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The Tamil text Nīlakeci, dated around the 5th century CE (debated), is an unusual literary creation. It retrieves a violent, vengeful pēy (female possessing spirit) of Palayanur, transforming her into a Jaina philosopher. It was a profoundly subversive idea of its time, using the female persona and voice (for a hitherto disembodied being) to debate with preceptors of different schools of thought/religions of the time, all male, barring the Buddhist nun, Kuṇṭalakeci. Nīlakeci’s debates focus on questions of non-violence, existence of the soul, authorship and caste, among others.
However, in order to truly appreciate this alter-texting, one has to unravel layers of other texts and traditions: the lesser known villuppāttu (bow-song) and nātakam (theatrical) versions of the pēy Nīli stories, as well as the story of Kuṇṭalakeci’s own transformative journey. Umamaheshwari situates these in a comparative context, while maintaining the centrality of the debates within Nīlakeci, using translation of selected excerpts.
R. UMAMAHESHWARI did her doctorate in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has been an independent journalist and historian for some years. She was Fellow at the Institut d’Études Avancées de Nantes (Nantes Institute for Advanced Study), France (2017-18), and the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (2014-16). She is author of Reading History with the Tamil Jainas: A Study on Identity, Memory and Marginalisation, 2017 and When Godavari Comes: People’s History of a River (A Journey in the Zone of the Dispossessed), 2014.
A revolutionary take on the classic dystopian science fiction novel, Clone inaugurates a new kind of writing in India. Priya Sarukkai Chabria weaves the tale of a fourteenth-generation clone in twenty-fourth-century India who struggles against imposed amnesia and sexual taboos in a species-depleted world. With resonant and allusive prose, Chabria takes us along as the clone hesitantly navigates through a world rendered unfamiliar by her expanding consciousness. This slow transformation is mirrored in the way both she and her world appear to the reader. The necessary questions Chabria raises revolve around a shared humanity, the necessity of plurality of expression, the wonder of love, and the splendour of difference.
Clone’s adventurous forays into vastly different times, spaces, and consciousness—animal, human, and post-human—build a poetic story about compassion and memory in the midst of all that is grotesque.
Note: A different version of this book was previously published under the title Generation 14.
— Sudipta Dutta, The Financial Times
"A poetic imagination"
— Tim Parks, translator and author
"Ambitious and inventive"
— George Szirtes, translator and poet
— Rashmi Vasudeva, Deccan Herald
Priya Sarukkai Chabria is a writer, poet and translator. She has written several books, including Dialogues and Other Poems, Not Springtime Yet, and Generation 14. She is also the co-author / co-translator of Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess, published by Zubaan in 2016.
After the success of her collection The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet, Vandana Singh returns to the short story in Ambiguity Machines. Her deep humanism interplays with her scientific background in stories that consider and celebrate this world and others, with characters who try to make sense of the people they meet, what they see, and the challenges they face. An eleventh century poet wakes to find he is an artificially intelligent companion on a starship. A woman of no account has the ability to look into the past. And in 'Requiem,' a major new novella, a woman goes to Alaska to try and make sense of her aunt’s disappearance.
Examining the revolutionary potential of speculative fiction, Singh dives deep into the vast strangeness of the universe without and within to explore the ways in which we move through space and time: together, yet always apart.
“A delicate touch and passionately humanist sensibilities sweep through this magnificent collection, which ranges from the near future of our world to eras far away in space and time.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Singh is laying the groundwork attempt to re-write the plots of Chosen Ones, dystopian governments, and self-actualizing hero tropes common to Western literature, where the quest for “the meaning of life” is often seeking a single endpoint, an origin. Singh’s characters wish only to know for the sake of knowing. Life isn’t defined by linear time, it is the richness of experience.”
Vandana Singh was born and raised in New Delhi, and currently lives in the United States near Boston, where she professes physics and writes. Her short stories have appeared in numerous venues and several Best of Year anthologies, including the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. She is the author of the ALA Notable book Younguncle Comes to Town (Young Zubaan/Puffin India, 2004) and a previous short story collection, The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories (Zubaan/Penguin India, 2009).
This collection of essays focuses on the post-1980s period of the Indian feminist movement, a moment rich in new and different modes of resistance, of widespread political engagements with issues of rights, of justice, of identity and much more. The writers here, all well-known activists and founders of some of the most important of feminist institutions, describe their individual and collective journeys, bringing attention to the movement, to their struggles, their campaigns, their victories and the challenges they have faced. In using the tools of feminist analysis – a focus on life stories, on oral accounts, on group formation and more – they also make a case for advocacy through legal and socio-political means.
Despite being one of the most dynamic of feminist movements in the world, the Indian feminist movement has seldom been recognized as such. And yet, in addressing how women’s oppression and discrimination lie at the intersection of complex inequalities of caste, of region and religion, of class, of patriarchy, race, ethnicity, to name only a few, the writers in this volume make a case for the need for constant introspection, reflection and self-questioning, so that the movement can learn and grow. They show how in India, and indeed across much of South Asia, it is feminists who have stood against capitalism, war and violence, environmental degradation and fundamentalism and have forged alliances with varied movements, learning from them, working strengthening them but also infusing them with a feminist analysis.
CONTRIBUTORS: Flavia Agnes | Abha Bhaiya | Anjali Dave | Padma Deosthali | V. Geetha | Poonam Kathuria | Corinne Kumar | Kanchan Mathur | Madhu Mehra | Yashoda Pradhan | Sangeeta Rege | Jaya Sharma | Taranga Sriraman | Suneeta Thakur | Saumya Uma
Poonam Kathuria is the founder and executive secretary of SWATI (Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative).
Abha Bhaiya is one of the founder members of Jagori, a feminist organization set up in 1984 in Delhi.
Both are activists with a longstanding involvement in the women’s movement in India.
Set in the forests of northern Odisha, Mahuldia Days is the moving story of a young civil servant caught between her commitment to the tribal communities she knows are the original inhabitants of the forest, and the monolithic state, oblivious to the diverse realities of life on the ground. The moonlit Brahmani river snakes through the story with a life of its own while the city of the narrator’s childhood returns to her in dreams. Agnihotri creates a poignant, intense narrative layered with an awareness of the pressures of motherhood and personal love.
Praise for Anita Agnihotri:
“Agnihotri draws you in with her well fleshed out characters. Their dreams, idiosyncrasies and disappointments are all too real; as are their failures.”
—Aparna Singh, Women’s Web
“Urgently told and precise in their direction... Each story crackles with intensity and purpose.”
—Mike McClelland, Spectrum Culture
“[Anita Agnihotri] sensitively and beautifully chronicles the plight of a major chunk of the country’s population.”
—Abdullah Khan, The Hindu
Anita Agnihotri works in the Ministry of Social Justice in India. She is a Bengali writer of over twenty-five books, including Seventeen and The Awakening, both also published by Zubaan. Seventeen won the Economist-Crossword Book Award for translation in 2011.
Kalpana Bardhan is a writer and translator based in San Francisco.
Meet sisters Anjali and Pooja.
They have a lot of questions about the changes their bodies have begun going through and they’ve enlisted their friends, their myth-busting didi (she’s a doctor!) and their mothers in their search for answers.
Join the adventure to find out what they learn!
This comic book can be read as a story, or used to learn about menstrual health. It's chock-full of beautiful illustrations, projects and game ideas, as well as DIY instructions to make cloth pads. It tackles many persistent myths about menstruation head-on, helping girls to redefine their relationships with their bodies in a positive way and creating the culture of sharing and sisterhood.
Over the last several years, regular evaluation of development programs has become essential in measuring and understanding their true impact. Feminist and gender-sensitive evaluations have gradually emerged, drawing attention to existing inequities—gender, caste, class, location, and more—and the cumulative effect of these biases on daily life. Such evaluations are also deeply political; they explicitly acknowledge that gender-based inequalities exist, show how they remain embedded in society, and articulate ways to address them.
Based on four years of research, Voices and Values offers critical insight into how gender, class, and nationality inflect and affect sociological research. It examines how feminist evaluations could make an effective contribution to new policy formulations oriented to gender and social equity. The essays here focus centrally on the structural roots of inequity: giving weight to all perspectives; adding value to marginalized groups and people under evaluation; and taking forward the findings of evaluation into advocacy for change. In doing so, each essay advances the understanding of feminist evaluation both conceptually and as practice.
CONTRIBUTORS: Venu Arora | Sneha Bhat | Pallavi Gupta | Vasundhara Kaul | Renu Khanna | Seema Kulkarni | Ranjani K. Murthy | Rajib Nandi | Srinidhi Raghavan | Neha Sanwal | Shubh Sharma | Ratna M. Sudarshan | Enakshi Ganguly Thukral | Sonal Zaveri
Very little is known about Aesop who was supposed to have been a slave on the island of Samos in the sixth century BC. It is his fables (and those attributed to him) that have come down to us through the centuries.
In this version, a fabulist from the future, referred to as Sprite, hoicks herself back to his century. “Why didn’t you save the world?” That’s the Sprite’s cry. Aesop, meanwhile, is trying to save his skin, make up his fables and live his life. Given the pitfalls of human nature, are the fables an Instruction Manual for staying out of trouble? What about morals, what about reform, what about the castigation of social evils? Sprite nags and cajoles and begins to wonder how much power a writer really has. The book offers a virtuoso display of how the building blocks of a fable can be used in a variety of ways. It’s witty, it’s satirical and the Sprite herself is a comical figure. But at the end, when she has to return to her own time, that is to our own time and to our broken world, her central question suddenly seems less absurd, and far more urgent.
“Think of the vicious wit of Virginia Woolf, laced with the tender melancholia of Hélène Cixous, spiked with the subtle eroticism of Anaïs Nin.”
— Somak Ghoshal, Livemint
“Her writing is both wry and brave, rooted and uprooting. It is, in fact, as the title suggests fabulous writing.”
—Annie Zaidi, author of Gulab and Love Stories #1-14
“Namjoshi’s radicalism is not simply one of overturning structures, or of arguing for the recognition of women but, in the best practice of feminism, investigates, rethinks and revalues.”
—Robyn Cadwallader, Verity La
Suniti Namjoshi is a poet, a fabulist and a children’s writer who has written over thirty books. A selection of her writings is published in The Fabulous Feminist (Zubaan, 2012). Suki (Zubaan, Penguin India, 2013), a memoir about her beloved cat is both a book about a relationship and an elegy. Her latest work, Foxy Aesop, asks point-blank whether it is the function of writers to save the world. She has recently completed a dramatic sequence, ‘The Dream Book,’ which is based on the dream imagery in The Tempest and is also concerned with saving the world – over and over and over again.
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.
With a domestic market of around 70 billion dollars, the Indian fashion industry employs over 60 million people and accounts for a sizeable chunk of the country’s GDP. Despite this, models—the most visible yet voiceless actors of the industry—are rarely given the recognition they deserve. It is this overlooked demographic that forms the focus of Manjima Bhattacharjya’s remarkable study, bringing these women’s voices and perspectives to us.
Tracing the rise of the modelling and beauty industry from the 1960s to the present day, Bhattacharjya argues that modelling is work, and should be recognized as such. At the heart of the book lies a difficult question: should the industry be seen as objectifying women or as acknowledging their agency? Mannequin is also an individual’s personal exploration of the changing relationship between fashion and feminism.
“This book does an impossible thing — bridge the gap between fashion and feminism. Manjima Bhattacharjya offers us a sweeping history of India’s beauty industry, but more precious are the stories she brings from behind the catwalk — stories from small towns, stories of osmosis, desire, and ultimately, empowerment. “
—Tishani Doshi, poet and writer
“Mannequin attempts to decode the link between fashion and feminism and emerges as an important voice in the struggle toward empowerment through its intensive research and empathy.”
—Nonita Kalra, editor, Harper’s Bazaar India
“An extraordinary and unputdownable deep dive into the fascinating world of Indian fashion.”
—Sonia Faleiro, author of The Girl and Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars
Manjima Bhattacharjya is a feminist researcher, writer and activist. She has been part of the Indian women’s movement for over two decades. She holds a PhD in sociology. Her areas of specialization include gender and sexuality, and labour and the body. Her first book, an edited volume Sarpanch Sahib was long-listed for the Crossword Best Non-Fiction Book of 2009. She has written for several publications including the Times of India, ELLE and Info-change India. She lives and works out of Mumbai. Find her on Twitter @manzibarr.
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.
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?
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