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Who will stop V.P. Singh? Remembering Agha Shahid Ali as David Davidar leaves Sanjeev Saith and Tarun Tejpal on the sidelines...

illustration by Jayachandran Someone make this man stop," whispered Mahashweta Devi at the SAARC Writers’ Conference as V.P. Singh took the floor in his new avatar as poet for an unendurable 40 minutes. But it wasn’t Singh’s long-winded speech that made President K.R. Narayanan (author of a forthcoming book by Penguin) walk hastily out of the meet without delivering his speech: a note had reached him on the shootout in Parliament. But the President’s departure did not stop Khushwant Singh from upbraiding the government for the number of books that have been banned in India, ranging from Agheyananda Bharti’s’s Ochre Robes to Stanley Wolpert’s Nine Hours to Rama and of course, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. "Do you know how many books are on the banned list?" he asked culture minister Jagmohan, who meekly agreed to call for the file from the home ministry.

illustration by Jayachandran I will die, in autumn, in Kashmir,/and the shadowed routine of each vein/will almost be news, the blood censored,/for the Saffron Sun and the Times of Rain" goes a poem in Agha Shahid Ali’s collection, The Country Without a Post Office. As it happened it was neither in autumn, the season he loved best, nor in his beloved Kashmir that Shahid—hailed as one of the finest Indo-Anglian poets—breathed his last. Suffering from a brain tumour, the "triple exilé" as he called himself (moving from Kashmir to Delhi and finally to the US) died last week in the US. But till the last it was Kashmir and its suffering that preoccupied his emotional and imaginative life.

illustration by Jayachandran Yet another feather in Penguin India ceo David Davidar’s cap. And so what if it’s only a recycled one? Davidar, who justifiably brags about publishing almost all the finest writers India has produced, finally added publishing sensation Arundhati Roy to his list. A "definitive edition" of Arundhati Roy’s book of political essays, The Algebra of Infinite Justice, was launched, with a celebratory cocktail party. All except one (the ladies have feelings, so...) of the six essays were first published in Outlook. Sanjeev Saith and Tarun Tejpal of IndiaInk, the publishing house created to launch Roy’s bestselling GOST, looked on as Davidar toasted his triumph.

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