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What We Read: Feminist fiction book club, 2018

Since February of 2016, Zubaan has hosted a book club that reads and discusses feminist fiction every few weeks. In 2018, these discussions covered the following eight books:

Salt Houses, Hala Alyan  [picked from a list of the best books of 2017*]

Swing Time, Zadie Smith [from a list of books by or about artists]

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng [from a list of books featuring adoption]

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal [from a list of books about friendship]

Kocharethi: The Araya Woman, Narayan [from a list of books by indigenous peoples]

A Life in Words, Ismat Chughtai [from a list of memoirs from South Asia]

Masks, Fumiko Enchi [picked by group consensus at previous meeting]

Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout [from a list of books dealing with ageing]

Next year, we'll start with JCB-shortlisted All The Lives We Never Lived, by Anuradha Roy. Join us at 11am on January 27, at the Zubaan office if you've read it.

*Unless otherwise mentioned, these lists  are compilations of suggestions from book club members, submitted with that meeting's theme in mind.

Book launch for Lady Driver: Stories of Women Behind the Wheel

Lady Driver event invitation (Eng)

“Thousands of years ago, the invention of the wheel radically changed the lives of ordinary people.”

As the wheel of time rolls on into a new year, so too the wheels of the printing press keep turning as new tales are spun. Some of these are reproduced in Zubaan’s latest release, Lady Driver: Stories of Women Behind the Wheel. This book tells the story of twelve women who prove just how radically a reinvention of the wheel can change the lives of ordinary people even today.

Featuring slices of these stories, Lady Driver takes us on a journey through the various ups and downs of women’s lives on the margin of Indian society. In their tales of hope and desperation, freedom and oppression, dignity and empowerment, Poonam and her mother Savitri, Hemlata, Rabbunisha, Sakshi, Khushi, Prachi, Sunita, Suman, Shanno, Suneeta, Geeta and Lalita lead us through their struggles and transformative experiences as drivers-trainees of the ‘Women on Wheels’ programme by the Azad Foundation.

Once I got the opportunity to enrol for training, life took some major and beautiful turns. Here, I got a new perspective, new skills, new self-confidence and new friends. … Today I feel free, happy and empowered. All this has come my way due to the training I got from Azad. I learnt a lot there, especially self-defence techniques which gradually helped me overcome my fear. Now I can go anywhere, talk to anyone without any fear. My outlook on life has changed. I have come to know what a professional way of working is. I have realized the value of labour, income and rights. I take my own decisions regarding my life and profession. I do not look for someone to come to my help, neither do I care for anyone. I have acquired the skill of living life on my terms. – Prachi

Azad introduced me to my own strength. – Suman

The truth is that the fire within us was ignited by these trainings and turned into energy. Not everyone is lucky enough to have this kind of training and this kind of solidarity. – Rabbunisha

‘Women on Wheels’ was established in 2008. A collaborating institutional model which involves Azad Foundation, Jagori and Sakha Consulting Wings, the programme trains women across Delhi, Jaipur, Indore and Kolkata to become professional taxi and chauffeur drivers. Beyond that, it aims to provide women with mechanisms to gain control over their own lives. Including mediating and self-defence classes, legal advice and courses in financial literacy, ‘Women on Wheels’ has become an important project in offering resource-poor women a passage into a more sustainable livelihood in a rapidly modernizing urban space.


Training with Azad, I have learnt not only to drive a car but also to steer my life. – Work: The Essence of Life, by Sunita Thakur

People ask me why I chose this vocation. Earlier, I did not know what to say. I could not find a way out. Something had to be done to survive. If I had not taken up driving I would not have been able to stand on my feet so quickly, and my troubles would have continued. That is why I learnt this skill. It brings me money and respect. And above all I have earned a name; I have my own identity. We women usually derive our identities from our fathers or husbands, as if we do not have a name or existence. Now I am identified as a driver, Shanno driver, a capable human being, a single mother who dreams of moving far ahead, for myself and for my children. That’s me, Shanno.

Delving into their stories, we encounter the tales of mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and daughters-in-law, who struggle to find their identities among conflicting social roles and fight for their freedom to choice. We are reminded, while reading, of the courage it takes to grab the wheel with both hands and tentatively navigate along the bumpy road of change, where tires slowly grind the rocks laid in their way.


Please join us for the book launch of Lady Driver at the Oxford Bookstore; we would love to see you there!

Lady Driver event invitation (Hin)

An Icky, Yucky, Mucky April!
Gross Benefits, Midday's interview with Natasha Sharma and Anitha Balachandran

Gross benefits

By: Fiona Fernandez Date:  2012-03-02 Place: Mumbai

Getting down to the brass tacks about table manners was never this much fun. Icky, Yucky, Mucky is Natasha Sharma's tale about a messy king's dilemma, brought to life by Anitha Balachandran's vivid illustrations

At first glance, this children's title might come as a surprise. A shock, actually. Soon enough, you are bound to see the point of it all.

Maharani Yucky would bite her nails while Princess Mucky
loved to dig her nose.

Ask co-conspirators, writer Natasha Sharma and illustrator Anitha Balachandran, who have worked on an outlandish fairytale set in Ickhtarpur around King Icky and his dilemmas.

Add a few juggling rossogullas, a nail-biting wife and a nose-digging baby, and you have a story that drives home the point of the importance of table manners, using an unconventional approach.

Kids love it, while parents are amazed by the impact it has already created. We find out what went into creating the icky, yucky, mucky world!

Where did the idea to create non-fairy-tale-like characters in a modern-day kingdom, complete with newspapers, prams and cosmetics emerge from?
The story of Icky, Yucky, Mucky! emerged from the habits themselves. Horrible table manners, nail-biting and nose digging... I would be wrong to point only to children as inspiration! I wanted to present these in a funny, incredibly mucky way as to make a child reading it go YUCK! The horrendous royal family of Ickhtarpur seemed a perfect fit - an antithesis of what one expects royalty to be like, which I felt would make it even more amusing for children. From that point, the characters of Maharaja Icky and Maharani Yucky seemed to slurp and nibble away into their role rather well! The kingdom of Ickhtarpur is timeless for me... it has been around for ages and is still around to welcome anyone who has horrible habits like those of the royal family.

How did Anitha Balachandran and you decide on the illustrations?
Anitha surpassed anything that I could have imagined for the book! As an author, while one has a visual in mind, it often works really well to leave the illustrations to the editor and illustrator. Anitha and my editor at Young Zubaan Anita Roy, each lent their fresh perspective to the story. With the splotches and penciled-in edges Anitha took the story to another level. I know that she enjoyed the story tremendously and with her absolute brilliance, Icky, Yucky, Mucky! has such endearingly messy characters.

What have been some of the initial reactions from kids to this tale?
I have been overjoyed at readings to hear the children say, 'Yuck!', 'Disgusting!', 'Show me! Show me!', 'EEEEE!' and have them rolling in hysterics as I've licked curry from hand to elbow. Parents have written in to say that their children are trying to identify icky, yucky and mucky siblings. Children have come up to me and said that this is the funniest story they have read and they love it. The book has sold out at all our readings so far. Most have asked for a sequel to it and wondered what Princess Mucky turns out to be like in years ahead. Above all, as much as the children enjoy the gooey tale, it is delightful to hear them say, 'No! We are not Icky, Yucky or Mucky.' The message to refrain from these habits has been conveyed with the unexpected twist in the tale and without moralising.

Fingernails, nose dirt, splattering food... what can one expect from your next book?
Stickiness, stinkiness, scratchiness... I'm working on it for the world is so full of messy stuff!

Natasha Sharma will read excerpts from the book at.

Crossword, Turner Road, Bandra (W).
ON March 11
FROM 11.30 am to 12.30 pm

Brush strokes with Anitha Balachandran, Illustrator

 I had a brief (!) discussion with Anita (Roy), the editor, at the outset, about keeping the illustrations messy. Then, I worked on a couple of samples, developing a style that I felt would be in keeping with the blithe spirit of the text... using loose pencil lines and splashy watercolours.

 After Anita and Natasha had taken a look, and we felt the images were working; I went about making the rest of the illustrations. I've splattered on practically every colour in my paint box, so I can't say I had a palette! As an illustrator, it was an unexpected treat to work with both Natasha, and Anita.

I'm often snowed under a mountain of feedback from editors and authors... "let's change the spots to stripes, can the dog get bigger, the horse sort of horsier?" It can be quite soul-killing really - making the horse, horsier.

I'm thrilled to report that my author and editor on this one were wonderful, wise, trusting of my judgment and allowed me to do as I would. I feel this made for really fresh, inventive illustrations.

 For picture books, images are every bit as important as the text. You can't have a picture book without pictures.

Icy, Yucky, Mucky!
by Natasha Sharma; illustrations by Anitha Balachandran; Young Zubaan/ Saadhak Books, Rs 195. Available at leading bookstores.

Zubaan @ JLF

We hope some of you were able to listen to some of our authors who were at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Most of the sessions were extremely well attended. In case you weren't able to grab a seat, or if you couldn't make it to Jaipur for the festival, we're uploading the videos of the sessions featuring our authors. Do have a look and send us your comments and feedback. We'd love to hear from you.

Icky, Yucky, Mucky! at Hill Spring International School, Mumbai
Icky Yucky Mucky Table

Icky, Yucky, Mucky! goes to Hill Spring International School.

Icky, Yucky, Mucky! visited the wonderful library at Hill Spring International School for  a dramatised reading by Natasha Sharma, author of the deliciously gooey story Icky, Yucky, Mucky! Kindergarten and grades I and II were in hysterics to see the well moustachioed Maharaja Icky slurping over the pickles, burping and juggling rosogullas.

Natasha Sharma as Maharaja Icky

Natasha Sharma as Maharaja Icky had the kids enthralled.

Their sporting librarian Ms. Soonawala, as Maharani Yucky, accompanied the Maharaja in his mess. This was one noisy library for two delightful mornings as it resounded with children laughing and shouting YUCKY! EEEEW! OOOH! NOOOO!

Inspired by the wonderful splotches in the book created by Anitha Balachandran, the children then set about making Splotch Monsters. It was great to see much creativity emerging with Splotches with a dozen eyes, great big moustaches and even one demure little girl splotch. The library now has its very own Icky, Yucky, Mucky! wall.


You can be a part of the Icky, Yucky, Mucky ride by visiting the ickiest blog with some deliciously icky recipes and wonderfully messy ideas. Also, join us on Facebook Icky, Yucky, Mucky! Page.

Zubaan at the Jaipur Literature Festival

Are you going to Jaipur? Well, we are, and we hope you're coming along too. And if you do find yourself there, don't forget to look out for our Zubaan authors. They won't always be by the bar or schmoozing with fellow literati, but they'll be around, in conversation with other authors and in panel discussions. How do you recognise them? Well, here's our little guide to Zubaan @ the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Day 1

January 20, 2012


'Prison Diaries'

Anjum Zamarud Habib will be in conversation with Iftikhar Gilani, Sahil Maqbool on a panel moderated by Siddharth Vardarajan.


Day 3

January 22, 2012


 'Amaar Bangla'

Zubaan author Anita Agnihotri will be in conversation with Malashri Lal along with Radha Chakravarthy and Fakrul Alam.

Supported by Ministry of External Affairs (SAARC Division)


Day 5

January 24, 2012


 'Women Writing Conflict'

Zubaan authors Anita Agnihotri and Mitra Phukan will be on a panel along with Devi Rajab, moderated by Urvashi Butalia.



'The Good Girls Come to Jaipur: Last Words from Lovely Ladies'

Annie Zaidi, author of Zubaan's The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl will be in conversation with Qaisra Shahraz, Manisha Kulshreshta and Samit Basu on a panel moderated by Nisha Susan.


A little bit about our authors:

Anita Agnihotri

Anita Agnihotri is a bureaucrat and administrator. She has worked extensively with tribal communities who provide the content for her moving and poetic writing. She has authored over 30 books that include novels, collections, and short stories, and it is this last genre that is the closest to her heart. Her collections of stories include Forest Interludes, which has been translated into Swedish, and Seventeen,  published by Zubaan.

Anjum Zamarud Habib

Anjum Zamarud Habib is the founder of Muslim Khawateen Markaz which was established in 1990 to work for the welfare of women. A year after her release from prison, she founded the Association for the Families of Kashmiri Prisoners and is currently conducting a survey on Kashmiri prisoners in jails in India and their families.

Annie Zaidi


Annie Zaidi is the author of Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, and the co-author of The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl, Or The Good Indian to Living, Loving, and Having Fun.

Mitra Phukan


Mitra Phukan is a writer, translator, columnist, ethnomusicologist and classical vocalist. Her published literary works include four children’s books, a biography, and a novel,The Collector’s Wife. Her most recent work is another novel, A Monsoon of Music. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Her works have been translated into several languages.


For more details, check out the Jaipur Literature Festival Website

Young Zubaan at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2012
"For all children, the first books they read are the key to the magic of the world."  - Dr Zakir Husain.
We're happy that some of these kids got to take home stories by Dr Husain from our Magic Key series, retold by his great-granddaughter, Samina Misha, and beautifully illustrated by Pooja Pottenkulam. Their happy faces say it all!
Presenting "Zubaan Talkies", Produced by Zubaan Books in collaboration with The Attic, Delhi
Words of Women: Arupa Kalita in Conversation with Nitoo Das

The Story of Felanee is based on real life events. It is a story of courage, of survival, of ethnic conflict and violence that tears people and communities apart in the most brutal, savage way. 

Set in Assam, which has seen two major agitations that have crippled the economy, this is a story that will shock the reader by its sheer passion, and its brutal honesty. The callousness and utter disregard for human life, the ugly play for power, for electoral gain, the sham and petty hypocrisies, the bloody horror of ethnic violence all lie exposed in this powerful novel written by one of Assam’s leading fiction writers.

The story revolves around the experiences of one woman: Felanee. Her name means ‘thrown away’—so called because as her mother lay dying in the burning riot-torn village, Felanee was thrown into a swamp and left to die. But against all odds, Felanee—and thousands like her—survived.

Like the reeds that grow in such profusion along the bank of Assam’s rivers, the rootless inhabitants of the refugee camps and makeshift shanties, whose stories form the core of Felanee, are swept along by the wind and thrown onto new hostile terrain but they cling on with tenacity to take root again and again.

Buy Felanee at http://www.zubaanbooks.com/shopping_cart.asp

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