China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



November 30, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright 2010. Used by permission.


Pallavi Aiyar’s 2008 memoir, Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China, details the six years she spent living in Beijing, first teaching English and then becoming a reporter for The Hindu. Now stationed in Brussels with the Business Standard, Aiyar’s articles tend to focus on topics such as Belgium’s cultural conflicts and theuneven parallels drawn between India and China. For this reason, I was quite surprised to learn that Aiyar’s second book, to be released by Harper Collins India in early 2011, is a story of Beijing narrated by two cats: Tofu and Soyabean, the protagonists of Chinese Whiskers, share the story of their hutong life amidst the backdrop of the SARS epidemic and pre-Olympic construction. In a concise and gripping tale, Aiyar conveys the chaotic and ever-changing landscape of Beijing in the early 2000s as experienced by some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, both human and feline. Eager to learn more about this unusual book, I posed a few questions to Aiyar via e-mail: