The great hornbills of Siolim (Photo credit: Stephen Menezes)

What two great hornbills can teach us about Goa’s true wild side

Every day, I walk my dogs up a hill, through a cashew orchard carved into a jungle, in the village of Siolim, Goa. Here, over the past few months, I came to know a pair of great hornbills. I watched as they flew over the tree canopy, their expansive black wings rimmed in white, their bright yellow beaks appearing like beacons at dusk. Sometimes, I just heard their deep calls in the distance, or the unmistakable loud whooshing of their wing beats.


Can you be third time lucky in chasing a tiger?

When a friend and I decided to visit the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve one February weekend, little did we know what a chase it would be to spot a tiger! Neither of us had been there before. Reaching Ranthambore was easy – only three-and-a-half hours by fast train from Delhi. Booking a hotel for a long weekend, even a month in advance, was another matter. Most hotels were full, be they in the Rs. 5000 or the Rs. 25,000 per night price range. This included the Shergarh Resort – said to be frequented by the Gandhis and Scindias. Then, by sheer chance, we found rooms in Tiger Den – a beautifully-located resort with very helpful staff.


Iffat Nawaz’s Shurjo’s Clan is a debut novel of startling promise

Shurjo’s Clan, Iffat Nawaz’s debut novel, is a captivating book of magical story-telling about Bangladesh’s freedom movement. War, Partition, martyrs and their families, the struggle for identity, displaced idealism, the blurring of the ordinary and the extraordinary, characterised by intense emotions of love, loss, and, above all, a pull towards one’s roots and motherland, come together in the book.


Tuticorin is a gripping account of IPS officer Anoop Jaiswal’s journey of discovery through one of the most crime-prone districts of Tamil Nadu

An IPS officer from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, declared a “misfit” from the get go, finds himself fighting the government all the way to the Supreme Court to retain his place in the service. The odds are stacked against him, but he wins, and is then assigned to the Tamil Nadu cadre, where he is posted in a deceptively slow paced southern district, first as an Assistant Superintendent of Police and later as the Superintendent.


Despite some obvious omissions, A New History of India is a timely endeavour that accounts for the paradoxes of our contemporary approach to the study of the past

The French historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie once said that there are two kinds of historians – the truffle hunters and parachutists. The former makes the threadbare scrutiny of past events their calling; the latter try to discern patterns, or discontinuities, in centuries. But how does one describe a work that condenses thousands of years of history of the Indian subcontinent in a little more than 400 pages, each of which is rich in detail? In A New History of India by Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Shobita Punja and Toby Sinclair begin their account with the “Making of the Indian Subcontinent” that took billions of years. The book concludes with a discussion on the challenges faced by the country as it completes 75 years as an independent nation.


How birdsong and bird calls can set the tone for the day

Usually, the first question I ask newbie birders is “what do you think is the most important physical requisite to be a birder: Your eyes, your ears, your nose or any other?”

Most often, the answer is “eyes”, but several do home into what is the most important faculty – at least, according to me: your ears. Spotting birds in foliage is hard enough, but if you hear them, you know they are there…


Remembering Jasleen Dhamija, India’s custodian of crafts (1933-2023)

The blue turquoise gleam of glass in the sunlight would have caught anyone’s eye. It certainly caught mine. The graceful table had been neatly arranged, its antique inlaid wooden top from Kashmir burnished brown with signature carvings around the edges, a plate of roasted pistachios (“They are from Iran, a friend brought them, the best in the world,” said Jasleen Dhamija) and two glasses of chilled nimbu pani resting on it, served by her ever loyal staff, as her pet dog pushed its muzzle between us.


A look at the seminal works of Japanese Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe, who passed away recently

A maverick of the literary world who rejected honours by the Emperor of Japan because he believed in no institution other than democracy, Nobel Laureate Kenzaburō Ōe, born 1935, died on March 3 at the age of 88, leaving behind a lifetime of fiction and non-fiction on war, family, destiny and, in his own words, “the dignity of human beings.” Here’s a short introductory glimpse of his oeuvre.


What a new film tells us about dealing with death

Ethan Sisser had stage-four brain cancer. One of his last sights was the scenic ridge tops of the Southern Appalachian – Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. On April 2, 2021, the 36-year-old breathed his last. Between waves of an unbowed pandemic, Sisser could have died alone, had it not been for his dying wish – he wanted a movie made of his last day, “leaving his body” surrounded by a “community”.


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