Being Mohammad in Brussels

A few months into my first year in Brussels, I met for lunch with a young Taiwanese academic who was spending some months in the city to research EU-China relations. His wife who had recently joined him from Taipei had come along as well. As we took a post-lunch stroll in the streets that criss-crossed…
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How Indian Families Took Over the Diamond Trade in Antwerp from orthodox Jews

Antwerp’s diamond business had long been controlled by its orthodox, largely Hasidic Jewish community. Although 65% of the Jewish population of the city was exterminated during the Second World War, those who had remained, their ranks swelled by others fleeing former Nazi-occupied countries in Eastern Europe, had been able to regain control of the centuries-old…
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The Foreign Correspondent

My first foreign posting was in Beijing, for the Hindu. This was from 2002 to 2009, when the city was remorseless in its embrace of a glass and chrome version of modernity. A steady stream of friends from India used to visit. I’d pick them up at the airport and take them by cab down…
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Chinese Wine Barons in France: The New Barons of Bordeaux

CAMPIAN, BORDEAUX: Deep in the Bordeaux countryside, Chateau du Grand Moueys is a sprawling 170-hectare expanse of vineyards and forest. At its center, a neo-gothic castle with turrets and crenellated walls, bring to mind a medieval world of knights and romance. Seated within the chateau’s genteelly dilapidated dining room, the estate’s new owner, 49-year-old Chinese…
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Punjabi farmhands in Italy: From Ludhiana to Latina

The low-lying hills that punctuate the countryside of Latina in central Italy reverberated with the screams of Harbhajan Singh’s chainsaw. The 41-year-old Sikh attacked the trees that carpeted the hillside like a demon, cutting great bloodless gashes into the trunks. Originally from a village near Kapurthala in Punjab, Harbhajan has spent over 10 years felling…
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Colonialism and amnesia : Colours of perception

The fracas surrounding the perceived racism of the comic book Tintin in the Congo is entering a new phase, with a decision on a fresh civil suit pending in a Brussels court. Pallavi Aiyar traces the history of outrage Brussels’ gently warm summer days draw thronging crowds out to Cinquantenaire Park, a generous green sprawl…
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Feminism, stocks and chocolate

Already the mainstay of Belgium’s tourist industry, Brugge is more than the world capital of chocolate. The silence is deep, sacred, broken only by the distant hooting of a wood pigeon. Two nuns approach: one as gnarled as the roots of the ancient trees that cluster in the grove, the other butter-cheeked and youthful. I step aside to…
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