Gujarat Files by Rana Ayyub

On 27 May 2016, The Caravan Conversations launched the journalist Rana Ayyub’s self-published book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up. In 2010 Ayyub, then working for Tehelka magazine, conducted a series of sting operations on bureaucrats and senior police officials in Gujarat who confirmed government complicity in the violence against Muslims during the 2002 riots in the state. She noted that the common thread among all her undercover investigations was one person: Amit Shah, then home minister of Gujarat and currently the president of the Bharatiya Janta Party. At the launch, Ayyub was in conversation with former additional solicitor general and Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising and the journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. Jaising, who represented the CBI in the court during its probe into the fake encounters in the state, said that everything Ayyub found aligned with the evidence the CBI collected. Ayyub also decried the fact that she had approached 12 publishing houses and several media organisations to publish her material, but all of them refused. The discussion was moderated by Hartosh Singh Bal, the political editor of The Caravan. Watch the video of the event here.

After 1984 by Jaspreet Singh

On February 2016, The Caravan and Bloomsbury India featured a discussion between Hartosh Singh Bal, the political editor of The Caravan, and Jaspreet Singh, the author of Helium, which looks at the 1984 anti-sikh riots. Singh and Bal discussed the nature of violence and trauma, the government’s silence regarding the issue, and Rahul Gandhi’s infamous interview with Arnab Goswamy, in which the former mentioned “he was too young to talk about 1984.” Singh also recalled a particularly poignant incident when one of his neighbours stepped out during the violence and shouted, “Stop this, tomorrow all of us are still going to have to live together.”

The Lost Generation by Nidhi Dugar Kundalia

On 22 February 2016, The Caravan and Penguin India launched Nidhi Dugar Kundalia’s The Lost Generation: Chronicling India’s Dying Professions. Together with authors Pavan Varma and Mridula Koshi, she discussed the importance of documenting the past and shared their memories of the dying professions they had encountered in their childhoods. These included the Ittar Wallahs (Perfumers) and the Bhisti Wallahs (Water Carriers). When an attendee asked Nidhi whether it had been easy to get the people featured in the book to open up, Kundalia said that it had taken time but “being a woman had certainly helped” and made it easier to gain access to these tales.

Emerging Frontiers in Journalism

On 14 January 2016, The Caravan and The Indian Express hosted Steve Coll, dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, to discuss recent changes in journalism and the need for an independent press in a democracy. In conversation with Anant Nath, the editor of The Caravan, Coll spoke of technological advances, and their implications on the domains of business, ethics, innovation, and engagement with the public. He said that he sees good investigative journalism re-emerging in the digital space, but that with the increasing availability of data and tracking metrics such as page views could lead to a corrosive environment for professionals. Coll further noted that the tradition of investigative reporting is strong in industries such as oil, about which he himself wrote a book, but that it is not nearly as robust in the field of technology, where companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook are de facto partners in distributing news content, a conflict of interest that could compromise the quality and existence of independent journalism.

How Those Who Weren’t Allowed to Enter the Function in Rajpath Fared on International Yoga Day in New Delhi

It was not for nothing that LK Advani, the senior leader of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a brilliant events manager. It was a skill that was up for display at the first International Yoga Day on 21 June 2015, today. The 1.4 kilometres long stretch of Rajpath in New Delhi was the showpiece of the event. About 35,000 people were expected to join Modi at Rajpath in New Delhi to practice yoga by 7.35 am In Delhi, metro service began at 4 am, two hours earlier than usual, to ensure easy commute for those who were inclined to make the journey. Indian Embassies and High Commissions in 251 cities in 191 other countries were also to follow suit.

There appeared to be many like me who had decided to come to the event without passes, attracted by the hype. At 5 am, the traffic police was ubiquitous in South and Central Delhi, deflecting the usual routes of auto rickshaws, motorcycles and bicycles. “We’ve been here since 3 am for this nonsense,” a traffic cop at Aurengzeb Road told me.

At around 5.30 am, I was abandoned at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium metro station by an auto rickshaw driver who was unable to find a way to get me to Rajpath. I entered the metro station and asked the policeman inside if the metro was functional. He, too, had been on duty since 3 am. “Nahi pata yaar, ja ke dekh lo”—I have no idea, go and check for yourself—he said. Visibly irritated, he added, “ya yahi baith ke kar lo yoga”—or just sit here and do yoga. After I told him that I was a journalist, he went on, “C****** sarkar hai ye, kaam kuch karte nahi hain, bas yoga yoga yoga”—It is a flawed government, doesn’t do any work and keeps harping about yoga. I had to cut the conversation short as a metro that was bound to Central Secretariat, the station that is closest to Rajpath, entered the station, and I ran downstairs to catch it.

Each of the several entry points to the main event at Rajpath was manned by dozens of uniformed men. It was an invite-only event, and many people had not realised that yet. Yoga sessions, which were open to all, were taking place in Lodi Gardens and elsewhere; but not many seemed to be interested in those. Yoga, it appeared, was not what the hundreds hovering around Rajpath were interested in; what they wanted was to be a part of the clique that was inside.

For these people who were stuck outside, the situation seemed unjust. They shouted slogans against the Delhi Police insincerely, and against the government laughingly. Without access to the media cell, or an invitation to get past the checkpoints, I roamed around the venue outside for two hours. With visibly irritated police officers who were repeatedly reminding everyone that they had been on duty since 3 am, and a vocal crowd having just been denied special treatment, skirmishes were inevitable. A couple of police officers lost their temper, but sense prevailed each time. At one point, a group of around 30 men belonging to the Rapid Action Force—a specialised wing of the Central Reserve Police Force—had to chase a crowd, of a little more than a hundred, off Janpath. Sloganeering began once again, causing the police to bring out megaphones to ask people to stay off the road and stick to the sidewalks.

On paper, the event would seem successful. Modi appeared to have managed what he had wanted: records that were broken in two categories of the Guinness World Records for the largest yoga class and the most nationalities in a yoga lesson. The earlier record for the largest yoga class stood at a class that comprised 29,973 participants and was achieved by students from 362 schools across India who performed the Suryanamaskar (Salute to the Sun) simultaneously for 18 minutes on 19 November 2005. They were led by Vivekanand Kendra, a spiritual organisation that is based on the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, at Jiwaji University in Gwalior at Madhya Pradesh. The second record has never been tried and Guinness set a bar of 50 nationalities. The man who promised to tear apart the old ways of doing things in Lutyens’ Delhi made it to the Guinness Book thanks to the cards that came in white envelopes to ease the select few through the security checks. The event may have been new, but it worked according to a very old kind of entitlement in this city.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Gwalior is in Rajasthan. The Caravan regrets the error. 

No Free Left, The Futures of Indian Communism by Vijay Prashad

On 10 January 2015, The Caravan Conversations, in association with Leftword Books, hosted a discussion in Delhi between the Marxist historian Vijay Prashad and the journalist Prabir Purkayastha, to complement the launch of Prashad's new book No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism. They discussed the past and present of India's leftist parties and movements, how those were shaped by the country's history, and the paths open to them in the face of neoliberal economic policies and recent political developments both in India and abroad.

The Caravan and Select Citywalk World Photo Day Contest 2014

On 19 August 2014, The Caravan magazine, in association with Select CITYWALK, opened its week-long photography exhibition at Select CITYWALK, Saket, to celebrate World Photo Day. The show featured the nine winning entries to photo competition themed ‘City Life’ along with photo essays from The Caravan and rare archival images.

For pictures of the event, click here

Caravan Style & Living presents: Caravan Conversations on Ship of Theseus

On 23 July 2013, Caravan Conversations brought together Anand Gandhi, the director of Ship of Theseus, Mayank Shekhar, film critic and Caravan Style & Living contributor and director and producer Kiran Rao, who noticed the film at the Enlighten Films’ Naya Film Festival in Mumbai. Rao decided to come on board as promoter and help the film get an Indian release in India in July 2013. They were joined on stage by Sohum Shah, producer and actor from the movie. The venue partner for the event, held in Mumbai, was the Olive Bar & Kitchen in Mumbai.

The evening's conversation raised questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death through the film's stories of an experimental photographer, an ailing monk and an enterprising stockbroker, played by Aida El-Kashef, Neeraj Kabi and Sohum Shah respectively.

A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna

To celebrate the launch of Amitava Kumar’s A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna, The Caravan, in association with Aleph Book Company, hosted a series of conversations about his book. Caravan Conversations travelled to three cities across India, where audiences accompanied Kumar on journeys and memories through his accounts of the many Patnas, peppered with his fascinating observations and impressions.

On 22 July, Amitava Kumar discussed the dearth of Indian writing in English on Patna with Rahul Bhattacharya at The Oxford Bookstore.

Watch the video of the event here

At Ants Café in Bangalore, one of the venues awarded the status of Caravan Quarters, Kumar sat down with The Caravan’s Books Editor, Anjum Hasan, to discuss the human side of Patna and the stories of its people on 25 July.

The next day, at Café Zoe in Mumbai, another café among the Caravan Quarters, Amitava Kumar met Naresh Fernandes for a free-wheeling conversation about large rodents, chilled-out doctors, and pesticide, among many other things.

For pictures of all the events, visit

Writing Calcutta

On 22 February 2013, Caravan Conversations, in association with Penguin India and Oh! Calcutta, hosted a conversation titled "Writing Calcutta". The conversation also saw the Delhi release of Amit Chaudhuri's new bookCalcutta, an account of two years in the city, also the place of his birth.

In his book, using the historic elections of 2011 as his fulcrum, Chaudhuri travels between the 19th century, when the city glittered, to the 20th century, where it lost its shine under 34 years of communist rule. Chaudhuri was in conversation with Ananya Vajpeyi, and the restaurant Oh! Calcutta served as a warm and welcoming venue. Watch it here

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