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GOOD READS The Infidel Next Door – A book by Rajat Mitra

The Infidel Next Door is the story of Kashmir.

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Kashmir has turned into a wound that has found no healing in three decades. On the contrary, the wounds have deepened. The events leading to the horror of January 20, 1990 cannot be understood without speaking of the bloody history of that beautiful, beleaguered land.

The story is told through five young protagonists – Aditya Narayan, Anwar, Zeba, Javed and Nitai. Perhaps these young people are protagonists because errors are as easily projected on youth as a change of heart. This fluidity is imbued with hope and courage. It rescues the story from being a helpless saga of pain.

Aditya Narayan is an extraordinary soul. He was groomed for the journey which lead to an ancient temple in Kashmir where his ancestors were priests. He is reluctant to go but his promise is the guru-dakshina his guru demands of him. He has no option but to keep his promise.

Unsure, he arrived at the abandoned temple. In the process of bringing the temple back to life, he managed to rekindle the suppressed aspirations of a community. Over time, his quiet, unwavering courage awakened a deep affection in Anwar; his alter-ego, who had hated all that Aditya represented. The awakening of Anwar’s somnambulant soul happened quietly, almost as a by-product, the way a flower is pollinated though the bee’s purpose was only to collect nectar.


Trade Wizards Of The East – IV The Suvarnavaniks

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Poor recovery of bank loans in our times due to their injudicious sanctioning reminds me of a stalwart of mercantile community of yore in Bengal which refused to do so, to the king.

Raja Ballal Sen of the Sena dynasty was extravagant in his tastes and would borrow money indiscriminately from the lenders. ‘Suvarna Banik’ were a prosperous mercentile community of Bengal who dealt in the trade of precious metals and served as bankers to the region. One of the patriarchs of the community was Gauri Sen, who carried out a prolific trade in importing and exporting of goods. He was also a benevolent money-lender unlike the kind we have grown up reading about. So forthcoming was he with sums of money to help people tide over any financial constraints that the aphorism gained currency: lagley taka, debe Gauri Sen, roughly translated as, ‘if ever you need money, Gauri Sen will give’.

Despite such magnanimity to lend to the royal exchequer, the expenses of Raja Ballal Sen kept inflating and surpassed its limits, and when bankrupt and defaulting habitually, Gauri Sen refused to oblige further until the previous debts were cleared. Incensed at such an act of defiance the king ostracized the entire Suvarnavanik community declassing them into shudras and debarred them from receiving Vedic instruction from the Brahmins.

Such a grossly unjust act of spite was unacceptable to many Brahmins as well many among whom refused to accede to the royal decree, and were depreciated in the social hierarchy as well.


Trade Wizards Of The East – III The Marwaris of Bengal

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A quaint disquiet and discomfiture has paved the way in time for grudging admiration for each other as communities who have lived side by side in the same city.

The Marwaris of Kolkata have never really found themselves mentioned, acknowledged or eulogized to have contributed vastly to the city's cosmopolitan heritage and yet they have perhaps been more a part of the city uninterruptedly than many of our Bengali ancestors.

They are Calcutta's best kept secret. A city that speaks effusively on its more exotic denizens and their predecessors; the dwindling Jews, Armenians, Greeks, even Chinese and the British, now either lying in their cemetery or found as a fraction of a gene pool in Bow Barracks, has been in grand denial about 18% of its population that has contributed immensely to its commerce and continues to provide substantial employment to the state.

There is nothing as ‘Marwaris’ in Rajasthan. The generic name was probably attributed to the exodus of this business community from the erstwhile Marwar kingdom. For the sake of simplification, it has encompassed anyone who alighted wonder eyed at the Howrah station from west with scant belongings and found their way to Burrabazar to try their fortune there.


The Abrahamic States of Hatred – II Glimpses of Hinduphobia in Western Popular Culture

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Ever so sanctimonious in their critique of others, the white liberals of the West often fail to look inwards and check their own character deficits. The simple truth is that they harbour many of the same biases that Western Right do – the two disparate groups just rationalise their hatred in different ways.

 White liberals have directly attacked many sacrosanct tenets of the Hindu faith — like vegetarianism, reincarnation, murti puja (‘idol worship’), the belief in numerous deities, and respect for animal life — instead of going after the perpetrators of acts they deem unacceptable. When the comedian Jeremy McLellan posted about a specific issue, in this case, isolated incidents of mob violence in India against beef-eaters, and used it as an excuse to lambast ‘fascist’ India, a hoard of Islamists and their white enablers showed up in the comments section — using severely “othering” language against Hindu people for the ‘crime’ of valuing the life of a domesticated animal deeply loved in Indian culture. Here is just example of one such white enabler.

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This white woman’s impression of Hinduism is that of a cruel pagan faith comprised of deities that command children to starve. You wouldn’t see her making that extrapolation with regards to Christianity, given that there are hundreds of thousands of homeless people in the United States that have been shunned by mainstream Christians.

You would think a culture that has an obsessive relationship with domesticated felines and canines, so obsessive, in fact, that they will go to extremes to defend them, even to the detriment of their fellow human beings, would have some respect for the fact that Hindus simply value another intelligent mammal. White, Western folk spew racist hate against East Asians for making some animals — considered pets in Western culture — a part of their diet, but these people also refuse to commiserate with Hindus for sharing their sentiments, albeit with a different animal. No, the Hindu relationship with the cow is something that warrants their disdain. 


The Abrahamic States of Hatred – I The Case of a Failed Comedian

The United States is quickly becoming the focal point of hatred for the world’s only surviving polytheistic religion, Hinduism, and America’s alt-Left have unwittingly joined hands with Islamofascists in a vitriolic campaign of racist hate — one that most Hindus have no idea even exists.

Many Hindus outside of the West know little about the social dynamics and the domestic politics of the Western world. In a globalised world, however, and with the advent of the Internet, one cannot help but be sufficiently informed about the happenings of the more prominent countries in the West. This was particularly demonstrated during the recent U.S. election in the States — an event that was covered globally.

The exposure to America’s domestic politics challenged some beliefs many Hindus might have held. Some of us might have been under the assumption that there was a clear binary, an even cleave, in the socio-political fabric of the United States. The “good” — being the Democratic Party and its followers, often called the “Left” on the Western political spectrum — and the “bad”, being the Republican Party and its followers, often called the “Right”. That is obviously a rather simplistic view of politics, which is, more often than not, far too complex to neatly box into a binary.


Trade Wizards Of The East – II Story of the Famed Indian Muslin and The Emergence of India as Cloth Trade Giants

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The humid climes of the lower GRead the previous section of this series hereangetic plains during Lakshman Sen's regime were rife with the clickerty-clack of the looms, which resonated with the heartbeat of the weavers of Shantipur.

A handful of them had relocated from Dhaka to settle in the village and weave their typical variety of fine Muslin, fashioning them into sarees that became renowned enough to be exported to Afghanistan, Persia, Greece, Arabia and Turkey. Weaving contributed vastly to the economy of Bengal and districts such as Murshidabad, Bankura, Bardhaman and Hooghly were famous for their handloom industries.

Indian muslins were exquisite in make, highly priced and much sought after as an item of luxury. The western variety could not hold a candle to the standards of quality it set. From gowns to bedspreads to tablecloth and handkerchiefs, the west had only known the use of coarse linen for these. Later with mass production, lower taxes during Mughal India and cheap labour along with superior quality of cotton used, a favourable political environment of peace and royal patronage, price of Indian textiles lowered, though that was not the same as its quality, and India began exporting hugely from Bengal and became the most dominant force in cloth trade.


Trade Wizards Of The East – I Establishment of Kolkata as a Business Centre

The foundation of any city is laid not just on the administrative and organizational planning with foresight on political and economic vantages but also upon speculative insights, inspirational dreams, divine fortitude and interventions along with the hopes, aspirations and sheer perseverance of all those who believe in its destiny.

It is now well known that the city of Calcutta (Brit. distortion of Kalikshetra, the ‘ground of Goddess Kali’) bears its origin to the royal sanction of three villages obtained by Job Charnock on behalf of the British East India Company, from the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar. The subsequent development, fortification of its expanses and burgeoning trade led to the city becoming the second most in importance in the mighty British Empire on which proverbially the sun never set.

What is less known is the antecedents that led to the emergence of this city.

The Portuguese had two ports, one seaport in east Chittagong or Chattogram, Port Grande, and another, Saptagram or Satgaon, a river port in the west, between Tribeni and Bandel, called Port Piquenno. They were joined together by the creek Adi Ganga or Tollynullah. Ships came as far as the mouth of Tollynullah at Garden Reach from the sea, thereby the waterbody was navigable by country boats upstream. The marauding pirate activities of the Portuguese of Goa and silting of the river led to gradual dwindling away of Saptagram, as most merchants set their centres of trade in Hooghly.