Lunch With a Bigot: The Writer in the World
Amitava Kumar is Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College. He is the author of A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, and Nobody Does the Right Thing, all also published by Duke University Press.
This personal essay tells the story of the discovery of reading. It uses A. K. Ramanujan’s short story “Annayya’s Anthropology” and other Indian fiction to discuss books from India and Pakistan as commodities exchanged for wheat from the U.S. under the PL 480 library program.
This essay uses the personal account of a search for sexual experience as a backdrop to introduce an interview with the British-Asian writer Hanif Kureishi. Also contrasted with Kureishi’s work are other writings set in India—E. M. Forster to Upamanyu Chatterjee—but what distinguishes Kureishi is his response to a contemporary challenge, fundamentalist puritanism.
A brief essay that takes a line from a poem by the Hindi writer Alokdhanwa to present in the portrait of a bathroom the reality of the inequality of nations. Alokdhanwa’s line is juxtaposed here with a line by John Cheever about bathrooms—the essay finding meaning, literary and otherwise, in squalid places.