Yesterday’s wormhole: Lakshadweep

The path in:

While updating books on Goodreads (step #1), I saw someone had read and rated a new Amitava Ghosh book. The book’s name is Gun Island (#2).

The book’s description began with the definition of the word बन्दूक (bundook) which is the Hindi1(#3) word for gun.

That made me try and remember the Hindi word for Island (#4).

I couldn’t. So, I tried remembering names of some islands in India (#5). The only two that came up were the Andaman & Nicobar islands (named in English, by the British), and Lakshadweep.

Lakshdweep = Laksha[^2] + dweep. This reminded me that dweep (द्वीप) is the hindi word for island(#5).

I thought (wrongly, I later realised) that Laksha was just a short form of the hindi word Lakshya, which means target. This meant that the name of the islands would mean ‘Target island’ in English.

This piqued my interest in them, wondering what gave them that name. What also bothered me was that despite knowing about the islands most of my life, I had no clue about the people, language, culture, etc on the islands. The Andaman & Nicobar islands get a far larger share of public mind space in India. No one bothers much about the Lakshadweep. Off I went to Wikipedia…

And the very first thing I learnt was that I had got the etymology of the name wrong. Dweep was correct – stands for island. Laksha wasn’t a shortened form of Lakshya (target), but a form of the Hindi word for hundred thousand—Lakh (लाख). So, the name didn’t mean target island, but a hundred thousand islands. It is, after all an archipelago of islands, not a single island.

About the culture, language, etc… well, go read the article and do some Wikipedia wormholing yourself :)

Continue reading Yesterday’s wormhole: Lakshadweep

Jardines – Amitava Ghosh & The Economist

Last night I started reading Amitava Ghosh’s latest novel in the Ibis trilogy – Flood of Fire. The novel, continuing from the previous one, has part of the storyline based in Canton in China during the Opium trading era.

Like many good novels, the storyline weaves in real life facts and characters. One of them being William Jardine, who first appeared in the 2nd novel the river of smoke, and is again present in the background (so far) in flood of fires:

Flood of Fire - William Jardine
Flood of Fire – William Jardine reference


Then, today I was catching up with the latest issue of The Economist, and came across this:

Economist article on Jardine Matheson investing in China
Economist article on Jardine Matheson investing in China


Interesting coincidence of timing.

Why the bookstore chains are dying

Two of my favourite authors have published new books this year and I’ve been waiting to read them for some time. The books:

Last man in the tower by Arvind Adiga, and
River of Smoke by Amitava Ghosh

I ventured into the Waterstone’s store 100m from my house with an intention to buy the books. They had only the hardcover versions (expected) priced at £20 & ~£18. I wasn’t willing to pay that much for the books. Checked a few other books around, paperbacks all. None was cheaper than £7.99. Didn’t like anything much, so walked out.

Came home and checked on Amazon – the £18 book was priced at £8.99 while the £20 book was available for £11.99 – new copies in hardcover. Immediately ordered the £8.99 book and added the other to wishlist for ordering after I’ve finished the current book and the ordered one. By then that book may be available in paperback too.

P.S.: If the chain bookstores, with their scale, centralised buying and logistics networks can’t come close to competing with Amazon, how can the little, standalone guys survive? And frankly, I’ll miss the small, standalone neighbourhood bookstores a lot more than the likes of Borders and Waterstones