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Centrepiece: New Writing and Art from Northeast India

This book brings you a wealth of stories, in words and images, from a part of India known as the Northeast, a term that is widely contested for the ways in which it homogenizes a region of great diversity. It is also a term that has come to be a marker of identity and solidarity by many who are of the region. Here, 21 writers and artists look at the idea of ‘work’ — from street hawking to beer brewing, from mothering to dung collection — and describe their lives or those of others with humour and compassion. Parismita Singh’s wonderful compilation of the works of women asks: what are the different ways of telling a story? What if we were to attempt these tellings through poetry and portraits and essays, older traditions like textile art and applique and new genres like hashtag poetry tapped into a smartphone? Where would it take us, what would the world look like?

Contributors: Zubeni Lotha | Minam Apang | Alyen Leeachum Foning | Aheli Moitra | Soibam Haripriya | Gertrude Lamare | Rini Barman | Nitoo Das | Thingnam Anjulika Samom | Parismita Singh | Dolly Kikon | Ayangbe Mannen | Aungmakhai Chak | Jacqueline Zote | Meena Laishram | Prashansa Gurung | Shreya Debi and Bilseng R Marak | Mona Zote | Nabina Das | Mamang Dai | Sanatombi Ningombam | Kundo Yumnam Continue reading

Lady Driver: Stories of Women Behind the Wheel

In 2008, when the Azad Foundation, an NGO based in Delhi, began training poor women to become drivers of commercial and private vehicles, most people thought they were somewhat out of touch with reality. Poor, illiterate  women, many of them from violent homes, some of them single mothers,  others from families and communities which had never allowed women to  step out of the home – how could these women take the wheel, drive around  in unsafe cities, be confident and competent, earn money? At the time, there  was only one known woman auto driver in Delhi. When Azad turned to radio  cab companies to suggest they take in women drivers, there wasn’t much  interest. Today, more than 300 women drivers have received training from  Azad and are on the roads of several cities. Nine years after radio companies  turned Azad away, special services or women with women drivers are being  introduced within these same companies. In 2015, the Delhi Transport  Corporation got its first woman driver, and in 2016, the Delhi Commission  for Women recruited 25 women drivers to be part of their women’s helpline.  Clearly, things are changing.

Lady Driver maps the journeys of twelve women from poor, marginalized  communities who have transformed their lives by taking up the challenge  of becoming women drivers. Each story is unique; there’s no Cinderella effect  here. Reality does not change overnight. Instead, as the women featured  here painstakingly claim a relationship with the road, it translates into claims  for identity, for dignity, for a livelihood. Their stories are about beginnings,  but have no endings – there is still quite a way to drive. OR – there are many  kilometres to drive yet. Continue reading

Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II

The Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia research project (coordinated by Zubaan and supported by the International Development Research Centre) brings together, for the first time in the region, a vast body of knowledge on this important – yet silenced – subject. Six country volumes (one each on Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and two on India) comprising over fifty research papers and two book-length studies detail the histories of sexual violence and look at the systemic, institutional, societal, individual and community structures that work together to perpetuate impunity for perpetrators.

This volume, the second on India, addresses the question of state impunity, suggesting that on the issue of the violation of human and civil rights, and particularly in relation to the question of sexual violence, the state has been an active and collusive partner in creating states of exception, where its own laws can be suspended and the rights of its citizens violated. Drawing on patterns of sexual violence in Kashmir, the Northeast of India, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Rajasthan, the essays together focus on the long histories of militarization and regions of conflict, as well as the ‘normalized’ histories of caste violence which are rendered invisible because it is convenient to pretend they do not exist. Even as the writers note how heavily the odds are stacked against the victims and survivors of sexual violence, they turn their attention to recent histories of popular protest that have enabled speech. They stress that while this is both crucial and important, it is also necessary to note the absence of sufficient attention to the range of locations where sexual violence is endemic and often ignored. Resistance, speech, the breaking of silence, the surfacing of memory: these, as the writers powerfully argue, are the new weapons in the fight to destroy impunity and hold accountable the perpetrators of sexual violence. Continue reading

Women Water Professionals: Inspiring Stories from South Asia

Water management is not an engineering matter alone, it involves ecological, socio- political, administrative and legal concerns. Gender is a key factor but has been neglected both conventionally and in recent water reform policies and structures. Yet, a cross-section of South Asian women have challenged socio-cultural norms and crossed personal and professional boundaries to make a profound impact on water and sanitation management. Their inspiring stories have scarcely been documented. This book is the first to profile women from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka ? women at the grassroots or with NGOs, women activists, journalists, administrators, scientists, academics, action-researchers - who have faced challenges related to water with courage and determination. Complementing the 32 women?s voices is data compiled from an analysis of the situation of women water professionals in the region. Written in an engaging manner, this book will be of interest both to the general reader and to academics and practitioners in water management and gender/women's studies. Continue reading

Her Piece of Sky: Contemporary Hindi Stories

What is contemporary women's writing in Hindi all about? How far does it reach beyond the commonly perceived limits of feminine experience or feminist ideology?

The stories in this anthology provide the answers to these questions. From legendary writer Mannu Bhandari's "The Cremation Ground" which satirises the sentimental notion of eternal love, young author Alpana Mishra's superbly crafted "Homeless in the Cantonment", a devastating chronicle of army life, to Pratyaksha's sensual narrative of infatuation--"The Hunt" --they dissect numerous aspects of human existence with a startling incisiveness, exploding myths, raising issues and offering new takes on oft examined themes. Apart from the three mentioned above, it features the work of highly regarded stalwarts Mridula Garg, Rajee Seth, Chandrakanta, Mamta Kalia and Chitra Mudgal besides presenting exciting and resonant new voices like Manisha Kulshreshtha, Kavita and Vandana Rag - some of whom are appearing in English for the very first time. Continue reading

An Indian Portia: Selected Writings of Cornelia Sorabji 1866 to 1954

Cornelia Sorabji was a social reformer, an author and the first woman to practise law in India and Britain. By the time poor sight ended her work in India, she had helped many hundreds of wives, widows and orphans. She also successfully organized a League for Infant Welfare, Maternity and District Nursing.

Her writings provide a priceless and fascinating documentation of one of India's most outstanding women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her noble career and valuable archives have left behind a heritage to the people of India and their causes. Her truly extraordinary life of dedication to public service, evident from her writings and ceaseless hard work deserve to be acknowledged and publicised. This book achieves both. Continue reading

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