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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.
These deceptively simple stories uncover both the complexity and irony of women's lives in Bhutan today. They show how ordinary lives, choices and experiences are both remarkable and poignant. In I am a Small Person, a despised woman uses her femininity as a means to control a man, the young girl in I Won't ask Mother suddenly feels empowered and confident when she makes a decision without consulting her mother.
All the stories take place in rural settings, to which creeping urbanisation brings gradual change, and tensions surface between the new and the old, or the traditional and the modern. For many rural women, being able to connect to the city and all its perceived power and glamour is a very real aspiration. This yearning is exemplified in Look at her Belly Button, where a young woman effortlessly slips out of the role of a farmer to become a 'real Bhutanese' urbanite.
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.
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.
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
A man lies dying tended by his two daughters. A strangely absent presence, their father has dictated the shape of their lives -- sometimes distorting and at others shaping their hopes, ambitions and desires. To these two narrative strands, Belinder Dhanoa adds a third, that of the girls' mother - a strong and single-minded woman, who defies society's expectations of how a woman should behave.
Set partly in Shillong and partly in the Punjab, Belinder Dhanoa's novel is not only an insightful study of the pressures of living in a patriarchal society, but also a moving account of the complexities of family loyalties, betrayals and love.
Set in late 19th century Assam, The Bronze Sword of Tengphakhri Tehsildar is the heroic tale of a Bodo freedom fighter who was, arguably, the first woman revenue collector in British India. It was Indira Goswami's last work of fiction and this is the first-ever English edition, powerfully and sensitively translated from the Assamese by Aruni Kashyap.
"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
Patriarchy asserts men are superior to women
Feminism clarifies women and men are equal
Queerness questions what constitutes male and female
Queerness isn’t only modern, Western or sexual, says mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik. Take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over two thousand years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver a devotee’s child; Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend, and many more . . .
Playful and touching—and sometimes disturbing—these stories, when compared with their Mesopotamian, Greek, Chinese and Biblical counterparts, reveal the unique Indian way of making sense of queerness.
The Dungri Garasiya, an indigenous group in north Gujarat, believed that the first being to be created was woman and so in their society women were as respected as men and property passed down from mother to daughter.
At the dawn of creation, girls were as desired as sons. It was a time when girls beat boys in games and races: a time when there was no gender divide. And so also in these stories it is the women who are stronger, wiser, faster, sharper, and certainly far more beautiful than their men. It is they who think out of the box, who are imaginative and creative and full of wise ideas.
From tales of ghostly possession to magic mantras, from kings and queens full of passion to village youth bursting with sexual ardour, these timeless folktales are full of the joy of being alive, of sensual enjoyment and pleasure. While Kudrat (God is imagined as being feminine) and Deva conspire and wreak havoc on their people, the dance of life continues with naked young maidens swimming in the streams or being courted by dark handsome youths amidst much laughter and teasing. The forests are full of birds and beasts and fish and life for the tribals is for the most part simple and innocent, truth and right always prevail and defeat the forces of darkness — be it a scheming stepmother, a murderous wife or lover, or a cruel and lustful king.
Talaash is the second novel of the Bangladeshi writer Shaheen Akhtar. It captures the brutalities of the 1971 war of liberation and its contingent afterlife -- more specifically, the scars it has left on women. For thirty long years, Mariam, the protagonist of the novel, lives with memories of a war that refuses to end for her. The analeptic and proleptic shapings of Shaheen's prose travel in and through those shattered memories (and their public use) to construct a devastating archive of pain and anguish, far beyond the pale of cause and effect. Shaheen Akhtar's mesmerizing and moving novel, set against the background of the Bangladesh war of independence, explores the violence done to women, their courage and heartbreak, their search for love and their betrayal. Taalash (The Search) was awarded the Prothom Alo Literary Prize in 2004.
'Call Me Confused, Please' requests one of the stories in this insightful and engaging collection from women of South Asian origin living in North America. 'Made in the USA?' wonders another.
Through poems, short stories and scholarly pieces, writers who are in their twenties, thirties and forties share what it is to live and grow up in a country that is your home and yet alien to you. They touch upon issues of culture, belonging, romance, body, race, ethnicity and the notion of 'home'. Moving beyond the idea of ABCDs (America-Born Confused Desi) and the 'identity crisis', the writers grapple with the richness of their diverse inheritances to produce a more nuanced understanding of self.
"Diverse voices challenge social binaries - of race, sexuality, nationality - to showcase the many facets of brown-ness." - Bandana Purkayastha, University of Connecticut
* WINNER OF THE 2011 ECONOMIST-CROSSWORD BOOK AWARD FOR TRANSLATION *
A brother and sister visit the unique crater-lake that their dead, estranged mother had written to them about in her letters. A middle-class employee's orderly life turns upside down when his employer holds back his cheque without an explanation. The employees of a forgotten outpost in a sun-baked town threaten mass suicide because they have no hope of survival.
Seventeen is a collection of short stories from among more than 100 of Anita Agnihotri's published short fiction. By turn intense, brittle, angry sad and torn apart in conflict, the stories bring out the different faces of human hardship and explore the India that is still largely unknown. Set in metros and villages, in small-town India and in international suburbia, the stories run the gamut of experiences both everyday and extraordinary. From deeply personal relationships against the backremove of turmoil to intensely social truths told through the unique life of individuals, each of these stories is a picture of human fragility. This is literary craftsmanship at its best.
Lifelines is an enthralling collection of short stories that will take you on some unforgettable journeys - journeys that span continents and decades, transgressing social boundaries and raising ethical dilemmas along the way.
The protagonists of these tales find themselves re-drawing their own destinies as they map their lifelines in unique, often unanticipated ways. The rapidly changing realities of the 21st-century require these individuals to navigate through uncharted waters, in a world increasingly shaped by the forces of globalisation, development and migration. One where the old ways are being challenged as never before, even in the traditionalist heartlands of South Asia.
Lifelines portrays the trials and triumphs of men, women and children who find themselves facing unexpected challenges - and discover that the decisions that they take, for better or worse, have consequences they never envisaged.
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.
This touching and at times harrowing glimpse into the conflict-ridden Nagaland is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary. More than half a century of bloodshed has marked the history of the Naga people who live in the troubled northeastern region of India. Their struggle for an independent Nagaland and their continuing search for identity provides the backdrop for the stories that make up this unusual collection. Describing how ordinary people cope with violence, how they negotiate power, and force, how they seek and find safe spaces and enjoyment in the midst of terror, the author details a way of life under threat from the forces of modernization and war.
No one -- the young, the old, the ordinary housewife, the willing partner, the militant who takes to the gun, and the young woman who sings even as she is being raped -- is untouched by the violence. Theirs are the stories that form the subtext of the struggles that lie at the internal fault lines of the Indian nation-state. These are stories that speak movingly of home, country, nation, nationality, identity, and direct the reader to the urgency of the issues that lie at their heart.
Temsula Ao is the Dean, School of Humanities and Education, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong.
"Temsula Ao, like many of her predecessors has successfully described the experiences of her people. The struggle for freedom and the search for identity have been discussed by many writers and these are pivotal themes of those who had to pay a heavy price for freedom. To this end Temsula Ao must be praised for her successful attempt." -- Shagufta Yasmeen, Dawn
This richly descriptive and deeply philosophical novel from Bhutan is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
As a young girl, Tsomo asks her mother, "Where is the furthest I can travel?"
"Where," her mother responds, "I don't know. Where can a girl travel to?"
Caught in the everyday reality of household life, fifteen-year-old Tsomo is suddenly called upon to travel when her mother dies. She makes her first journey to a faraway village to light the ritual butter lamps in her mother?s memory. Beginning here, her travels take her to distant places, across Bhutan and into India. As she faces the world, a woman alone, Tsomo embarks on what becomes a life journey, in which she begins to find herself, and to grow as a person and a woman.
The first novel by a woman to come out of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, The Circle of Karma, written in English, is rich in detailed descriptions of ritual life. The measured pace of its prose, the many nuances of the story, the different levels at which the narrative works, weave a complex tapestry of life in which the style and content are closely interwoven, each informing and enriching the other.
Kunzang Choden is one of Bhutan's foremost writers. In her early fifties, she has written a number of short stories and has also published collections of folk tales from Bhutan. This is her first novel.
"Kunzang Choden has given us an unforgettable tale of a simple woman's pilgrimage and journey to self-realisation." -- Anna Sujata Mathai, The Hindu
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
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.
It has been ten years since Ram's return from fallen Lanka. Ayodhya is shining. Ayodhya is prosperous. But darkness lurks at the heart of the victrorious regime. A pointed question piques a young journalist's curiousity: What happened to Sita? Where is Ram's absent wife whose abduction triggered the war with Lanka?
And so begins the journalist's search for the missing queen. Soon her investigation attracts the notice of Ayodhya's all-powerful secret police and its mysterious head, the Washerman. Forced to flee Ayodhya, the journalist makes her way through a war-devastated Lanka in search of answers.
In this stylish speculative thriller, Samhita Arni skilfully combines her love for mythology with riveting storytelling.
"Pacy, gritty and very clever." -- Samit Basu
"Of late, a jungle of mythological retellings seems to have sprouted on Indian bookshelves. But this highly original take by Samhita Arni is a rare exception. A refreshing even radical revisiting brings new insights while providing a thrilling read." -- Ashok Banker
"Samhita Arni started telling stories from the Mahabharata, in an enchanting way, to her grandmother. And here she gets entangled at the same time in the Ramayana and today's world." --Roberto Calasso
“…the story transcends linguistic and geographical boundaries. It is a story of virtually every Indian home…The discussion -which makes up the Afterword also seeks to put the story in a historical and anthropological perspective which makes Shree’s Mai an academic study.” The Hindu
“…it is eminently readable … The Book Review
“seeks to assert the humanness of mother. Maternalism with a human face, perhaps is feminism for hard times.” The Tribune
Geetanjali Shree is a well-known Hindi novelist and short story writer, who has also written a critical work on Premchand.
Nita Kumar is the author of The Artisans of Banaras: Friends, Brothers and Informants, Lessons from School, and editor of Women as Subjects.
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.
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