I enjoyed Guy Trebay’s sensitive and evocative portrayal of South India [The Temples of Tamil Nadu, February]. As an Indian-American, I appreciated his humorous description of the contrasting chaos and beauty of Tamil Nadu, told without being disrespectful of its greater religious underpinnings. He took care to discuss the Hindu faith, and his depictions of temples and ceremonies were beautifully written. I hope that Trebay continues to explore these religious institutions. They are the foundations of this rich and ancient culture.
—Meghana Bandodkar, San Jose, Calif.
In a country that cherishes freedom of speech, it’s easy to take that right for granted. Nancy Milford’s essay on contemporary Turkish literary circles [Istanbul’s Changing Society, February] reminds us how lucky we are. We should celebrate writers like Elif Shafak; those who go so far as to risk their lives for freedom of expression. Literature brings intellectual and artistic values to the forefront—values frequently decimated by fear and ignorance. —Ariel Jastromb, New York, N.Y.
Villa Vacation Advice
I often opt to rent a private house on vacation because it makes me feel more integrated into a community. My experience has almost universally been a good one, but I could have used the User’s Guide to Renting Villas [February] when prepping for a recent trip to Spain. As trivial as it can feel, asking obvious questions (tip No. 5) is crucial. I rented a gorgeous villa in Minorca, but had to pass the island’s garbage dump to get there. —Peter Schechter, Washington, D.C.
I was intrigued by Brett Forrest’s article Kiev: A City in Transition [February] and pleased that the picturesque old city is on its way to becoming a vibrant destination. Shortly after Ukraine achieved independence from the Soviet Union, I spent time there with the International Executive Service Corps. At that time Kiev could only be described as a sad place marked by high unemployment, a valueless currency, and uncertainty. It was heartening to hear that, after all the problems the citizens went through, they are now beginning to experience the benefits (and, apparently, some of the complexities) associated with democracy. —Russell Miller, La Grange, Ill.
Brett Forrest’s article on Kiev was a gratifying read. Kiev is still “a city in transition,” as he says, but there is a delicate hope for a brighter future. From what I saw, everyone living there has such a hunger for change. It is encouraging to see Kiev recognized as a place with architectural grandeur and a compelling culture. —Halia Pushkar, Coos Bay, Oreg.
On a trip to the capital last month, my daughter and I went to dinner at Sushi Taro (1503 17th St. NW; 202/462-8999; dinner for two $70). It was hard to find—up a flight of stairs in a nondescript building in the heart of Dupont Circle—but the food alone was worth the search. The lively space was packed with neighborhood regulars who greeted the chefs behind the sushi bar. The barstools (apparently the most coveted seats) were full, so we opted for floor seating on silk pillows. We sipped cool sake-plum martinis and enjoyed Chef Tuncho’s earthy monkfish liver, toro sashimi, and gindara sakekasu (black cod marinated in sweet sake). —Gloria McCullen, Savannah, Ga.