Almost before drawing breath, we meet two troupes of Indian magicians. One appears in the court of the Emperor Jahangir, early seventeenth-century Mughal ruler and aficionado of magic. In the first of twenty-eight tricks, this troupe of seven performers sprout trees from a cluster of plant pots before the emperor’s eyes, the luminous foliage heaving with fruits and songbirds. Four hundred years later, a group of jadoowallahs (street magicians) charm a hand-to-mouth living from the urban sprawl of modern-day New Delhi. In a small park, they levitate for audiences and magically escape the binds of knotted ropes. With similar – but less spectacular – effect to that woven by the performers of a Mughal court, they spirit a shrub-like tree out of what seems like thin air.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Alexandra Roginski reviews 'Empire of Enchantment: The story of Indian magic' by John Zubrzycki
  • Contents Category History
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Almost before drawing breath, we meet two troupes of Indian magicians. One appears in the court of the Emperor Jahangir, early seventeenth-century Mughal ruler and aficionado of magic. In the first of twenty-eight tricks, this troupe of seven performers sprout trees from a cluster of plant pots before the emperor’s eyes ...

  • Book Title Empire of Enchantment: The story of Indian magic
  • Book Author John Zubrzycki
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Scribe, $32.99 pb, 416 pp, 9781925713077

The deadline for this review was 15 August, India’s Independence Day, freedom at midnight in 1947 for India and Pakistan (whose independence is celebrated on 14 August). The British euphemistically called it a ‘transfer of power’. The subsequent division was termed Partition, an anodyne definition of the act of severing. Centuries of surrender and snatching of the Koh-i-Noor saw many transfers of power. Graphic descriptions of torture and murder in this absorbing and timely book are an early mirror for the bloodshed and horror of Partition.

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  • Custom Article Title Claudia Hyles reviews 'Koh-I-Noor: The history of the world’s most infamous diamond' by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand
  • Contents Category India
  • Custom Highlight Text

    The deadline for this review was 15 August, India’s Independence Day, freedom at midnight in 1947 for India and Pakistan (whose independence is celebrated on 14 August). The British euphemistically called it a ‘transfer of power’. The subsequent division was termed Partition, an anodyne definition of the act of severing ...

  • Book Title Koh-I-Noor
  • Book Author William Dalrymple and Anita Anand
  • Book Subtitle The history of the world’s most infamous diamond
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Bloomsbury, $24.99 hb, 340 pp, 9781408888841

For a book that began as a tweet, Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India has had a remarkable journey, taking its best-selling author on a world tour, both to the centre of Empire in the United Kingdom, and its outpost in Australia. A career diplomat who retired as under-secretary general at the United Nations in 2001, Tharoor is now a member of parliament for the Lower House in Kerala and renowned both for his views, and his eloquence, on Indian history, geopolitics, economics, and international relations.

The book’s genesis has acquired mythic proportions by now and bears repetition: in 2015, Tharoor was invited by the Oxford Union to debate the proposition, ‘Britain Owes Reparations to Her Former Colonies’, and carried the day. He tweeted a link to the video of his speech, and the rest, as they say, is history. The tweet went viral, was downloaded and replicated on hundreds of sites, shared via email and Whats-App, topped three million views on a single site itself, leading to Tharoor being hailed by those who had previously ‘trolled’ him online, and to the publication of hundreds of articles arguing the pros and cons of his position and seminars that discussed the ramifications of what is now referred to as his ‘Oxford speech’. Persuaded by David Davidar, editor of one of India’s most intelligent publishers (Aleph), to write a layman’s guide to the well-worn and extensively written-about topic of British colonialism in India, Tharoor then embarked upon An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India, published as Inglorious Empire in the United Kingdom, which sold more than 50,000 copies within six months of publication.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Mridula Nath Chakraborty reviews 'Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India' by Shashi Tharoor
  • Contents Category India
  • Custom Highlight Text

    For a book that began as a tweet, Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India has had a remarkable journey, taking its best-selling author on a world tour, both to the centre of Empire in the United Kingdom, and its outpost in Australia. A career diplomat who retired as under-secretary general at the ...

  • Book Title Inglorious Empire
  • Book Author Shashi Tharoor
  • Book Subtitle What the British did to India
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Scribe $32.99 pb, 336 pp, 9781925322576

This year’s Jaipur Literature Festival (20–24 January) more than lived up to the Indian Ministry of Tourism’s slogan – ‘Incredible India’.

The festival was established in 2006 as a component of the Jaipur Virasat (Heritage) Festival, an arts event intended to showcase the varied and colourful Rajasthani culture. Performances of classical music and dance were held in the forecourts of old temples, and folk concerts attracted huge crowds in city squares. Craft bazaars, art exhibitions, workshops, and disparate forms of theatre took place in dozens of locations around the city: former royal palaces, forts and gardens, a modern amphitheatre and galleries designed by architect Charles Correa, even an ancient reservoir. It was brilliant, exciting, and surprisingly intimate.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title 'Letter from Jaipur: Free speech and sectarian tensions at the Jaipur Festival' by Claudia Hyles
  • Contents Category Features