Sandip Roy's Dispatches from Kolkata

Wednesdays at 7:35am and 4:45pm

Sandip Roy, former host of Your Call and  New America Now, is back on KALW, bringing you a little bit of the story of the new India every week – a letter home from his other home.

A lot has been written about the changing India, says Roy. But reporting about a changing India is one thing. Living in it and dealing with a country where newspapers are still being launched instead of folding, Internet rumors spark mass exoduses, and cricketers advertise skin-whitening creams called Fair and Handsome is another thing.

Sandip Roy’s "Dispatch from Kolkata" can be heard Wednesdays at 7:35am and 4:45pm during KALW’s presentation of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Sandip Roy

Every time we hear about Jews and Arabs it’s usually a story about conflict – about suicide bombs and land occupation and historical hostility. But the first time Sandip Roy went to a synagogue in Kolkata he found something odd. Muslim caretakers of Jewish synagogues. Generations of them.

Ashok Sinha

A Jewish museum just opened in Kolkata. Not a brick and mortar museum. There are only some 20 plus Jews left in Kolkata. 

But Jael Silliman, with the help of a Nehru Fulbright scholarship she’s the brains behind, the first digital archive of Calcutta’s vibrant Jewish history.  

Rice Bucket Challenge Facebook page

Journalist Manju Latha Kalanidhi in the city of Hyderabad. Says the ice bucket challenge left her cold. Kalanidhi, who works for a rice research website decided instead of aping the Ice Bucket challenge, she could do something a little more Indian and a little less wasteful.

She came up with the Rice Bucket challenge. Take some rice. Give it to a needy person. And challenge your friends to do the same.
Sandip Roy investigates the latest social media challenge and finds out what all this 'Rice' is about.   

The Twitter account "RushdieExplainsIndia" has attracted 13,000 followers in a very short time. However it isn't owned by Salman Rushdie, but by Rohit Chopra. Sandip Roy asks Mr. Chopra to explain "RushdieExplainsIndia."

Sandip Roy's Dispatch from Kolkata  for Aug. 20, 2014: the anniversary of Indian Independence Day was Aug. 15th. Sandip Roy reflects on the meaning, and sound, of India old and new.

Sandip Roy discovers the long lost sounds of Indian, visiting the Archive of Indian Music


(This is a rebroadcast, as Sandip Roy's Producer is off for two weeks to have a baby. A new Dispatch will be sent on Aug. 20th)

Sachin Soni

(Sandip Roy's Producer is off for two weeks to have a baby. A new Dispatch will be sent on Aug. 20th)

Once if you owned a car in India, chances are it was an Ambassador car.  Rotund and roomy, it’s been described as a bowler hat on wheels – it could easily fit four adults, five kids, a dog, and some picnic hampers. It was the 'everyman car' and it's making into its last slow cruise around the block.

Marzena Pogorzaly

A recent tongue-in-cheek blog post on the website Publishing Perspectives listed some 17 must-haves in diasporan South Asian fiction published in the west – arranged marriage, identity crisis, wise grandma, abusive father, colorful fabrics. Writer Prajwal Parajuly says his book The Gurkha’s Daughter checks some of those boxes....

Sandip Roy's Dispatch for July 23 2014: The Archie comic book character is as American as it gets. But in July of 2014 (Issue No. 36 of "Life With Archie") Archie dies. His death reverberates all the way around the globe to Kolkata, India.

Sandip Roy

July 16, 2014: Monsoon has always been the most important season in India - whether it's from the point of view of the economy or the Bollywood rain dance. But coming back to India after years in America, Sandip Roy finds the memories of monsoons past don't always live up to the realities of monsoons present.

This post originally appeared July 23, 2014. Mr. Roy will return with a new post next week.

Sandip Roy

July 9, 2014: World Cup fever is infecting the entire world... including Kolkata, India!  

July 2, 2014: R.D. Burman would have turned 75 last week and Bollywood threw a great birthday bash. 

Sandip and Kronos Quartet violinist David Harrington remember the great Burman.

Sachin Soni


June 25, 2014: Once if you owned a car in India, chances are it was an Ambassador car.  Rotund and roomy, it’s been described as a bowler hat on wheels – it could easily fit four adults, five kids, a dog, and some picnic hampers. It was the 'everyman car' and the Ambassador is making its last slow cruise around the block.

In May 2014 Narendra Modi was elected the Prime Minister of India. His sweeping victory made for a watershed election in India. But unexpectedly the reverberations of that election are being felt all the way over in Sunnyvale, California.

Coolie Woman

Jun 11, 2014

When it comes to women going out by themselves in India, Gaiutra Bahadur comes from a family where the bar was set pretty high.

Bahadur's Grandmother was a "Coolie woman."  

Last week India was shocked by a picture that looked ripped out of the American south from decades ago. Two young women, raped and strangled, and then dangling from a mango tree in a village in the Badaun district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

But the pictures shocking as they are are not worth a 1000 words because they cannot begin to unravel the context behind the story.

Modi and Nehru

May 28, 2014

This week Narendra Damodardas Modi became the 15th Prime Minister of India.
Ironically this week also marked the 50th death anniversary of Jawarharlal Nehru – the first prime minister of India. Modi defeated Nehru’s great-grandson and became the first Indian prime minister to have been born after Independence. That’s an important moment for India.

Sandip Roy

The village of Mewat a couple of hours outside Delhi looks very unexceptional.  I’d never even heard of it till I passed through it on the Indian election campaign trail. It’s sunbaked. The land stony and dry. Trucks rumble past on the highway Buffalos doze. There’s no reason to stop in Mewat. Except in 1947 a very famous Indian did stop here. And changed history.

India's Wall of Noise

May 15, 2014
sandip Roy

India is noisy. But at election time the noise reaches a different level. Democracy in action in India is spirited,  Raucous. And not always harmonious. We’ll know the results by the end of this week. But for now our ears are still ringing with the sounds of Election 2014. 

This is a soundscape from the greatest show on earth.  

The Road to Amethi

May 7, 2014
Sandip Roy

Amethi is the pocket borough of India’s most powerful family, the Gandhi's. Usually, the political top bosses get a pass in the elections. The opposition rarely puts up strong candidates against them in their home. Sort of parliamentary etiquette. This time it’s different.

sandip Roy

The Times of India newspaper called this Indian election a "Dance of Democracy." But for Sandip Roy it's more of a 'Disco' Dance of Democracy.

Sandip Roy

An Indian election campaign is not entirely unlike a Bollywood film. The heroes and villains might flip flop depending on your party preference.  But the script has all the ingredients of a good old Bollywood masala film.

Welcome to  Indian elections 2014 – the musical hits.

Sandip Roy

Whenever India goes to the polls the world takes notice. Some of the wonder is just about the sheer  mind boggling scale of it.  The election going on right now from April 7th  until May 12th for example will involve 930,000 polling stations across India.

Sandip Roy goes to the polls.

A queer thing is happening in India. India is going to the polls with the usual fanfare of the world’s largest democratic experiment. But this is an election with a difference.

For the first time ever gay issues are part of the election debate.

Rahul's storm

Apr 2, 2014
Sandip Roy

Rahul Gandhi, the Indian National Congress leader, just can't seem to catch a break this election season. At this recent rally, it seemed as if even the Gods are against him.

These days, thanks especially to television, journalists have become celebrity pundits in India. They opinionate, bloviate and pontificate on TV all the time. Khushwant Singh became a celebrity long before cable television. He was sometimes callled "the dirty old man of Delhi" because he spoke without much attention to social formalities.  Singh was 99 and still writing when he died in Delhi last week.  

This is a story about two films that are in the eye of a peculiar storm in India.

One is called Gulaab Gang. The other is called Gulaabi Gang with an "I." But in that single "I" lies a world of difference.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle /

The controversy over Tibetan independence won't likely be over anytime soon, but is the Middle Way, promoted by the Dalai Lama himself, any way to go about it?

Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin's films deal with the row over Tibetan-Chinese relations. "The Sun Behind the Clouds" and "Dreaming Lhasa" will screen at CAAM Fest 2014, see the schedule here.

IIM, Calcutta

I have to admit when I heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson was in town, my first thought was “What’s Jesse Jackson doing running around Kolkata?” 

Rev. Jackson made the expected stops – mother teresa’s grave. School for poor children. But then he headed to the IIM, the Indian Institute of Management, one of India’s most coveted business schools, charged with minting the next generations of CEOs and COOs. 

It may have been passed over for an Oscar nomination, but the New York Times calls The Lunchbox a Bollywood anomaly - a  quiet movie of unexpressed anguish and yearning instead of movies that clutch viewers by the throat and assault them with glamour, pizazz and dancing.

But what’s really surprising about  The Lunchbox is it actually really made a splash in India with a love story so low key, so subtle, one can hardly call it a romance. The lovers don’t meet. They just exchange notes in a lunchbox. Real handwritten notes . About life. And food.