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From Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932), the writer of the feminist utopian fantasy ‘Sultana’s Dream’, come these tales of gumptious wit, describing the twists and turns of India’s two-hundred-year relationship with the imperial British.
Freedom Fables begins with the two eponymous fables, both compact in form but temporally vast. The first story ‘Muktiphal’ (translated in this volume as ‘The Freedom Tree’) traces the rise of and divisions within India’s Congress party. ‘Gyanphal’ or ‘The Tree of Knowledge’, the second fable, begins in the Garden of Eden and moves swiftly to an idealised Kanakadwipa where a trading company beguiles the prosperous country and proceeds to ruin it. Throughout both, the fantastic floats easily over mere facts. Adam and Eve, the Almighty, djinns, paris, demons, and Mayavi magicians: these classic characters play decisive, intriguing roles.
These major political satires are accompanied in this edition by six essays and two poems, which the intrepid Hossain wrote over a period of seventeen years. Interwoven through her writings are ideals that endure even today: education and emancipation for women, dignity for those living in the subcontinent, and freedom from colonial rule and influence.
“It was perhaps in the rancorous tumult of the breaking and making of nations that Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s word and vision was lost.”
— Rafia Zakaria, Dawn
“You can feel Hossain’s anger... and her scathing criticism of a system that allows what she saw as lazy, violent men to dominate while their gentler, wiser female counterparts are marginalized.”
— Tahmima Anam, NPR
"“Hossain slyly pointed out back in 1905 what is often discussed now, particularly in the subcontinent—why should women be taught to stay safe, when men are not taught to not threaten or abuse or rape or be a danger to women?”
— Mahvesh Murad, Tor.com
ROKEYA SAKHAWAT HOSSAIN was a feminist activist and writer, as well as a visionary campaigner for women’s education. Born in 1880 in Rangpur (in what is contemporary Bangladesh), Hossain—also known as Begum Rokeya—wrote prolifically on issues of women’s liberation and against British colonial rule over India. Her ‘Sultana’s Dream’, written in 1905, is arguably the first work of feminist science fiction from Asia. Hossain founded the Muslim Women’s Association in 1916 to fight for women’s education and employment. She remained fiercely engaged in feminist debates and conferences until her death in 1932.
KALYANI DUTTA is an award-winning translator. Her translations from Bengali to English form a part of The Essential Tagore, published by Harvard University Press in 2011. She is also the co-author of Women, Education, and Politics: The Women’s Movement and Delhi’s Indraprastha College which brings together her twin interests, women’s studies and education.
Twelve-year-old Sarojini’s best friend, Amir, might not be her best friend any more. Ever since Amir moved out of the slum and started going to a posh private school, it seems like he and Sarojini have nothing in common. Then Sarojini finds out about the Right to Education, a law that might help her get a free seat at Amir’s school – or, better yet, convince him to come back to a new and improved version of the government school they went to together. As she struggles to keep her best friend, Sarojini gets help from some unexpected characters, including Deepti, a feisty classmate who lives at a construction site; Vimala Madam, a human rights lawyer who might also be an evil genius; and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a long-dead freedom fighter who becomes Sarojini’s secret pen pal. Told through letters to Mrs. Naidu, this is the story of how Sarojini learns to fight – for her friendship, her family, and her future.
Funny, sensitively-told and easy to relate to, this novel is perfect for YA fans who want to see a strong, flawed, compassionate brown girl at the centre of the stories they read.
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (1903-1988) was a remarkable woman of many passions and gifts. She played an important role in the struggle for Indian independence and was similarly a key figure in the international socialist feminist movement. She was India’s ambassador to Asia and Africa, an articulate and unflinching exponent of the idea of decolonization, and one of the earliest advocates of the idea of the global South. A staunch champion of women’s rights, she held views on women’s equality that continue to resonate in our times.
Greatly disheartened by the partition of India in 1947, Kamaladevi became involved in the resettlement of refugees and appeared to withdraw from political life. Indeed, the Kamaladevi that most Indians are familiar with is a figure who, above all, revived Indian handicrafts, became the country’s most well-known expert on carpets, puppets and its thousands of craft traditions, and nurtured the greater majority of the country’s national institutions charged with the promotion of dance, drama, art, theatre, music and puppetry. Throughout her life, however, she upheld with all the intellectual vigour and emotional force at her command the idea of the dignity of every human life.
Kamaladevi wrote voluminously and her sojourns took her all over the world. She travelled in China during World War II, lectured in Japan, visited Native American pueblos in New Mexico, and forged links with working women and anti-colonial activists in countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. Sadly, most of her writings have long been out of print. The editors of this comprehensive anthology, which is the first serious scholarly attempt to grapple with Kamaladevi’s life and body of work, have sought to represent the wide range of her interests. The extensive selections, comprised largely of journal articles and excerpts from Kamaladevi’s books, are accompanied by a set of original essays by contemporary Indian and American scholars which analyse and contextualize her life and work. This volume should provide the resources for further examination and appreciation of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s unusual gifts and her place in modern Indian and world history.
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.
PLEASE NOTE: This copy is discounted at 70% and is in saleable but not pristine condition. It may show signs of age or wear.
This collection of essays focuses on the post-1980s period of the Indian feminist movement, a moment rich in new and different modes of resistance, of widespread political engagements with issues of rights, of justice, of identity and much more. The writers here, all well-known activists and founders of some of the most important of feminist institutions, describe their individual and collective journeys, bringing attention to the movement, to their struggles, their campaigns, their victories and the challenges they have faced. In using the tools of feminist analysis – a focus on life stories, on oral accounts, on group formation and more – they also make a case for advocacy through legal and socio-political means.
Despite being one of the most dynamic of feminist movements in the world, the Indian feminist movement has seldom been recognized as such. And yet, in addressing how women’s oppression and discrimination lie at the intersection of complex inequalities of caste, of region and religion, of class, of patriarchy, race, ethnicity, to name only a few, the writers in this volume make a case for the need for constant introspection, reflection and self-questioning, so that the movement can learn and grow. They show how in India, and indeed across much of South Asia, it is feminists who have stood against capitalism, war and violence, environmental degradation and fundamentalism and have forged alliances with varied movements, learning from them, working strengthening them but also infusing them with a feminist analysis.
CONTRIBUTORS: Flavia Agnes | Abha Bhaiya | Anjali Dave | Padma Deosthali | V. Geetha | Poonam Kathuria | Corinne Kumar | Kanchan Mathur | Madhu Mehra | Yashoda Pradhan | Sangeeta Rege | Jaya Sharma | Taranga Sriraman | Suneeta Thakur | Saumya Uma
Poonam Kathuria is the founder and executive secretary of SWATI (Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative).
Abha Bhaiya is one of the founder members of Jagori, a feminist organization set up in 1984 in Delhi.
Both are activists with a longstanding involvement in the women’s movement in India.