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In Other Words brings you 14 of the most innovative and adventurous contemporary Indian women writers. The stories in this collection are remarkable not only for this richness of subject and style, but also for the confidence and poise of their writing. All the authors, except two, belong to the post-Independence generation. Their preoccupations range from an observation of the past through the lives of their ancestresses, to that of the present, sparkling, but exquisitely poignant vignette of growing up urban in the 80's. For some, fiction writing- and the short story in particular- is relatively new; each writer approaches the language in which she has chosen to write-English-and the art and craft of fiction writing, with a confidence and panache that is hard to match.
In 2008, when the Azad Foundation, an NGO based in Delhi, began training poor women to become drivers of commercial and private vehicles, most people thought they were somewhat out of touch with reality. Poor, illiterate women, many of them from violent homes, some of them single mothers, others from families and communities which had never allowed women to step out of the home – how could these women take the wheel, drive around in unsafe cities, be confident and competent, earn money? At the time, there was only one known woman auto driver in Delhi. When Azad turned to radio cab companies to suggest they take in women drivers, there wasn’t much interest. Today, more than 300 women drivers have received training from Azad and are on the roads of several cities. Nine years after radio companies turned Azad away, special services or women with women drivers are being introduced within these same companies. In 2015, the Delhi Transport Corporation got its first woman driver, and in 2016, the Delhi Commission for Women recruited 25 women drivers to be part of their women’s helpline. Clearly, things are changing.
Lady Driver maps the journeys of twelve women from poor, marginalized communities who have transformed their lives by taking up the challenge of becoming women drivers. Each story is unique; there’s no Cinderella effect here. Reality does not change overnight. Instead, as the women featured here painstakingly claim a relationship with the road, it translates into claims for identity, for dignity, for a livelihood. Their stories are about beginnings, but have no endings – there is still quite a way to drive. OR – there are many kilometres to drive yet.
At twenty-one, Deen is dismayed by the poverty around him and trapped in negativity. Alienated from family and society, heroin is his drug of choice.
Deen and his partner in crime, AJ, ride high on acid and amphetamines, philosophize in the university canteen, party in a politician’s posh pad and contemplate God at a roadside tea stall. From Maria, a chemically imbalanced diva, to a rickshaw-walla who reflects on the importance of positive energy, to a group of fakirs who sing about love, and a detective who has his own take on addiction, the characters in Shazia Omar’s debut novel crackle with life.
They represent the despair, hopes and aspirations of a generation struggling to survive in the harsh realities of life in modern Dhaka. Hard-hitting and intensely moving, this is an extraordinary novel, and one that is destined to launch Omar as a major contemporary voice from South Asia.
"Shazia Omar's energetic debut novel heralds a new voice in Bangaldeshi fiction. Located in the urban chaos of Dhaka city, Like a Diamond in the Sky shines a light on the crime, drug addiction, love, and loneliness at the heart of the modern metropolis."- TAHMIMA ANAM, author of A Golden Age
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.
This simple, charming picture book introduces youngsters to the importance of taking care of their own bodies. From simple tips on hygiene to an empowering message of personal safety, Shruti Singhal’s visuals and text provide perfect reading material for talking about health, safety, emotional and physical well-being with very young children.
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.
Author-artist Manjula Padmanabhan returns with ten stories: five new, five old, some dark, some funny, all edgy.
A vampire visits New Delhi, a space traveller returns to her ancestral home, a character from an ancient epic is transported into the future... To each story Padmanabhan brings an unexpected twist, a touch of satire, a whiff of cynicism, a delicious undercurrent of dark humour.
Drawing on her earlier, highly acclaimed anthology, Hot Death Cold Soup, and adding new stories to it, Padmanabhan presents a potent and sometimes disturbing collection that will leave readers asking for more.
"She revels in the macabre, pushes the envelope on the extreme... Her stories and plays work so masterfully on so many levels?as twist-in-the-tale page-turners, as on-the-edge adventures, as miniature theatres of the absurd that the reader's imagination plays almost as singular a part in them as the writer's." -- Sumana Mukherjee, The Hindu
"The best thing about these stories is their momentum, their narrative drive. You keep turning the pages and there is always a pay-off at the end.... Hot Death, Cold Soup not only stays afloat, it fairly zips along, it flies." -- Mukul Kesavan, Outlook
"Padmanabhan is aware of the fact that a story can grab a reader with the use of humour. But the hooks sink in when even the farfetched sounds plausible?That is her real strength ? to make the reader feel comfortable, and still keep him guessing." -- Arun Katiyar, India Today
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 which an uncast ballot precipitates social embarrassment and recalls a past love, a young housewife finds her kitchen plagued by unabashed canoodling in the flat next door, an aspiring novelist tries to forget near-manslaughter, a schoolgirl discovers the travails of depilation, and, in a locked room, two medieval noblewomen recount the amorous avowals of a young soldier.
There’s also the small matter of a dead camel lying unattended on the streets of Delhi.
These twelve stories explore the unsaid, the unfinished and the misunderstood, the shocks and nuances of love and sexuality, responsibility and ambition, and our tentative attempts to peel away the layers of stories that make up our lives.
“Beautifully precise writing. These stories capture people with such exactitude that you know they must come from a serious student of life. But this is one of those serious books at which you never stop laughing, for Parvati Sharma’s sense of the world is lively, generous and wickedly original.”
— Rana Dasgupta, author of Solo
"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.
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.
Who is the 'Good Indian Girl?' What does she look like? How does she dress? Is she real -- or is she a myth? In this funny, wicked, touching, irreverent, poignant collection of stories, Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra lift the veil (or sari pallu) on the lives and loves of girls who have been born or raised in the subcontinent. The niceties have to be observed, but the urge to subvert is often overwhelming. As they shimmy down drainpipes at midnight, or steal covert glances at the boys across the street, the real life incidents from which these stories are drawn will ring a bell with any woman who has negotiated the minefield of family love and romantic longing and desire that lies between childhood and womanhood.
A woman haunted by the wind. A land where ghosts speak for the voiceless. A washer of the dead who begins to hear them speak...These are the stories of the unquiet. Women whisper through this collection. They voice their loves, lives, fears and yearnings. To label this collection as 'ghost stories' or 'feminist stories' is to miss the nuances and range of female experience. As ghost stories they make you look uneasily over your shoulder, as female narrative they stun you with the power of their keen insight. Whimsical, terrifying and compelling, these powerful and haunting tales about our commonplace fears and tragedies provide a scathing commentary on the lives of women in India and are universal in their appeal.
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.
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.
Sheba Chhachhi's piece offers an alternative to the visual landscape of Kashmir which, in the popular imagination of people today, is occupied by the ravages of war and countless martyred men. By placing itself as an invitation into a private space that is rarely, if ever, breached by dominant media discourses, this photo-essay highlights the absences in the pictures of carnage that are used to fuel propaganda on both sides of the conflict.
The piece – comprising of a critical essay and a series of personal testimonies which are interspersed with photographs – seeks to bring human figures back into the landscape and give voice 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.
The photographs are extracted from 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.
Please note that the photographs contained in this essay have been directly scanned from the printed book due to the non-availability of the originals.
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.
Rabia is growing up in a conservative community in southern India. One day, she
and her friends sneak off to the pictures. Caught on her return home, Rabia gets a beating from her mother, Zohra, who cries as she beats her daughter into submission. Firdaus is beautiful and of marriageable age. A groom is found for her, a wealthy man who lives abroad. On her wedding night, she takes one look at him and says, 'I’m not going to live with you, don’t touch me!’ Inside their male dominated world, Rabia,
Zohra, Firdaus, and many others make their small rebellions and compromises, friendships are made and broken, families come together and fall apart, and almost imperceptibly change creeps in. Salma’s beautiful, evocative, poetic novel recreates the sometimes suffocating, and sometimes heartbreaking world of Muslim women in southern India. The Hour Past Midnight is translated into English by Lakshmi Holmstrom.
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
Narrated in the intimate anger of a young woman's journal-keeping voice, this novel explores the politics of sex and class through the lives of women compelled to live their lives in the seclusion of the inner courtyard or aangan. Set in the thirties India, Inner Courtyard is the story of a dystopic home where the battles of the world are played out. Based on the interiority of women's lives it explores realpolitik through the personal and political affiliations of one family.
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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