The Rajah’s Barber

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi When the Rajah’s barber could no longer keep the secret, he was seen darting by the sparrow in the tamarind, by the flinty owl in the giant oak that was surely a jinn’s abode, by a flock of hill mynahs flying through the buttery light of early spring. What was it…

The Color of Cleopatra’s Eye Shadow

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Gems carry a lure that is quintessentially primeval. Considered valuable throughout human history for obvious reasons such as rarity, durability and beauty, gems are inextricable not only from lore, art, architecture, culture, and craft, but also the aesthetics of language. Stories of different civilizations come to us carved in gemstones— Jade…

Plague Echoes

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi “A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore, we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is the men who pass away…” —Albert Camus…

Equal as the Teeth of a Comb

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Ami, my mother, does my hair, “Helen-of-Troy-style,” a high pony tail with strands wrapped around it on days there is extra time before school. She remembers the hairdo from an old movie which she talks about often, along with her other favorite The Taming of the Shrew with Liz Taylor. When…

In the Agora of Socrates

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi No one knows if it was really in the state prison, the ruins of which are visible today outside the ancient Agora of Athens, that Socrates was kept during the final days before his execution, so many times has the area been destroyed and reconstructed— walking past it sends a chill…

The Locked Doors of Delhi

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi “I’m on a roadside perch,” writes Ghalib in a letter, “lounging on a takht, enjoying the sunshine, writing this letter. The weather is cold…,” he continues, as he does in most letters, with a ticklish observation or a humble admission ending on a philosophical note, a comment tinged with great sadness…

“Once upon a time, Europe really did not matter.” The Silk Roads: An Illustrated New History of the World

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi “You start with a scarf…each 90-by-90-centimeter silk carré, printed in Lyon on twill made from thread created by the label’s own silkworms, holds a story. Since 1937, almost 2,500 original artworks have been produced, such as a 19th-century street scene from Ruedu Faubourg St.-Honore, the company’s home since 1880. The flora…

Song of the Silk Road: A Photo Essay

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi In Tian Shan mountains of the legendary snow leopard, errant wisps of mist float with the speed of scurrying ghosts, there is a climbers’ cemetery, Himalayan Griffin vultures and golden eagles are often sighted, though my attention is completely arrested by a Blue whistling thrush alighting on a rock— its plumage,…