Bring travel home: India

Introducing Bring travel home

One of the things that makes travel special is the chance to switch off and explore new cultures. And with more time on our hands than usual, we have the opportunity to do just that. So for this series, we’ll be curating things to watch, read, listen and eat to explore different cultures from the comfort of your own home.

🇮🇳 India

Zadie Smith wrote, "...that land they call 'India' goes by a thousand names and is populated by millions, and if you think you have found two men the same among that multitude, then you are mistaken. It is merely a trick of the moonlight." Quite right she is. How can we do justice to a country so massive and full of so many nationalities, languages and numerous cultures in a single article?

The short answer is we can't. But we have done our best to show off an India of our own experiences, those of our friends and those that live there. So grab a chai, sit back and enjoy.


Watch

DOCUMENTARIES

Asma Khan | Chef's Table | Season 6, Episode 3 (2019)

Asma was born in Kolkata in 1969 and moved to Cambridge in 1991. It was here that she took her first cooking lessons as she missed the food of home. Cooking became a passion, which she turned into a business in 2015 when she opened her first pop-up restaurant in Soho. The pop-up became a permanent site as the Darjeeling Express just off Carnaby Street. She is also the first British chef to feature on Chef's Table.

Watch on Netflix.

Monsoon (2014)

The monsoon is the soul of India, bringing not only water but life to the country. Part road movie, part spectacle, part drama, Monsoon is Sturla Gunnarsson's meditation on chaos, creation and faith, set in the land of believers. The subject is the monsoon, the incomparably vast weather system that permeates and unifies the varied culture of India, shaping the conditions of existence for its billion inhabitants.

Watch the trailer. Know of a streaming link? Let Ben know.

FILMS

Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India (2001)

Set in Victorian India, a village fights back against their oppressive British rulers through the game of cricket, and a choreographed dance or two (it is Bollywood after all). The "Lagaan" of the title was the tax the British imposed on Indian farmers at the time of the Raj and forms the basis of a bet around which the film is set. In its day, Lagaan was the most expensive Bollywood musical film ever and the first to include British actors. But it stood out for other reasons too. When it was released, it dealt with quite a different subject matter compared with many other big Bollywood hits before it.

Watch the trailer and stream on Netflix.

The Lunchbox (2014)

Bollywood star Irrfan Khan plays Saajan, an ageing office drone who finds the wrong lunchbox delivered to his desk and stumbles into a relationship with an unhappy housewife. Their friendship grows through hidden letters and home cooked meals as these two lonely souls connect in a vast, modern Mumbai. Viewers might be reminded of You've Got Mail, but this touching and subtle film is more classic Hollywood than Bollywood.

Watch the trailer and stream on YouTube or Google Play.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

"Wes Anderson's quirky comedy-drama sharply divided audiences and critics, but it's a fine advertisement of luxury train travel in India," David Gritten, the film critic, wrote in Telegraph Travel in 2012. Any self-respecting watch list for India should include something of the country's immense train network. After the death of their father, three melancholy brothers set out on a locamotive journey across India, in an attempt to rediscover their lost bond. What awaits them at the end of the journey is the key to bringing them backtogether.

Watch trailer and stream on YouTube or Google Play.

Lion (2016)

This beautiful and emotional movie, starring Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley, highlights the true spirit of love, not bound by blood, race or religion. At its heart, Saroo, aged 5, falls asleep on a train and ends up thousands of miles and 25 years from home. What makes it remarkable is that it's true. The autobiography, A Long Way Home, was made into a documentary by Google Earth, and finally became a Hollywood movie. Shot in Kolkata, India and Tasmania, Australia, it has won numerous awards in the UK and Australia as well as 6 Oscar nominations.

Watch trailer and stream on Netflix, YouTube or Google Play. Also, see the Talk at Google with Patel, Brierley and the screenwriter on YouTube.

VIDEO

Scenic Drone Shoot of Mumbai during Coronavirus Lockdown by Mumbai Live

This aerial tour of Mumbai captures the city amidst the peace and quiet of the coronavirus lockdown. Capturing Mumbai's most important and iconic places without the crowds, it shows everything from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Wankhede Stadium in stark emptiness.

Watch on YouTube.


Read

Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor (2017)

If you want to understand India, you need to have some understanding of the effects of British colonialism. Tharoor, an Indian politician, convincingly demolishes some of the more persistent myths about Britain’s supposedly civilising mission in India. This is an important read for a foundation in the blood-soaked, centuries-old relationship between the two countries.

Get the book or audiobook on Amazon.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)

Winner of the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981 and the Booker of Bookers prize for the best winner between 1993 and 2008, Midnight's Children is a modern classic. A dark parable of Indian history since independence: the decline of the book's hero - from a brilliant childhood into adult cynicism and despair - became a metaphor for the country's own fate, its high hopes of democracy crumbling in the tumultuous period of emergency rule declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975.

Get the book or audiobook on Amazon.

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988)

Rushdie's fourth novel tells the story of two Indians immigrating to the UK. En route, they experience a magical transformation, which impacts their lives in the UK and return to India. For the author, the book is "...about migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay." But it is also one of the most controversial books of the 20th century. In 1988, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death due to the contents of the book. The fatwa remains in place to this day, despite more recent Iranian governments no longer supporting it. Additionally, India became the first country in the world to ban the book in 1988, which also remains in place today.

Get the book or audiobook on Amazon.

Nines Lives by William Dalrymple (2009)

Nine people, nine lives; each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. Dalrymple delves deep into the heart of a nation torn between the relentless onslaught of modernity and the ancient traditions that endure to this day. The study of the people and beliefs of India ranks with the very finest travel writing.

Get the book or audiobook on Amazon.


Listen

A.R. Rahman

Indian composer, singer and producer, A.R. Rahman is known for integrating Indian classical music with electronic and world music. With success across multiple Hindi and Tamil films, he made his mark globally by scoring the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. The following year, he was included on the Time 100 list of the world's most influential people. It seems his nickname, the "Mozart of Madras", is perfectly apt.

Listen on Spotify.

Anoushka Shankar

Anoushka Shankar is a singular, genre-defying figure within the classical and contemporary, acoustic and electronic world music scenes. A world-renown sitar player in her own right, Anoushka has learned from the best and would join her father, Ravi, on stage from the age of ten. Nominated for multiple Grammys, she has a cross-cultural style reflecting the places she has lived. She is the half-sister of Norah Jones and together they collaborated on the album "Traces Of You".

Listen on Spotify.

Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar is a Bengali-Indian musician, who is revered as a master of the sitar. Influencing numerous musicians, his music caught the ear of George Harrison of The Beatles who went on to learn the sitar from Shankar, which you can hear in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", "Love You To" and "Within You Without You". He received the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999.

Listen on Spotify.


Eat and drink

RECIPES

Saag Paneer

An Indian classic with a recipe from the woman who is recognised as bringing Indian cuisine to the western hemisphere, Madhur Jaffrey. Often accompanied by Indian flatbreads or dal, this spinach with fresh Indian cheese is often known as saag paneer. A delicious main or side.

Check out the recipe from Madhur Jaffrey.

Mora Dar

The Persians of antiquity were renowned for their lavish cuisine and their never-ceasing fascination with the exotic. These traits still find expression in the cooking of India's rapidly dwindling Parsi population - descendants of Zoroastrians who fled Persia after the Sassanian empire fell to the invading Arabs. Niloufer Ichaporia King has chronicled a number of wonderful dishes Parsi dishes in My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking. Here is one with great significance for Parsis - everyday dal.

Check out the recipe from Niloufer Ichaporia King.

DELIVERY

If you don't fancy rustling up the food yourself, why not order in? Here are some recommendations of great restaurants and eateries from our home, London, that are still delivering:

Benares, Mayfair

Undoubtedly deserving of its reputation as one of the best Indian restaurants in London. Atul Kochhar was the first Indian chef to earn a Michelin star for Tamarind in 2001. He went on to open Benares Restaurant and Bar which was awarded a Michelin star in 2007, which they held until 2020.

Order from Benares.

[email protected], Maida Vale

Inspired by the roadside cafes of North India, this Maida Vale eatery specialises in fusion dishes that are as beautiful to look at as to eat. [email protected] prides itself on its chaat – the crispy-tangy-spicy snacks typically served in dhabas, or roadside restaurants. It might be modelled on roadside food, but this is one restaurant that’s seriously worth ordering from.

Order from [email protected].

Babur, Forest Hill

Good looks and innovative cooking make this passionately run and long-established Indian restaurant stand out. Influences from the south and north-west of India feature most and seafood is a highlight. They offer "Babur To Go" for a traditional Indian takeaway and "Babur" for a premium restaurant delivery.

Order from Babur.

Spicebox, Walthamstow

It began life as a street food stall peddling Indian vegan food, but Spicebox now has a permanent pitch in Walthamstow. Expect plant-based dishes with rich, deep flavours and emphatic spicing: classic chaats and bhajis are joined by the now-ubiquitous jackfruit in various guises, plus warming dhal and traditional desserts tailored to vegan appetites.

Order from Spicebox on Uber Eats.

Flora Indica, Earl's Court

Keen botanists might recognise the name of this Old Brompton Road restaurant – it’s taken from an eighteenth-century book on the plants of British India. Consequently, the restaurant's look pays homage to the time of the British Raj, but the food is a much more modern take on Indian cuisine.

Order from Flora Indica on Deliveroo.


Other nice things

Women in India: Unheard Stories

"From pioneers of the past to innovators of the present, meet the women who have changed Indian culture forever." Google Arts & Culture is an art-lover-in-isolation dream. From the first Indian woman to attain a degree in western medicine to meeting the keepers of craft and tradition, this is an excellent collection of stories.

Check out Google Arts & Culture.


A special thanks to Izzy Curtis for all her help and guidance on this article. We hope you enjoyed being temporarily transported to India. Next up, we’re taking you to Georgia. Send Ben an email along with your suggestions and we’ll give you a £10 Amazon voucher if it makes the cut.

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