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The midnight knock on the door and the disappearance of a loved one into the hands of authorities is a 20th-century horror story familiar to many destined to “live in interesting times.” Yet, some stories remain untold. Such is the account of the internment of ethnic Chinese who had settled for many years in northern India. When the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962 broke out, over 2,000 Chinese-Indians were rounded up, placed in local jails, then transported over a thousand miles away to the Deoli internment camp in the Rajasthan Desert.
Born in Calcutta, India, in 1949, and raised in Darjeeling, Yin Marsh was just thirteen years old when first her father was arrested, and then she, her grandmother and her eight-year-old brother were all taken to the Darjeeling Jail, then sent to Deoli. Ironically, Nehru – India’s first Prime Minister and the one who had authorized the mass arrests – had once “done time” in Deoli during India’s war for independence. Yin and her family were assigned to the same bungalow where Nehru had also been unjustly held.
Eventually released, Yin emigrated to America with her mother, attended college, married and raised her own family, even as the emotional trauma remained buried. When her own college-age daughter began to ask questions and when a friend’s wedding would require a return to her homeland, Yin was finally ready to face what had happened to her family.
A fascinating, multi-disciplinary exploration of water, wells and women’s spaces in Gujarat.
Centuries ago, in the arid landscape of Gujarat, where water is scarce and rains scanty, stepwells sustained life and enabled crops to flourish. Women played a major role in the construction and patronage of many of these stepwells, which were unique structures that linked three worlds: the subterranean, the earthly and the celestial. Women also frequently served as inspiration for their construction — these were often built to honour a virtuous wife or benevolent mother, a local goddess or a beloved mistress. As a gathering place for women, the stepwells also became a favourite subject in folklore. Every stepwell yields tales of love and betrayal, courage and sacrifice. Through a historical analysis and visual documentation of these distinctly female spaces, Purnima Bhatt sheds light on the relationship between women, water, architecture and religion. Examining the artistic and aesthetic aspects of these structures, the author describes the art of the stepwells as looking beyond the patriarchal gods of classical Hinduism and celebrating the feminine principle. She also explores the idea of these wells acting as indicators of women’s changing social and economic status and challenging the stereotypes of the passivity of women. Her focus on ‘the woman factor’ aims to give voice to countless women who are forgotten and neglected by history, thereby making the invisible, visible.
Part memoir, part oral testimony, part eyewitness account, Binodini's The Maharaja's Household provides a unique and engrossingly intimate view of life in the erstwhile royal household of Manipur in northeast India. It brings to life stories of kingdoms long vanished, and is an important addition to the untold histories of the British Raj.
Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi, who wrote under the single name of Binodini, published The Maharaja's Household as a series of essays between 2002 and 2007 for an avid newspaper reading public in Manipur. Already celebrated across the state for her award-winning novel, short stories, and film scripts, Binodini entranced her readers anew with her stories of royal life, told from a woman's point of view and informed by a deep empathy for the common people in her father's gilded circle.
Elephan hunts, polo matches and Hindu temple performances form the backdrop for palace intrigues, colonial rule and White Rajahs. With gentle humour, piquant obersavations and heartfelt nostalgia, Binodini evokes a lifestyle and era that is now lost. Her book paints a portrait of the household of a king that only a princess - his daughter - could have written.
The first full-length autobiography in Bengali, Amar Jiban (My Life) was written in the early nineteenth century by an upper-caste rural housewife named Rashundari Debi. Published in 1868 when she was 88 years old, the book is a fascinating snapshot of life for women in the nineteenth century. Debi, who gave birth to eleven children—her first was born when she was 18-years-old, the last when she was forty-one—ruminates on her very individual understanding of bhakti as well as the new times that were unfolding around her.
Offering a translation of major sections of this remarkable autobiography, Words to Win is a portrait of a woman who wants to compose a life of her own, wishes to present it in the public sphere, and eventually accomplishes just that. The words, in the end, win out. First published in 1999, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in nineteenth-century Indian history. The classic text is reissued here in a new paperback format.
"Sarkar's dissection of the text - the autobiography of an upper-caste East Bengali widow from a family of landlords, who teaches herself to read and write in secrecy as it's a taboo to do so - yields a cracking yarn of social history." -- Pothik Ghosh, Outlook
Ever wondered how to keep your little angel from the negative influences of the world in this challenging time? How to help her grow into a rnresponsible, successful and happy adult you can be proud of? Does it sometimes feel that divine intervention is needed?
Help is at hand in this brilliant new book by the best-selling author, Mridula Agarwal.
In this outstanding book, Farishta flies down from heaven to see for himself how little kids are being brought up, and what is making Almighty so unhappy. What he discovers on his travels surprises and shocks him, but how familiar those scenes are to us! As he moves from home to home, he talks to kids and watches how their moms and dads behave around them. For a divine being, Farishta is thoroughly down-to-earth and the lessons we, as parents, learn through his eyes are invaluable.
The result is a simple, practical set of guiding principles that can help you as a parent understand how to help your child grow in the most positive and successful way possible.
Radhaben Garva lives in a small village in Kutch. She’s an artist who has for long years documented the rural women’s movement in her area and beyond in her paintings.
These unique pictures—more than 200 of them—tell stories of the involvement of women from her village, and from the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, the NGO she works with, in campaigns for women’s rights, for economic empowerment, for resistance to globalizing corporations.
In one sequence of pictures, Radhaben receives a phone call inviting her to a meeting abroad, and she paints the entire journey from village to town to airport to the international destination and her first ride in an elevator. In another, she depicts the Chipko movement, in a third, the fragmentation of fields and farming activity as a result of globalization.
This unusual and beautiful document provides that rare thing, a political perspective from below and a vibrant portrait of the rural women’s movement in India.
When Revathi’s powerful memoir, The Truth About Me, first appeared in 2011, it caused a sensation. Readers learned of Revathi’s childhood unease with her male body; her escape from her birth family to a house of hijras (the South Asian generic term for transgender people), and her eventual transition to being the woman she always she knew was. This new book charts her remarkable journey from relative obscurity to becoming India’s leading spokesperson for transgender rights and an inspiration to thousands.
Revathi describes her life, her work in the NGO Sangama, which works with people across a spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations, and how she rose from office assistant to director in the organization. Today she is an independent activist, theatre person, actor and writer, and works for the rights of transgender persons.
In the second part of the book, Revathi offers the reader insight into one of the least talked about experiences on the gender trajectory, that of being trans men. Calling several female-to-male trans persons her sons, Revathi puts before us their moving, passionate and sometimes tragic stories of marginalisation, courage, resistance and triumph.
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.
July 15, 2004, Imphal (Manipur): An amazing scene unfolds in front of Kangla Fort, the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, a unit of the Indian army. Soldiers and officers watch aghast as twelve women, all in their sixties and seventies, position themselves in front of the gates and then, one by one, strip themselves naked. The imas, the mothers of Manipur, are in a cold fury, protesting the custodial rape and murder, by the army, of Thangjam Manorama, a 32-year-old woman suspected of being a militant. The women hold aloft banners and shout, ‘Indian Army Rape Us’, ‘Take Our Flesh’. Never has this happened before: the army is appalled. Very soon, news of the protest goes viral. People around the country are shocked. Can this be possible? A naked protest in India by mothers?
In this unusual book, journalist Teresa Rehman tells the story of these twelve women, the momentous decision they took, and how they carried it out with precision and care. In doing so she connects the reader to the broader history of conflict-torn Manipur and the courage and resistance of its people, in particular its women.
This unique autobiography by veteran BBC and Associated Press journalist Sabita Goswami documents the extraordinary, single-handed fight of an ordinary woman in the heart of Assam, against family and social obstacles, to establish herself emotionally and professionally.
An unbiased and ruthless no-holds-barred account of turbulent contemporary Assam in particular and the Northeast in general, the book covers more than three decades of events in this volatile region and insightful analyses of its complex social and political history. The racy and strong narrative, recounted simply and with rare passion, makes this book a compelling read.
"Crafted with skill and full of lyrical prose, the best thing about this memoir is its honesty, as the author doesn't flinch from telling the truth." -- Abdullah Khan, Earthen Lamp Journal
A searing memoir of a political life that took the Telugu literary world by storm.
Well-known as the widow of Kondapalli Seetharamaiah (KS), founder of the Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh, Koteswaramma’s life spans a tumultuous century of the Independence movement, the Communist insurrection and the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh. A dedicated worker for the Communist Party, she went underground in the difficult years of the late forties, living a secret life, running from safe house to safe house. Throughout, it was the support and companionship of her husband, Seetharamaiah, that gave her strength. And then, everything changed when he deserted her.
Refusing to be cowed down, Koteswaramma rebuilt her life step by painful step. She educated herself, took up a job, raised her grandchildren, wrote poetry and prose and established herself as a thinking person in her own right. This moving memoir is a testimony of her courage and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, as well as her understanding of the frailties of human beings and political institutions. That women in India often face incredible suffering is known. That they can fight back and emerge winners is exemplified in Koteswaramma’s life.
Shardaben's autobiography, originally written in Gujarati and published in 1938, describes the life of an Indian woman at the turn of the twentieth century. She describes her childhood, and her innermost feelings and emotions. Despite considerable opposition from society, in 1902, Shardaben and her sister became the first women graduates in Gujarat. This marked the beginning of her lifelong commitment to the cause of women's education. Here, she documents both that and the political and social changes that were sweeping over India. For over half a century, she and her husband interacted and worked in close association with many important political leaders and literary figures of India.
Purnima Bhatt is a Professor of History, Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Hood College, U.S.A. Her publications include Scholar's Guide to Washington, D.C., African Studies and Sharadabehn Mehta: Una Mujer Exceptional en al India de su Tiempo.
Svati Joshi is Professor of English Literature at Miranda House College, Delhi University.
One of Hindi's best known writers, Prabha Khaitan spent much of her life as the 'second' woman in a long-term relationship with a married man. Born in a conservative Marwari family, she defied tradition and family expectations, insisting on living life as a single woman, setting up her own business and earning the respect of her peers and colleagues in the corporate world. Despite her yearning to be loved and cherished by the man to whom she gave her life, Prabha Khaitan lived life on her own terms.
With a frankness that is rare in the world of Hindi autobiographical writing by women, Prabha Khaitan here speaks of her feelings, her sense of discomfort and unease at not being the 'legitimate' woman, about what she gained and lost from a relationship that was generally frowned upon by society and how she fought to become her own woman. In doing so, she reflects on marriage, relationships, intimacy and distance, the professional and the personal, and the ways in which women are caught within these often conflicting forces.
"Prabha Khaitan's story of her life and times is possibly one of the most honest books I have ever read. Sometimes it cuts too close to the bone for middle class comfort, unsettling the safety net and entitlements of complacency and convenience. All her life, she swam upstream, defying convention, defying prejudice, questioning choices." -- Namita Gokhale
"One of the most arresting things about feminist writer and poet Prabha Khaitan's autobiography is its naked narrative and almost poetic vulnerability. Simply written, the narrative flows languorously."-- Prerna Kalbag, The Hindustan Times
For more than ten years now Irom Sharmila, a young woman from Manipur, has been on hunger strike, demanding the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, a draconian law that allows the army unfettered powers in areas that are considered politically sensitive or disturbed. Taken into custody and released every twelve months by the State for attempting suicide (considered illegal in India) Sharmila is being force fed to keep her alive. Her unique battle for peace in her strife torn homeland, has become a powerful symbol for all those engaged in fighting for peace in the northeast of India. As she fulfils her chosen role in this movement, Sharmila sometimes longs for all those things that young women treasure love, freedom, the sheer joy of living a free life, even simple things like being able to drink water, to brush her teeth. This small compilation of twelve of her poems in her native language Meiteilon and in English translation, provides a moving account of the underbelly of one woman's lone struggle for peace.
All proceeds from the sale of this book will go towards supporting Sharmila's campaign.
Best known as a young revolutionary who took up arms against the British establishment, Bina Das numbers among the heroes of Indian history - alongside Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Preetilata Wadedar - who took up arms against the colonisers.
This short memoir movingly recounts the story of her involvement in the shooting of the British Governor of Bengal, Stanley Jackson, at the Annual Convocation Meeting of Calcutta University in 1932, her subsequent incarceration, and her growing involvement in politics.
Despite her importance in Indian history, Bina Das disappeared from public view in later life and is rumoured to have passed away in Rishikesh in early 1997. This account captures the early years of her life and gives insights into the context and history of the times that inspired Bina to take the path that she chose.
With independence, India experienced a dramatic social rupture but also a recuperation of political autonomy and a new sense of optimism that promised opportunities. The country became a crucible for experimentation in modern and utopian architecture with new buildings, cities and museums giving public face to the nation. Indian architects and architectural projects claimed international attention, and a generation of women entered professions such as architecture and design that had previously been closed to them. They emerged as a pronounced political force, and important patrons of art, architecture and public space.
The mid-19th and 20th centuries saw a significant increase in women acting as arbiters of taste and shapers of the built environment. The emerging groups of female designers and female patrons were enabled by new norms for women.
The essays in this volume address these developments, posing the important question : did, and do, women produce art and architecture that reflect a feminine perspective ? How did women, otherwise invisible and denied attention in the public sphere, gain voice? The writers look at these questions through both the political frame of gender as well as through family lineage and dynastic connections, and their importance in women's patronage of the arts.
A many-layered work of historical reportage, Watercolours draws on the real life story of Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt (1923-2009), a Czech-American artist of Jewish ancestry, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, and whose story came to light in the late nineties. It was at this time that Gottliebova attempted once more to recover the art she had created in the concentration camp, and which had become the property of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The dispute escalated into an international scandal, with the American Department of State and the Polish government becoming involved.
Here, journalist Lidia Ostalowska reconstructs Gottliebova’s time in the camp, while looking also at broader issues of historical memory, trauma, racism and the relationship between the torturer and the victim. In Gottliebova’s case, SS Doctor Josef Mengele took a special interest in her talent, commissioning her to paint portraits (the watercolours of the title) of Roma prisoners. Mengle himself is one of the many characters in this narrative.
Ostalowska draws on hundreds of studies and accounts of the hell of the camps, and tells the story of one woman’s incarceration and her battle for survival, bringing in many other supporting lives. Before she worked for Mengele, Gottliebova had decorated the children’s barracks at Auschwitz with of the Disney film, Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. After the war, she worked as an animator for Warner Brothers and married Walt Disney animator Art Babbitt, the man behind many of the world’s best-known cartoon characters including Goofy and Dumbo. Gottlibova (under the name Dina Babbitt) lived in the California until her death in 2009 at the age of 86.
Vibrant, dynamic, spirited and forceful. The contemporary women's movement in India, which began in the late 1970s protested against the dark times, the violence and the misogyny. It also colourfully celebrated liberation, solidarity among women and breaking the shackles of patriarchy. It sang, performed and painted, to draw attention to the burning issues of the time: dowry death, widow immolation, acid throwing and rape.
Over the past three decades, the women's movement has matured and broadened to include a gamut of issues related to women's health, sexuality, the environment, literacy, the impact of religion and communalism on women's lives, political participation, labour rights, disability rights, class and caste issues, and many more. Indeed, feminism meant looking at the world through women's eyes.
This book constructs a pictorial history of the complex and multi-layered women's movement through its visual representation: posters, drawings, pamphlets, reports, brochures, stickers, all writing and photographs. The posters reproduced here are part of Zubaan's Poster Women project, which has attempted to locate and archive as many posters of the movement as possible to be able to visually map the women?s movement and its concerns.
The Poster Women archive can be accessed at www.posterwomen.org.
One of the grand ‘singing ladies’ who began their lives in the first quarter of the twentieth century, Malka Pukhraj was educated in Urdu, Persian, music and dance. These latter two became her life an she began her career as a court singer in the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, going on to become an independent performer, whose voice and words are now familiar to millions in the subcontinent.
In this remarkable, witty and candid account, Malka Pukhraj recalls her rich and eventful life, ‘My birth’, she begins, ‘was nothing short of a miracle’. Then, in her simple and inimitable style, she takes us through her childhood as a court singer, her absorption in her music, and her gradual understanding of the intrigues of court life. From singing and dancing, to acting, from childhood to adolescence and romance, and finally to marriage and family, the author brings the reader close to her sorrows and joys, her dilemmas and concerns, and ends with a moving and poignant account of the acceptance of old age, and all that it brings with it.
Saleem Kidwai is a historian who taught at Delhi University. He is co-editor, with Ruth Vanita, of Same Sex Love in India: Readings from Indian Literature and History.
“This must be one of the most gripping memoirs ever translated from an Indian language…Saleem Kidwai…has done a wonderful job of preserving the idiomatic vigour of the original, has skilfully edited Pukhraj’s account of her time in Lahore, which she wrote in one uninterrupted paragraph. …But it is the adventure of Pukhraj’s early days, with her masterly ability to recreate a lost world, that makes this book so memorable.” -- India Today
“…this remarkable saga is a vivid sub-continental document of interesting people in interesting times, the kind we no longer seem to have.” -- The Indian Express
A true-life ‘rags to riches’ story of the First Lady of Bengali Cinema. Kanan Devi, one of the early singing stars, came into the film world in the silent era and, unlike many others, survived the transition to talkies.
Reduced to working as a domestic help after the death of her father, her life took a dramatic turn when she was offered a film role and, encouraged by her uncle, took it.
In this lively and candid account of her experiences (originally published in 1973 as Shobarey Aami Nomi), Kanan Devi recalls the early days of cinema in Bengal, analysing and comparing conditions of film acting in the early 1930s with what she saw about two or three decades later when she herself was a producer and director, with her own film company, Shrimati Pictures.
This fascinating and unusual story offers not only a different perspective on the growth of the film industry in Bengal, but also a first-hand account of the position of women who came into the public sphere in the early decades of the last century.
"Gulabi Gang! Gulabi Gang!
Watch out, here we come!
Don't try and step out of line
for the Gulabi Gang will win!"
Donning pink saris and holding sticks in their hands, the Gulabi Gang is a threat to every policeman who refuses to file a report on violence against a dalit, every husband who beats up his wife, and every goon who grabs land that does not belong to him. In this recounted autobiographical account, Sampat Pal, the founder and leader of the Gulabi Gang, looks back to trace her journey as a young girl of twelve, forced into child marriage, who later goes on to become the leader of the most feared group of women vigilantes in the country. Her rebellious instinct, fervour for justice and her desire to free women from their everyday oppression led her to organize the women in and around her village in Uttar Pradesh into a gang.
Imelda Connor is a classic Irish lass—a fiery, red-headed beauty, quick to anger and fiercely protective of her younger siblings. Growing up on a small farm in the rolling hills of County Cork, she thinks she has her life completely mapped out. But Imelda soon finds that life doesn’t always go according to plan.
Everything is turned upside-down when Imelda moves to England and happens to meet a dashing Bengali man named Shu Bose. Shu is captivated by Imelda’s natural beauty and charm, and the two embark on a whirlwind romance. At the age of eighteen, in the spring of 1932, Imelda boards a ship bound for Calcutta—and a very different life to the one she had always imagined.
Milty Bose’s writing transports readers back to pre-Independence India, to London between the wars, and to the genteel life of bhadralok Bengali high society. From Cork to Calcutta tells the true story of Bose’s parents, their eccentric and unforgettable family, the trauma of loss, and the triumph of one woman’s remarkable spirit.
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