Bhangra Mix by Meenal Tambe. Bhangra music keeps me awake! Songs used: Sara Pind Mitran Da - Aman Statis - Karan MC & Lil Sach, Darshan (Remix), Aag Feat. Cheshire Cat (Remix)- Bhangra Mix, Yaari - RDB. YouTube: AttackofzeSugar
Now that Hyderabad, India, is booming as a business hub (Microsoft, among other tech giants, is here), the city is looking past the stuffed suits and angling for the jet set. Its history rivals that of the more popular Jaipur, with distinct architecture from the Nizam rule and a mining heritage that gave us the Kohinoor diamond. A flurry of new openings — boutique hotels, upscale restaurants and shops catering to stars of the local Telugu film industry, known as Tollywood — is moving the metropolis into the spotlight.
Based on the author’s real life and fatter than a copy of Moby Dick, Shantaram is the odyssey of an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escapes maximum security prison to hide out and eventually open a free health clinic in Mumbai’s slums. An unfaltering look amidst India’s expat, slum and criminal underbellies, Shantaram is a moving narrative of the search for redemption within the brutal margins of society. A recommended read for both the patient enlightenment seeker, the skilled meat and potatoes skim reader, and anyone who has ever dreamed about disappearing into a strange new land.
“The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga, 2008
A delirious ride through the maniacal, darkly comic and staggeringly insightful mind of its protagonist, The White Tiger is a rags-to-riches tale, India style. Never, ever idyllic, Adiga tears open the grit, corruption and contradiction of modern India while developing an unforgettable protagonist worthy of Nabokovs. This one will tickle anyone who picks it up, and is especially valuable for the romantics who just can’t shake the belief in India as a country solely populated by do-no-harm, spiritually glowing mystics.
“The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy, 1997
A rare glimpse into Christian life in South India’s Kerala, The God of Small Things offers a painful and stunning look into the unraveling of life. The story is revealed piecemeal, centering around two children, a pair of fraternal twins, and a series of events from which there is no turning back. The quiet desperation of The God of Small Things is a literary victory, and its echoes of colonialism, political unrest and social dynamics make it distinctly South Indian. Especially recommended for readers with a love for lyrical writing inhabiting the space between novel and poetry.
“Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie, 1981
One of the most successful novels by an Indian author of all time, Midnight’s Children is classic Rushdie: exuberant, magical, unabashedly mischievous and all encompassing. The novel is a gallivanting journey of prose to India’s multifaceted heart through the story of a man born at the exact moment of India’s modern birth as a nation. Essential for English majors, India lovers and anyone working their way down the top 100 Books of the Century list.
“A Passage to India” by E.M. Forester, 1924
A literary classic in its own right, A Passage to India wrestles the historic tensions of India under British colonial rule. Ethnicity, culture, friendship and nationalism are examined through the trial and aftermath of an Indian physician accused of assault by a white British woman. A Passage to India is a solid choice for folks hoping to impress fellow travelers with their discerning tastes, as well as for anyone hoping to understand India and its modern historical context.
“Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found” by Suketu Mehta, 2004
Part personal memoir, part journalistic exposé, Maximum City chronicles the return of its Indian-American author to his childhood home of Mumbai. An examination of Mumbai from numerous angles, it is both daring and intimate. If nothing else, check out the disquieting last segment on a wealthy Jain family who renounces all worldly possessions to wander as ascetics. Aspiring journalists, expats, and lovers of all things related to megalopolises will love this one.
The narrow roads of Hauz Khas Village, hidden behind the crumbling structures of its namesake complex — a mosque, madrasa, royal tomb and reservoir dating to the 13th century — are among car-congested New Delhi’s most enjoyable streets to explore by foot. The village had a brief “it” moment in the 1980s, when high-end shops began to open among the old homes here. But the quaint setting soon fell out of favor with the city’s nouveau riche, who instead flocked to American-style shopping malls in the suburbs. Now, a new cluster of creative cafes, restaurants, bookstores and boutiques has turned the village into an arty haven that complements its historic neighbor.
India is a great country in which to get lost…in literature. Not only does the country have its own great canon of writers to choose from, but the most common form of transportation – trains – makes for long stretches of time with little to do but read between cities.
“The Hungry Tide” by Amitav Ghosh “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth “India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy” by Ramachandra Guha “The Moor’s Last Sigh” and “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found” by Suketu Mehta “Sacred Games” by Vikram Chandra “In Spite of the Gods” by Ed Luce “The Argumentative Indian” by Amartya Sen “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard” by Kiran Desai “English, August” by Upamanyu Chatterjee and Akhil Sharma “City of Djinns” by William Dalrymple
Dynastic grandeur in the heart of modern India. Even in the 16th century, Hyderabad, in southern India, famous for its diamond trade and sultans’ palaces, was a city with serious bling. In the last decade, a new sort of wealth has arrived — the outsourcing of international companies, which has inspired a boom of sleek cafes and restaurants such as Fusion 9. The latest buzz is the debut of two five-star hotels, both connected to the Nizam family, rulers of Hyderabad for the two centuries before India’s independence. The first, Park Hyderabad, is a futuristic structure designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with an aluminum and glass facade inspired by the settings and metalwork found in the Nizams’ jewelry collection.
The new Taj Falaknuma Palace, on the other hand, is a window into the past. It’s a wedding cake of a building that still belongs to the Nizam family, and it took the Taj Hotels group 10 years to renovate the European-style castle. “The Falaknuma Palace will complete the Indian palace tour for the south,” said Shanti Kohli, of New Delhi-based Amber Tours. “It makes a trip to Hyderabad worthwhile just on its own.” — GISELA WILLIAMS