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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
A thick mist envelopes an isolated house and a cottage atop a hill. Raseel, looking out from the verandah of the house, watches the mist as it covers first the plants, then the trees and finally the house. Suddenly it parts, and three men come into view, furtive, quick. Then they're gone. Minutes later, Raseel hears the sound of shots. Then there is silence.
The reader is pulled into Bijoya Sawian's tense and dramatic story of the strange death of a dkhar, an outsider, in the beautiful hill town of Shillong in northeastern India. Why was he killed? Who are the killers? Are they known to the housekeeper and driver? As she begins to unravel this mystery, Raseel finds herself caught in a tale of intrigue and violence that mirrors the world of insurgency around her. In lyrical, haunting prose, Bijoya Sawian paints a dark, threatening picture and shows how violence has tainted the very fabric of everyday life in a place that was once peaceful, untroubled and calm.
East is East and West is West, but the twain meet with a crash in Gurgaon - the epicentre of the outsourcing revolution in India, where thousands of the country's youth live with their bodyclocks set to US time zones and their cultural antennae pointing west. Into this maelstrom walk three very different young women:
Ayra, the golden girl: with a high profile job and a fancy title, everything seems to be going her way, until she finds herself at the helm of what could be the worst disaster of her career,
Shivaa, the perfect housewife turned desperate career woman who has to fight life, marriage and her irrational new boss to make sense of her existence, and
Sara, the shy college graduate turned spunky office-goer, who is willing to risk it all rather than be pushed into an early marriage by her anxious parents.
Debut author, Shruti Saxena weaves a very modern fairytale of professional jealousy and ruthless manipulation, heroic victories and egoistic cowardice, unfulfilled dreams and desires and raw, unadulterated ambition as seen though the eyes of these three extraordinary woman and the men who love them.
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
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 volume documents the focus on the widow, regarded as the dark half of womankind in tradition, the structural counterpart of the sumangali or the auspicious married woman, and to provide an archive on widowhood. The archive comprises prescriptions, injunctions, laws and other accounts dating back to the 5th century BC from Sanskrit texts as well as extracts from official documents, pamphlets and essays in many languages, published in the 19th and 20th centuries. The material is arranged in three parts: documents, personal narratives and creative writing in an attempt to capture the complexities of the experience of widowhood, its diversity and range across India. With the emergence of the women's movement in the last quarter of the 20th century, the terms of analysis have changed and feminist inspired scholarship has raised new questions. In the anthology the widow comes across not just as a passive 'pitiable' object, oppressed, victimised and patronised but as an active resisting survivor - it is this last image that stays with the reader.
In the mid-nineties, Birjees Dawar Ali returns to Pakistan to seek out a history left unfinished long ago, a history from which, nursing heartbreak and betrayal, she had once earlier fled, back to her home in partitioned India. Will she find the family that so generously gave her succour, the home that became her own, the people who gave her unquestioning love? Or, will all these certainties have fled with the march of history? A deeply moving narrative of love and loss, All Passion Spent focuses on the unresolved question of the 1947 Partition of India and the emergence of India and Pakistan as two separate countries. Zaheda Hina's richly layered narrative brought alive in this lyrical and poetic translation by Neelam Hussain, touches on the many unanswered questions that surround this painful history: the profound sense of grief and displacement, the lives sundered midstream, the lost friendships and the quest for new roots and lands under different skies.
This is the memoir of a remarkable woman, Begum Kurshid Mirza, the daughter of Sheikh Abdullah and Waheed Jahan Begu, the founders of Aligarh Women's College. An intimate of an upper class Muslim family in India and Pakistan from until the recent past, this narrative is much more than an account of Kurshid Mirza's personal life. It spans the years from 1857 to 1983 and provides an insight into the the social conditions of Indian Muslims, the state of Muslim women's education, and the transition to Pakistan, while illuminating Kurshid Mirza's rich and tried life as an actor, activist, radio and TV artiste, a writer, a devoted daughter, wife and mother. Kurshid Mirza's vitality and dynamism, her pioneering spirit and unconventionally led her to leave the cloistered world of Aligarh after an early marriage to a police officer and then pursue a career in films in Bombay. She rapidly climbed the ladder to sardom as Renuka Devi and worked alongside well-known actors and directors of the time. Partition cut short her film career and she left for the new country Pakistan, where she remained deeply engaged as ever and contributed to many worthy causes, especially for the benefit of the women. The coming of Pakistan to gave her a fresh opportunity to express her theatrical talents and she soon became one of Pakistan's best known television actors winning many award in 1985. A true Woman of Substance.
Each story in this anthology testifies to women's many concerns, whether with a way of life, or with being caught inside the four walls of the home, or in a relationship with someone other than the husband, or being caught at the intersection of many forces within a situation of political violence and armed conflict. In one way or another the woman's body becomes a site upon which many battles take place: for control, for power, for progeny, but there is seldom a resolution in which the women remain a mere victim, or more acted upon the acting. Whether she is in the palaces of the gods, or caught in the body of snake, or speaking through the spirit of the countryside which witnessed her rape, the woman's voice is unique, singular and in each story, different. While this gives substance to the cliche that India is a country where many and varied realities exist simultaneously, it gives the lie to the cliche that all women speak with a sameness and a commonality of experience.
Contributors: Vandana Singh, Indira Goswami, Temsula Ao, Mridula Garg, Shama Futehally, Shashi Deshpande, Nayantara Sehgal, Mahasweta Devi, Anjana Appachana, Manjula Padmanabhan, C.S. Lakshmi (Ambai), Bulbul Sharma, Anita Agnihotri, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Githa Hariharan, Chandrika B.
Urvashi Butalia is a publisher and writer. Co-founder of Kali for Women, India's best-known feminist publisher, and now Director of Zubaan, she is also author of the award winning oral history of Partition, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. Her other publications include Women and the Hindu Right (co-edited with Tanika Sarkar) and Speaking Peace: Women's Voices from Kashmir (edited).
When nine-year-old Ayman arrives in Hyderabad in the early 1950s to come and live at the Hussaini Alam House, she little realizes that the house, and its many inmates, will come to haunt her life and shape her destiny as she grows to become a woman. The house is ruled over by her grandfather, a dignified despot, whom everyone but Ayman, her mother and sister, call 'Sarkar' (master). Her mother, 'the eternal rebel,' is irreverent, progressive and a communist: a bomb waiting to explode. Ayman herself alternates between being the 'ugly duckling' of the house and its little princess. Huma Kidwai's sensitive and vivid portraits of the characters who teem around the House, offer a window into the customs and mores of a traditional Hyderabadi Muslim family. Narrated by the 40-year-old Ayman as she recalls the events of her past, The Hussaini Alam House is an elegy to a vanished way of life, a lovesong to the people she has loved and lost, and a psychologically nuanced portrait of the women of the household as they tread a fine line between society's expectations and their own yearning for freedom.
Four musicians: a bright, young, aspiring student, two highly respected gurus married to each other, and a globe-trotting star, each deeply immersed in the tradition of Hindustani shastriya sangeet. Their lives intersect in the small mofussil town of Tamulbari on the banks of the Brahmaputra.
Against the backdrop of a magnificent musical heritage and the haunting and timeless ragas that sweep through the pages of this wonderfully evocative novel, Mitra Phukan presents the ambitious sitarist Kaushik Kashyap, already a 'name,' who tours the world with his beautiful Italian student, Nomita, the shy, small-town vocalist, whom Kaushik's parents have chosen for him, Nomita's Guruma, the beautiful, calm Sandhya Senapati, and her husband, the handsome Tridib Barua, who seem to be hiding deep, dark secrets, and Guruma's friendship with the well-known industrialist Deepak Rathod.
As the eventful monsoon months give way to autumn, the characters come to a deeper understanding of themselves even as their lives change dramatically and forever. By turns serious, deeply moving and utterly irreverent, Mitra Phukan's eye for detail, her immense knowledge of Hindustani classical music and her profound understanding of human nature come together in this remarkable novel.
December 2012: Tens of thousands of people – women, men, families, young, old, rich, poor – come out onto the streets of towns and cities in India to protest the brutal gang rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi. For days and months, the protests refuse to die down. People demand change, action, commitment to the ideals of democracy and egalitarianism. And they refuse to be silenced.
Soon, a new law is put in place. More and more people start to report incidents of sexual assault. New conversations, new debates begin: is violence increasing? Are we seeing more of it? Was it previously invisible?
In this bold and brilliant collection of visual stories, fourteen young women respond to the activism and debates on the ground; they negotiate anger, fear, hope, resistance. Created in a week-long workshop, these stories talk to each other as they powerfully describe the fierce determination of the writers/artists to continue the battle for change.
A Dalit, a Buddhist and a feminist: Urmila Pawar's self-definition as all three identities informs her stories about women who are brave in the face of caste oppression, strong in the face of family pressures, defiant when at the receiving end of insult, and determined when guarding their interests and those of their sisters. Using the classic short story form with its surprise endings to great effect, Pawar brings to life strong and clever women who drive the reader to laughter, anger, tears or despair. Her harsh, sometimes vulgar and hard- hitting language subverts another stereotype - that of the soft-spoken woman writer. Pawar's protagonists may not always be Dalit, and the mood not always one of anger, but caste is never far from the context and informs the subtext of each story. As critic Eleanor Zelliot notes, there is 'tucked in every story, a note about a Buddhist vihara or Dr Ambedkar.... All her stories come from the Dalit world, revealing the great variety of Dalit life now.'
"The book gives a wide range of material on one of the important struggles of feminism in India." -- Gail Omvedt, The Hindu
Winner of the Hindu Prize for Fiction, 2015.
A lone hunter, Vilie, sets out to find the river of his dreams: to wrest from its sleeping waters a stone that will give him untold power. It is a dangerous quest, for not only must he overcome unquiet spirits, vengeful sorceresses and daemons of the forest, there are men – armed with guns – on his trail. Easterine Kire’s novel transports the reader to the remote mountains of Nagaland, a place alive with natural wonder and supernatural enchantment. As Vilie treks through the forest on the trail of his dream, we are also swept along in this powerful narrative and walk alongside him in a world where the spirits are every bit as real as men and women, and where danger – or salvation – lies at every turn. Kire’s powerful narrative invites us into the lives and hearts of the people of Nagaland: the rituals and beliefs, their reverence for the land, their close-knit communities – the rhythms of a life lived in harmony with their natural surroundings. It is against this spellbinding backdrop that Kire tells the story of a solitary man driven by the mysterious pull of a dream, who must overcome weretigers and malignant widow-spirits in the search for his heart’s desire.
“...reminiscent of Marquez’s magic realism and Leslie Silko’s Native-American story-telling. At the end, though, this is a Naga story, unmistakably so, in its sense of place, time, and oral traditions.”
Paulus Pimomo, Central Washington University, USA
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.
This book brings you a wealth of stories, in words and images, from a part of India known as the Northeast, a term that is widely contested for the ways in which it homogenizes a region of great diversity. It is also a term that has come to be a marker of identity and solidarity by many who are of the region. Here, 21 writers and artists look at the idea of ‘work’ — from street hawking to beer brewing, from mothering to dung collection — and describe their lives or those of others with humour and compassion. Parismita Singh’s wonderful compilation of the works of women asks: what are the different ways of telling a story? What if we were to attempt these tellings through poetry and portraits and essays, older traditions like textile art and applique and new genres like hashtag poetry tapped into a smartphone? Where would it take us, what would the world look like?
Contributors: Zubeni Lotha | Minam Apang | Alyen Leeachum Foning | Aheli Moitra | Soibam Haripriya | Gertrude Lamare | Rini Barman | Nitoo Das | Thingnam Anjulika Samom | Parismita Singh | Dolly Kikon | Ayangbe Mannen | Aungmakhai Chak | Jacqueline Zote | Meena Laishram | Prashansa Gurung | Shreya Debi and Bilseng R Marak | Mona Zote | Nabina Das | Mamang Dai | Sanatombi Ningombam | Kundo Yumnam
Set in the forests of northern Odisha, Mahuldia Days is the moving story of a young civil servant caught between her commitment to the tribal communities she knows are the original inhabitants of the forest, and the monolithic state, oblivious to the diverse realities of life on the ground. The moonlit Brahmani river snakes through the story with a life of its own while the city of the narrator’s childhood returns to her in dreams. Agnihotri creates a poignant, intense narrative layered with an awareness of the pressures of motherhood and personal love.
Praise for Anita Agnihotri:
“Agnihotri draws you in with her well fleshed out characters. Their dreams, idiosyncrasies and disappointments are all too real; as are their failures.”
—Aparna Singh, Women’s Web
“Urgently told and precise in their direction... Each story crackles with intensity and purpose.”
—Mike McClelland, Spectrum Culture
“[Anita Agnihotri] sensitively and beautifully chronicles the plight of a major chunk of the country’s population.”
—Abdullah Khan, The Hindu
Anita Agnihotri works in the Ministry of Social Justice in India. She is a Bengali writer of over twenty-five books, including Seventeen and The Awakening, both also published by Zubaan. Seventeen won the Economist-Crossword Book Award for translation in 2011.
Kalpana Bardhan is a writer and translator based in San Francisco.
The dark legacies of Partition have cast a long shadow on the lives of the people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The borders that were drawn in 1947, and redrawn in 1971, divided not only nations and histories but also families and friends. The essays in this volume explore new ground in Partition research, looking into areas such as art, literature, mirgation, and notions of ‘foreignness’ and ‘belonging’. It brings focus to hitherto unaddressed areas of Partition, just as the northeast and Ladakh. Contributors include: Sanjb Baruah | Sarah Ghani | Vishwajyoti Ghosh | Sanjeev Jain | Sukeshi Kamra | Rita Kothari | Kavita Panjabi | Prajna Paramita Parasher | Tarun K. Saint | Alok Sarin | Amiya Sen | Jhuma Sen | Jyotirmaya Sharma | Siddiq Wahid | Andrew Whitehead
When Younguncle and his family head off on a Himalayan holiday, you know the hills are never going to be the same again. Carrying a message from the monkeys of the plains to their mountain-dwelling relatives, Younguncle and the three children embark on a series of hilarious encounters at the gloomy, mysterious and haunted Hotel Pine-Away.
As Younguncle chats with the monkeys, debates the true nature of reality with an off-beat sect of Quantum Banana Spiritualists, the fate of the picturesque little valley hangs in the balance. Who is the strange Rat-girl, who charms the rodents out of their hotel? Can the children and their eccentric uncle thwart the plans of that 50-Lakh Bridegroom, Pradeep Dalmakhni? Can Younguncle help Dalmakhni’s intended bride to escape a fate worse than death? Or has he, finally, met his match?
For all those who have been enchanted by Younguncle in the first book, this new adventure will be a delight. And if you haven’t met him before—Younguncle will be a friend for life!
Vandana Singh was born and raised in New Delhi. As a teenager, she acquired a life-long interest in peace and environmental issues, and was one of the founders of the environmental NGO, Kalpavriksh. She obtained a doctoral degree in Physics from the United States where she now lives with her family, teaching physics in a local college, and writing fiction for children, and science fiction/fantasy for adults.
An excellent choice for fans of stories featuring strange goings-on, like stories by Roald Dahl, or Ruskin Bond's Rusty.
The Blue-necked God (Nilakantha Braja), published in 1976, is one of Indira Goswami's early novels and the first time that a writer highlighted the exploitation and poverty of widows, dumped in a 'sacred' city to eke out their days in prayer by uncaring, callous families under the guise of religious sanction and tradition. It was a book that raised many eyebrows when it was first published for this amazing narrative combined fact and fiction, autobiography and reflection in a fascinating mix as she tried to depict the confusion and the mental agony she herself experienced after the death of her husband through her character Saudamini. The physical, emotional, financial deprivation faced by the young widow has been woven into a perceptive text that drew on the author's own research and experiences as she roamed the streets of Vrindavan and exposed, for the first time, the uglier side of the city and its traditions.
"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.
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