The United Kingdom and the world are celebrating the life of Captain Tom Moore for raising a lot of money for the British health service’s charitable wing. Moore is being praised as a hero, but he was a member of the British occupying force in India. The British caused millions of deaths in India and left the country in shambles. Moore should have apologized to the people of India for being part of an imperialist force in India. Instead of raising money for NHS Charities Together, he should have raised money for reparations for India.
Ashu M. G. Solo
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Experimental solo artist, Neeq Serene introduced her haunting and introspective debut single, ‘The Others‘ in May 2020, crossing over genres of trip-hop, alternative RnB, and gothic neo-folk.
An emotive and cinematic soundscape, the sophomore single ‘Fields of Gold’, released on 8th January 2021, features hypnotic vocal layers sung in both English and Urdu, inspired by Serene’s South Asian roots. When writing the song, Serene envisaged crossing the boundary from this world to the next – where departed souls shall meet again.
2019 saw the launch of PINERO|SERENE, a dream-pop songwriting collaboration with bass player Cheryl Pinero. The debut EP, ‘Dark Matter,’ was released on 28th July 2019, with the first single, ‘Take My Soul’ premiered by Clash Magazine. In this new sonic chapter, Neeq reveals a self-reflective journey through minimal, electronic music and deep lyricism, drawing on influences from the alternative music world and her Kashmiri heritage.
‘Fields of Gold’ written and performed by Neeq Serene Instruments written, played and recorded by Neeq Serene Orchestra, guitar and additional synth-overdubs played and recorded by Gon von Zola Mixing and production by Gon von Zola
TOURNAMENT OF SHADOWS by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac. Counterpoint Books. 646 pages. $19.
The political science journal Foreign Affairs calls Tournament of Shadows a “tour de force,” while Kirkus Reviews describes it as “swashbuckling.” Universally, it seems that reviewers are drawn to this book’s adventurous tone and its mind-boggling scope. As an historical treatment of the “Great Game”—the battle for influence over South and Central Asia by Russian (then Soviet) and British (then American) powers—Tournament of Shadows is a remarkable achievement thick with validating reference and analytical context. As a curl-up-by-the-fireside escapist read, this non-fiction account of the adventures of Western and Asian explorers covers 200 years of real-life Indiana Jones escapades. This combination of political science and romantic yarn is quite a feat.
Rife with scholarly content which sometimes slows the narrative, the book tells a grand sweeping tale of European interest in the lands just north of India, primarily Tibet and Afghanistan. It begins with a chapter evocatively titled, “The Horse Doctor,” about William Moorcroft, a veterinarian of the early 1800s sent to these unexplored and mysterious lands to seek out new horse breeds for the British Indian army. Moorcroft’s tale, like so many in the book, warrants a Hollywood big-screen telling. It is replete with episodes of bravery, treachery, disguise, espionage, deception, being sold into slavery, and escaping from captivity.
The stories of the “pundits” are equally as cinematically riveting. These Indian spies were sent into Tibet posing as religious pilgrims. They practiced walking with an evenly spaced gait, which did not change even while climbing, and marked their steps using specially rigged prayer wheels, resulting in surreptitious and remarkably accurate maps of a region officially forbidden to outsiders. The adventures of mapping expeditions, repeated through two centuries and zestfully told, are of particular interest to the authors, who imbue the cartographic sciences with nobility and sublime poetry—“Maps are to exploration what scriptures are to theology: the font of authority for ascertaining truths distantly glimpsed.”
The scope of this book is nothing short of awe-inspiring: from the treks of Moorcroft and the pundits to the seduction into Christianity of the Sikh prince Duleep Singh; from backroom deal-making between the Dalai Llama and various Western powers to a secret society formed by Teddy Roosevelt’s sons and wealthy Americans; from the selling of Russian slaves on the Afghan market to Nehru’s entry into the church of Theosophy; and from the Nazi search for an imaginary Aryan motherland to the Chinese invasion of Tibet and incursions on the Indian frontier. If this tome suffers from anything, it is of too grand a vision and too thorough a telling.
If nothing else, Tournament of Shadows is a treatise on the attitudes of Western empires of the last two centuries, an important subject at a time when the modern American empire stretches its powers to the same lands on which the Great Game was once played.
Raywat Deonandan is the author of the award-winning book, Sweet Like Saltwater (TSAR Books, 1999).