How great is India’s magazine The Caravan?

Since I am headed off to India soon for an exhibit of my photographs in Mumbai — you can read about that here — it seemed the right moment to acknowledge how much I admire The Caravan, which calls itself ‘a journal of politics and culture’ and somewhat self-consciously styles itself as the New Yorker of India but (unusually for such a claim) honors the boast.  It specializes in long form, comprehensively edited journalism that, while hardly limited to India, makes it commendably hard to ignore for anyone with an interest in the subcontinent.  These are not primers: for foreign readers distant from the scene it helps to bring some background knowledge to the table before embarking but the profiles in particular are compelling enough you don’t have to get all the references or, sometimes, even have been previously familiar with the subject in question.

Take Narendra Modi, the rabblerouser of Gujarat and possible future leader of India.  I’ve disliked him for years but still learned more from Vinod K. Jose’s long profile of Modi than from almost any other single piece of reportage about him that I can think of.  If you search around you can still find samizdat copies of Caravan’s controversial book excerpt “Sweet Smell of Success” about the striving management guru Arindam Chaudhuri that earned the magazine lawsuits, injunctions, and a fair amount of street cred.  Sanjay Kak has what promises to be remarkable examination (not fully online, but excerpted here) of the Indian state apparatus of control in Kashmir.  On a related subject, Vinod K. Jose (again) has an exclusive interview with  Mohammad Afzal — then on death row for the attack on Parliament in December 2001 and since hanged, on 9 February 2013, triggering a security curfew in Kashmir — that is a good reminder of why you are remiss if you hadn’t heard of him before.  And on it goes.

But it is not all gravity and politics.  India has perhaps the greatest cultural density on earth and it is a pleasure to read about it in a way that does not adopt the faux-naive, upward-bias, outside observer stance of tourism.  So go to their site, wander around, and see what you find.

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The Caravan put together a video that is a bit of self-promotion but illuminating nonetheless — alas, in an unclever move they disabled embedding so you have to watch it externally.  The Caravan editor Jonathan Shainin, one of the few non-Indians involved, gives a sense of what makes the magazine so good in this interview:

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The Caravan might have called itself the Transition of India except that too few have heard of Transition — a tragedy, that, because as I wrote in my love letter to Transition it is one of the few truly global publications on earth and The Caravan shares a similar sensibility.

Click here to read all my posts about India.

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One Response to “How great is India’s magazine The Caravan?”

  1. […] American, but even that criticism was a kind of accomplishment because they meant in comparison to The Caravan or Scroll.in or various other India-based publications; by the standards of the foreign press, […]

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