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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
Published in March of 1899, Muhammad Hadi Ruswa's famous novel Umrao Jaan Ada created a sensation when it came out, with its candid account of the life of Umrao Jaan, a semi-fictional, possibly real, Lucknow courtesan. Subsequent translations and films based on the book have further extended the fame of both the book and Umrao, the character.
What is less known, however, is that a month after he wrote Umrao Jaan Ada, Ruswa penned a short text, a novella entitled Junun-e-Intezar (The Madness of Waiting, April 1899) in which Umrao avenges herself on her creator, Ruswa, by narrating the story of his life.
Blurring the lines between truth and fiction, narrator and character, this clever narrative strategy gives the courtesan a speaking voice. While Umrao Jaan Ada, continues to evoke interest, this paratext has been completely forgotten. Here, translators and editors Krupa Shandilya and Taimoor Shahid, one a scholar from India and the other from Pakistan, attempt to redress this with their translation of Ruswa's novella and their critical introduction which rethinks Umrao Jaan Ada and the Urdu literary milieu of late nineteenth-century Lucknow.
This book contains both the Urdu text (in facsimile) and its translation for the bilingual reader.
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.
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
Author-artist Manjula Padmanabhan returns with ten stories: five new, five old, some dark, some funny, all edgy.
A vampire visits New Delhi, a space traveller returns to her ancestral home, a character from an ancient epic is transported into the future... To each story Padmanabhan brings an unexpected twist, a touch of satire, a whiff of cynicism, a delicious undercurrent of dark humour.
Drawing on her earlier, highly acclaimed anthology, Hot Death Cold Soup, and adding new stories to it, Padmanabhan presents a potent and sometimes disturbing collection that will leave readers asking for more.
"She revels in the macabre, pushes the envelope on the extreme... Her stories and plays work so masterfully on so many levels?as twist-in-the-tale page-turners, as on-the-edge adventures, as miniature theatres of the absurd that the reader's imagination plays almost as singular a part in them as the writer's." -- Sumana Mukherjee, The Hindu
"The best thing about these stories is their momentum, their narrative drive. You keep turning the pages and there is always a pay-off at the end.... Hot Death, Cold Soup not only stays afloat, it fairly zips along, it flies." -- Mukul Kesavan, Outlook
"Padmanabhan is aware of the fact that a story can grab a reader with the use of humour. But the hooks sink in when even the farfetched sounds plausible?That is her real strength ? to make the reader feel comfortable, and still keep him guessing." -- Arun Katiyar, India Today
A 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
This simple, charming picture book introduces youngsters to the importance of taking care of their own bodies. From simple tips on hygiene to an empowering message of personal safety, Shruti Singhal’s visuals and text provide perfect reading material for talking about health, safety, emotional and physical well-being with very young children.
Who is the 'Good Indian Girl?' What does she look like? How does she dress? Is she real -- or is she a myth? In this funny, wicked, touching, irreverent, poignant collection of stories, Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra lift the veil (or sari pallu) on the lives and loves of girls who have been born or raised in the subcontinent. The niceties have to be observed, but the urge to subvert is often overwhelming. As they shimmy down drainpipes at midnight, or steal covert glances at the boys across the street, the real life incidents from which these stories are drawn will ring a bell with any woman who has negotiated the minefield of family love and romantic longing and desire that lies between childhood and womanhood.
Set deep in the forests of Bengal, India, Mahuldiha Days is the moving story of a young woman coming of age in her personal and professional life. Anita Agnihotri paints a vivid picture in this novel of life in a rural Indian setting that is quickly vanishing.
Agnihotri’s narrator retraces her childhood and early adulthood, and her intense, visual memories—including the neighborhood park that was her favorite refuge as a lonely child and the river in a tribal zone of hills and forests where she was posted for her first job as a civil servant—are recalled here in evocative detail. Her story is told with deep empathy, pausing to reflect on the bleakness of the lives of the marginalized people she comes in contact with as part of her job, as we engage with her struggles to integrate her past into a new wholeness, a new self.
Skillfully combining fiction, memoir, and essay, Agnihotri’s lyrical and passionate novel will leave no reader untouched.
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.
Early twentieth century Madras. In a dark room in the corner of a house, Goutami's mother dies in childbirth. Barely a year old, Goutami, or Goutu as everyone calls her, crawls into the birth-death room, seeing and smelling death, loss, fear -- things she does not then understand but which will mark her for life. A motherless child, a rebellious girl, a headstrong woman who will not deny her sexuality, a fighter for whom lying becomes a strategy for survival: Goutami's search for love leads her to Krishnanand, cousin and ladies' man, suave and practiced, who beds all young cousins before they marry. But life intervenes and Goutami marries Seshadri. Solid, steady, ambitious, a good husband and an adequate father, Seshadri is nonetheless unable to give her one thing she craves: love. The ins and outs of family's relationships. The search for love and a sense of belonging, form the subtext of this beautifully crafted novel by first time novelist Prema Raghunath. In the end for Goutu, as for her lovers, siblings and children, salvation comes from the very stuff of life itself.
First published in Marathi in 1966, this unique novella in free verse tells an age-old story: that of a woman’s deep desire to be a mother
Setting out life as a game in which the moves are predetermined, and yet where rules exist only to be twisted, perhaps negotiated, sometimes even changed, Anuradha Vaidya deftly engages the reader in a sort of play, suggesting a joining of the dots, a connecting of line endings that lead the reader deeper into the story.
As the story traces a relationship that begins with unquestioning love that, over time, transforms into tension and distance, the reader is encouraged to linger, or jump back and forth across stanzas and lines, to navigate, interpret, and savour the beauty of the expression, both in the turn of phrase and the coinage of new words.
The sheer beauty of the almost allegorical imagery of life as a game played on the worldly board by people who are actually pawns, marks every page of this poetic narrative.
'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
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.
Amolik Dey is Everyman. A teacher with a young wife and son, he is dedicated to taking care of his family yet cannot turn a blind eye to the inequalities he sees around him. Torn between his wife's desire for a 'normal' life and his own passion for fighting injustice, he endangers both himself and his family with his increasing militancy.
Set in a small town in the Bengal of the 1960s and 70s, this is a story of unrest and rebellion. It is a time of great upheaval, of violence and agitations, and the author subtly weaves in how the political tensions that threaten to overwhelm the state also impact the ordinary lives of this one family, destroying their world. From Naxalite uprisings which bring brutal conflict to those places that have been ignored by the political mainstream, to the complexities of class and gender, and the post-colonial hangover of a newly independent people, this gritty novel sensitively portrays a town and a people who have one foot in the past and one foot tentatively in the present.
Susan Visvanathan's new work, Phosphorus and Stone is composed in the lucid but subversive style that characterises her feminist writings. In this novella she examines a fishing hamlet from the startling perspectives of the bourgeois enclaves set both in a village called Valli, Kerala, and in the suburbs of Chennai and Bangalore.
This is the story of a young woman and her refusal to be betrayed by death, obsession or love. It engages with the activist concern for the fisherpeople as well as the problematic of middle-class loyalties and the antagonisms of sect and gender. The most complex narrative, in this slim volume, is the apocryphal reading, from a feminist perspective, of Jesus's resurrection.
In 1970s Karachi, where violence and political and social uncertainty are on the rise, a talented painter, Tahira, tries to hold her life together as it shatters around her. Her marriage is quickly revealed to be a trap from which there appears no escape. Accustomed to the company of her brother Waseem and friends, Andaleep and Safdar, who are activists, writers and thinkers, Tahira struggles to adapt to her new world of stifling conformity and to fight for her identity as a woman and an artist.
Tragedy strikes when her brother and friends are caught up in the cynically repressive regime. Faced with loss and injustice, she embarks upon a series of paintings entitled ‘The Empty Room’, filling the blank canvases with vivid colour and light.
Elegant, poetic, and powerful, The Empty Room is an important addition to contemporary Pakistani literature, a moving portrait of life in Karachi at a pivotal moment in the nation’s history, and a powerful meditation on art and the dilemmas faced by women who must find their own creative path in hostile conditions.
"‘Regret is only one kind of torment in a world generous with pain’, writes Sadia Abbas. In her debut novel, regret and pain appear in light, luminous hues as the story of a new nation, struggling to retain its democratic resolve, is enmeshed with the story of a rocky marriage. The courage, wit and capacity for love displayed by the characters are sure to linger long after the last chapter has been read."
— Annie Zaidi, author of Gulab and Love Stories #1-14
"A gripping and wonderfully observed account of domestic life and its many perils in Pakistan's early decades. The portrait of a marriage set in the minefield of an extended family, this novel offers us an extraordinarily nuanced view of a woman's life."
— Faisal Devji, author of The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and The Temptation of Violence
"The personal and the political come together in this tale of a nation and a young, newly-married woman, as they push against horizons, stretch boundaries and make painful self-discoveries."
— Rakhshanda Jalil, writer and translator
Sadia Abbas grew up in Pakistan and Singapore. She received her PhD in English literature from Brown University, and she teaches in the English Department at Rutgers University-Newark. Sadia is Adjunct Professor at the Stavros Niarchos Center for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University. She loves long walks, the Mediterranean and, indiscriminately, all sorts of films.
"I was the youngest in a family of five children. I sometimes felt I was an afterthought, and maybe Father and Mother didn't quite know what to do with me. Also, because I was a girl after four boys they never seemed to be sure whether to buy me girls' clothing or let me wear leftover boys' clothing."
Young Dielieno is five years old when she is sent off to live with her disciplinarian grandmother who wants her to grow up to be a good Naga wife and mother. According to Grandmother, girls didn't need an education, they didn't need love and affection or time to play or even a good piece of meat with their gravy! Naturally Dielieno hates her with a vengeance.
This is the evocative tale of a young girl growing up in a traditional society in India's Northeast, which is in the midst of tremendous change.
Easterine Iralu writes about a place and a people that she knows well and is a part of and brings to the storytelling a lyrical beauty which can on occasion chill the reader with its realistic portrayals of the spirits of the dead that inhabit the quiet hills and valleys of Nagaland.
In Suki, fabulist Suniti Namjoshi weaves a delightful tapestry from threads of longing, loss, memory, metaphor, and contemplation. The whole picture is a stunning evocation of the love and friendship shared between S and her Super Cat, Suki, a lilac Burmese. Suki suggests that she could be a goddess, and S her high priestess. S declines, but as they discuss the merits of vegetarianism, or the meaning of happiness, or morality, or just daily life, it soon becomes clear that the bond between them is a deep and complex one. The days of Suki's life are figured as leaves, which fall vividly but irrevocably into time's stream and are recollected with a wild tenderness by the grieving S, who learns through the disciplines of meditation how to lose what is most loved.
This beautiful narrative, both memoir and elegy, offers solace and celebration to everyone who has felt the trust that passes between a person and a beloved creature.
This 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.
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
This delicious spread of short stories is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
A young woman, neglected by her rakish husband, decides to 'kill him with kindness' and stuff him with food, another cooks manically, a third helps herself to money and small knick-knacks from her husband's pockets where she finds the different scents of each of the women he has been with... Along with the husband is the ubiquitous mother-in-law who moves into the newly-married couple's bedroom barely a month after they have set up home. Each vignette is, by turns, funny, poignant, macabre - a delicious spread, showcasing Bulbul Sharma's mastery of the stories small actors and the drama of daily life.
"This slim collection of stories is quite like a methodical cook's masala tray, each ingredient and spice in its proper slot - each story retains its unique flavour while contributing to the main dish and the main dish, need we say, is a veritable feast for the senses" -- Kankana Basu, The Hindu
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