shani

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“Cultural bastards, Janet, cultural bastards. Dat is what we is.” Out on Main Street Biography Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland in 1958 and raised in Trinidad. She moved to Canada at the age of 19, where she began a career as a visual artist. A skilled multimedia artist and video maker, she has had exhibitions […]

Mistry, Rohinton

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Biography Rohinton Mistry was born in 1952 in Mumbai and is of Parsi descent. He earned a B. A. in Mathematics and Economics at the University of Bombay. In 1975, at the age of 23, he immigrated to Canada where he studied at the University of Toronto and received a B. A. in English and […]

Mehta, Deepa

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Biography Canadian-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta was born in Amritsar, India in 1949. She received a bachelors and masters degree in philosophy from the University of New Delhi, where she met her husband, Canadian filmmaker and producer Paul Saltzman. Shortly after getting married, she immigrated to Canada in 1973. However, the marriage was short lived, and […]

Lahiri, Jhumpa

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Biography Growing up in America under the supervision of a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, it is no surprise that Jhumpa Lahiri puts so large an emphasis on the “stories of Indians in what for them is a strange land” (Rothstein 1).  After publishing her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, in […]

Kureishi, Hanif

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“From the start I tried to deny my Pakistani self . . . it was a curse and I wanted to be rid of it. I wanted to be like everyone else.” – Kureishi, “The Rainbow Sign” Biography Born December 5, 1954 in Bromley, England, to an Indian father and an English mother, Hanif Kureishi grew up […]

Kipling, Rudyard

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Take up the White Man’s burden– Send forth the best ye breed– Go, bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; On fluttered folk and wild– Your new-caught sullen peoples, Half devil and half child. – Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” Biography This famous writer was born Joseph Rudyard Kipling in Bombay on […]

Jha, Raj Kamal

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Biography Raj Kamal Jha was born in 1966 in Calcutta, India. He grew up with his father and mother; his father is a college professor in Calcutta. After secondary school, Jha was accepted to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, to pursue a degree in engineering. One day, Jha observed a group of […]

Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat

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Biography Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was born into a Bengali Muslim upper-class family in the small village of Pairaband in the district of Rangpur, north of present day Bangladesh, then a part of the colonial British province of Bengal Presidency. Her date of birth is not known. However, a nephew of hers posits Dec. 9, 1880. Her mother was Rahatunnessa […]

Ghosh, Amitav

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Biography Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He grew up in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), Sri Lanka, Iran and India. After graduating from the University of Delhi, he went to Oxford to study Social Anthropology and received a Master of Philosophy and a PhD in 1982. In 1980, he went to Egypt to […]

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

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Biography Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, and her writing has been included in over 30 anthologies. She was born in India in 1956 and lived there until 1976, when, at age nineteen,  she left Kolkata and came […]

Devi, Mahsweta

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Biography Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in the city of Dacca (now Dhaka) in East Bengal (modern-day Bangladesh). As an adolescent, she and her family moved to West Bengal in India. Born into a literary family, Mahasweta Devi was also influenced by her early association with Gananatya, a group who attempted to bring social […]

Das, Kamala

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Biography Recognized as one of India’s foremost poets, Kamala Das was born Kamala Madhavikutty on March 31, 1934 in Malabar in the state of Kerala (Dwivedi 297). Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalapat Narayan Menon, a prominent writer. Das remembered watching him “work from morning […]

Dabydeen, David

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Biography David Dabydeen was born on December 9, 1955 to Krishna Prasad and Vera Dabydeen, the parents of a peasant family, in a county in Guyana named Berbice. Until 1966, Guyana was a British colony predominantly inhabited by Africans and Indians who immigrated to the Caribbean during a massive movement, which transplanted more than half a […]

Chandra, Vikram

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Biography A relative newcomer to the literary scene, Indian author Vikram Chandra garnered much praise for his debut novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain. Following this well-received work of 1995, Chandra dazzled critics once again with the release of Love and Longing in Bombay, a unique collection of five lengthy stories for which he won the Commonwealth Writers’ […]

Badami, Anita Rau

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Biography Due to her first novel Anita Rau Badami was considered one of the newest writers in the vibrant field of Indian subcontinental literature.  Ms. Badami was born in 1961 in Rourkela, Orissa, India (Nurse 53).  Her debut novel, Tamarind Mem, received critical acclaim. Her father worked as a mechanical engineer on the railroads.  Because of her father’s […]

Alexander, Meena

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Biography Mary Elizabeth Alexander was born in Allahabad, India, on February 17, 1951. Although christened Mary Elizabeth, she has been called “Meena” since birth, and, in her fifteenth year, she officially changed her name to Meena. Not so much an act of defiance as one of liberation, Alexander writes: “I felt I had changed my […]