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Indian Women in Translation: Books from India's National Languages

August is the Women in Translation month and we decided to celebrate it by highlighting some of the novels, short stories and memoirs recently translated from Indian languages to English. Launched in 2014, #WITMonth was a response to the lesser attention received by works by women in translation. Even in 2016, the statistics continued to be dismal. As reported by The Guardian, only 26% of English translations are female-authored books.

In India, more and more translations of fiction from Indian languages are being published in English, and unlike earlier, when the classics got all the attention, contemporary fiction is being sought out actively. We at Zubaan are committed publishers of translations, and looking around we found other great titles translated into English since 2010 in India. Often dealing with stories marginalized by the mainstream, these novels deserve a wider audience. These range from themes like life in a Madiga quarter, middle-aged desire to novels set in 19th century Assam, an imaginary village in the first decades of the twentieth century. We attempted to find titles across regional languages, and our selection of twenty translated books covers eleven languages. Our list is hardly exhaustive and we would love to know your suggestions - better yet, simply add them to this database of female authored novels translated into English that we stumbled upon!

Assamese

a11. The Bronze Sword of Tengphakhri Tehsildar by Indira Goswami translated by Aruni Kashyap (Zubaan, 2013)

Thengphakhri Tehsildaror Tamor Taruwal was the last work of fiction by Sahitya Akademi and Jnanpith Award winner Indira Goswami. Set in the late 19th century Assam, the novel is the heroic tale of a Bodo freedom fighter who was, arguably, the first woman revenue collector in British India. In 2007, Goswami visited Bijni where Thengphakhri had apparently lived until her death in late 1800s. She moored the novel on historical research but also had to rely on memory and orality. Published by Zubaan, this novel is translated from Assamese by Aruni Kashyap.

Bengali

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2. Defying Winter by Nabaneeta Dev Sen translated by Tutun Mukherjee (OUP, 2013)

Part of a translated novella series launched by Oxford University Press, Sheet Sahasik Hemantolok was translated by Tutun Mukherjee and published as Defying Winter. In the author’s note, Nabaneeta Dev Sen has laid bare the dynamics of creating her central character, Aparajita, a 70-year-old woman, in 1988 when she was still a young woman. Set in an old age home, the novella brings out the dark realities of contemporary family life which routinely brings cruelty to the elderly.

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3. Matchbox by Ashapurna Debi translated by Prasenjit Gupta (Hachette, 2015)

This collection of short stories published by Hachette India, brought together twenty-one stories carefully chosen from Debi’s extensive body of work. These range from a young girl returning to the scene of a harrowing childhood to a woman attending a wedding reception at her estranged in laws’. The translator Prasenjit Gupta identifies ‘Neejer Jonno Shok’ ('Grieving for Oneself'), a story about a middle-aged man waking up terrified that he is paralyzed as his favourite from the collection. Though written decades ago, her stories embedded within narrow domestic walls continue to hold relevance.

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4. The Fifth Man by Bani Basu translated by Arunava Sinha (Random House India, 2014)

Bani Basu’s novels have dealt with gender, history, mythology, society, sexual orientation and more. The Fifth Man sees the protagonist Neelam post her hysterectomy which hastens her into a sexless middle age and changes her relationship with her husband Ari. A bittersweet meditation on middle-age desire, the novel also ties together themes of motherhood, limitation and liberation through Neelam and other women character’s in the novel. The novel is translated by Arunava Sinha who has translated over twenty novels and has won the Crossword Translation Award twice.

Gujarati

e5. Fence by Ila Arab Mehta translated by Rita Kothari (Zubaan, 2011)

Mehta’s young protagonist Fateema Lokhandwala dreams of owning her own house, pursuing a higher education and accessing better jobs while her brother Kareem joins the jihad to become a holy warrior. The novel sees Fateema struggle to find her way amidst communal violence and conflicting loyalties. She goes on to break many ‘fences’, by finding a job in the big city. This review in the The Indian Express appreciates how Kothari successfully translated the colloquial flavour of the original in the English translation published by Zubaan.

Hindi

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6. Apradhini by Shivani translated by Ira Pande (Harper Perennial, 2011)

‘Shivani’ was the pseudonym of the writer Gaura Pant whose best works include the novels Chaudah Phere, Krishnakali, Smashan Champa, Rati Vilap and Vishkanya.  Apradhini is a collection of life-stories of ordinary women with extraordinary pasts, we read of women whose lives have been changed because of men, women who now survive on the fringes of society – or outside it. The author also gives her own verdict for each story, for the reader to think why one crime could be greater or lesser than the other. These stories have been translated into English by her daughter, Ira Pande.

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7. Zindaginama by Krishna Sobti translated by Neer Kanwal Mani and Moyna Mazumdar (Harper Perennial, 2016)

 In 2016, Harper Perennial published the English translation of the novel Zindaginama that won Krishna Sobti the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980.  Set in the first decade of the 20th century in the small village of Shahpur, the novel captures the story of India through this village where people of both faiths coexisted peacefully living off the land. The personal histories of a wide set of characters are told largely through dialogue. Though the translation has met with criticism especially on its failure to capture the different registers of language, it does give non Hindi readers a chance to experience the classic.

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8. The Roof Beneath Their Feet by Geetanjali Shree translated by Rahul Soni (Harper Perennial, 2013)

Another translation offered by Harper Perennial, the story follows the friendship of Chachcho and Lalna. Chachcho lives with her frigid husband in a cluster of a hundred or more more houses that share a common roof and Lalna is the woman she takes in after Lalna’s husband leaves her. After the death of Chachcho, her nephew tries to piece together his memories of the two women to uncover the relationship between the two women that made so many people uncomfortable. The novel explores the individual’s sense of self—according to their personal perceptions rather than the roles they are expected to play in family and society.

 Malayalam

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9. The Gospel of Yudas by KR Meera translated by Rajesh Rajamohan (Penguin Random House India, 2016)

K.R. Meera’s novel steps into the landscape of Naxalite incursions in Southern India. The novella told is told through the protagonist Prema, who is infatuated by Yudas, an ex-Naxalite who now dredges corpses from the bottom of a nearby lake. She wishes to escape from her father’s tyranny, a former policeman who tortured Naxalite rebels including Yudas during the emergency. Themes of obsession and political ideology rendered in lyrical prose leaves us with a powerful novella by the author of Hangwoman.

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10. Agnisakhi by Lalithambika Antharjanam translated by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan (OUP, 2015)

An active participant in the social reform movements of Kerala in the early 1920s, Lalithambika sets her novel against the history of Kerala, customs and the culture of the Namboodiri community alongside the Indian National Freedom struggle. Interestingly, Sankaranarayanan had translated the same work in English for the Kerala Sahitya Akademi in 1980. Oxford University Press wanted her to retranslate the novel as they felt that both the author and the novel deserved a more careful rendering with proper contextualisation and closer attention to the different registers of language seen in the book.

Manipuri

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11. The Maharaja’s Household by Binodini translated by L. Somi Roy (Zubaan, 2014)

Published by Zubaan in 2014, this part memoir, part oral testimony, part eyewitness account of life in the erstwhile royal household of Manipur is brought to English readers through the translation by her son L. Somi Roy. It is an important addition to the untold histories of the British Raj. They were first published as a series of essays by Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi between 2002 and 2007, told from a woman’s point of view and informed by a deep empathy for the common people outside her father’s gilded circle.

Marathi

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12. Motherwit by Urmila Pawar translated by Veena Deo (Zubaan, 2013)

A Dalit, a Buddhist and a feminist: Urmila Pawar's self-definition as all three identities informs her stories about women who are brave in the face of caste oppression, strong in the face of family pressures, defiant when at the receiving end of insult, and determined when guarding their interests and those of their sisters. This collection translated into English by Veena Deo and published by Zubaan contain fourteen stories on the travails of the Indian women. The Hindu observes that the title Motherwit is apt as these stories are rooted in common sense, exude a quiet practicality and are replete with strong mother figures.

m113. I Want to Destroy Myself by Malika Amar Shaikh translated by Jerry Pinto (Speaking Tiger, 2016)

Shaikh’s autobiography is an unvarnished story of a marriage and of a woman and a writer seeking her space in a man’s world. Shaikh’s marriage with Namdeo Dhasal, co-founder of the radical Dalit Panthers and celebrated poet soon crumbled with Dhasal being an absent husband and father, given to drink, womanizing and violence.  I Want to Destroy Myself is not only a searing account of her life with Dhasal but it is also a portrait of the Bombay of poets, activists, prostitutes and fighters. It is now accessible to English readers through the translation by Jerry Pinto published by Speaking Tiger in 2016.

Odia

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14. Intimate Pretence by Paramita Satpathy (Rupa & Co, 2010)

Published by Rupa & Co, and translated into English by the author herself and few others, Intimate Pretence is a collection of fourteen short stories strongly rooted in the Odia landscape. These stories address the recurring problems of the booming middle-class of Orissa and the plight of the modern woman. A recurring theme is hunger and what it can do to you and two separate stories tell stories of hunger that are representative of the hunger that exists in our society today.

Tamil

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15. The Taming of Women by P. Sivakami translated by Pritham Chakravarthy (Penguin India, 2012)

P. Sivakami is a Tamil Dalit writer who served as an IAS officer from 1980 to 2008. She has written novels around Dalit and feminist themes. Published by Penguin India, The Taming of Women discusses Periyannan and his wife Anandhayi with the opening chapter introducing the readers to Anandhayi giving birth while her husband has another woman with him upstairs, brought to him by the midwife. The abrasive novel, is a realistic portrayal of life in a village on the way to developing into a town. The Hindu observes that the strength of this translation is its translator’s total empathy and rapport with the original, with its theme.

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16. A Night with a Black Spider by Ambai translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan (Speaking Tiger, 2016)

C.S Lakshmi who writes under the pseudonym Ambai has spent over twenty five years archiving women’s lives and stories as the founder of Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women (SPARROW). Her stories have been widely translated into English. A Night with a Black Spider is a recently translated collection of short stories by Speaking Tiger. As in most of her writing, women are central to Ambai’s stories, but so too is her deep understanding of, as she puts it, ‘the pulls and tensions’ between the many different things that make up life and ultimately, create a story.

Telugu

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17. Father May Be An Elephant And Mother Only A Small Basket, But…  by Gogu Shyamala (Navayana, 2012)

Set in the Madiga quarter of a Telangana village, the stories spotlight different settings, events and experiences, and offer new propositions on how to see, think and be touched by life in that world. This collection published by Navayana and translated from Telugu by several people, including her colleagues, have something of the autobiographical about them as the author herself grew up in the Madiga quarter of a Telangana village of the sort described in these stories. A book review by DNA appreciates the oral quality to most of the stories with the colloquialisms, slang and song all well written.

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18. The Liberation of Sita by Volga translated by T. Vijay Kumar and Vijayasree C. (Harper Perennial, 2016)

In Volga’s retelling of the Ramanaya, it is Sita who, after being abandoned by Purushottam Rama, embarks on an arduous journey to self-realization. Along the way, she meets extraordinary women who have broken free from all that held them back: husbands, sons, and their notions of desire, beauty and chastity. The minor women characters of the epic as we know it – Surpanakha, Renuka, Urmila and Ahalya – steer Sita towards an unexpected resolution. Volga’s story tells of a very different Sita from Rama’s Sita – or does it? This was probably Sita all along.

Urdu

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19. A Life in Words by Ismat Chugtai translated by M Asaduddin (Penguin India, 2013)

Ismat’s writings are increasingly being recognised in the academia for their ethnographic representation of Muslim women and their complex social reality in twentieth century India. Published by Penguin, A Life in Words, the first complete translation of her memoir Kaghazi hai Pairahan, provides a delightful account of several crucial years of her life. Alongside vivid descriptions of her childhood years are the conflicted experiences of growing up in a large upper class Muslim family during the early decades of the twentieth century. She is searingly honest about her fight to get an education and the struggle to find her own voice as a writer.

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20. Prisoner No. 100: An Account of my Days and Nights in an Indian Prison by Anjum Habib, translated from Urdu by Sahba Husain (Zubaan, 2014)

Prisoner No. 100 is an account of Anjum Zamarud Habib, a young woman political activist from Kashmir who was arrested in Delhi and jailed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). In the book published by Zubaan, she describes the shock and bewilderment of arrest, the pain of realizing that there is no escape, the desperation for contact with the outside world and the sense of deep betrayal at being abandoned by her political comrades. Her story is both a searing indictment of draconian state policies and expedient political practices, and a moving account of one woman's extraordinary life.

We would also like to mention some of #WIT book recommendations that we received! @merakipost suggested Human Acts by Han King, @ShubhanganiJain recommended Motherwit by Urmila Pawar, Me Hijra Me Laxmi by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri!

Happy Reading!

E-ESSAYS FROM ZUBAAN | 21 AUGUST, LEGISLATION

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Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

The first five sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violencedomestic space and kinshipreligion and conflict and state crimes and impunity. Three strong essays comprise our sixth e-essays set, which focuses on legislation passed in India and its relationship with structures of violence from three consecutive loci. The first deals with legislation being a partially successful result of feminist protest against dowry in the 70s and 80s, while the second with the implications of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu & Kashmir, which allows the nation’s military forces to try themselves for (often violent and gendered) crimes in courts of their own making. The third essay discusses the implementation of the 73rd Amendment and how reservations for marginalised populations in Panchayati Raj institutions have initiated a backlash against women who are elected leaders from these populations. These three parallel engagements with law break apart the illusion of neutral or perfect legislation, challenging the foundation upon which that idea is built.

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1) 'The Campaign Against Dowry' by Radha Kumar from The History of Doing:  An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women's Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990 (1999)

Radha Kumar tracks the history of protests against dowry in the contemporary women's movement, starting from the first demonstrations at Hyderabad in 1975 and leading up to significant legal amendments in the early 1980s. Interspersed with historic photographs of the movement in its crucial stages, the essay captures the wave of protests that spread across the country, bringing disparate groups together to revolt against dowry-related crimes.

Kumar's essay delves into the way that feminists challenged the dominant ideological mode that rendered violence against women a private, family matter – particularly in Delhi, where the campaign was more sustained – and how, over time, activists expanded their methods of seeking redress. The campaign, as it gained traction, sought action not only through legal investigation, which had been negligible in dowry crimes, but also through social pressure on the perpetrators. 12pp.
Read more.

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Dr. Radha Kumar is the Chair of the United Nations University Council and theDirector General of the think tank Delhi Policy Group. She has published various books and journal articles, and her work looks at ethnic conflicts, peacemaking and peacebuilding from a feminist perspective.

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2. 'Collateral Damage or Regrettable Casualty? Sexual Violence and Impunity in Jammu & Kashmir' by Gazala Peer from Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II (2016)

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Gazala Peer’s essay, written against the backdrop of militarization and the existing Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Jammu & Kashmir, explores obstacles faced by survivors of sexual violence in seeking redress when the perpetrators of this violence are members of the armed forces.

Since the imposition of AFSPA in Kashmir, the Indian government has not granted sanction for the prosecution of any armed personnel in any court of law. Although in principle the provision of prosecuting army personnel under court martial trials does exist, Peer questions whether these trials, taking place within the structure of the army itself, can ever be a substitute for trial in civil courts. To this end, Peer closely examines the context and process of the court martial, arguing that this system, in cases of sexual assault and violence perpetrated by its forces (which the army views as “breaches of discipline”), is disposed to be lenient toward the perpetrators, maintaining martial impunity. 39pp.
Read more.

₹ 70.00

Gazala Peer is a lawyer and independent researcher born and brought up in Kashmir. She is currenlty a doctoral candidate in constitutionalism at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Before joining JNU, she practised law at the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir.

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3. 'New Modes of Violence: The Backlash Against Women in the Panchayat System' by Shail Mayaram from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender & Social Inequalities in India (2003)

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The 73rd Amendment (1992) to India’s constitution has not only given rural local governments (Panchayati Raj institutions) constitutional status, but has also ensured that women and other marginalized communities have reserved seats in these bodies. The amendment has helped facilitate the entry of rural women in the public sphere. However, the visibility and presence of women in rural politics has been met with a lot of backlash. In this essay, Shail Mayaram uses qualitative data from her fieldwork in Rajasthan to highlight the ‘new modes of violence’ that elected women representatives face, like physical violence, forced stripping, and verbal abuse. Her research  demonstrates how caste politics, the police, and patriarchy form a nexus to protect the perpetrators, and  questions how to effectively translate 'good' legislation into functioning policies. 32 pp.
Shail Mayaram is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi, and Adjunct Professor at the Delhi School of Economics. In the past she has held a Visiting Chair at Tel Aviv University and Aligarh Muslim University, and has been awarded Fulbright, Rockefeller and other prestigious fellowships.
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FREE IN AUGUST, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:

'The Everyday and the Exceptional: Sexual Violence and Impunity in Our Times (Introduction)' by Uma Chakravarti from Fault  Lines of History: The India Papers II (2016)

11_The Everyday and the Exceptional - Uma Chakravarti_coverUma Chakravarti’s introduction to Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II uses a brief history of protest in the north-eastern states of India to illustrate the contract between the state, the army and the rule of law. Detailing the spread of AFSPA as a result and a feature of this contract, Chakravarti points to particular building blocks in the story of resistance in the area — the case of Manorama, Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike, the naked protest by imas in Manipur among others — and castigates mainstream state theorists’ neglect of AFSPA’s existence and growing application as a tool of oppressive state-building. She explains how the postcolonial state’s painting of AFSPA and militarisation, and the accompanying conflicts, as ‘states of exception’ is key to the contract, which is characterised by the tension between the rule of law and the state’s need for avowal of sovereign emergency.
This chapter provides a valuable cross-section of the volume, summarising each author’s argument while drawing connections between them and larger themes of impunity, militarisation, conflict, revolution, state (un)accountability, ‘security’ and feminist scholarship. 34pp.
Read more.
Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.
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A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. Ten new essays are released each month (on the 1st, 11th, and the 21st), each set curated to a theme; subscribers receive each curated set in their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we've therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have accordingly standardised all our essays in PDF files.

 

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our mailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY | DRAWING THE LINE

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Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday, a new series where we will revisit backlist titles one Thursday every month. This September, we're looking at Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back, edited by Larissa Bertonasco, Ludmilla Bartscht and Priya Kuriyan.


About the book

DTL-FINAL-COVER-LO-RESDecember 2012: Tens of thousands of people – women, men, families, young, old, rich, poor – come out onto the streets of towns and cities in India to protest the brutal gang rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi.

Soon, a new law is put in place. More and more people start to report incidents of sexual assault. New conversations, new debates begin.

In this bold and brilliant collection of visual stories, fourteen young women respond to the activism and debates on the ground; they negotiate anger, fear, hope, resistance. Created in a week-long workshop, these stories talk to each other as they powerfully describe the fierce determination of the writers/artists to continue the battle for change.


About the editors

Larissa Bertonasco studied illustration in Hamburg, Germany, where she works as a freelance illustrator and artist. She is one of the founders of the Spring artistic collective and magazine.

Ludmilla Bartscht studied visual communication and illustration in Berlin, Lucerne and Hamburg. Her work has been shown in Germany, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Austria and the USA. Along with Larissa Bertonasco, she is also part of the Springartistic collective and co-editor of Drawing the Line.

Priya Kuriyan is a children's book illustrator, comic book artist and an animator. She has illustrated numerous children's books - including Growing Up in Pandupur for Young Zubaan - for a variety of Indian publishers and currently lives in New Delhi.


Quotes from readers

With a variety of backgrounds, visual storytelling styles, and experiences of the world, the contributors to and editors of Drawing the Line truly fight back – with dignity and an appreciation for both individual voices and the wondrous cacophony of community. In so doing, this anthology combats easy narratives in favor of placing the power of storytelling and meaning-making in the hands of the many – and in the hopes that someday, we can all erase the lines we’ve drawn and finally savor napping in public. - Great Bear Comics

The graphic collection [Drawing The Line] is a rich reservoir of insight from today’s young women. [...] All in all, Drawing the Line is a powerful journey of women finding their voices and of artists discovering their art. - Kanika Sharma, Hindustan Times

 

E-ESSAYS FROM ZUBAAN | 11 AUGUST, STATE CRIMES & IMPUNITY

E-essays header fixed

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

The first four sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violence, domestic space and kinship and religion and conflict. The movement against the Indian state in Kashmir, or the battle between Maoists and the state in Chhattisgarh are two examples of how governments often become suspicious of, and turn against their own citizens. Often, citizens—in these cases, women—are caught in complex webs of impunity created by state power (as in the impunity assumed by the army under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act) or by non-state actors (as in the impunity violent power gives to militants and underground factions in both states).  If Kashmir and Chhattisgarh are examples of states of ‘war’, the ways in which social exclusion and caste marginalization work provide shameful examples of the ongoing ‘warlike’ situation faced by Dalit women, against whom violence, especially sexual violence, has been ‘naturalized’, with state protection often standing squarely behind the (savarna) perpetrators. This week’s selection of essays—one a photo essay—sheds light on state crimes and impunity, and how women's lives are impacted by these confrontations with state power.

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1) 'Kidnapping, Abduction, and Forced Incarceration' by Aloysius Irudayam S J, Jayshree P Mangubhai & Joel G Lee from Dalit Women Speak Out: Caste, Class and Gender Violence in India, 2011.

This essay sees the authors examine various methods of kidnapping/abduction and forced incarceration—on the basis of a study of 47 narratives—and then analyze the implications of these forms of violence on the fundamental rights of Dalit women.

Examining these relationships with violence, the authors conclude that non-state actors employ the method of forced incarceration to mete out punishment in the form of sexual and physical assault against Dalit women who do not conform to caste-class-gender hierarchies. The essay also notes that state actors, primarily the police, engage in their own forms of forced incarceration by the filing of false cases or the illegal detention of Dalit women. The physical isolation and restriction from dominant caste male-dominated public spaces re-emphasizes and compounds the caste-class-gender-based social exclusion and vulnerability to violence that Dalit women face. 13pp.
Read more.

₹ 50.00

Aloysius Irudayam S. J. is currently the Program Director for Advocacy Research and Human Rights Education at the Institute of Development Education, Action and Studies (IDEAS), located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Jayshree Mangubhai is a Senior Human Rights Adviser with the Pacific Community (SPC), a regional organisation that provides technical and scientific advice to Pacific Island governments, based in Fiji.

Joel G Lee is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA. He teaches and conducts research on caste and religion in South Asia.

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2. 'Nobody's Children, Owners of Nothing: Sexual Violence and Impunity in Chhattisgarh' by Guneet Ahuja and Parijata Bhardwaj from Fault Lines of History: The India Papers, Vol II, 2016

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The conflict between the state and the left-wing insurgent groups in Chhattisgarh has created an environment of fear, and with it a number of impediments to the documentation of sexual violence in the affected areas. In this essay, lawyers Guneet Ahuja and Parijata Bhardwaj trace sexual violence and repression at the hands of the police, the Salwa Judum, and the state and central governments, all of which have enjoyed a great degree of impunity in the region. The essay also discusses the stories of Soni Sori and Meena Xalxo, two out of many cases of torture and extrajudicial murder, most of which do not emerge into the dominant narrative. Relying on sources both 'official' and oral which, when taken together, are telling of the extent of violence occurring in the region, Ahuja and Bhardwaj analyze what happens when authorities dismiss human lives as mere impediments to development, and state forces reject a distinction between civilians and warring groups. 46pp.
Read more.
Guneet Ahuja worked with the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group from 2014 to 2015; since then, she has been practicing law on a range of issues in Delhi. She has previously represented Adivasis in criminal litigation in the courts in Bastar.

Parijata Bhardwaj is a criminal lawyer at the Bombay High Court and a founding member of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group. In Bastar, she has worked with Adivasis towards the implementation of their fundamental rights.

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3. 'Finding Face: Images of Women from the Kashmir Valley' by Sheba Chhachhi from Speaking Peace: Women's Voices from Kashmir, 2002

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In 'Finding Face', comprising of a critical essay and a series of personal testimonies interspersed with photographs, Sheba Chhachhi seeks to bring human figures back into the occupied landscape of Kashmir and give voice (/ face) to those whose lives have been obscured in the din of a prolonged war. It makes space for the individual in a history of representation that is populated with recurring tropes and warring stereotypes which, Chhachhi argues, depersonalise the Valley and its conflicts. In her work, women are no longer silent victims, they emerge as textured human beings, not only with voices with which to speak, but also with eyes that are wide open. The testimonies have been taken over a period of six years and reflect varying positions, and the interviewees are students and professionals, Muslims and Pandits, teenagers and the aged.
These photographs were part of a larger work which was initially presented as a photo-installation by Sheba Chhachhi and Sonia Jabbar. The photo-essay as a whole captures the life and times of women during conflict, including during the attempted implementation of the burqa diktat in the Valley. These individuated women stand out in the frames as they look back at the viewer in more ways than one. 37 pp.
Sheba Chhachhi is  is an installation artist, photographer, activist and writer whose work focuses on the history, experience and power of feminine consciousness. Through her work, she also depicts topics like migration, globalization, and urban transformation.
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FREE IN AUGUST, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:

'The Everyday and the Exceptional: Sexual Violence and Impunity in Our Times (Introduction)' by Uma Chakravarti from Fault  Lines of History: The India Papers II, 2016

11_The Everyday and the Exceptional - Uma Chakravarti_coverUma Chakravarti’s introduction to Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II uses a brief history of protest in the north-eastern states of India to illustrate the contract between the state, the army and the rule of law. Detailing the spread of AFSPA as a result and a feature of this contract, Chakravarti points to particular building blocks in the story of resistance in the area — the case of Manorama, Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike, the naked protest by imas in Manipur among others — and castigates mainstream state theorists’ neglect of AFSPA’s existence and growing application as a tool of oppressive state-building. She explains how the postcolonial state’s painting of AFSPA and militarisation, and the accompanying conflicts, as ‘states of exception’ is key to the contract, which is characterised by the tension between the rule of law and the state’s need for avowal of sovereign emergency.
This chapter also provides a valuable cross-section of the volume, summarising each author’s argument while drawing connections between them and larger themes of impunity, militarisation, conflict, revolution, state (un)accountability, ‘security’ and feminist scholarship. 34pp.

Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

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A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. Ten new essays are released each month (on the 1st, 11th, 21st), each set curated to a theme, which subscribers receive in their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we have therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have therefore standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our mailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

On Topic: The July Review

From protests against the 12% GST imposed on sanitary napkins, conversations around menstrual leave policy, the much-awaited release of Lipstick Under My Burkha to the Indian team’s success at the Women’s Cricket World Cup, On Topic reviews major events and conversations around gender and women in India in July.

Activism and Advocacy

- July saw protests in different parts of the country against the 12% GST imposed on sanitary napkins. Students of the University of Kerala sent sanitary napkins with 'Bleed without fear, bleed without tax’ to the Union Finance Minister. Government officials, however, stated that their decision was driven by a desire to protect local manufacturers and avoid an inverted tax structure. This has also opened up critical conversations around the patriarchal beliefs underlying reproductive health concerns, as well as the environmental effects of sanitary napkins as compared to other menstrual hygiene products like cloth and menstrual cups.

-  #PropertyForHer is a campaign that is fighting for securing land and property rights for women in South Asia. The campaign was initiated by Kamla Bhasin after a conversation with journalist Radhika Bordia revealed that the latter couldn’t find one woman in Delhi who was ready to say that she hadn’t received her share of her family property on camera. In the past month, the campaign has started important conversations around women’s property rights and one must view them against statistics around female land ownership. In 2002, only 51% of surveyed widows inherited land from their deceased husbands and even as recently as 2010-11, the agricultural census shows that only 12.69% of rural women have ‘operational holdings’. The campaign not only appeals to those who view female land ownership from a gender equality lens but also those who view it from an instrumental lens with some posters having captions such as “If women have property, children have security”.

- Protests continued in Odisha against the liberalised liquor policy. Earlier this year, hundreds of women demanded the closure of liquor shops. These activists are largely wives of daily wage workers, marginal farmers and village artisans who spend a substantial amount of their income on liquor. July saw the indefinite dharna by the women of Shreepura village, demanding the removal of a liquor distillery in their village, reach its fiftieth day with the administration not yielding to their demands. This lack of response from the state machinery is particularly worrisome as it has been proven in numerous community studies that alcohol abuse results in physical, emotional and economic violence with the women in the family often being the recipients of such violence.

Employment and Livelihood

- Private sector Yes Bank has received $150 million funding from the US government and Wells Fargo to increase lending to support women entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises in India. Yes Bank has stated that the facility will support financing women entrepreneurs in India, to drive future economic growth and job creation.

-Mumbai based digital media company, Culture Machine is offering 'menstrual leaveto female staff as part of its official policy and called on authorities to pass legislation on giving all working women the option of taking the first day of their period off through this video.  However, this move by Culture Machine and Gazoop has not been without criticism, with some arguing that such policies threaten to undermine women’s long-standing battle to discourage the notion that their natural cycle makes them weak or in any way less able. This debate has been ongoing for the last few years since several East Asian countries introduced them as a move to greater gender equality. While these op-ed pieces also share some of these criticisms, they also follow the historical roots of this policy. For example in Japan, when menstrual leave was enforced a little after WWII, "It represented their ability to speak openly about their bodies and to gain social recognition for their role as workers." The question is if ample paid sick leave for all can achieve the same goals as the menstrual leave?

Movies and Photography

-Shahria Sharmin has been chosen by Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas as her juror’s pick in this year’s Magnum Awards, for her images of hijra communities in Bangladesh and India. Her images are deeply personal portraits and she aims to continue her documentation in the hopes that her work can help hijras to “find a breathing space in a claustrophobic society.”

-Lipstick Under My Burkha has made its debut in India after months of wrangling with the censor board of India. Directed by Alankitra Shrivastav, the movie tells the story of four women grappling with their sexual desires, with society's regressive approach towards female sexuality  one of the dominant themes of the film. You can read our intern Zoya’s review here.

Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Rights

- Reproductive Health Matters’ (RHM) latest issue on disability and sexuality was co-produced by CREA and one can read the entire publication for free here. For this themed issue, RHM brings together a selection of articles that shed light on the lives of people with disabilities, focusing on their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

-The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, headed by Ramesh Bais, presented its 43rd report.The Committee has asked the government to clearly define a transgender person and to consider suitably incorporating the committee’s suggestions in 'The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016'.  Several issues that the bill needs to resolve include the question of current definition, which replaced the one in the 2015 draft inclusion of persons with intersex variations under the transgender umbrella; discrimination in employment not addressed etc. If these guidelines are not clarified, the bill might even harm the community.

-The Supreme Court has refused to allow an abortion for a 10-year-old girl, allegedly raped by her uncle, on the grounds that she is too far into her pregnancy. The doctors’ panel told the court that, at 32 weeks, the termination would be too risky. A lower court had earlier turned down her plea on similar grounds.The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 allows the termination only up to 20 weeks, and though the court has allowed termination beyond this permissible period in the past based on medical board recommendations, this case indicates the urgency with which this act needs to be amended to better address the varying concerns of Indian women - be they rape survivors, married women or sexually active single women.

Sports

-Women’s cricket saw India and England battle for the Women’s Cricket World Cup after seeing some terrific performances, especially India’s win against Australia in the semi-finals. The pulsating finish saw England win the cup by nine runs.

- The 2017 Asian Athletics Championships held from 6th to 9th July at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubanweswar saw India’s top of the table finish with a total of 29 medals. The Indian women gold medalists include Chitra P U in women’s 1500m run, Sudha Singh in the Women’s 3000m Steeplechase, Manpreet Kaur in women’s Shot Put, Swapna Barman in Women’s Heptathlon, Nirmala Sheoran in Women’s 400m Run and the Women’s 4*400m relay.

-Dutee Chand who was subjected to a gender testing in 2013 has bagged a bronze medal in the 100m event at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships. Just a day before the championship, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decided to return to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) with more evidence in support of its Hyperandrogenism Policy which ruled that any female athlete with naturally high testosterone levels ineligible for competition. Chand is allowed to continue to compete till a final decision is given by CAS on her appeal against the policy. However, unless athletic authorities want to take on all conditions that might result in an unfair advantage – biological, genetic, social or otherwise – it seems arbitrary to focus on testosterone in female athletes.

The World

-A recent report revealed the unjust  disparity in pay between men and women working at the BBC. The top-earning woman at the BBC takes home only a fifth of what the top-earning man at BBC does. This disparity is seen across all levels and an anonymous female senior journalist commented that “young female producers are kept long term on shabby short-term one or three-month or six-month contracts on rates that haven’t moved for 20 years or more.”

-A report from the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California does not show promising results for representation of diversity, after analyzing the demographic makeup of every speaking or named characters from 100 highest-grossing films at the domestic box office every year since 2007. It found that the representation of women, minorities, LGBT people, disabled characters in films remains largely unchanged from the previous year. Exclusion, the report says, is the norm in Hollywood, not the exception.

-Google CEO, Sundar Pichai has stated that they are looking to train 10 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in online skills over the next five years. They also hope to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. This pledge is an expansion of an initiative launched in 2016 and the programme will try to ensure that at least 40% of people trained are women. However, many African women face cultural and social barriers to becoming entrepreneurs, so it is to be seen what the impact of this programme would be if sufficient employment avenues are not created post the training.

July at Zubaan

Zubaan commander-in-chief Urvashi Butalia has been awarded this year's Goethe Medal, an official distinction from the German Federal Republic. The medal "honors individuals who have displayed exceptional competence of the German language as well as in international cultural exchange”, and will be presented to Urvashi at a ceremony in Weimar in late August.

The e-Essays project has been making individual essays available in e-formats for a reasonable fee. The first four sets of the e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violence, domestic space and kinship and religion and conflict. To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

We had three new book releases in July, Women, Peace and Security in Northeast India (Åshild Kolås (ed.), July 2017, Academic), Motherhood and Choice: Uncommon Mothers, Childfree Women(Amrita Nandy, July 2017, Academic) and Aosenla's Story (Temsula Ao, July 2017, Fiction)

Zubaan’s feminist book club will be discussing Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column this August. We’ll be meeting on the morning of Sunday, 20th August - if you’d like to join, shoot us  an email (contact@zubaanbooks.com).

New on our blog is our picks from the latest in YA lit. We would love to hear about your favourite YA titles!

That’s it for July, but On Topic will be back next month with more conversations, news and stories!

 

e-Essays from Zubaan | 1 August, Religion and Conflict

E-essays header fixed

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

The first three sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violence and domestic space and kinship. Our fourth collection of essays is on the theme of religion and conflict. The deep-rooted association between religion and patriarchy has continued to hinder women from realising their rights. This has been further exacerbated by the politicisation of religion. Situations of conflict triggered by the desire for dominance through communal assertions place demands on women to fulfil different, seemingly contradictory, roles. The essays that we bring to you this month, on the theme of religion and conflict, explore women’s roles as victims, survivors, peacekeepers and as actors who have been denied any active participation/role in peacebuilding efforts.

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1. 'Surviving Violence, Making Peace: Women in Communal Conflict in Mumbai'
by Kalpana Sharma from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender & Social Inequalities in India, 2002

14_Surviving Violence, Making Peace - Karin KapadiaKalpana Sharma's essay explores the multiple roles that women came to occupy in the riots that took place in Mumbai post the Babri Masjid demolition. As the news of this destruction – carried out on 6th December 1992 – was broadcast across the country, it triggered communal violence, resulting in two phases of riots between the Muslim and the Hindu communities. The essay looks at the people who were some of the most affected by the carnage in the city, the urban poor, and highlights how their specific spatial and economic locations had a great bearing on their lives in this period. Sharma argues in her essay that the role of the women during these riots was not defined by their gender identity alone, or even their religious affiliation, but also by their class and their location in the metropolis. 24pp.
Read more.

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Kalpana Sharma is an independent journalist and author, currently a Consulting Editor with Economic & Political Weekly. She specializes in gender, developmental, and environmental issues, and has worked as a journalist for over 40 years.

 

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2. 'Personal Law and Communal Identities'
by Radha Kumar from The History of Doing, 2002

13_Personal Law and Communal Identities - Radha KumarRadha Kumar's essay considers the history of the 1985 Shah Bano case and the feminist debates on personal law that it gave rise to. The call for a common civil code that emerged from the case was extensively critiqued by feminists, liberals and secularists, as well as Muslim religious leaders. The essay traces how the sociopolitical context led to the quick descent of the issue into communal agitation, with a demand that Muslims be exempt from Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code that had been cited in granting Shah Bano maintenance from her husband.

Kumar then traces the opposition by various women’s groups to the 1986 Bill, which was introduced in parliament with an aim to exclude divorced Muslim women from the purview of the hotly debated Section 125. She explores the ‘bitter lessons’ that Indian feminists learnt from the public and state responses to Shah Bano’s case, which then posed certain questions that would become increasingly important to feminists in the years to follow 12 pp.

Read more.

Dr. Radha Kumar is the Chair of the United Nations University Council and the Director General of the think tank Delhi Policy Group. She has published various books and journal articles, and her work looks at ethnic conflicts, peacemaking and peacebuilding from a feminist perspective.
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3. 'Crab Theology: Women, Christianity and Conflict in the 'NorthEast''
by V Sawmveli and Ashley Tellis from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast, 2010

12_Crab Theology - V.Sawmveli and Ashley Tellis_cover

 

In this essay, Sawmveli and Tellis address the role that religion plays in sociopolitical processes in Mizoram by attempting to gauge the impact that churches have had in mediating conflicts and brokering peace in the state since the 1960s. The authors also examine the role of women (and lack thereof) in peace-building processes and explores gendered critiques of the same.

Sawmveli and Tellis explain this lack of women in political processes as an affect of entrenched patriarchy and misogyny in Mizo society. They further state that since most political parties in the region are aligned with churches, patriarchy in politics overlaps with patriarchal church culture to marginalize women. However, they also discuss the many women’s organizations that have come up over the years to facilitate women’s entry into the public sphere. 13pp.
Read more.

Dr. V. Sawmveli is an Assistant Professor at the Guwahati campus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Her research methodology is qualitative in nature, and focuses on the role that public, religious, and state institutions play in gendered and sexual violence in northeastern India.Dr. Ashley Tellis has held professor and lecturer positions in colleges both in India and the USA. His teaching and research interests include post colonialism, Irish literature, women’s writing, literary theory, gender studies, and poetry.
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Free in August, with the purchase of any other essay:

 

11_The Everyday and the Exceptional - Uma Chakravarti_cover'The Everyday and the Exceptional: Sexual Violence and Impunity in Our Times (Introduction)'
by Uma Chakravarti from Fault  Lines of History: The India Papers II, 2016

Uma Chakravarti’s introduction to Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II uses a brief history of protest in the north-eastern states of India to illustrate the contract between the state, the army and the rule of law. Detailing the spread of AFSPA as a result and a feature of this contract, Chakravarti points to particular building blocks in the story of resistance in the area — the case of Manorama, Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike, the naked protest by imas in Manipur among others — and castigates mainstream state theorists’ neglect of AFSPA’s existence and growing application as a tool of oppressive state-building. She explains how the postcolonial state’s painting of AFSPA and militarisation, and the accompanying conflicts, as ‘states of exception’ is key to the contract, which is characterised by the tension between the rule of law and the state’s need for avowal of sovereign emergency.
This chapter also provides a valuable cross-section of the volume, summarising each author’s argument while drawing connections between them and larger themes of impunity, militarisation, conflict, revolution, state (un)accountability, ‘security’ and feminist scholarship. 34pp.

Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

_________________________________________________________________________________________
A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. Ten new essays are released each month (on the 1st, 11th, 21st), each set curated to a theme, which subscribers receive their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we have therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have therefore standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our emailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

'Lipstick Under My Burkha' Review: Marking the Political Terrain of Desire

LUMB Poster

Lipstick Under My Burkha is no utopic film. Cited as 'ladies-oriented', it brings nuance to the very idea of desire, by portraying it as something fundamentally tied up with questions of identity and agency.

From the college fresher to the fifty-plus widow, the female characters all possess desires that they do not find adequate routes to fulfil. Burkha-clad Rehana, played by Plabita Borthakur, is a college fresher living a classic double life as she changes into jeans and rocks out to Miley Cyrus the moment she escapes her parents' watchful gaze. Aahana Kumra plays Leela, who lusts after her boyfriend even as her marriage to another man draws closer. One of the most powerful narratives is that of Konkona Sen Sharma's Shirin, suffering at the hands of an abusive husband while striving to achieve some form of independence. Ratna Pathak shines with her performance as Usha or Buaji, who reads erotica beneath the covers of her prayer books and spends much of the film gathering up the courage to, so to speak, make a move. By dwelling on the lives of these four women, the film underlines the hypocrisy that pervades society today with regard to conventional gender roles and sexuality –  the latter of which becomes a metaphor in the lipstick, which they don as they prepare themselves for battle.

The lipstick then also becomes a symbol of fearlessness, and the film spares no sexist double standards. But it must address the problem even as it adopts a critique, and something that the film repeatedly highlights is that desire can render women vulnerable in a way that men are exempt from. A woman visiting her lover's house unannounced may be a display of agency, but this act can transform into something else altogether when the threat of rape is posed. An older widow daring to think of a relationship places herself in an extremely precarious position, while her male counterparts would have to face none of the flak and ostracism that she would draw. The scene of Leela shooting herself and her boyfriend in the heat of the moment and referring to the video as a possible tool for her to use as blackmail turns a serious reality on its head. But as the narrative progresses, this gives rise to the question: what does a woman have to lose that a man doesn't?

In this vein, the film looks at the women who step out of the boundaries prescribed to them and are attacked by the very shackles they attempted to cast off. And these painful casts are what make sure that their sexuality is expressed not on their own terms, but on those of a powerful patriarchal society, if at all. It is on this tangent that the film rejects the adage of sex as something that either must be left to the imagination, or characterised only by glimpses of shapely bodies resting together. Because this imagination is precisely what Lipstick brings to a reality by laying bare on screen, where no one who watches can quite escape it. It does not romanticise such scenes, nor does it provides sensuous and airbrushed female bodies for 'aesthetic' pleasure. It revels, instead, in making its viewers uncomfortable, asking them to question this very discomfort and the hypocrisy that goes hand-in-hand with it. This is acknowledged further with the voice-over of Usha reading an erotic novel, which is sensuous, tantalising, and shows semblance of sexual fulfilment, possibility, and hope – unlike the lives of the characters on screen.

With its clever use of juxtaposition, the film draws attention to the political nature of such 'personal' struggles that women face, in order to, hopefully, start a conversation. And so it poses no solutions to the problems that the protagonists face – it only brings them to light and zooms in on them, touching on imperative political issues such as marital rape, reproductive health, and economic independence. As it dwells on these issues and their daily relevance to women’s lives , it is marked by some extremely powerful moments that, in very little words, speak volumes. That is the film's task, and it does it well.

These powerful moments in Lipstick are scattered across the arc, however, in its approaching climax, it is marred by a few messy scenes involving Rehana. The narrative reaches a point where it rushes through, leading to banal scenes of revelation that stick out unevenly in an otherwise decently structured film. As a whole, when seen in light of the other three women, Rehana's part does fall short. Her transgressions and their execution on screen are not marked by the strength that is required of the other women in their struggles. Even though part of the message that the film conveys appears to be that things only do get worse for women as they age, I did wish for her parts to be more smartly drawn in terms of characterisation as well as dialogue.

Finally, the film has garnered much attention with the Censor Board controversy pre-certification, and its offbeat marketing strategies after. But is there a dissonance between what the trailers and social media campaigns offer, and the actual film? Not an ideological one for sure. But if one goes into the theatre looking for the uber-liberating narrative of Queen or the incisive attacks of Pink, there will be disappointment. If one holds the aesthetic of Parched as a standard, Lipstick will not match up, precisely because its politics lies elsewhere, and it does a pretty fine justice to them. It does not pretend to be set in a scenic landscape, or provide aesthetic pleasure – instead it thrusts the viewer into the dark frames and uncertainty of four women residing in a small-town mohalla. There is a fearlessness required for a woman to wear her desire on her sleeve, and to be upfront about her sexuality, precisely because the consequences can be lethal. It is, all in all, an important film that must be watched, and must be reflected on for the perspective it provides and the ways through which it provides it. It is a story that implicates its viewers in a society that makes life difficult for women, especially as they age – and they are made to watch their desire drift further and further away.

Gender & Agency: Our Picks from the Latest in Young Adult Lit

A 2011 study at Dartmouth College that looked at 5600 children’s books published in the US in the 20th century found that only 31% of these books had girls as the central characters. Thankfully the representation of women and girls in children’s books is getting better and we have seen some strong female characters in the recent past. A few years ago, the Association of American Publishers ranked Children’s/Young Adult books as the fastest growing publishing category. Avoiding the debate on the labels “teen” and “YA” and keeping to a broad 12+ age category, here are some of my picks of Indian YA books published in 2016 and 2017 with central female characters or well rounded female characters.

z1edit - Asmara’s Summer by Andaleeb Wajid (Penguin India, 2016): Bangalore based author, Andaleeb Wajid sets her novel within a real space in the city. She thought of the story when in an auto passing by Tannery Road. Her seventeen-year-old protagonist Asmara, has a secret that she wants no one in her college to know: that her grandparents live by Tannery Road, an area known for its lower middle-class Muslim population. She is forced to spend her summer vacation with them and this forms the timeline for the novel in which the author deftly handles differences in socio-economic class through the eyes of her young protagonist.

 

z2edit- Tanya Tania by Antara Ganguli (Bloomsbury India, 2016): Though written on a Goa beach during the monsoon, the author takes us back to Mumbai and Karachi of the 1990s against the backdrop of political violence. The novel is a story of two young women, children of college best friends who are encouraged to get to know each other. The girls - Tanya Talati in Karachi and Tania Ghosh in Mumbai eventually divulge details about their personal lives and share their ambitions with each other. The novel also brings out the political realities of the two countries through the two relatively privileged protagonists. Written completely in the form of letters spanning a period of 6 years, Ganguli weaves together a heart-wrenching narrative.  

z3edit - Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone (Wendy Lamb Books, 2017): The only non-fiction book on this list, Girl Rising centred on the eponymous Girl Rising, a global campaign for girl education that created a film chronicling the lives of nine girls in the developing world. Author Lee Stone, uses additional research focusing on these nine girls and others examining barriers to education including factors like early child marriage, sex trafficking, poverty and gender discrimination. Though it is questionable if education by itself without a large set of accompanying conditions can really create a transformative change in the lives of these girls, the book through its infographics, photos alongside a compelling narrative sets the ground to begin important conversations.

z4editThe Sorcerer of Mandala by D Kalyanaraman (Yali Books, 2016): Unlike the other titles in this list, this is a comical, light read with the publishers describing the book as a quirky fantasy novel suitable for ages 14 and up. The story is set in Orum, a town suddenly isolated from the rest of civilization. To save Orum, Vikram, his reluctant fiancée Ponni and his friends a thief and an aspiring playwright must steal a jewel that hangs around the neck of a demonic goddess guarded by her devotee, a terrifying Sorcerer. With each chapter opening with an illustration by Raghava KK, the novel becomes a particularly engaging read.

z5edit - Unbroken by Nandhika Nambi (Duckbill, 2017): The YA fiction space has witnessed a growing number of teen authors and Unbroken goes into that list with Nambi writing it in the six month gap between finishing school and joining medical college. A couple of years later, Nambi who had already self-published two novels, sent out Unbroken to publishers with Duckbill eventually taking on the novel. The story engages with some important issues around disability with the protagonist Akriti, confined to a wheelchair following an accident. The story follows her interactions with her brother, parents, and friends and her constantly feeling as though confined to a prison surrounded by them all with nowhere to escape.

So far 2017 has also seen a large number of international books in the YA category depicting the South Asian experience. With us living increasingly global lives, you might find these titles in literature of the Indian diaspora relatable and I have picked one of them for this list.

z7edit- Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016): Rani Patel in Full Effect is the first young adult novel by Sonia Patel, a US-based psychiatrist who works with children and adults. Rani is a daughter of Gujarati immigrants living on a Hawaiian island often feeling isolated and unhappy. Her only comfort is when performing hip hop. Through Hawaiian, Hawaiian pidgin, Gujarati as well as hip-hop slang, Rani tells you her tale filled with themes of insecurities, love, and incest. This is set against a narrative that includes her parents failing marriage and an older man who is interested in Rani and eventually leads her to an underground hip hop crew.

I grew up on a generous share of Roald Dahls and Judy Blumes and after rapidly making my way through the children’s titles in my school library and local bookstore, I graduated to general fiction without really engaging with the fiction category written solely for teenagers. I am now making up for lost time and consistently add YA fiction to my reading list. Here are two upcoming YA novels that I am particularly looking forward to.

z10edit

 

 - You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (FSG Books for Young Readers, release date 12th Sept 2017): Perkins has written numerous novels in the YA category with South Asian characters like Bamboo People and Secret Keeper. Her upcoming YA novel tells the story of one Indian-American family through teen voices spanning across three generations. The themes tackled through the lives of these five women include cultural identity, a biracial love affair, and environmental activism could appeal to a large audience.

z10edit- Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (First Second, release date 3rd Oct 2017): Chanani is an Indian American artist and illustrator and her upcoming graphic novel will explore what it means to engage with the two identities and culture through her young protagonist Pri. Through the discovery of a magic pashmina owned by her mother, Pri finds out about her mother’s past, her life in India, who her father is and why her mother left him behind. Considering that only few graphic novels engage with these particular themes, this could add some diversity to your reading list.

Many adults confess to reading in the YA genre, so don’t let being older than early twenties stop you from picking up one of these titles the next time you are at a bookstore!

e-Essays from Zubaan | 21 July, Domestic Space & Kinship

E-essays header fixed

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

We opened our offering of the e-Essays with a focus on Indian women’s movements. Our second lot of essays looked at sexual violence. The third set of our e-Essays has been curated to the theme of domestic space and kinship. Covering a breadth of disciplines and spatiotemporal positions, this set comments on familial (matriarchal/patriarchal) and architectural structures as building blocks of women's lived experiences. A historical exploration of matrilineal Khasi societies and a piece on the changing role of women's education in 19th century Maharashtra connect here with an essay on women-only homes as seen in Indo-English women's writings, the three together examining the nature of power as it is employed within the family home.


1) 'Men, Women and the Embattled Family' by Uma Chakravarti from Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai, 1998.

8_Men, Women and the Embattled Family from Rewriting History_coverUma Chakravarti’s essay delves into the discourses of women's changing roles in nineteenth century Maharashtra, particularly in relation to education. As the household became enmeshed in a web of debates that had seeped in from the public to the domestic sphere, the education of one's wife was a project taken on by many male Hindu middle-class reformers. This essay explores not only the nature of the education that was imparted – which was fundamentally different from that given to men – but also its perceived functions and the consequences faced by women who were given access to such 'schooling'. 46 pp.

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₹70.00
Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

2) 'Women-Only Homes' by Geetanjali Singh Chanda from Indian Women in the House of Fiction, 2008.
9_Women-Only Homes from House of Fiction_coverColonization dramatically altered the understanding of Indianness in light of nationalism and womanhood in light of modernism. Geetanjali Singh Chanda argues effectively in Indian Women in the House of Fiction that the home is the nexus of the construction of Indianness and womanhood because of this Indo-English encounter.Chanda traces the evolution of homes and domestic ideologies from the joint-family, indigenous patriarchal haveli dwelling to the Western import, the bungalow, to the urban apartment by analyzing texts of Indo-English women’s writings. 46 pp.
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₹70.00
Dr. Geetanjali Singh Chanda is a senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programme at Yale University, USA. She has taught courses on globalization, autobiographies, family, cultural identity, popular culture, international feminisms and postcolonial India since 2001. Her research interests include religion, masculinities and popular culture.

3) 'Khasi Matrilineal Society: The Paradox Within' by Esther Syiem from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast, 2010.

10_Khasi Matrilineal Society from The Peripheral CentreEsther Syiem's essay traces the paradoxical nature of women’s status in Khasi matrilineal society. At once empowered and oppressed, Khasi women learn to negotiate these contradictions in their day-to-day engagements with society.

Despite being both visible and vocal, like their sisters across the country Khasi women too face a skewed sex ratio, a lack of reproductive choices, widespread domestic violence and a host of other issues. 9pp.
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₹50.00
Esther Syiem teaches English Literature at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, and specializes in American Literature, Modern Fiction and Folk Literature. Her publications are in both English and Khasi, and they include poetry collections like Oral Scriptings (2005) and Of Follies and Frailties of Wit and Wisdom (2010).

Free in July, with the purchase of any other essay:
4)  'Towards a Feminist Politics: The Indian Women's Movement in Historical Perspective' by Samita Sen from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender
& Social Inequalities in India
, 2002.

1_Towards a Feminist Politics from Violence of Development_ coverSamita Sen’s essay traces the history of the Indian women’s movement from the 1920s to the present day. The chronological as well as thematic logic of the essay follows three primary heads: a historical background, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) controversy, and the political implications of the reservation for women in legislatures.

For Sen, a new feminist politics has to address struggles of class, caste, community, religion et al, without displacing gender as the central concern, making this essay one of crucial importance for understanding the origins of the issues facing feminist politics today.  53pp.

₹70.00

Read more.

 

 

Samita Sen is Director, School of Women’s Studies, and Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, Law and Management, Jadavpur University. She writes on education, the women’s movement, marriage, domestic violence, women in governance and women’s land rights.


A note on pricing, frequency and format:

Ten new essays are released each month, and subscribers receive each new set in their inbox three times a month. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we have therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have therefore standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our emailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY| A Life in Trans Activism

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Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday, a new series where we will revisit backlist titles one Thursday every month. This July, we’re looking at A Life in Trans Activism by A. Revathi.


About the book

A Life in Trans ActivismIn A. Revathi's first memoir, The Truth About Me (2011), readers learned of her childhood unease with her male body, her escape from her birth family to a house of hijras, and her eventual transition to being the woman she always she knew was.

This book charts Revathi’s remarkable journey from relative obscurity to becoming India’s leading spokesperson for transgender rights and an inspiration to thousands. It describes her life as an activist, theatre person, actor and writer. Revathi also offers the reader insight into one of the least talked about experiences on the gender trajectory—those of trans men.

An unforgettable book, A Life in Trans Activism will leave the reader questioning the ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ binaries of male/female that so many of us take for granted.


 About the author 

A. Revathi is an activist working for the rights of sexual minorities, and an author. Her autobiography The Truth About Me (2011) is one of the few autobiographies written by a member of the hijra community. Further, her prose and poetry has been translated into Kannada, English and Hindi. She was also the director of Sangama, a minority rights NGO. Revathi is also an actor—she made her debut in the Tamil film Thenavattu in 2008.


 Quotes from readers 

Her latest volume, A Life in Trans Activism (Zubaan, 2016) is an unflinching account of her journey towards accepting herself and, in the process, convincing society to accept her as well. Whether she is describing her apprenticeship as a hijra through the abusive guru process; her family’s violent rejection of her identity; or her complex relationship with elite, urban sexual and gender minority rights activists, Revathi is frank and compassionate, even to those who have wronged her. Her honest descriptions make even the most mundane parts of her life, such as her attempts to procure the proper government ID reflecting her new gender, fascinating and heartbreaking. [...]Stories like Revathi’s are vital because they make space for other women to feel comfortable in their own skin. - Open Magazine

 

A Life in Trans Activism is a story that makes you sit up straight and think hard and strong over the years, how we have treated transgenders among ourselves and how much our leaders have done for them. [...] So, today I ask you to pick up A Life in Trans Activism and read. Read it for a better world, to open our mind and heart towards fellow human beings whom we have ignored and despised for too long. Their anatomy may seem complicated to you, but once you read about it, you will be one of the many who would have taken a step towards making a country that doesn’t just think in black and white, but also in color." - Shabd Studio

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