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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.
In the 1950s, ten-year-old Dayamoyee watches with bewilderment and curiosity as her village, Dighpait, begins to change and people she knows and loves start to pack their belongings and move away. India has been partitioned, and Dighpait has now become part of a new country, (East) Pakistan. Soon, Dayamoyee's aunt, with whom she lives, also begins to prepare to travel across the border, to Hindustan where Dayamoyee's parents, both teachers, have made their home. Forced to leave her beloved home, her friends, and especially their family retainer, Majam, whom she calls Dada, Dayamoyee resolves, on her journey from Pakistan to Hindustan, never to mention the home they have left behind. And so, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to middle age, Dayamoyee never speaks of Dighpait. And then, in the early 1990s, she hears of Majam's death and the floodgates of memory open. Sunanda Sikdar's beautiful and moving memoir A Life Long Ago (Dayamoyeer Katha in Bengali) was awarded the Lila Puraskar by Calcutta University in 2008, and the Ananda Puraskar in 2010.
Talaash is the second novel of the Bangladeshi writer Shaheen Akhtar. It captures the brutalities of the 1971 war of liberation and its contingent afterlife -- more specifically, the scars it has left on women. For thirty long years, Mariam, the protagonist of the novel, lives with memories of a war that refuses to end for her. The analeptic and proleptic shapings of Shaheen's prose travel in and through those shattered memories (and their public use) to construct a devastating archive of pain and anguish, far beyond the pale of cause and effect. Shaheen Akhtar's mesmerizing and moving novel, set against the background of the Bangladesh war of independence, explores the violence done to women, their courage and heartbreak, their search for love and their betrayal. Taalash (The Search) was awarded the Prothom Alo Literary Prize in 2004.
Published in March of 1899, Muhammad Hadi Ruswa's famous novel Umrao Jaan Ada created a sensation when it came out, with its candid account of the life of Umrao Jaan, a semi-fictional, possibly real, Lucknow courtesan. Subsequent translations and films based on the book have further extended the fame of both the book and Umrao, the character.
What is less known, however, is that a month after he wrote Umrao Jaan Ada, Ruswa penned a short text, a novella entitled Junun-e-Intezar (The Madness of Waiting, April 1899) in which Umrao avenges herself on her creator, Ruswa, by narrating the story of his life.
Blurring the lines between truth and fiction, narrator and character, this clever narrative strategy gives the courtesan a speaking voice. While Umrao Jaan Ada, continues to evoke interest, this paratext has been completely forgotten. Here, translators and editors Krupa Shandilya and Taimoor Shahid, one a scholar from India and the other from Pakistan, attempt to redress this with their translation of Ruswa's novella and their critical introduction which rethinks Umrao Jaan Ada and the Urdu literary milieu of late nineteenth-century Lucknow.
This book contains both the Urdu text (in facsimile) and its translation for the bilingual reader.
First published in Marathi in 1966, this unique novella in free verse tells an age-old story: that of a woman’s deep desire to be a mother
Setting out life as a game in which the moves are predetermined, and yet where rules exist only to be twisted, perhaps negotiated, sometimes even changed, Anuradha Vaidya deftly engages the reader in a sort of play, suggesting a joining of the dots, a connecting of line endings that lead the reader deeper into the story.
As the story traces a relationship that begins with unquestioning love that, over time, transforms into tension and distance, the reader is encouraged to linger, or jump back and forth across stanzas and lines, to navigate, interpret, and savour the beauty of the expression, both in the turn of phrase and the coinage of new words.
The sheer beauty of the almost allegorical imagery of life as a game played on the worldly board by people who are actually pawns, marks every page of this poetic narrative.
Twelve short stories about everyday life and the political realities of Assam.
“My stories,” says the author, “are a lot about darkness but they are also about the small sparks of light that occasionally dispel the demons in our souls.”
In this collection, a doctor’s comfortable existence in a tea estate is rudely shattered by violent conflict, a daughter reflects on the failure of her parents’ inter-religious marriage, and children discover how shockingly little time it takes to go from joking to being thrown headlong into bloody carnage.
Sharp and eloquent, Uddipana Goswami’s stories bring into harsh focus how interwoven political violence is with everyday life.
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.
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
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.
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
This anthology is not only about what Gujarati women speak, but also what they don’t. In a state that registers increasing cases of violence against women, what kind of truths does its literature embody?
If malestream writing in Gujarat seldom mirrors its everyday truths, do the women risk unpleasantness? Kothari’s introduction builds upon such premises and leads the reader to a trajectory of women writers from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day, starting with the journal entries of a dancer at the end of the nineteenth century, to the journal entries of an academic woman at the end of the twentieth century. The wide range of stories and fictional excerpts show how Gujarati women inhabit their fictional worlds. The trajectory hints at an imperceptible shift from muffled voices to more candid ways of being, and yet it never loses completely the middle-class genteelness that characterizes literary discourses in Gujarat.
Rita Kothari teaches at St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad. Her publications on literary sociology of Gujarat and translation include Translating India, Modern Gujarati Poetry: A Selection, Coral Island: Poems by Niranjan Bhagat, Angaliyat (a Gujarati Dalit novel). Her forthcoming book is Stigmatised Identities: The Sindhis of Gujarat.
Fateema opened her diary and began writing: “Jihad as mentioned by the Prophet is a war against injustice and oppression. Islam means peace and surrender. Islam does not recommend killing innocent people. The Prophet released hundreds of slaves from bondage and sent themback to their native land.”
There was a lot more she could write. She would one day. Not for others, but to her own people she would explain the meaning of the word ‘Islam’.
For a bright young woman like Fateema Lokhandwala, the idea that one day she might own her own house is a daring dream. Her father has spent his life, slaving away selling scrap metal so that his children might ‘jump the fence of poverty and illiteracy’. Fateema dreams not only of owning her own house, but of higher education, a better job, a wider world. Her brother, Kareem, is persuaded down a very different path – to join the jihad, to become a holy warrior.
Ila Arab Mehta’s moving and sharply observed novel follows one woman’s struggle to find her way in a world torn by communal violence, to reconcile her conflicting loyalties to her family and friends, to find a place that she can ultimately call ‘home’, a place where fences –between communities, between people – are no longer necessary.
"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.
Set in late 19th century Assam, The Bronze Sword of Tengphakhri Tehsildar is the heroic tale of a Bodo freedom fighter who was, arguably, the first woman revenue collector in British India. It was Indira Goswami's last work of fiction and this is the first-ever English edition, powerfully and sensitively translated from the Assamese by Aruni Kashyap.
"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
Very little is known about Aesop who was supposed to have been a slave on the island of Samos in the sixth century BC. It is his fables (and those attributed to him) that have come down to us through the centuries.
In this version, a fabulist from the future, referred to as Sprite, hoicks herself back to his century. “Why didn’t you save the world?” That’s the Sprite’s cry. Aesop, meanwhile, is trying to save his skin, make up his fables and live his life. Given the pitfalls of human nature, are the fables an Instruction Manual for staying out of trouble? What about morals, what about reform, what about the castigation of social evils? Sprite nags and cajoles and begins to wonder how much power a writer really has. The book offers a virtuoso display of how the building blocks of a fable can be used in a variety of ways. It’s witty, it’s satirical and the Sprite herself is a comical figure. But at the end, when she has to return to her own time, that is to our own time and to our broken world, her central question suddenly seems less absurd, and far more urgent.
“Think of the vicious wit of Virginia Woolf, laced with the tender melancholia of Hélène Cixous, spiked with the subtle eroticism of Anaïs Nin.”
— Somak Ghoshal, Livemint
“Her writing is both wry and brave, rooted and uprooting. It is, in fact, as the title suggests fabulous writing.”
—Annie Zaidi, author of Gulab and Love Stories #1-14
“Namjoshi’s radicalism is not simply one of overturning structures, or of arguing for the recognition of women but, in the best practice of feminism, investigates, rethinks and revalues.”
—Robyn Cadwallader, Verity La
Suniti Namjoshi is a poet, a fabulist and a children’s writer who has written over thirty books. A selection of her writings is published in The Fabulous Feminist (Zubaan, 2012). Suki (Zubaan, Penguin India, 2013), a memoir about her beloved cat is both a book about a relationship and an elegy. Her latest work, Foxy Aesop, asks point-blank whether it is the function of writers to save the world. She has recently completed a dramatic sequence, ‘The Dream Book,’ which is based on the dream imagery in The Tempest and is also concerned with saving the world – over and over and over again.
SHORTLISTED FOR 2007 CROSSWORD BOOK PRIZE
It's raining in Shillong. Eight-year-old Sophie Das has just realised she is adopted, but there is also the baby kicking inside her mother's stomach whom she's dying to meet. IAS aspirant Aman Moondy is planning a first-of-its-kind Happening and praying the lovely Concordella will come. College lecturer Firdaus Ansari is going to finish her thesis, have a hard talk with her boyfriend, and then get out.
Poetic, funny, tender, Lunatic in my Head is a moving portrait of a small town and of three people joined to each other in an intricate web, determined to break out of their small town destinies.
"A classic" -- BIBLIO
"Here is a writer of worth, and worth reading" -- The Hindu
"The delicacy and pungency of her portraits of these characters is very striking, as is her evocation of the provincial milieu of 'the hill-encircled town' in which they live, and against whose ingrained codes they beat their wings" -- Mint
"Compelling" -- Hindustan Times
This delicious spread of short stories is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
A young woman, neglected by her rakish husband, decides to 'kill him with kindness' and stuff him with food, another cooks manically, a third helps herself to money and small knick-knacks from her husband's pockets where she finds the different scents of each of the women he has been with... Along with the husband is the ubiquitous mother-in-law who moves into the newly-married couple's bedroom barely a month after they have set up home. Each vignette is, by turns, funny, poignant, macabre - a delicious spread, showcasing Bulbul Sharma's mastery of the stories small actors and the drama of daily life.
"This slim collection of stories is quite like a methodical cook's masala tray, each ingredient and spice in its proper slot - each story retains its unique flavour while contributing to the main dish and the main dish, need we say, is a veritable feast for the senses" -- Kankana Basu, The Hindu
Kohima, 2007. A young man has been gunned down in cold blood - the latest casualty in the conflict that has scarred the landscape and brutalised the people of Nagaland. Easterine Kire's new novel traces the story of one man's life, from 1937 to the present day. The small incidents of Mose's childhood, his family, the routines and rituals of traditional village life paint an evocative picture of a peaceful way of life, now long-vanished. The coming of a radio into Mose's family?s house marks the beginning of the changes that would connect them to the wider world. They learn of partition, independence, a land called America. Growing up, Mose and his friends become involved in the Naga struggle for Independence, and they are caught in a maelstrom of violence - protest and repression, attacks and reprisals- that ends up ripping communities apart. The herb, bitter wormwood, was traditionally believed to keep bad spirits away. For the Nagas, facing violent struggle all around, it becomes a powerful talisman: "We sure could do with some of that old magic now." Bitter Wormwood gives a poignant insight into the human cost behind the political headlines from one of India's most beautiful and misunderstood regions.
"Easterine Kire is the keeper of her people's memory, their griot. She is a master of the unadorned language that moves because of the power of its evocative simplicity." -- Paul Pimomo
Count Jorge was a fabulously wealthy, devastatingly good-looking socialite, a leading figure in the South American city of San Felice. When he is found brutally stabbed to death, it soon becomes clear that ‘polite’ society in San Felice is anything but.
Is the murder linked to the Indian Ambassador, himself a victim of blackmail? Why is his wife, whom he suspects of having an affair with the Count, so apparently unaffected by his death? Who is the young man with the honey-coloured hair who takes the news, by contrast, so terribly badly? As for the Commissioner of Police, he is trying to decide which discovery is the more problematic: the corpse lying on the bed, or the Ambassador’s daughter’s riding boots lying underneath it.
There’s plenty of intrigue, backstabbing (literal as well as metaphorical), gossip and drama to enjoy in Chandralekha Mehta’s sparkling debut novel.
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.
As the monsoon rains wash over the city of Kolkata, four women sit and read and talk in the kitchen of Kailash-- the old mansion of the Chattopadhyays where Uma comes to live after her marriage in the summer of 1962. Her husband's silence about his mother and the childhood tragedy that beckons him from the shadowy landing of Kailash, the embroidered handkerchiefs in an old soap box in her father-in-law's room and the presence of the old, green-eyed Pishi intrigue Uma. But it is only as she begins to read aloud the traditional Chandimangal composed by her husband's grandfather to celebrate the goddess that the smothered stories begin to emerge... The novel weaves in the history of the militant goddess recast as wife, the Portuguese in Bengal, the rise of print and the making of memories from the Swadeshi movement to the turbulent sixties in Bengal as Uma discovers that the foundation of Kailash is not only very deep but also camouflages the stench of death.
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