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Sitdown Sunday: The tourists who experience 'India syndrome' after falling in love with the country

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Shutterstock/YURY TARANIK

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. ‘India syndrome’

How tourists experience ‘India syndrome’ after spending prolonged time in the country.

(The Guardian, approx 10 mins reading time)

In India, Airault would be dispatched to examine travelers who had lost their bearings, had become disoriented and confused, or had found themselves in manic and psychotic states. The contrast was shocking. “I would see them perfect when they arrive and after one month, I would see them totally unstable,” he recalls. Initially, what Airault observed was blamed solely on drug use, but many of the travelers were also exhibiting symptoms such as depression and isolation, stemming from a feeling of disorientation in an unfamiliar land or culture.

2. We dreamed of peace 

Roy Cohen writes about growing up in Israel, and how his dreams for hope were disrupted when his friend was shot.

(The Guardian, approx 22 mins reading time)

Aseel and a fellow Palestinian citizen of Israel refused to sing the Israeli anthem. As Aseel told a friend, he could not relate to an anthem that started with the sentence, “As long as in the heart within, the Jewish soul yearns … our hope is not yet lost.” I was astonished by Aseel’s boldness. Being queer, I was always trying not to call attention to the ways in which I was different. And here was this kid from my delegation, only a year older than me, who acted the way he felt, who set himself aside from the pack. Not without jealousy, I began to admire him.

3. Two sleeps

A fascinating look at the medieval habit of ‘two sleeps’.

(BBC, approx 14 mins reading time)

Over the coming months, Ekirch scoured the archives and found many more references to this mysterious phenomenon of double sleeping, or “biphasic sleep” as he later called it. Some were fairly banal, such as the mention by the weaver Jon Cokburne, who simply dropped it into his testimony incidentally. But others were darker, such as that of Luke Atkinson of the East Riding of Yorkshire. He managed to squeeze in an early morning murder between his sleeps one night – and according to his wife, often used the time to frequent other people’s houses for sinister deeds.

4. How bad are plastics, really?

A look at how plastics are made, their history, and where we stand now with them.

(The Atlantic, approx 14 mins reading time)

By the 1960s, the era my dad made plastics, the military was buying polystyrene again, this time to manufacture the incendiary napalm-B, but packaging and single-use applications were becoming plastics’ largest markets. Production rates were headed “up and up with a vengeance,” wrote an analyst whose sentiments were entered into the 1971 congressional record. At the grocery store, plastics picked off paper item by item: the egg carton, the bread bag, the meat tray, and, eventually though not easily, the grocery sack, says the science writer Susan Freinkel in her book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.

5. Caitríona Balfe’s Celtic conquest

An interview with and profile of the Irish actor Caitríona Balfe, star of Outlander and the new film Belfast. 

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(Vanity Fair, approx 13 mins reading time)

The fourth of seven children, Balfe and her family moved from Dublin to that village near the border when she was very young, for her father’s job. (Balfe was raised Catholic but has since lapsed.) She’s wanted to act for as long as she can remember, but she’s not exactly sure where the impulse came from. She thinks the fact that her dad—a sergeant for An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s national police service—was in a comedy troupe probably had something to do with it. But her plans took a detour when a modeling scout spotted her while she was studying acting at the Dublin Institute of Technology. A few months later she signed with Ford Models and was offered an opportunity to move to Paris. “I always just wanted to travel,” she says. “Growing up, we never did that—there were too many of us. We didn’t have the money.”

6. Japanese Jazz

How the country created its own take on jazz.

(The Guardian, approx 8 mins reading time)

By the late 1960s, the example of Akiyoshi, eclectic saxophonist Sadao Watanabe, and others spurred young artists to evolve away from Blue Note mimicry towards free jazz, fusion funk, spiritual, modal and bebop. These daring virtuosos implanted rock and electronic elements, or took influences from Afrobeat and flamenco music. The shift from mannered play to freewheeling individualism was reflected in a move away from sharp suits to a more unkempt look, and collaboration became important: take pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, who wrote and recorded with other artists to the point of being an almost guru-like figure in the scene.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

One day, astronaut Bruce McCandless floated free above the earth. Here he talking about how he did it.

(Smithsonian Magazine, approx 7 mins reading time)

When I was growing up, we didn’t have astronauts. But we did have comic strips—Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, people of this sort. When I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to fly like Buck Rogers, they would say, “Well, man may eventually fly in space, but surely not before the year 2000. So why don’t you come down to Earth and do something practical, like learn to drive a battleship, or something of that sort.”

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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