Bubble rapt in the Med

IN EVERY direction, out across the Mediterranean, there was only flat, blue ocean oblivion and the opening bars of a show tune plucked from the electrified strings of a Fender guitar.

Out the back of the Celebrity Silhouette, a cruise ship catering for some 3000 bodies, a woman in a floral dress and a margarita in hand swayed on her feet. She hauled herself off the bannister of the Sunset Bar and hollered out to the guitarist: “Can you play Edelweiss?” (read more)

In the city of the holy conflagration

The old man with a back brace and hobble and leaning on the helping arm of his wife had wandered back and forth in front of the windscreen of the minibus at least four times.

It had been an hour since the tour was due to leave and our travelling companions were nowhere to be seen.

Our Israeli guide, Avishalom, said more were to join but, except for my partner, Laura, and me, the bus to Jerusalem was empty. (continue reading)


THREE WEEKS before my grandmother died I found a green metal trunk in her garage. It was tucked behind a dusty pull-down projector screen and discarded carpets. The white stencilling on its rusted lid read 19316 – Captain D Kerr 2NZEF. The trunk was made in 1941, the year before my grandfather arrived on Italy’s Adriatic coast. (read more)


Horse Sense

EVEN IN A REST HOUSE, sheltered from the egalitarian heat of the Rajasthani sun, you can tell a Rajput by his bearing – the way he carries himself, the way he swaggers, the way he garners a deal. He is, after all, the son of kings, the descendant of warrior clans which for centuries ruled over this desert land, the Marwar. “You learn to be a better politician by being a horse-trader, OK,” Devendra Singh says, scanning the scene before him, “because you learn to speak lies.” (read more)

Slumming it in Mumbai

FAHIM VORA STANDS on Dharavi’s corrugated iron roof. He is like many of Mumbai’s young upwardly mobile. He listens to the latest music and wears a checked polo shirt with a popped collar. He goes to university, where he studies management accounting. But from when he was born to when he went to school he did not even know that he lived in a slum. (read more)

Making it in Bollywood

The second floor of Club Escape in the teeming Indian city of Mumbai is pumped full of an intoxicating blend of artificial stage smoke, can’t-make-this-stuff-up stereotypes and a gorgeous Ukrainian model by the name of Natalia. This Bollywasn’t. (read more)

Surviving India’s youth bulge

WHEN I FIRST MEET MANJOT SINGH, he looks like a bandit. Behind the seat of his rusted blue auto-rickshaw, he jabbers in incomprehensible Punjabi. He wears a red woollen beanie pulled down over his forehead. A grimy yellowed white handkerchief is wrapped around his face. The only thing that reveals anything is his eyes – thin, dark, conniving-looking. (read more)

A fiery final farewell

IN INDIA’S COMMERCIAL HUB, where almost 14 million people are squeezed into 400 square kilometres, what you do defines you. Mangesh Sawan burns bodies. I arrived in the early morning by train, as the lazy sun hauled itself over some unseen horizon, obscured by a blur of vaguely distinguishable human forms that rushed past the window of the Duranto Express. Mumbai Central Station was full of them. By the afternoon, I had witnessed my first cremation. (read more)

True colours revealed in India’s pink city

DURGA SINGH SITS IN THE COURTYARD of his home, built on land granted 120 years ago from the Maharaja of Jaipur, and ponders the ambiguity of a text message smiley face. “You know Charles, a smiley face is a wonderful thing,” he says staring at the cellphone screen glowing in front of him. “They are wonderfully ambiguous. It can mean total blissful happiness or mean a conniving fox.” (read more)

Kofta rains on parade

YOU COULD HAVE WALKED ACROSS EIGHT LANES of highway in Delhi on Wednesday morning without legitimate fear of death. No, legitimate fear of death came later in the day. (read more)


Krakatoa’s brooding child

YES KRAKATOA LOOKS LIKE A VOLCANO, an almost perfect dome with wisps of sulphurous gas rising and blending with the sky above.
We pull closer to the coast and Anak Krakatoa becomes clearer. Its smoking caldera is visible. Below, trees and bushes sprout from one of the world’s youngest islands. Life exists on Anak Krakatau. (read more)

Embryonic nation on hard road to adulthood

I AM FEARFUL of beginning to write anything about this place. Where to start? But more importantly, where to end? East Timor’s — Timor Leste’s — future is a quandary. Just sitting in this internet cafe is enough reminder: “To Our Valued Customer, in case of electricity cut offs, kindly wait for the power to come back on and don’t press anything.” (read more)

Taking midnight dips and toxic sips in the Gilis

HE JUMPS, whoops and disappears. A pause. Silence. His head finally comes back up to the surface and his face is contorted. “I got spiked.” We swim ashore and look down at his foot. Three black holes stare back. The heart races. One of the band members is found close by and he comes to inspect the foot. One exclamation and two words that any self-respecting tourist never wants to hear: “Awww, fire fish.” Expletives. And then some other words. (read more)

That sinking stinking feeling


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