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Letter from the Publisher: the year that was and the year that is


Dear author, supporter, friend of Zubaan,

Another 365 days have gone by (and then another 31) and somehow, although the new year begins with just another day, there’s always a sense of new beginnings, new hopes, of looking back, and looking forward.

At Zubaan, we’ve had a busy year: we published some wonderful books, and reissued some of the best of our classics, our academic list grew from strength to strength, and our non fiction books covered a wide range of subjects. You’ll find a full list, with brief descriptions, of our 2015 titles below.

It’s also been a year of changes: in 2014 Preeti Gill, longtime editor at Zubaan and the brain behind our Northeast list, left to start a new and different professional life. In 2015, Anita Roy, who’s also been with Zubaan from the beginning, relocated to England to be with her parents, although she still continues to work with us, and is a virtual presence in the office every day through Skype.

Monetary constraints – all independent publishers are struggling, we’re no exception – meant that we were unable to bring in new people, and the existing Zubaan team, Shweta Vachani, Ishani Butalia, Meghna Singh bravely took on additional work, with support from our colleagues Satish Sharma, Elsy Paul, Santosh Singh and Usha, who keeps us well fed and ensures a regular (crucial) supply of coffee and tea.

Towards the end of 2015, we began to wind down our three year long project on Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia, a project supported by IDRC (International Development Research Centre), as a part of which 50 research papers were commissioned from across South Asia, and these will now be published in a set of volumes, the first of which came out in time for the Jaipur Literature Festival where we had an excellent and well attended (over 600 people!) discussion. The panel was called ‘Body of Evidence: Sexual Violence and the Search for Justice in South Asia’ and it was moderated by our co-coordinator of the project, Laxmi Murthy, with Meghna Guhathakurta from Bangladesh, Sumathy Sivamohan from Sri Lanka and Essar Batool from Kashmir as speakers.

As always, we organised a number of events – our regular Critical Conversations at Oxford Bookstore which featured two lively discussions, one on sexualities and the other on writing from the Northeast. In collaboration with the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, we held a number of discussions on Partition in Delhi, at Jindal University Sonepat, in Kolkata (along with Peaceworks, a unit of Seagull Books) and Ahmedabad (along with Ahmedabad University). Cultures of Peace, our annual festival of the Northeast (also in collaboration with the Heinrich Boll Stiftung) made its way this year to Guwahati (where we partnered with the North East Writers Forum) and Bangalore, and in Delhi. A unique partnership was with EUNIC, the European Union Institutes of Culture, with whose help we brought over eight writers from Europe for a one day programme where they were in conversation with Indian writers. Cross Border Conversations, the programme, will now translate into a book. Our Young Zubaan programmes included discussions and workshops in schools, in bookshops (Full Circle Bookshop, one of our favourite places) and more.

And there’s much to look forward to in this year: we’ll soon be publishing a book that traces the lives of the mothers of Manipur, the women who staged a naked protest outside Kangla Fort in Imphal; a riveting and moving account of her life as a Transgender activist by A. Revathi, a book on the mass rape of women in Kunan Poshpora in Kashmir entitled Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?, a volume that traces questions of impunity, of speech and silence in relation to sexual violence, by V. Geetha, and our South Asian volumes edited by Uma Chakravarti, Meghna Guhathakurta, Seira Tamang, Mandira Sharma, Neelam Hussain, Laxmi Murthy and Urvashi Butalia.

We’re lucky to be working with a set of people on whom we can rely for quick turnarounds of our work – these are our typesetters and our printers, who just never say no to our demands and who do their very best to meet our deadlines.

All this put together helps us to survive. But more than ever before, for independents, breaking even, making a profit, however small, is an issue. In this last year, we reorganised ourselves a bit, to enable us to work towards being sustainable. We set up a company, owned by the senior staff at Zubaan, that took over all the publishing activity, leaving the projects to the Zubaan Trust, so creating a hybrid structure. As well, we set up a unit called Track Changes, that takes on consultancies, that offers self publishing, that does design and print jobs professionally, to earn some revenue for Zubaan. Track Changes has been making slow progress, and we’re hoping that very soon it will start generating good business that will help Zubaan to survive. And here again, we’d like to ask for your help: if you know of people who want things edited, who need readers’ reports on manuscripts, who need editorial feedback, or writing skills, or design and production, do please send them our way. We need to work towards making Zubaan sustainable and self supporting, and this is one way of doing this: we’re happy to produce books, reports, take on writing assignments, etc.

We continue to be inspired and moved by the books our writers offer to us, the books that we go out and find; women are writing so much more, they’re doing exciting, joyful, serious, funny and just stunning books. The tragedy though is, that while the books are lovely, it seems to become more and more difficult to sell them. Brick and mortar bookshops have been closing, ebook sales have not picked up enough, so to survive, one has to find new ways of getting the good word out. It’s here that we’ve been helped by our authors and our friends, who put out the word about new books and we want to thank you all for this and to ask for your continued support. Do please review our books, talk about them, tweet about them, and get the word out. For our part, we’ll continue to publish against the grain, and to put in whatever efforts we can to reach the books to you.

We have a whole new set of ideas about how to do this, but we’d also like to engage you, our readers, our authors, our friends, in the exercise of thinking where you would like Zubaan to go in the future, and we plan to come back to you with this question very soon. All ideas, radical and otherwise, are welcome.

So do write and tell us what you think, give us your ideas about how we should develop, change, adapt, and of course that most important thing, survive!


Zubaan's lunchtime conversations go digital

Hello, Zubaan supporter, fellow Internet wanderer, and/or accidental(ly on purpose?) link-clicker:

Welcome to the Zubaan blog, version 2.0! After a brief (read: three year long) respite, we're excited to bring back this space as a forum to engage with conversations of cultural relevance and urgency, ones that occupy central and marginal places within South Asian feminisms. The big stuff, the small stuff. The new and old. Bits of digital ephemera, and the decidedly not-so-ephemeral. Things that Zubaan is pondering, and those of importance to the communities to which we are connected. All in all, a versatile, dynamic space with no one voice - but a space that, like Zubaan, remains outspoken, independent, unorthodox and feminist.

What to expect: think pieces; featured interviews with writers, artists, scholars; archive-digging and its treasures; behind-the-scenes looks at the publishing process; information about Zubaan's literary and research projects; guest posts by young scholars/thinkers - in-depth and wide-ranging in a way that other social media doesn't allow.

What not to expect: freedom from Harry Potter references.

So here goes this exercise in community-building - one we hope that you will participate in as well, to challenge us and make us think, with tongues untied (and sometimes in-cheek).

Constant vigilance,
The Zubaan Team

Zubaan at the World Book Fair

Dear friends
Do come and see our books at the World Book Fair. We can't afford to have a stall of our own - the book fair has hiked up its prices substantially, and we just don't make enough money back to take a full stand, plus, small publishers have no clout so get relegated to corners and inaccessible places (while the large ones can use money power to get the best locations!). So we've taken a considered decision to save money and spend it on publishing the next book!! But meanwhile, if you are visiting, we'd love you to look at our books which are available from our distributors, Penguin Books India and Cambridge University Press. While Penguin will have all our 'trade' or general books (i.e. fiction, general non fiction, young adult, children), Cambridge will have our academic books. They're located at:

Cambridge University Press : Hall No.6, Stall nos 846-59
Penguin Books India :Hall No.6, Stall nos 989 - 1020

Some of our recent highlights include:

Seventeen, by Anita Agnihotri. Translated by Arunava Sinha
Bitter Wormwood, by Easterine Kire
The Song Seekers, by Saswati Sengupta

Non Fiction
Our Pictures, Our Words: A Visual Journey Through Women's Movement, by Laxmi Murthy and Rajashri Dasgupta

Young Zubaan
Icky Yucky Mucky, by Natasha Sharma. Illustrated by Anitha Balachandran

Dalit Women Speak Out: Caste, Class and Gender Violence in India, by Aloysius Arudayam S.J., Jayshree P. Mangubhai, Joel G. Lee
Shia Women: Muslim Faith and Practice, by Diane D'Souza

Look forward to seeing you there.

The Zubaan Team
Preeti Gill, Anita Roy, Shweta Vachani, Shweta Tewari, Rosalyn D'Mello, Satish Sharma, Elsy Paul, Santosh Singh, Nirmala Chaudhry, Urvashi Butalia

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

Bitter Wormwood: Introduction

The struggle for independence from India by the Naga people, indigenous inhabitants of the Naga Hills, has been a story hidden for several decades. Cleverly concealed by censorship on newspaper reports, there was only one western journalist, a British war correspondent named Gavin Young (The Daily Telegraph) who managed to enter Nagaland illegally in the 1960s and report what he saw of the genocide and rape and torture of the Nagas by the Indian Army.

The IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs) 1986 report The Naga Nation and its Struggle against Genocide, recorded that as many as 100,000 Nagas were killed in fighting with India beginning from 1956. Naga Federal government statistics claim that villagers who fled their burned villages and died of starvation and disease bring the number closer to two hundred thousand from the 50s to the 60s. The main source of information for the IWGIA report was Naga historian Dr. Visier Sanyu.

The first killings occurred in 1948 when two Nagas were shot dead by the Indian army in Tuensang, followed by another two killings in 1950, and the attack on Khonoma village and Lungkhum village in 1953. In 1954, the numbers rose to 64 Nagas killed and at the beginning of 1955, 279 Nagas were recorded killed by the army. Between January 1955 and July 1957 the estimated damage stood at: 79,794 houses burnt, 26,550,000 mounds of paddy burnt and 9,60,000,000 rupees worth of goods destroyed (source: The Naga Chronicle p.148 and p.181).

The IWGIA report documents some of the tortures in April and May 1955 by the Assam Police Battalion, beginning with the burning of 200 granaries of Mokokchung village. This was accompanied by atrocities like beating a pregnant woman and forcing her to give birth in public, raping of the village women and killing of the menfolk. In September the harvest was destroyed by the same police battalion and five village women were raped, amongst whom were two minor girls. Both young students and adults were shot and killed or tortured to death by the battalion.

In 1956, the Indian army began taking prisoners and using them for target practice. Groupings of villagers and tortures of the villagers became routine by 1957. The stories of torture documented by both the IWGIA and The Naga Chronicle seem to surpass each other in the army's inhuman treatment of the Nagas: men were tied to poles and burned; they were buried alive; their genitals were given electric currents. Each instance of torture was more gruesome and horrible than the next. The report lists the tortures and repression of the Nagas by the Indian army as "i) execution in public; ii) mass raping; iii) deforming sex organs; iv) mutilating limbs and body; v) electric shocks; vi) puncturing eyes; vii) hanging people upside down; viii) putting people in smoke-filled rooms; ix) burning down of villlages; x) concentration camps; xi) forced starvation and labour." One of the stories of rape had as its intention the desecration of the village church of Yankeli where four minor girls were raped by the Maratha contingent on 11 July 1971. The church building was abandoned by the villagers after that incident.

Of the reports, one of the most pitiable incidents occured in 1962. The village of Matikhru was attacked by the Indian army and all the women and children were chased out of the village. After that all the male adults were tortured and beheaded. This was followed by the burning of the village. The village holds an annual Remembrance day when they re-enact the killing of the 12 male members of the village.

The conflict which began as a peaceful resistance of Indian occupation escalated into a violent full-scale war after the death of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji had supported the Naga right to remain independent of India and even declared that anyone who tried to force them into the Indian Union would have to deal with him first. Sadly the Mahatma was killed in that first rush after independence and Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, chose the path of military aggression to make the Nagas submit.

At the height of military oppression in 1956, the Naga Army was formed and its members traveled to China and East Pakistan to find arms to fight the Indian army. Subsequent groups that went to China in the mid-70s were exposed to Chinese Marxist ideology. Factional killings begun by breakaway groups erupted in the Naga National Council in this period, eroding the Naga cause through the years.

In 1980, the first factional group called themselves the National Socialist Council of Nagaland and used the slogan, "Nagaland for Christ." After some years, there was a split in the NSCN, and two factional groups appeared, the Isak Muivah and the Khaplang factions. The factions began killing off the leaders of the Naga National Council, and drug addicts and drug peddlers, as well as members of their rival groups on a large scale right through the 80s, 90s and up till 2008. In the continuous infighting amongst the Naga freedom fighters, Naga society was riven apart by extortion, and rapid brutalization.

Today, many young Nagas struggle with a confused identity. This confusion began after India launched its war of occupation and enacted the creation of Naga statehood in 1963. Statehood was an agreement between a small group of Nagas and the Delhi government. Under statehood, Indian citizenship was imposed on Nagas, but they were denied many of the rights of citizens of India under the Indian constitution. Laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed areas act took away the fundamental rights of Nagas and continued to put them at the mercy of the armed forces.

The situation in the Indian metropolises is worrying. Students and workers from the Northeast continue to face a large percentage of racist attacks. The Times of India dated Oct 27, 2009 carried a long article entitled, "Girls from NE soft target in city." It listed various incidents including the rape and murder of a 6 year old girl from the North-east, the murder of a Naga girl by an IIT student and the beating up of Naga and a number of North-east people by locals. Sexual harassment and rape of Naga girls were initially denied redressal by the police in Indian cities but by 2009, the Ministry DonNER had decided to set "North-East Connect" to provide relief to beleaguered students (Assam Tribune, Oct 30, 2009).

The North East Support and Help Centre (NESHC), a very crucial helpline begun in September 2007, recorded that 86 percent of people from the Northeast had experienced racist attacks. Shortly after the murder of the Naga girl, the Times of India carried two more reports on Nov 7 and Nov 9, 2009 on the beating up of two Naga students and the molestation of a Naga girl. The bitterness and suspicion between the mainland Indians and Nagas in Indian cities easily triggers new conflicts contributing to the alienation.

In Nagaland, Christian groups and civil society groups such as the Naga Mothers Association, Naga Hoho, Naga Baptist Church Council, the Gaonbura and Dobashi association, Naga Students Federation and Naga Christian Fellowship have vainly tried time and again to bring the warring Naga groups to reconcile with each other. However, in 2009, all the peace efforts seemed to be making some headway. The State Police recorded a total of 12 factional killings as contrasted with a total of 300 in the previous years (source: Comparative Crime Statistics for the year 2006, 2007, 2008 up to 15th dec, 2009. Nagaland Police) give the source of the statistics.

With killings on the decline and the active efforts of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) group, there seemed to be a flickering light in the horizon. The Nagas were hopeful that the quest for lasting peace in these long-troubled, tear-sodden hills of home was in sight. The Reconciliation team is made up of apex tribal bodies and organizations and has been very active for the last 36 months of its life. Led by Dr Wati Aier, the FNR brought the NSCN IM and the NSCN K to sign a "Covenant of Reconciliation" declaration where both parties promised to pursue Naga reconciliation and forgiveness.

Though there have been a few hiccups, the forum is still maintaining course and found support from the international Baptist World Alliance which consists of 120 nations. The BWA which met in Kuala Lumpur in July 2011 passed a resolution supporting the Naga reconciliation process (report carried in The Morung Express July 9, 2011). The FNR's appeal to the Naga public makes the search for peace a community responsibility.

This book is not meant to be read as a history textbook. For the purpose of reading about the history of the Naga struggle, researchers should read comprehensive books on the topic for example, The Naga Chronicle, The Naga Saga, Nagaland File and Naga identities and The Naga resistance. This book is not about the leaders and heroes of the Naga struggle. It is about the ordinary people whose lives were completely overturned by the freedom struggle. Because the conflict is not more important than the people who are its victims.


September 2011.

Debating Feminism in Bangalore...

Sharing - awfully late, but better than never! - write up (by Pushpa Achanta - thanks Pushpa!) of the event we held in Bangalore back in September as part of our 'Cultures of Peace' series.


Shilpa Phadke, Annie Zaidi, Meera Jatav, Pramada Menon

Shilpa Phadke, Annie Zaidi, Meera Jatav, Pramada Menon

We'll be blogging up some of the forthcoming events over the next month or two... Pune... Ahmedabad... here we come!

Interview with Urvashi Butalia in 'Not Just Publishing'

"The world knows the Padmashree awardee, Urvashi Butalia, as an Indian, feminist, historian, co-founder of Kali for Women, and publisher, Zubaan Books. But on NJP, Urvashi introduces herself as, “I am a publisher, writer – in that order, and a feminist. Feminism is something I live so it pervades everything I do.”

“Getting into publishing was completely by accident,” says Urvashi. While doing her MA, she decided no more teaching Shakespeare and Milton. Meeting a friend in her French class landed her the first job at the Oxford University Press.

With NJP, Urvashi shares the intricacies and challenges of her business, and a little more of the non-publishing side of Urvashi."

Read more.....


Writing the Feminist Future

Those of you who weren't able to make it to Bangalore for our fantastic panel discussion, "Writing the Feminist Future" featuring Shilpa Phadke, Annie Zaidi, Meera Devi, Pramada Menon, Nisha Susan, moderated by Anita Roy, here's a little video that should give you a feel of what it was like to be in that beautiful, radical space called Jaaga.

Presenting the Flyers for The Good Indian Girl Book Tour
The Bad Boy's Guide to a Good Indian Girl

Our brilliant and very exciting title, The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl, by Smriti Ravindra and Annie Zaidi has been getting some splendid reviews.  This doesn't happen too often with our titles, most publications are biased and believe our titles are too niche, a false accusation, you'll realise when you go through our catalogues.

But its true, The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl, is a one-of-a-kind title. It's revolutionary because our fantastic authors have managed to fictionalise or rather contextualise non-fiction accounts by men and women they've interviewed and to put across their narratives in quirky, subversive ways.

If you haven't yet read the book, and you need a little nudge, do check out these reviews. If you have read the book and have your own opinion about it, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to send in a comment, we'll be happy to feature it on the blog.

The Midday Review is poignantly titled, "Desperately Seeking Savitri"

Amrita Bose writes:

Right from the book's onset, the authors claim that every generation has had their share of GIGs  (Good Indian Girls, abbreviated throughout the book). While the story called Buzz is a fun take on the literal 'buzz' that is created, when a girl asks her male classmate the way to the toilet in his house at a party -- Panty Lines outlines the relationship a girl shares with her panties, including the association of shame and forbidden desires attached to it. Boobs, is an astute observation about how peers can make one feel worthless and ashamed about one's body.

The writing style is colloquial and therefore easy to identify with. The narratives could be from anywhere in India, though Annie is keen that readers not adopt a closed approach to their origins. "I resent blinkered phrases like 'stories from small-town India' or 'Gen Next'. I have met conservative women even in Mumbai. For instance, as a cub reporter, I was once scolded by a woman for asking men, instead of women, for directions when I was lost."

Paromita Vohra, the edgy writer and documentary film-maker reviewed the book for Tehelka in a piece called The Nervy Ones

The book’s memoir-like writing is gleaming filigree, delicately detailing the tiny shifts of implication girls gauge to see how far they can go, how much more they can want — unlike the Schneider and Fein type girl, their wanting is huge. It lays out the web of reputation, violence and confusion, the extreme fear of being alone that leads to lives of both depression and defeat as well as chance-taking, effrontery, bold fun lies and canny manipulations. These stories, with few morals, absorb you, make you laugh, and quiet you — especially those of the Singh sisters, who call boys from a landline hidden in the cupboard and who end up marrying exactly the boys they want, through deft moves, whereby the defeated patriarch PP Singh doesn’t even know he’s been bested.

Just Femme, an online women's magazine has another positive review by Padmalatha Ravi, called "Being a Good Indian Girl"

Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra’s book The Bad Boy’s Guide to Good Indian Girl tells me that this is one of the qualities of a GIG (good Indian girl) and who is the Bad Indian Girl (BIG). They dissect this and many other facets of being a GIG and unearth the complexities of living in a society that is modern and traditional at the same time. This complex phenomenon unfolds through stories of many women, interwoven, laying bare the hard work that goes into being a GIG. It is funny. It is enlightening. It is non-judgmental. And it is upsetting in many, many ways.

And finally (at least for the moment), the review in The Hindu who covered the launch of the book in Bangalore. Read "And the Good Girl Is" for more. Meanwhile, an excerpt:

The book has been co-authored by Annie and Smriti Ravindra and the whole book is an attempt to locate this creature known popularly as the ‘good Indian girl' says Zaidi, “The book is an attempt to figure it out – we talked to women in the sub-continent and wrote stories on their stories and it culminated in this book.

If you can't take our word for it, you can go by the reviews, and with the click of a button and for just Rs 207 (Rs 88 discount), you can own your very own copy of The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl through Flipkart.

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