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Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Monsoon of Music, Mitra Phukan

Those of you who couldn't be at our launch last evening, here's a little video, an interview done a year ago with Mitra Phukan by Assamese journalist Nabish Alam.

The launch, though, was fabulous launch.  Shubha Mudgal and Vidya Rao, both legendary vocalists, were on the panel for the release. We had about seventy people in the audience, all of whom were riveted by the stimulating conversation between the three about the book.

We have another event today at 5.30pm at Spell & Bound bookstore at SDA Market, opposite the IIT Gate. Come if you can. Zubaan author Bijoya Sawian will be in conversation with Mitra Phukan.

We'd love to see you.

--The Zubaan Team

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
A handful from a good Indian girl
One of the friends in this video decided to blog her own thoughts after watching it.
Here is a brief extract:
Most of us (in India) cannot or won’t express our feeling too openly, because we live in fear of being rejected, of being judged, of being branded as social outcast. We are kind and compassionate, even to those who hurt us, we pretend to forget and forgive, we keep a smile and move on, and we lead a double-faced life.
My friend posts a FB status that says “I'M A HANDFUL - unfortunately most women WON'T re-post this. I'm strong willed, independent, a bit outspoken, and I tell it like it is. I make mistakes, I am sometimes out of control and at times hard to handle but I love and give with all my heart. If you can't handle me at my worst then you sure don't deserve me at my best. If you are a HANDFUL, re-post! I dare you..I'll be looking for the ladies who re-post”
I asked her “Are you a good Indian girl?’ and she replies “not a chance..not even trying.” And I am set thinking if the above status makes you very un-Indian?
Event: 27th August, Spell & Bound Bookshop, SDA Market (Opp IIT Gate), 5.30pm

Event: 26th August at Gulmohur Hall, India Habitat Centre, 6.30pm
Sita...a role model for GIGs? by Smriti Ravindra

Nina Paley’s wonderfully visualized movie “Sita Sings the Blues” brings home the deep rooted bias most women have against Sita. “Sita Sings” is a beautiful movie. The illustrations are stunning, and the music! Oh the music is to die for. And yet, the movie, like most other medias, undersells Sita. It depicts Sita as a lovelorn, naïve, clingy person who cannot stand up for herself and revels in the injustices Ram heaps on her. Ram is the jerk, Sita the feminine pushover.

The movie frustrated me (for those interested, you can watch the entire movie on youtube and the quality is excellent) because I expected more understanding from an artist of Paley’s caliber. I have always thought of Sita as a staunch feminist, one who has been misinterpreted and misrepresented for so many generations we can no longer see her for the independent woman she was.

From what is popularly known about Sita, Sita is learned, rich, physically strong – she could lift the shiva-dhanush with her left hand, beloved of her parents – yes, this too is important, too many women find independence difficult because their parents did not love them as much as they loved their sons. She marries a valiant and powerful prince, one who must prove his worth before he can be wedded to her, and she is loyal and loving towards the man she marries. When her husband leaves for the forest she follows him as an equal, capable of handling the challenges her husband would face during exile. Through it all, she remains a trusting person. She trusts her husband, she trusts the forest around her, harsh as it might have been, she trusts the vows of marriage and the bonds of love. She trusts, and she is betrayed. She is abducted by Ravana and held captive, but the abduction is not a betrayal, it is an incident that takes place and during the period of captivity she continues to trust Ram and probably interprets the abduction as one of the many challenges she and her partner were facing together. Upon rescue, she does not demand an agni pariksha of Ram. We know that during Sita’s absence Ram was pursued by other women, Supranakha for one, but Sita does not doubt or question Ram’s fidelity. She does not wonder what Ram had been up to while she was away. She does not ask him to prove his purity. What she does instead is prove her own.

I see Sita enter the fires of the agni pariksha as a different person, and emerge from it differently, and I see Ram’s demand for the agni pariksha as the strongest betrayal she faces.

Everything after the agni pariksha is shoddy and ugly. Sita is more and more alone in the world thereafter. After the washerman incident, Ram asks her to leave the palace. Laxman takes Sita to the jungles and does not return to look into her affairs again. The supremely loyal and faithful Hanuman is no longer in the picture. She is by herself, at the mercy of the elements and the strangers she meets there, and she is pregnant. When she goes into her exile her partner does not follow. Her challenges are hers alone, and she deals with them masterfully. She never returns to the palace again. She gives birth to twins and raises the boys single handedly, doing such an excellent job as a single mother that her sons become capable of winning wars and ruling kingdoms. It’s marvelous to think of all she must have had within her, her skills, her knowledge, her self-esteem, her fierceness, all the things concerning her that are never talked about.
When Ram, harrowed by guilt, loneliness, and a sense of injustice asks Sita to forgive and to return, Sita is not willing to forget. She will not return to Ram. She would rather die, and Sita’s final act is terrifying in its dignity. I wonder sometimes what she must have done, how she killed herself. It seems like she threw herself into a gorge, or off a cliff, into mother-earth. But perhaps, she walked back into the thick forest and never emerged. Perhaps she simply said no. Perhaps she said to her sons, choose, and they chose and she left. She is one of those proud people who are heart wrenching in their solitude.

I love her deeply, but I don’t want to worship her. Not because she is not worth the worship but because the centuries have distorted her image so savagely, made her so weak, simplified her to an equation that always adds up to Ram. The centuries have used Sita to weaken women in general and provide license to men. Sita and Ram are the first couples to have gotten a divorce and it is because Sita did not grovel to return to her marriage that we have hammered her down so systematically. What a contrast Sita is to Sati, who dies too, but to protect her husband’s honor. Sati is hailed as a woman of immense courage and love, one who made such an impact women were forced to burn on their husband’s pyre. Then there is Sita, who dies to protect her own, but we don’t discuss that, do we?

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.

Tweet Indian Girl

A few days ago, Zubaan had run a twitter contest, inviting tweets with the hashtag 'goodindiangirl'. Funny, quirky, honest, random. There were dozens of responses and the ones that appealed most to us won free copies of the book and t-shirts. There were others that we liked just as much, but could not agree on. Here is a list of tweets. The ones we can still find on our TLs anyway.

If there are more you know of, or something you'd like to add to the list, go ahead and do it. The comments space beckons.

Aneela Z Babar: Would a #goodindiangirl be tweeting from the bathroom?Hiding from her toddler? No? Than probably I'm stuck being a #BadPakistaniWoman

Manisha Lakhe: hai hai! #goodindiangirl kisi ko tag kaise karegi? tag wale khel mein tap karna hota hai, woh kisi ko chuegi kaise?

TweetTiger: A #goodindiangirl always lets her husband come first. #doubleentendre

Blaftness: A #goodindiangirl drives the moped. http://twitpic.com/5ulff2

Telugutalli: Acting like Sita in her obedience but never like her in her defiance #goodindiangirl

Does not under any circumstances show she can drive or do maths faster than her man #goodindiangirl

Polgrim: Dear @ZubaanBooks, the #goodindiangirl lives in my mother's imagination.

Zigzackly: when a #goodindiangirl grows up, she becomes a #badindianmotherinlaw

Flyinghigh82: "A Good Indian Girl is the one who doesn't get caught doing the wrong things" #goodindiangirl

"A good Indian girl is one who can dress up traditionally and fetch multi-million dollar deals with ease" #goodindiangirl

Longsurnamegolt: A #goodindiangirl may go stale if not kept fresh and ziplocked.

Sacredinsanity: A #GoodIndianGirl is the woman in our ads, who conquers the world. After using fair and Lovely.

Mountainelk: The #goodindiangirl likes fairytales, not fantasies

Jugni_on_acid: A #goodindiangirl is Everything I'm not.

The #goodindiangirl is a figment of my mother's imagination.

Pragni: #goodindiangirl knows how to make aloo-gobi!

#goodindiangirl is who does not wear a short skirt in front of to-be in-laws!!

PunditComment: a #goodindiangirl knows how to pack food for journeys on the Indian railway.

a #goodindiangirl is a baby machine. #nastytweet

a #goodindiangirl owns more sarees than swimsuits.


Vikramjit_ S: "Chhodo Na...Kya kar rahe ho..*giggle* #goodindiangirl"

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