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Zubaan Books: India's Leading Feminist Publishing House
The process of getting someone’s words to the time they can be made into a book is a long and tedious one. While figuring that out, we’re a little swamped tired not quite sure what this tumblr does um here have a link!spam?
— Shilpa Phadke talks about the politics of space, of loitering and of course of safety in Written into the City/Writing the City.
— Urvashi Butalia and Navsharan Singh on rethinking the impunity (of various law-making and official bodies) and sexual violence in South Asia at EPW.
What are you reading?
Why does President Patil seem lacking in this? Or why is it that we don’t see any of it? True, the presidential post is a symbolic one, and yet, even though all governments might like to place someone pliant there, the person isn’t meant to be a cipher, a non-person. Nor have previous presidents been thus: each has, in his own way, placed the stamp of his particular personality on the post — S Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain, KR Narayanan, APJ Abdul Kalam to name a few.
Years ago, when Sonia Gandhi led Pratibha Patil to the presidential post, the president-elect issued a reassuring statement that she would not be a ‘rubber stamp’ president. Perhaps not — but it is true that her tenure has been singularly unremarkable, barring the odd foreign visit and the recurring family and personal embarrassments from which she has had to distance herself. She has now and again reiterated her commitment to women, children and education, but there does not seem to have been much action to match the words.
Sometimes I think it’s such a shame, and such an opportunity lost. Five years that could have made a real difference. After the Muslim, the Sikh, the Dalit, the Hindu, we finally had a woman: a historic opportunity, five decades after Independence, to demonstrate that not only can women occupy such a position, but they can endow it with meaning and dignity, invest it with energy and bring to it a vision that is the hallmark of their particular personality. That is the saddest part, for it will probably take another six decades before this country is ready for another woman president. If for nothing else but that, it was incumbent on President Patil to make something of the presidency.
As I left to board my flight two seemingly unconnected thoughts passed through my mind: I realised that this was the second or third time in recent months that I had seen soldiers on their way to or from somewhere. They were getting to be a much more familiar sight in our lives than before: evidence of the greater closeness of war and conflict perhaps. I realised too that in the old days we believed that wars and battles were the domain of men. They went out to fight, to conquer or to protect the interests of the nation, and women stayed home, looking after the family, taking care of the home and hearth and occasionally providing backup services for the sick and wounded. This rather simple picture has become much more complex today. Unless they’re really driven by some strong nationalistic feeling – and this is increasingly difficult in this day and age, except in rare cases – men don’t really want to play the role of fighting for the motherland. And women are much more deeply implicated in wars and political conflicts than just as wives and mothers and nurturers of the sick and wounded.
It was what the soldiers at the airport said about their wives that set me thinking about this. Until now, the narratives of war and conflict we have had construct all women as innocent civilians and all men as combatants, with little exception. And yet, as we see all around us today, between these two binaries lies a whole complex reality, which shows how women and men are touched by war and conflict in different ways.
We don’t need to look very far to see this: our own, supposedly peaceable country provides enough examples. Traditionally, India has not been seen as a region of conflict, and there is, of course, a fair amount of truth in this for India has not been driven by conflict in the way that Rwanda, Guatemela, Cambodia or Eritrea (to name just a few) have. But you only need to scratch the surface and this façade of peacefulness very quickly disappears. In the last several years we have seen the escalation of different kinds of political conflict all over the country: war at one international border, continuing tension at others, military, ethnic, communal, caste and other sorts of conflicts within; the growth of militancy and sub-nationalist movements, increases in weaponisation, the greater visibility of the armed forces and, most recently, the dangerous posturing over nuclear power. The danger signals are clear to those who care to see.
Who says Feminists don’t have a sense of humour? What with Vagina-whitening creams and other completely random developments, we probably wouldn’t survive without a funny bone.
Take #5 of Zubaan Talkies is dedicated to humour and stand-up comedy. Featuring a knock-out session by Gautam Bhan, a riveting item number by our very own Anita Roy, and readings from the most outrageous and hilarious feminist responses to vag-fairness creams, Take #5 will have you in splits!
Check out Manjula Padmanabhan’s Cartoon on our invite for Zubaan Talkies here. Signal boost please.
Zubaan is an independent non-profit publishing house. It grew out of India’s first Feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. Founded by Urvashi Butalia, who was co-founder of Kali for Women, Zubaan was set up to specifically continue Kali’s work. Zubaan, has inherited half the backlist of Kali so that reprints of many backlist titles are assured.
The word ‘Zubaan’ comes from Hindustani and means, literally, tongue, but it has many other meanings, such as voice, language, speech and dialect.
While Zubaan is continuing to publish in areas similar to its predecessor, we are also expanding into other fields. We plan to:
—Begin publishing in Hindi and work actively with publishers in other Indian languages to translate our books.
— Organise many more workshops and work in collaboration with other organisations.
—Publish more broad based, popular books, though the focus on women will remain central to it.
This expansion is based on the understanding and realization that the women’s movement, the realities of women’s lives, in India and elsewhere, have changed and expanded considerably.
Some of the distinct lists that are being built in Zubaan are:
— Gender and Reproductive Health/Sexuality
— Gender and Conflict
— Gender and Architecture
— Gender and Law
— Gender and History/National Movement
— Gender and Economics
— The North East of India (including essays and fiction)
—Fiction in translation, mostly novels
— Readers on the Women’s Movement/Feminism
Working with Urvashi in Zubaan is a small editorial team that consists of Preeti Gill, Anita Roy, Shweta Vachani and Rosalyn D’Mello.