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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. rnrnSet 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.
In the 1950s, ten-year-old Dayamoyee watches with bewilderment and curiosity as her village, Dighpait, begins to change and people she knows and loves start to pack their belongings and move away. India has been partitioned, and Dighpait has now become part of a new country, (East) Pakistan. Soon, Dayamoyee's aunt, with whom she lives, also begins to prepare to travel across the border, to Hindustan where Dayamoyee's parents, both teachers, have made their home. Forced to leave her beloved home, her friends, and especially their family retainer, Majam, whom she calls Dada, Dayamoyee resolves, on her journey from Pakistan to Hindustan, never to mention the home they have left behind. And so, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to middle age, Dayamoyee never speaks of Dighpait. And then, in the early 1990s, she hears of Majam's death and the floodgates of memory open. Sunanda Sikdar's beautiful and moving memoir A Life Long Ago (Dayamoyeer Katha in Bengali) was awarded the Lila Puraskar by Calcutta University in 2008, and the Ananda Puraskar in 2010.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
At twenty-one, Deen is dismayed by the poverty around him and trapped in negativity. Alienated from family and society, heroin is his drug of choice.
Deen and his partner in crime, AJ, ride high on acid and amphetamines, philosophize in the university canteen, party in a politician’s posh pad and contemplate God at a roadside tea stall. From Maria, a chemically imbalanced diva, to a rickshaw-walla who reflects on the importance of positive energy, to a group of fakirs who sing about love, and a detective who has his own take on addiction, the characters in Shazia Omar’s debut novel crackle with life.
They represent the despair, hopes and aspirations of a generation struggling to survive in the harsh realities of life in modern Dhaka. Hard-hitting and intensely moving, this is an extraordinary novel, and one that is destined to launch Omar as a major contemporary voice from South Asia.
"Shazia Omar's energetic debut novel heralds a new voice in Bangaldeshi fiction. Located in the urban chaos of Dhaka city, Like a Diamond in the Sky shines a light on the crime, drug addiction, love, and loneliness at the heart of the modern metropolis."- TAHMIMA ANAM, author of A Golden Age
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.
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.
Set in mid-nineteenth century Assam when the forces of tradition were being challenged by new concepts of modernity, Swarnalata is the story of three women from very different social backgrounds, each caught in the whirlpool of change, each trying to chart her own course in life, heroically, silently. As the intertwined lives of Swarnalata, Tora and Lakhi unfold, the reader is taken on a fascinating journey into the social milieu of the times where issues like women's education and widow remarriage held centre stage. The plight of indentured labour, peasant resistance against colonial exploitation, the reformist initiatives of the Brahmo Samaj and the proselytizing efforts of the Christian missionaries are themes that run through the narrative. Considered one of the finest historical novels in Assamese, where real historical personages - such as Rabindranath Tagore - are presented side by side with fictional characters, Swarnalata provides a wonderful blend of history and fiction. Swarnalata was first published in Asomiya in 1991. It was awarded the Ishan Puraskar by the Bhartiya Bhasha Parishad in 1995 and translated into Bangla and Hindi under the 'Adaan-Pradaan' programme of the National Book Trust. The Asomiya original is now in its fouth edition and has received wide critical acclaim in the last 15 years.
Rabia is growing up in a conservative community in southern India. One day, she
and her friends sneak off to the pictures. Caught on her return home, Rabia gets a beating from her mother, Zohra, who cries as she beats her daughter into submission. Firdaus is beautiful and of marriageable age. A groom is found for her, a wealthy man who lives abroad. On her wedding night, she takes one look at him and says, 'I’m not going to live with you, don’t touch me!’ Inside their male dominated world, Rabia,
Zohra, Firdaus, and many others make their small rebellions and compromises, friendships are made and broken, families come together and fall apart, and almost imperceptibly change creeps in. Salma’s beautiful, evocative, poetic novel recreates the sometimes suffocating, and sometimes heartbreaking world of Muslim women in southern India. The Hour Past Midnight is translated into English by Lakshmi Holmstrom.
Twelve short stories about everyday life and the political realities of Assam.
“My stories,” says the author, “are a lot about darkness but they are also about the small sparks of light that occasionally dispel the demons in our souls.”
In this collection, a doctor’s comfortable existence in a tea estate is rudely shattered by violent conflict, a daughter reflects on the failure of her parents’ inter-religious marriage, and children discover how shockingly little time it takes to go from joking to being thrown headlong into bloody carnage.
Sharp and eloquent, Uddipana Goswami’s stories bring into harsh focus how interwoven political violence is with everyday life.
"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.
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 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
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.
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.
Count Jorge was a fabulously wealthy, devastatingly good-looking socialite, a leading figure in the South American city of San Felice. When he is found brutally stabbed to death, it soon becomes clear that ‘polite’ society in San Felice is anything but.
Is the murder linked to the Indian Ambassador, himself a victim of blackmail? Why is his wife, whom he suspects of having an affair with the Count, so apparently unaffected by his death? Who is the young man with the honey-coloured hair who takes the news, by contrast, so terribly badly? As for the Commissioner of Police, he is trying to decide which discovery is the more problematic: the corpse lying on the bed, or the Ambassador’s daughter’s riding boots lying underneath it.
There’s plenty of intrigue, backstabbing (literal as well as metaphorical), gossip and drama to enjoy in Chandralekha Mehta’s sparkling debut novel.
“…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.
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