History and Culture
Caste Iron NEW!
On Ambedkar's place in the Indian imagination, and why he hasn't received his due from upper-caste Indians.
On Eating Animals
"Is it then unreasonable to say that nearly all meat-eaters in America participate quite directly in a cycle of suffering and cruelty of staggering scale?"
Indians Abroad: A Story from Trinidad
A brief history of the Indian diaspora in Trinidad—today over half-a-million strong—from the colonial era to the present.
On Caste Privilege
Much has been written about the unearned privilege of race and gender. What does the privilege of caste look like in Indian society? How and why has caste been politicized?
The Dance of Indian Democracy
Why did democracy take root in India against all odds? What are its distinguishing features? Six decades later, how close is it to Ambedkar's inspiring vision of democracy?
The Blight of Hindustan
The Indian caste system continues to mystify outsiders. Here is a brisk overview of its origins, spread, and some historical attitudes and debates.
In Light of Nalanda
What was ancient Nalanda University like? Here is a portrait based on the accounts of Chinese scholars of 7th century CE and a recent personal visit.
As Though We Were Immortal
Some travel impressions prompted by the living and the dead of Varanasi, India.
Herodotus, the Iliad, and 9/11
Some curious parallels between the wars of the post-9/11 decade and the Trojan War as Herodotus saw it.
On Public Corruption in India
With findings from corruption research, Anna Hazare and his team, the Jan Lokpal Bill, and the anti-corruption movement.
Decolonizing My Mind
On the politics surrounding the arrival and the spread of English in the colonies and the peculiar world of the Indian writer in English.
War and the American Republic
With the end of combat operations in Iraq, a fresh look under the hood of American jingoism.
The Minangkabau: Mixing Islam and Matriarchy
This matriarchal society of Muslims in Indonesia reminds us that religion and culture are never cut from whole cloth.
The Other Swastika
Can the symbol ever be redeemed in the eyes of the West? What might be lost and what could be gained in the possibility of doing so?
America, the Cold War, and the Taliban
The roots of transnational Islamic terrorism lie not so much in culture and the Qur’an as in politics and the conduct of the Cold War in Afghanistan.
Marco Polo's India
Returning home from China in 1292 CE, Marco Polo spent a few months in India ... his book, The Travels, contains a rich social portrait of India that still resonates with us today.
Asian Food for Thought
India and China offer a striking illustration of the vast range and malleability of the human palate, and the power of ideas in shaping it.
What Confucius Said
No person has left a deeper mark on Chinese culture than Confucius, who lived 2500 years ago in an age of social turmoil.
Homosexuality in India
"We don't have any," is the classic Indian response to homosexuality in India. Curiously, Indians say this even when they know of and tolerate homosexual acts.
On Herodotus' Histories
What in his outlook and judgment is still noteworthy
nearly 2,500 years later? An evaluation of Herodotus as a historian in light of his life and times.
A Place Called Home NEW!
Going "home" can be bittersweet. In one of his most personal essays to date, Namit Arora revisits Gwalior, a city where he came of age.
Of Meenas, Migrants, and Medicine NEW!
Two days with AMRIT Health Services, a not-for-profit initiative, in villages inhabited by Meena tribals in south Rajasthan.
Dispatches from India NEW!
Usha Alexander's periodic musings on her life in India. She moved there in mid-2013.
1: First Impressions
2: On Hiring Domestic Help in India
An Indian-American in China
Impressions from a journey through China, and the hard-to-avoid comparisons with neighboring India.
The Leatherbacks of Trinidad
A tiny village on the northeastern coast of Trinidad is home to the "so-ugly-they're-cute" leatherback turtles. In Apr 2011, I traveled there to see them.
The Lost City of Ugarit
A journey to the Syrian city of Lattakia and the nearby ruins of Ugarit, the 2nd millennium BCE city credited with the invention of the alphabet.
Divinity is Here
I am in the village of Rum in south Jordan, all signed-up for two days in
the desert. The clincher was the Bedouin honcho's sell job: "I have open
At the Foot of Mount Yasur
I am six hundred miles east of the Great Barrier Reef in the archipelago
of Vanuatu-or, as they say in Vanuatu, the "ni-Vanuatu"
archipelago, home to nine active volcanoes.
The Amazon hogs the limelight for fauna stats but to see wildlife in wide open spaces, the Pantanal is the place to visit in Brazil.