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The body as social and cultural text provides a rich site for creative experimentation in this collection of short stories by contemporary women writers of South Asia. In a world that tends to equate the body with biology, and femininity with the reproductive function, these writers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka interrogate these assumptions and reinscribe the body as a source of resistance and self-empowerment. Identity, history, myth, scientific experiment, social heirarchies, sexuality, nationalism, violence, ethics and ecology are interwoven issues for which the body in these stories becomes a powerful signifier. Together, these bodymaps chart a subversive female geography that startles with its boldly inclusive vision.
Radha Chakravary teaches English at Gargi College, University of Delhi. She translates major Bengali writers such as Mahasweta Devi, Rabindranath Tagore and Bankimchandra into English. She was nominated for the Crossword Translation Award (2004) and received the Dr Radhakrishnan Memorial Award in 2006.
Contributors: Indira Goswami, Amrita Pritam, Bhuwan Dhungana, Ismat Chughtai, Mahasweta Devi, Ambai, Yashodhara Mishra, Kunzang Choden, Kathleen Jayawardene, Manjula Padmanabhan, Selina Hossain, Asha Kardaley, Easterine Iralu, Zaheda Hina and Kamala Das. The translators include Hina Nandrajog, Manjushree Thapa, Anjana Srivastava, Lakshmi Holmstrom, Mahasweta Baxipatra, Vijita Fernando, Keerti Ramachandra, Muhammad Umar Memon, V.C. Harris and C.K. Mohamed Ummer.
Rukmini is married to the District Collector of a small town in Assam, and teaches in the local college. On the surface her life is settled and safe, living in the big beautiful bungalow on the hill above the cremation ground, seemingly untouched by the toil and sufferings of the common folk living 'below’. And yet there is an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that grips the town each time there is an 'incident’ and this has its repercussions on her life too—for Assam is in the grip of insurgency and it is this thread that runs like a dark river through the novel and forms its plot.
The Assam students’ agitation of the 1970s and 1980s has grown into a full-blown agitation today with kidnappings, extortions, and political instability being the order of the day. The meaninglessness of the violence, the complexities that divide 'them’ and 'us’ and the point at which the two merge are all explored here and the final dénouement is horrifying and yet true–for there can be no other 'end’ to such a tale both in personal and political terms.
Mitra Phukan is a well-known Assamese writer and contributes regularly to prominent English dailies in the North East. She has recently edited a collection of Assamese short stories and published a number of books for children.
"I was the youngest in a family of five children. I sometimes felt I was an afterthought, and maybe Father and Mother didn't quite know what to do with me. Also, because I was a girl after four boys they never seemed to be sure whether to buy me girls' clothing or let me wear leftover boys' clothing."
Young Dielieno is five years old when she is sent off to live with her disciplinarian grandmother who wants her to grow up to be a good Naga wife and mother. According to Grandmother, girls didn't need an education, they didn't need love and affection or time to play or even a good piece of meat with their gravy! Naturally Dielieno hates her with a vengeance.
This is the evocative tale of a young girl growing up in a traditional society in India's Northeast, which is in the midst of tremendous change.
Easterine Iralu writes about a place and a people that she knows well and is a part of and brings to the storytelling a lyrical beauty which can on occasion chill the reader with its realistic portrayals of the spirits of the dead that inhabit the quiet hills and valleys of Nagaland.
A postman turns up with an unexpected letter one rainy afternoon in Cherrapunji, a letter that will turn fourteen-year-old Saphira’s world upside down.
Dalinia’s life seems perfect, with a successful husband, beautiful children and a well-appointed home. But the arrival of a handsome competitor on the manicured greens of the Shillong golf course brings back a flood of unwanted memories of her troubled past.
Told in a simple, lyrical style, Bijoya Sawian’s collection of ten short stories is not only an enthralling read but, like her debut novel Shadow Men, transports the reader to a place little known to outsiders: Meghalaya.
Strains of love, loss and longing run through all these stories, whose endings are not mere shocks, but revelations. Both her books should be read for a better understanding of India’s Northeast – its communities, its landscape, and in particular, the lives of the women who live there.
“Love, loss and longing are the predominant emotions in these tales. With a touch of Blakesian magic, Sawian’s songs of innocence and experience are lyrical and pantheistic. [The] stories, like vintage wine, have a mature blend of wit and irony, sense and sensibility and the ability to stay with the reader long after the covers are closed.”—Sudipta Bhattacharjee, Telegraph
It was on a sabbatical in England in the late seventies that Suniti Namjoshi discovered feminism - or rather, she discovered that other feminists existed, and many among them shared her thoughts and doubts, her questions and visions.
Since then, she has been writing - fables, poetry, prose autobiography, children's stories - about power, about inequality, about oppression, effectively using the power of language and the literary tradition to expose what she finds absurd and unacceptable.
This new collection brings together in one volume a huge range of Namjoshi's writings, starting with her classic collection, Feminist Fables, and coming right up to her latest work.
"Namjoshi is a fabulist who is never preachy. A feminist who is never humourless. A poet who is never arcane. An intellectual who is never pedantic... Her work points to a deeply internalized radicalism, one that has as much depth as it has edge. Quirky, funny, intellectually agile, capable of making connections between the mundane and the metaphysical, adept at sniffing out the archetypal in the culturally particular, they point to a mind that is as engaged as it is engaging." -- Arundhathi Subramaniam
Set in the heady years preceding independence, this is the story of young Binapani growing up in a small Assamese town. Headstrong, stubborn and high-spirited, Binapani is confronted with a world full of confusing questions: why are girls not allowed to study? Why is the nationalist hero, Bullet Kaka hidden away in her grandmother’s shed? Why does Mahendra Barua’s family suffer such humiliation and indignity? Why is the rich Haitha Sarai feted and fawned upon? Why is his daughter tied up and starved in a dark room? Why is the Christian boy, Ratan, an outcaste? Her young mind grapples with countless questions and through it all is the abiding relationship she shares with her old grandmother, Jashodha. Married off to the rich Chaliha whom she has always hated, the ebullient young Bina turns inwards, seeking an inner strength and calm and makes her home ‘an abode of peace’.
Arupa Kalita Patangia is one of Assam’s leading, award winning novelists. She has more than ten novels and short story collections to her credit including Mriganabhi (1987) and Millenniumar Sapon (2002). She teaches English at Tangla College, Assam.
Ranjita Biswas has translated a number of well-known Bengali and Assamese novels into English.
Srinagar, capital city of the famed 'paradise on earth,' Kashmir. Ailan Gali, a deep, dark narrow lane that lies at its heart, where houses stand on a finger's width of space and lean crookedly against each other, so deep, so narrow, so closely connected that even thieves do not dare enter.
Yet people live and love here, they cling on to their old ways, they share stories and food, joys and sorrows, sufficient unto themselves. But the outside world beckons, youngsters begin to leave, and slowly change makes its way into Ailan Gali only to find its hitherto hidden mirror-image -- the change that has insidiously been working its way into the lives of those who are the gali's permanent residents.
This funny, poignant, evocative story of a Kashmir as yet untouched by violence, but with its shadows looming at the edges, is a classic of Hindi literature, available in English translation for the first time.
The Story of Felanee is based on real life events. It is a story of courage, of survival, of ethnic conflict and violence that tears people and communities apart in the most brutal, savage way.
Set in Assam, which has seen two major agitations that have crippled the economy, this is a story that will shock the reader by its sheer passion, and its brutal honesty. The callousness and utter disregard for human life, the ugly play for power, for electoral gain, the sham and petty hypocrisies, the bloody horror of ethnic violence all lie exposed in this powerful novel written by one of Assam’s leading fiction writers.
The story revolves around the experiences of one woman: Felanee. Her name means ‘thrown away’—so called because as her mother lay dying in the burning riot-torn village, Felanee was thrown into a swamp and left to die. But against all odds, Felanee—and thousands like her—survived.
Like the reeds that grow in such profusion along the bank of Assam’s rivers, the rootless inhabitants of the refugee camps and makeshift shanties, whose stories form the core of Felanee, are swept along by the wind and thrown onto new hostile terrain but they cling on with tenacity to take root again and again.
Four musicians: a bright, young, aspiring student, two highly respected gurus married to each other, and a globe-trotting star, each deeply immersed in the tradition of Hindustani shastriya sangeet. Their lives intersect in the small mofussil town of Tamulbari on the banks of the Brahmaputra.
Against the backdrop of a magnificent musical heritage and the haunting and timeless ragas that sweep through the pages of this wonderfully evocative novel, Mitra Phukan presents the ambitious sitarist Kaushik Kashyap, already a 'name,' who tours the world with his beautiful Italian student, Nomita, the shy, small-town vocalist, whom Kaushik's parents have chosen for him, Nomita's Guruma, the beautiful, calm Sandhya Senapati, and her husband, the handsome Tridib Barua, who seem to be hiding deep, dark secrets, and Guruma's friendship with the well-known industrialist Deepak Rathod.
As the eventful monsoon months give way to autumn, the characters come to a deeper understanding of themselves even as their lives change dramatically and forever. By turns serious, deeply moving and utterly irreverent, Mitra Phukan's eye for detail, her immense knowledge of Hindustani classical music and her profound understanding of human nature come together in this remarkable novel.
In Suki, fabulist Suniti Namjoshi weaves a delightful tapestry from threads of longing, loss, memory, metaphor, and contemplation. The whole picture is a stunning evocation of the love and friendship shared between S and her Super Cat, Suki, a lilac Burmese. Suki suggests that she could be a goddess, and S her high priestess. S declines, but as they discuss the merits of vegetarianism, or the meaning of happiness, or morality, or just daily life, it soon becomes clear that the bond between them is a deep and complex one. The days of Suki's life are figured as leaves, which fall vividly but irrevocably into time's stream and are recollected with a wild tenderness by the grieving S, who learns through the disciplines of meditation how to lose what is most loved.
This beautiful narrative, both memoir and elegy, offers solace and celebration to everyone who has felt the trust that passes between a person and a beloved creature.
A thick mist envelopes an isolated house and a cottage atop a hill. Raseel, looking out from the verandah of the house, watches the mist as it covers first the plants, then the trees and finally the house. Suddenly it parts, and three men come into view, furtive, quick. Then they're gone. Minutes later, Raseel hears the sound of shots. Then there is silence.
The reader is pulled into Bijoya Sawian's tense and dramatic story of the strange death of a dkhar, an outsider, in the beautiful hill town of Shillong in northeastern India. Why was he killed? Who are the killers? Are they known to the housekeeper and driver? As she begins to unravel this mystery, Raseel finds herself caught in a tale of intrigue and violence that mirrors the world of insurgency around her. In lyrical, haunting prose, Bijoya Sawian paints a dark, threatening picture and shows how violence has tainted the very fabric of everyday life in a place that was once peaceful, untroubled and calm.
Early twentieth century Madras. In a dark room in the corner of a house, Goutami's mother dies in childbirth. Barely a year old, Goutami, or Goutu as everyone calls her, crawls into the birth-death room, seeing and smelling death, loss, fear -- things she does not then understand but which will mark her for life. A motherless child, a rebellious girl, a headstrong woman who will not deny her sexuality, a fighter for whom lying becomes a strategy for survival: Goutami's search for love leads her to Krishnanand, cousin and ladies' man, suave and practiced, who beds all young cousins before they marry. But life intervenes and Goutami marries Seshadri. Solid, steady, ambitious, a good husband and an adequate father, Seshadri is nonetheless unable to give her one thing she craves: love. The ins and outs of family's relationships. The search for love and a sense of belonging, form the subtext of this beautifully crafted novel by first time novelist Prema Raghunath. In the end for Goutu, as for her lovers, siblings and children, salvation comes from the very stuff of life itself.
These deceptively simple stories uncover both the complexity and irony of women's lives in Bhutan today. They show how ordinary lives, choices and experiences are both remarkable and poignant. In I am a Small Person, a despised woman uses her femininity as a means to control a man, the young girl in I Won't ask Mother suddenly feels empowered and confident when she makes a decision without consulting her mother.
All the stories take place in rural settings, to which creeping urbanisation brings gradual change, and tensions surface between the new and the old, or the traditional and the modern. For many rural women, being able to connect to the city and all its perceived power and glamour is a very real aspiration. This yearning is exemplified in Look at her Belly Button, where a young woman effortlessly slips out of the role of a farmer to become a 'real Bhutanese' urbanite.
A long time ago, a young prince, the heir to a great South-Asian kingdom, wielded Siva's mighty bow and won the heart of a brave princess.
The story of what happened next to the married couple, the Ramayana, told and re-told countless times over the centuries, begins where most stories end. The twenty-five stories in Breaking the Bow take a similar courageous leap into the unknown. Inspired by the Ramayana and its cultural importance, the anthology dares to imagine new worlds.
Here you will find magic realist and surreal stories. Robot and cyberpunk stories. Fantasy and science fiction stories. Hard-to-classify stories.
Stories by some of the best writers in contemporary south-Asian fiction, including Abha Dawesar, Rana Dasgupta, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Tabish Khair, Kuzhali Manickavel, Mary Anne Mohanraj and Manjula Padmanabhan. Stories not only from India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but also Dubai, Israel, Holland, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
Breaking the Bow is a collection of brilliant, original and beautifully told tales, guaranteed to enlighten and entertain.
Be transported into dystopian cities and alternate universes.
Hang out with unicorns, cyborgs and pixies.
Learn how to waltz in outer space.
Be amazed and beguiled by a fairy tale with an unexpected twist,
a futuristic take on a TV cooking show,
and a playscript with tentacles.
In other words, get ready for a wild ride!
This collection of sci-fi and fantasy writing, including six graphic stories, showcases twenty of the most exciting writers and artists from India and Australia, in an all-female, all-star line-up!
Samhita Arni, Kuzhali Manickavel, Manjula Padmanabhan, Vandana Singh, Payal Dhar, Anita Roy, Annie Zaidi, Penni Russon, Kate Constable, Isobelle Carmody, Justine Larbalestier, Alyssa Brugman, Kirsty Murray, Margo Lanagan, Priya Kuriyan, Prabha Mallya, Amruta Pail, Lily Mae Martin, Nicki Greenberg and Mandy Ord.
“…the story transcends linguistic and geographical boundaries. It is a story of virtually every Indian home…The discussion -which makes up the Afterword also seeks to put the story in a historical and anthropological perspective which makes Shree’s Mai an academic study.” The Hindu
“…it is eminently readable … The Book Review
“seeks to assert the humanness of mother. Maternalism with a human face, perhaps is feminism for hard times.” The Tribune
Geetanjali Shree is a well-known Hindi novelist and short story writer, who has also written a critical work on Premchand.
Nita Kumar is the author of The Artisans of Banaras: Friends, Brothers and Informants, Lessons from School, and editor of Women as Subjects.
Sita Mirchandani, a Hindu refugee from Singh, now living in India, Salma and Surayya, two Muslim girls from U.P. who are forced to move to Pakistan, Tanvir Fatima is in Karachi and not quite sure why she is there – these are the characters who inhabit these works of fiction. Originally published as “Sitaharan”, “Housing Society” and “Patjhad ki Awaz”, the stories explore the cataclysmic events that have unmoored the lives of these women and how each, in her own way, battles with a state or exile that is more internal than external. Together they unfold a series of betrayals—historical, political, personal—and how the women struggle to come to terms with them.
Qurratulain Hyder is one of the leading writers of Urdu fiction in India. She was awarded the Bhartiya Jnanpith, India’s highest literary award, in 1989. The recipient of a number of other literary awards, she is a Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi, has travelled widely and has worked as a journalist and broadcaster.
C. M. Naim has taught Urdu Language and Literature at the University of Chicago in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations since 1961. He co-founded Mahfil (The Journal of South Asian Literature) in 1963 and the Annual of Urdu Studies in 1981.
The Dungri Garasiya, an indigenous group in north Gujarat, believed that the first being to be created was woman and so in their society women were as respected as men and property passed down from mother to daughter.
At the dawn of creation, girls were as desired as sons. It was a time when girls beat boys in games and races: a time when there was no gender divide. And so also in these stories it is the women who are stronger, wiser, faster, sharper, and certainly far more beautiful than their men. It is they who think out of the box, who are imaginative and creative and full of wise ideas.
From tales of ghostly possession to magic mantras, from kings and queens full of passion to village youth bursting with sexual ardour, these timeless folktales are full of the joy of being alive, of sensual enjoyment and pleasure. While Kudrat (God is imagined as being feminine) and Deva conspire and wreak havoc on their people, the dance of life continues with naked young maidens swimming in the streams or being courted by dark handsome youths amidst much laughter and teasing. The forests are full of birds and beasts and fish and life for the tribals is for the most part simple and innocent, truth and right always prevail and defeat the forces of darkness — be it a scheming stepmother, a murderous wife or lover, or a cruel and lustful king.
This richly descriptive and deeply philosophical novel from Bhutan is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
As a young girl, Tsomo asks her mother, "Where is the furthest I can travel?"
"Where," her mother responds, "I don't know. Where can a girl travel to?"
Caught in the everyday reality of household life, fifteen-year-old Tsomo is suddenly called upon to travel when her mother dies. She makes her first journey to a faraway village to light the ritual butter lamps in her mother?s memory. Beginning here, her travels take her to distant places, across Bhutan and into India. As she faces the world, a woman alone, Tsomo embarks on what becomes a life journey, in which she begins to find herself, and to grow as a person and a woman.
The first novel by a woman to come out of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, The Circle of Karma, written in English, is rich in detailed descriptions of ritual life. The measured pace of its prose, the many nuances of the story, the different levels at which the narrative works, weave a complex tapestry of life in which the style and content are closely interwoven, each informing and enriching the other.
Kunzang Choden is one of Bhutan's foremost writers. In her early fifties, she has written a number of short stories and has also published collections of folk tales from Bhutan. This is her first novel.
"Kunzang Choden has given us an unforgettable tale of a simple woman's pilgrimage and journey to self-realisation." -- Anna Sujata Mathai, The Hindu
This touching and at times harrowing glimpse into the conflict-ridden Nagaland is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary. More than half a century of bloodshed has marked the history of the Naga people who live in the troubled northeastern region of India. Their struggle for an independent Nagaland and their continuing search for identity provides the backdrop for the stories that make up this unusual collection. Describing how ordinary people cope with violence, how they negotiate power, and force, how they seek and find safe spaces and enjoyment in the midst of terror, the author details a way of life under threat from the forces of modernization and war.
No one -- the young, the old, the ordinary housewife, the willing partner, the militant who takes to the gun, and the young woman who sings even as she is being raped -- is untouched by the violence. Theirs are the stories that form the subtext of the struggles that lie at the internal fault lines of the Indian nation-state. These are stories that speak movingly of home, country, nation, nationality, identity, and direct the reader to the urgency of the issues that lie at their heart.
Temsula Ao is the Dean, School of Humanities and Education, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong.
"Temsula Ao, like many of her predecessors has successfully described the experiences of her people. The struggle for freedom and the search for identity have been discussed by many writers and these are pivotal themes of those who had to pay a heavy price for freedom. To this end Temsula Ao must be praised for her successful attempt." -- Shagufta Yasmeen, Dawn
The Blue-necked God (Nilakantha Braja), published in 1976, is one of Indira Goswami's early novels and the first time that a writer highlighted the exploitation and poverty of widows, dumped in a 'sacred' city to eke out their days in prayer by uncaring, callous families under the guise of religious sanction and tradition. It was a book that raised many eyebrows when it was first published for this amazing narrative combined fact and fiction, autobiography and reflection in a fascinating mix as she tried to depict the confusion and the mental agony she herself experienced after the death of her husband through her character Saudamini. The physical, emotional, financial deprivation faced by the young widow has been woven into a perceptive text that drew on the author's own research and experiences as she roamed the streets of Vrindavan and exposed, for the first time, the uglier side of the city and its traditions.
"Indira Goswami is one of the pre-eminent literary figures in India and a woman of remarkable courage and conviction... She has also been an important voice in championing women's causes, and has done much to highlight the plight of widows. [She] is one of those rare figures whose achievements as a writer are closely paralleled by their accomplishments as a social and political activist." -- Amitav Ghosh
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