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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.
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.
On Feb 6th 2003, Anjum Zamarud Habib, a young woman political activist from Kashmir, was arrested in Delhi and jailed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). Her crime? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And being the Chairperson of the Muslim Khawateen Markaz and in that capacity, a member of the Hurriyat Conference.
In this passionate and moving account of her days in prison, Anjum Zamarud Habib describes the shock and bewilderment of arrest, the pain of realizing that there is no escape for not days, not weeks, but years, the desperation for contact with the outside world and the sense of deep betrayal at being abandoned by her political comrades. Her story is both a searing indictment of draconian state policies and expedient political practices, and a moving account of one woman's extraordinary life.
"Prisoner No 100 illuminates the darkest corners of Kashmir's political experience. A brilliant critique of patriarchy in politics, a searing tale of the terrible humiliations visited upon political prisoners, a poignant story of a woman who dedicated her life to political change in Kashmir, a passionate love letter to Kashmir. Everyone interested in Kashmir should read it." -- Basharat Peer, author of Curfewed Nights
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.
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.
From the heart of a well-known family of Hyderabad to life in a single room with the barest of necessities, Shaukat Kaifi's memoir of her life with the renowned poet Kaifi Azmi speaks of love and commitment. A marriage of over a half a century, a life steeped in poetry and progressive politics, continuing involvement with the Indian People's Theatre Association, the Progressive Writers Association, Prithvi Theatre... all of these and more inform this beautifully told tale of love. Shaukat Kaifi's writing details life in a communist commune, a long career in theatre and film and a life spent bringing up her two children, cinematographer Baba Azmi and actor Shabana Azmi. Nasreen Rehman's deft and fluent translation brings this luminous memoir alive with warmth and empathy. "To say that this is a lovely book would be an understatement. It is an enchanting recollection of the life of a hugely talented and sensitive human being, shared with a great poet." -- Amartya Sen.
This story of extraordinary courage and survival is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
This is the story of Baby Halder, a young woman working as a domestic in a home in Delhi. Hurriedly married off at the age of twelve, a mother by the time she was fourteen, Baby writes movingly and evocatively of her life as a young girl, and later as a young woman. The long absences of her father, the hardships faced by her mother, and her decision to walk out of her marriage, leaving Baby and her sister to manage the household, were the realities that shaped Baby's early life.When marriage came, Baby, still a child, yearned to play and study, but was burdened with the responsibility of being wife and mother while facing considerable violence from her husband. Escape finally came many years later, by which time the still young Baby was a mother of three, and she fled to the city in the hope of finding a job. Working in Delhi as a domestic help, Baby was lucky enough to come across an employer who encouraged her to read -- which she did voraciously -- and then to write. The story of Baby's life is a lesson in courage and survival.
Since it was first published in Hindi, this book has become a bestseller, receiving accolades from some of the best-known writers and critics in India and elsewhere. It has also been translated into other Indian languages.
Baby Halder is a writer and a domestic worker who lives and works in a home near Delhi. She is now working on her second book.
Urvashi Butalia is a publisher and writer whose work includes the award-winning oral history of Partition, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India.
Incisive, eclectic and politically engaged, Seeing like a Feminist is a bold and wide-ranging book that reorders contemporary society.
For Nivedita Menon, feminism is not about a moment of final triumph over patriarchy but about the gradual transformation of the social field so decisively that old markers shift forever. From sexual harassment charges against international figures to the challenge that caste politics poses to feminism, from the ban on the veil in France to the attempt to impose skirts on international women badminton players, from queer politics to domestic servants' unions to the Pink Chaddi campaign, Menon deftly illustrates how feminism complicates the field irrevocably.
"Wonderfully engaging and perfectly lucid."" - Tanika Sarkar
Feminist artists have always been bold, original and outspoken, and The Elephant in the Room honours this legacy by offering up a delightfully thought-provoking, myth-busting visual feast. Across its pages, sixteen comic artists from India and Germany explore how women see the world and themselves, taking apart and repurposing ideas of identity, power and love; sex, family, and bodies.
Confronting the elephant with humour and passion, these graphic artists insistently draw the awkward and the difficult. As feminist art has always done, this book reminds us that the personal is the political. Exploring taboos, exploding myths, raising awkward questions and posing visionary answers, each story shines a light on the 'elephant in the room'–what does it mean to be a woman?
India is changing.
At the heart of the change are its women.
The change is widespread and varied, individual and collective and is reflected across the spectrum of women’s lives, whether in politics or in economics, in their daily lives, in business, or the field of work within the home and outside.
This book attempts to map – in words and photographs – some of the change that is both visible and invisible in the India of today. Six writers from India write the stories that six photographers from the world-renowned Magnum
Photos Agency capture. Their beautiful and evocative photographs focus on the world of women working with microcredit, participating in grassroots governance, moving into new jobs, working behind the scenes in the male world of the Mumbai film industry, making their individual contributions in varied fields and imagining a new future for themselves and their sisters.
Published to celebrate 150 years of BNP Paribas in India and to mark the 25th anniversary of the feminist publishing house, Kali for Women/Zubaan,
Women Changing India offers a window into the lives of women living in India today and brings to public attention their complex realities and their aspirations for a better world.
Hansa Wadkar (born Ratan Bhalchandra) was one of Maharashtra's best known stage and screen personalities. By the time she was married to a much older family friend and impressario when she was just 15 she had already starred in nine or ten movies and was becoming a name in the film world. Supporting her family on her earnings, her brother sick with malaria, and both parents having taken to drink, life was not easy for the young woman. But Hansa was not only beautiful and immensely talented, she was tough, willful, capricious and headstrong.
Her autobiography, published in 1970, created a sensation for its frankness and directness.
It was later made into a film, Bhumika, by the well-known director Shyam Benegal and starred Smita Patil in the title role
This magnificent, sprawling novel, a classic of Hindi literature, spans almost an entire century in the lives of several families and generations of Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims. As it opens, Lalli, in her seventh month of pregnancy, is preparing to leave for her married home for the traditional curd ceremony. The constellation of planets is right and the moment is auspicious; it must not be lost. But even as her family prepares for her departure, there is fear in their hearts: storm clouds darken the sky and there is news of political disturbances in the city. Between them, the midwife, Khurshid, and Rehman, the tongawalla, ensure that Lalli is safely brought to her destination, and even that the pots of curd are undisturbed.
As the story unfolds, the ties between Kashmir’s close-knit communities slowly begin to unravel. The politics of religion, and religious identity, take centre stage and begin to spread their insidious poison in people’s lives. At the end of the novel Lalli, now a grandmother, sees a world in which the much-loved Kashmiriyat, a shared and intermeshed heritage, seems little more than a distant memory. A passionate cry for a lost legacy, Chandrakanta’s magnum opus, winner of both the prestigious Vyas Samman and the Mahatma Gandhi Sahitya Samman, is a must-read for those interested in the story and history of Kashmir.
CHANDRAKANTA is one of India’s foremost Hindi writers, with over 50 books to her credit. Her work has been translated into many languages. The English translation of her novel, Ailan Gali Zinda Hai (A Street in Srinagar) was published by Zubaan and shortlisted for the DSC award for literature in 2011. Among Chandrakanta’s many other awards are the prestigious Vyas Samman (2005) and the Mahatama Gandhi Sahitya Samman (2011) as well as the Subramanya Bharathi award.
RANJANA KAUL teaches literature at the University of Delhi and translates from Hindi to English when she can find the time.
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.
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.
The constructed “naturalness” of a world made up of two sexes, two genders, and heterosexual desire as the only legitimate desire has been continuously questioned and challenged by those marginalised by these norms. This forces us to ask some important questions: How is gender really understood and constructed in the world that we inhabit? How does it operate through the various socio-political-cultural structures around us? And, most crucially, how is it lived?
No Outlaws in the Gender Galaxy answers these questions with a research study that attempts to understand gender through the lives of queer persons assigned gender female at birth. The lived realities of the respondents, echoing in the book through their voices, help to interrogate gender as well as provide clues to how it can be envisioned or revisioned to be egalitarian.
This book explores how gender plays out in public and private institutions like the family, educational institutions, work and public spaces. Looking at each of these independently, it elaborates the specific ways in which binary gender norms are woven into each arena and it also explores the multiple ways in which interlocking systems of heteronormativity, casteism, class and ableism are enmeshed within patriarchy to create exclusion, marginalisation, pathologisation and violence. This book illustrates the multiplicity of ways in which people live gender and testifies that even if there are gender laws, in a just world there can be no gender outlaws.
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.
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
Many consider the autobiography to be a Western genre that represents the self as fully autonomous. The contributors to Speaking of the Self challenge this presumption by examining a wide range of women’s autobiographical writing from South Asia. Expanding the definition of what kinds of writing can be considered autobiographical, the contributors analyze everything from poetry, songs, mystical experiences and diaries, to prose, fiction, architecture and religious treatises. The authors they study are just as diverse: a Mughal princess, an eighteenth-century courtesan from Hyderabad, a nineteenth-century Muslim prostitute in Punjab, a housewife in colonial Bengal, a Muslim Gandhian devotee of Krishna, several female Indian and Pakistani novelists and two male actors who worked as female impersonators. The contributors find that in these autobiographies the authors construct their gendered selves in relational terms. Throughout, they show how autobiographical writing - in whatever form it takes - provides the means towards more fully understanding the historical, social and cultural milieu in which the author performs herself and creates her subjectivity.
Toilets, trees and gender? Can there be a connection?
Is there a gender angle to a business story? Is gender in politics only about how many women get elected to parliament? Is osteoporosis a women's disease? Why do more women die in natural disasters?
These are not the questions journalists usually ask when they set out to do their jobs as reporters, sub-editors, photographers of editors. Yet, by not asking, are they missing out on something, perhaps half the story? This is the question this book, edited and written by journalists, for journalists and the lay public interested in media, raises. Through examples from the media, and from their own experience, the contributors explain the concept of gender-sensitive journalism and look at a series of subjects that journalists have to cover - sexual assault, environment, development, business, politics, health, disasters, conflict - and set out a simple way of integrating a gendered lens into day-to-day journalism. Written in a non-academic, accessible style, this book is possibly the first of its kind in India - one that attempts to inject a gender perspective into journalism.
In Queer Activism in India, Naisargi N. Dave examines the formation of lesbian communities in India from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Based on ethnographic research conducted with activist organizations in Delhi, a body of letters written by lesbian women, and research with lesbian communities and queer activist groups across the country, Dave studies the everyday practices that constitute queer activism in India.
Dave argues that activism is an ethical practice comprising critique, inven- tion, and relational practice. She investigates the relationship between the ethics of activism and the existing social norms and conditions from which activism emerges. Through her analysis of different networks and institutions, Dave documents how activism oscillates between the potential for new social arrangements and the questions that arise once the activists’ goals have been achieved. Queer Activism in India addresses a relevant and timely phenomenon and makes an important contribution to the anthropology of queer communi- ties, social movements, affect, and ethics.
“The exciting aspect of this book is how Dave draws on the everyday practices of queer activism, in particular lesbian activism in India, to expose the deeply considered and ethical positions that they take. . . . Dave’s book marks a significant contribution to the archive of queer scholarship generally, but more importantly to making visible a postcolonial perspective in this scholarship.” — Ratna Kapur, Journal of Anthropological Research
“A beautifully written ethnography, offering a passionately detailed ethnographic perspective on queer politics, feminism, and social movements in India.” — Kamala Visweswaran, author of Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference
“Dave’s book, with its anecdotes, observations, and rich endnotes, will no doubt add to our understanding of urban lesbian activism while compelling us to reflect about methods and ethics in the age of “affect.”” — Shohini Ghosh, Journal of Asian Studies
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.
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