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This endearing, witty, self-deprecating memoir documents the life of one of the leading feminists of the contemporary Indian women's movement. Vina Mazumdar, one of the key researchers and writers of the landmark report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India, Towards Equality, here documents her early life, her gradual politicization in a household of liberal, educated Bengalis, and her involvement in women's issues and the women's movement.
Brought up to be outspoken and frank, Vinadi, as she is affectionately known, began by becoming involved in university-led politics in Bihar. Marriage and a young family did not prevent her from pursuing her studies and her career, in the teeth of considerable opposition from relatives but with constant support from her mother. On her return to India, Vinadi first moved into the field of education, and then, with her involvement in the research and writing of Towards Equality, was catapulted into the women's movement. An activist and institution builder, Vinadi set up the Centre for Women's Development Studies in Delhi, one of the leading research and outreach institutions for women in the country. In this rare memoir, Vinadi provides a rich history of the contemporary women's movement in India.
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.
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.
With a domestic market of around 70 billion dollars, the Indian fashion industry employs over 60 million people and accounts for a sizeable chunk of the country’s GDP. Despite this, models—the most visible yet voiceless actors of the industry—are rarely given the recognition they deserve. It is this overlooked demographic that forms the focus of Manjima Bhattacharjya’s remarkable study, bringing these women’s voices and perspectives to us.
Tracing the rise of the modelling and beauty industry from the 1960s to the present day, Bhattacharjya argues that modelling is work, and should be recognized as such. At the heart of the book lies a difficult question: should the industry be seen as objectifying women or as acknowledging their agency? Mannequin is also an individual’s personal exploration of the changing relationship between fashion and feminism.
“This book does an impossible thing — bridge the gap between fashion and feminism. Manjima Bhattacharjya offers us a sweeping history of India’s beauty industry, but more precious are the stories she brings from behind the catwalk — stories from small towns, stories of osmosis, desire, and ultimately, empowerment. “
—Tishani Doshi, poet and writer
“Mannequin attempts to decode the link between fashion and feminism and emerges as an important voice in the struggle toward empowerment through its intensive research and empathy.”
—Nonita Kalra, editor, Harper’s Bazaar India
“An extraordinary and unputdownable deep dive into the fascinating world of Indian fashion.”
—Sonia Faleiro, author of The Girl and Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars
Manjima Bhattacharjya is a feminist researcher, writer and activist. She has been part of the Indian women’s movement for over two decades. She holds a PhD in sociology. Her areas of specialization include gender and sexuality, and labour and the body. Her first book, an edited volume Sarpanch Sahib was long-listed for the Crossword Best Non-Fiction Book of 2009. She has written for several publications including the Times of India, ELLE and Info-change India. She lives and works out of Mumbai. Find her on Twitter @manzibarr.
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.
The Goddess and the Nation charts the pictorial life and career of Bharat Mata, 'Mother India,' the Indian nation imagined as mother/goddess, embodiment of national territory, and unifying symbol for the country's diverse communities. Soon after Mother India's emergence in the late nineteenth century, artists began to incorporate the map of India into her visual persona. The images they produced enabled patriotic men and women in a heterogeneous population to collectively visualize India, affectively identify with it, and even become willing to surrender their lives for it. Combining visual studies, gender studies, and the history of cartography, The Goddess and the Nation offers a rigorous analysis of Mother India's appearance in painting, print, poster art, and pictures from the late nineteenth century to the present. By exploring the entanglement of the scientifically mapped image of India and a (Hindu) mother/goddess, Sumathi Ramaswamy reveals Mother India as a figure who relies on the British colonial mapped image of her dominion to distinguish her from the other goddesses of India, and to guarantee her novel status as embodiment, sign, and symbol of national territory. Providing an exemplary critique of ideologies of gender and the science of cartography, Ramaswamy demonstrates that images do not merely reflect history, they actively make it.
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.
"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.
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
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.
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?
On a cold February night in 1991, a group of soldiers and officers of the Indian Army pushed their way into two villages in Kashmir, seeking out militants assumed to be hiding there. They pulled the men out of their homes and subjected many to torture, and the women to rape. According to village accounts, as many as 31 women were raped.
Twenty-one years later, in 2012, the rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi galvanized a protest movement so widespread and deep that it reached all corners of the world. In Kashmir, a group of young women, all in their twenties, were inspired to re-open the Kunan-Poshpora case, to revisit their history and to look at what had happened to the survivors of the 1991 mass rape. Through personal accounts of their journey, this book examines questions of justice, of stigma, of the responsibility of the state, and of the long-term impact of trauma.
Winner of the Muse India Translation Prize (2018), Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar’s elegant new translations of eighth-century Tamil poet and founding saint Andal, cements her status as the South Indian corollary to Mirabai.
In this one volume is her entire corpus, composed before she apocryphally merged with the idol of her chosen god as a young teenager, leaving behind the still popular song of congregational worship, the Thiruppavai, a collection of thirty pasuram (stanzas) sung for Lord Tirumal (Vishnu) and the much less frequently translated and rapturously erotic Nacchiyar Thirumoli.
Chabria and Shankar employ a radical new method of revitalizing classical verse by shifting it into a contemporary poetic idiom in another language. Some of the hymns are translated collaboratively, others by one or another of the translators, and others separately by each. This kaleidoscopic approach allows the reader multiple perspectives on the rich sonic and philosophical complexity of Andal’s classical Tamil.
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.
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.
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
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.
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. Mengele 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.
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.
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
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
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