News Shaikh in 2013; one of his roles was in a Hindi version of 'Yes Minister'

Farooque Shaikh, who died on 27 December of a heart attack on a visit to Dubai with his family, was the plump, unlikely hero of scores of Bollywood films. He was born in 1948, his career beginning on a high note with the 1973 film Garm Hawa, about the Partition. His performance earned him a key role in Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players, a study of the decadence of India's feudal classes. His cherubic looks struck a chord with ordinary people, who identified with his man-in-the-street image.

Fired up: protests in New Delhi in December 2012

Nirbhaya: Play about the Delhi rape that shocked the world set for Edinburgh

'This drama will speak about sexual violence'

Video: American teenager speaks 23 languages

Whilst most people struggle to learn one new language, a 16-year-old from New York has managed to master 23 different tongues.

Say hello to a new language

Scared of Spanish? Flunked French? It could be time to try again, says Enjoli Liston, who's finally tackling Hindi

Mathoor Krishnamurti: Champion of Indian arts in Britain

The sudden death in Bangalore of the lively and ebullient Mathoor Krishnamurti at the age of 85 has stunned his friends, disciples and admirers in both Britain and India. He was born on Janmashtami, the birthday of the Hindu god Krishna, hence his name. Though rooted in ancient Indian culture and literature he was essentially a man of the present: he could quote from the Vedas while busy employing up-to-the-minute computerspeak. He was compounded of past and present and believed in the creed of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ("The world is one family").

Reduced BBC Hindi service will affect millions, critics say

BBC Hindi, the shortwave radio service that since 1940 has brought global news and current affairs to some of India's poorest and most remote regions, scaled back its transmission yesterday in a move that the author Vikram Seth said was contributing to "a great loss of goodwill and increase of mistrust in India".

Vikram Seth: Flagship without a fleet

I was absolutely amazed to find out from a series of recent questions in parliament that the BBC hadn't even consulted the Foreign Office when they made their decision to axe their shortwave Hindi programmes, which resulted in such a great loss of goodwill for Britain in India - and concomitant increase of mistrust.

Album: Cornershop feat Bubbley Kaur,...and the Double-O Groove of (Ample Play)

Rather than hook up with an Indian singer of existing repute, the first collaborative album by the criminally underrated Cornershop is recorded with Bubbley Kaur, an unknown who was working in a Preston launderette and singing in cellar clubs prior to their chance meeting.

Dreaming in Hindi, By Katherine Russell Rich

This gem of a book deserves to outshine the narcissistic platitudes of Eat, Pray, Love. After crises in both health and career, Rich "no longer had the language to describe my own life. So I decided I'd borrow someone else's". She went to India not to imbibe some mish-mash mysticism but to learn Hindi via "total immersion" in the lakeside city of Udaipur.

India's new rupee symbol unveiled

India has finally got a symbol for its currency, the rupee. The government announced it had selected one of five short-listed designs it hopes will become as recognisable as the shorthand for the dollar, the yen and the euro.

Defeated Tamils a force again

Sri Lanka's election could be decided by those who lost the civil war, reports Andrew Buncombe in Menik Farm

Album: Nguyen Le, Saiyuki (ACT)

The Japanese title means "Journey to the West", which in this case indicates a journey – led by the Paris-based Vietnamese Nguyen – with the Japanese koto-player and singer Mieko Miyazaki, tabla-player Prabhu Edouard and the great Hindustani flute player Hariprasad Chaurasia. Each is conversant withtransnational modernstyles. The resulting musicchanges its cultural centreof gravity from track totrack. Sometimes it's northIndia; sometimes it linksJapan and San Francisco.Asparky experiment.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan: Sarod maestro who played with Ravi Shankar and appeared at the Concert for Bangladesh

In 1966 Yehudi Menuhin uttered the words that have reverberated in many of the sarod maestro's obituaries. When introducing Ali Akbar Khan, ustad [master] of the sarod, he called him "an absolute genius... perhaps the greatest musician in the world." Uncounted thousands of musicians and music lovers would contest the "perhaps". His music affected the Beatles, Byrds and Grateful Dead and, as the Indian classical singer Rita Ganguly wrote, "... there is hardly any instrumentalist in our country today who is not indebted to the great musical philosopher, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, directly or indirectly."

Cyber Sutra: India's online eroticism

Now known for strict conservatism, India was the birthplace of erotica, famed for its sensual literature and carvings. Andrew Buncombe looks at a modern expression of an ancient urge.

Kishan Maharaj: 'Fearsomely talented' tabla player

To hear Kishan Maharaj or his contemporary Ustad Alla Rakha play tabla – the two-piece hand drum now synonymous with the Hindustani art music of northern India – meant you knew you were in the presence of musical giants. It would be difficult to overestimate Maharaj's reputation as the living embodiment of the Benares style of tabla playing.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
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The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

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Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

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Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

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Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

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Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

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