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'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
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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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the mid-nineties, Birjees Dawar Ali returns to Pakistan to seek out a history left unfinished long ago, a history from which, nursing heartbreak and betrayal, she had once earlier fled, back to her home in partitioned India. Will she find the family that so generously gave her succour, the home that became her own, the people who gave her unquestioning love? Or, will all these certainties have fled with the march of history? A deeply moving narrative of love and loss, All Passion Spent focuses on the unresolved question of the 1947 Partition of India and the emergence of India and Pakistan as two separate countries. Zaheda Hina's richly layered narrative brought alive in this lyrical and poetic translation by Neelam Hussain, touches on the many unanswered questions that surround this painful history: the profound sense of grief and displacement, the lives sundered midstream, the lost friendships and the quest for new roots and lands under different skies.
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
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.
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
Vibrant, dynamic, spirited and forceful. The contemporary women's movement in India, which began in the late 1970s protested against the dark times, the violence and the misogyny. It also colourfully celebrated liberation, solidarity among women and breaking the shackles of patriarchy. It sang, performed and painted, to draw attention to the burning issues of the time: dowry death, widow immolation, acid throwing and rape.
Over the past three decades, the women's movement has matured and broadened to include a gamut of issues related to women's health, sexuality, the environment, literacy, the impact of religion and communalism on women's lives, political participation, labour rights, disability rights, class and caste issues, and many more. Indeed, feminism meant looking at the world through women's eyes.
This book constructs a pictorial history of the complex and multi-layered women's movement through its visual representation: posters, drawings, pamphlets, reports, brochures, stickers, all writing and photographs. The posters reproduced here are part of Zubaan's Poster Women project, which has attempted to locate and archive as many posters of the movement as possible to be able to visually map the women?s movement and its concerns.
The Poster Women archive can be accessed at www.posterwomen.org.
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.
"This volume...is unique because it manages to capture the socio-economic reality of the dispossessed masses without sounding didactic or condescending...Agnihotri seems to have done her research and knows what she is talking about...the first person narrative adds an autobiographical element and makes it that much more convincing." -- The Indian Express
Anita Agnihotri is an IAS officer with numerous short stories and two novels to her credit
With independence, India experienced a dramatic social rupture but also a recuperation of political autonomy and a new sense of optimism that promised opportunities. The country became a crucible for experimentation in modern and utopian architecture with new buildings, cities and museums giving public face to the nation. Indian architects and architectural projects claimed international attention, and a generation of women entered professions such as architecture and design that had previously been closed to them. They emerged as a pronounced political force, and important patrons of art, architecture and public space.
The mid-19th and 20th centuries saw a significant increase in women acting as arbiters of taste and shapers of the built environment. The emerging groups of female designers and female patrons were enabled by new norms for women.
The essays in this volume address these developments, posing the important question : did, and do, women produce art and architecture that reflect a feminine perspective ? How did women, otherwise invisible and denied attention in the public sphere, gain voice? The writers look at these questions through both the political frame of gender as well as through family lineage and dynastic connections, and their importance in women's patronage of the arts.
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
Ever wondered how to keep your little angel from the negative influences of the world in this challenging time? How to help her grow into a rnresponsible, successful and happy adult you can be proud of? Does it sometimes feel that divine intervention is needed?
Help is at hand in this brilliant new book by the best-selling author, Mridula Agarwal.
In this outstanding book, Farishta flies down from heaven to see for himself how little kids are being brought up, and what is making Almighty so unhappy. What he discovers on his travels surprises and shocks him, but how familiar those scenes are to us! As he moves from home to home, he talks to kids and watches how their moms and dads behave around them. For a divine being, Farishta is thoroughly down-to-earth and the lessons we, as parents, learn through his eyes are invaluable.
The result is a simple, practical set of guiding principles that can help you as a parent understand how to help your child grow in the most positive and successful way possible.
From the heart of a well-known family of Hyderabad to life in a single room with the barest of necessities, Shaukat Kaifi's memoir of her life with the renowned poet Kaifi Azmi speaks of love and commitment. A marriage of over a half a century, a life steeped in poetry and progressive politics, continuing involvement with the Indian People's Theatre Association, the Progressive Writers Association, Prithvi Theatre... all of these and more inform this beautifully told tale of love. Shaukat Kaifi's writing details life in a communist commune, a long career in theatre and film and a life spent bringing up her two children, cinematographer Baba Azmi and actor Shabana Azmi. Nasreen Rehman's deft and fluent translation brings this luminous memoir alive with warmth and empathy. "To say that this is a lovely book would be an understatement. It is an enchanting recollection of the life of a hugely talented and sensitive human being, shared with a great poet." -- Amartya Sen.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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