deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
So.... remember I was saying something about further awesomeness from Comic Con? Well, it all went down something like this:

[personal profile] thedilettante: What ho, shall we go get pretty things from the Blaft stall to auction on Con or Bust, since their Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction seems to be doing well?

Me: Er, sure. You will have to buy, though, since I have already spent everyone else's money.

[personal profile] thedilettante: ::eyes me dubiously::

Me: People gave me some extra dosh to cover shipping for the books I got signed from the Jai Lit Fest for Con or Bust and I went and spent it on MOAR BOOKS, because how could I have foreseen that Comic Con would strike before the auction closed?

[personal profile] thedilettante: Er. Yes. Well, I shall irresponsibly encourage you to use your Rs. 40 Campfire voucher to buy EVEN MOAR BOOKS.

Me: You are a horrible human being. Shall we to the Blaftness?

[personal profile] thedilettante: Ahoy. Incidentally one of the Blaft publishers was wearing a Batman sari yesterday.

Me: I. Whut. I think my heart just grew three sizes at the thought of there being a Batsari in this our fallen and degenerate world.

[personal profile] thedilettante: We are in accord about this. What ho Rakesh (one half of Blaft)! Deepa, explain it all to them.

Me: Well, um. There's this thing... [livejournal.com profile] con_or_bust. For, um, people of colour. Which you could be too, if you wanted, even if you're being brown in brownlandia and not calling yourselves 'of colour'. For the purposes of con-attendage, I mean. Um.

[personal profile] thedilettante: Let me clarify. We want your books. To sell on the internet.

Rakesh: Sure! You want Kumari Loves A Monster? Signed by Rashmi, AKA other half of Blaft AKA Batsari Lady?

Us: Yes!

Rakesh: She's not here now to sign 'em, but you can pick them up tomorrow at our bookstore event where we will probably show up without any books since they will have all sold out here at Comic Con. Meanwhile, do you want more stuff?

Us: ... Like what?

Rakesh: Oh, hmmm, well, we had these master artist wrought one-of-a-kind engravings of robots on palm leaves lying around...



Us: ::jaws drop (possibly also some drool)::

Rakesh: Cool, you can have it for free, hope your auction works out!

[personal profile] thedilettante: (sotto voce) Yeah, remember what I told you about them being terribly sweet people who keep giving things away and therefore aren't in the best place as a business?

Me: idontcareomgicanteven ANCIENT INVADING ROBOTS ONNA PALM LEAF!!1111!

[personal profile] thedilettante: You do remember that you have to give it away, right? You can't actually hang it in your bedroom with a diya and an agarbatti in front of it and garland it with paper flowers and tell everyone you are doing pooja to the Maateshwari Jahaj as I can clearly see you planning to.

Me:... Well, I could argue that letting something like this leave the shores of our beloved motherland in exchange for filthy lucre is like that jerk who handed over the Kohinoor. And also the Peacock Throne.

[personal profile] thedilettante: Show it to everyone else while we are waiting for our momos so that they will prevent you from Stealing From Charity.

Collective Bong Contingent, in one voice: D'AWWWW ROBO POTO CHITRO!

And so, my friends, we have up for auction, only till this Sunday:

One (1) Yantra-Purusha Tala Pattachitra (machine-man palm-leaf engraving),
Two (2) autographed copies of Kumari Loves a Monster, and
Twelve (12) Indian comic books and graphic novels, some autographed.

I haven't read any of them yet, but here's my one-line reason for buying them:
  • Odayan - Kalaripayattu-fighting anti hero vigilante in Kathakali face-paint!
  • Daksha - Dystopic underworld meets Kalidas's mythology!
  • The Treasured Thief - Adventure in ancient Egypt with Sachin Nagar doing Disney-meets-Avatar the Last Airbender art!
  • In Defence of the Realm - Story set in ancient Harappa by an Indian archeologist!
  • Auto Pilot - Yama has to take an auto, the autowallah has to take Yama!
  • Whose Development - journalism via comics via grassroots activists!
  • Parallel Lines - social justice narratives through pretty line art!
  • Chairman Meow and the Protectors of the Proletariat - Bright colours + satire by Abhijeet Kini!
  • Uud Bilaw Manus - An Otter Man fights crime in Beehar while speaking Fauxpuri!
  • Widhwa Ma Andhi Behen - The Widowed Mom and Blind Sister take on Bechdel testing!
  • Retrograde - Dystopian future fic written by desis, peopled with desis!
  • Milk & Quickies - Short shorts by the guy who dreamed up Angry Moushi!

Also still up for grabs:
One (1) autographed copy of Beirut Blues by Hanan al-Shaykh.
One (1) set of 3 (Three!) autographed books comprising the GameWorld trilogy by Samit Basu.
and a partridge inna pear tree a blog post by me.

[community profile] con_or_bust is hovering at around $5,000 right now, folks, and the target is $12,000.

I'd like to be able to link some of the fans I've been meeting at Comic Con India and Jaipur Lit Fest to it, actually, and hopefully there will be enough funds to help at least one Indian fan get to some international convention. Because it's always nicer when people can move across borders the way books have.
deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
So then, I met the whole entire world at Comic Con. No, really. Meeting [personal profile] swatkat and [personal profile] thedilettante was planned, even though it involved me going there yesterday again after Saturday's exhaustive recce. But we kept bumping into more odd and sundry people we knew, because I suppose the only thing better than a weekend at Dilli Haat is a weekend with Dilli Haat with Amar Chitra Katha. I also met not one, but two former neighbours, thus proving that no matter how far we may roam, the haat is where our heart is.

**


The cosplayers were, to a superhero, adorable. I'm so used to keeping my fannishness online and physically invisible that it gave me a moment's cognitive dissonance to see people so openly out. Poison Ivy turned out to be the classmate of my brother's classmate, and apparently I was only the second person that day to recognise her. Someone had the temerity to call her Tinkerbell. What is this world coming to when Disney's franchise steamroller crushes one of the most brilliant (and femmeslashy! Pam/Harley OTP!) Bat villains into obscurity?

There was also a baby Batman. At some point baby Batman was being dandled on the lap of an indulgent Uncle Two-Face, which is just crying out for the elseworld in which Harvey raises Bruce after the Alley Incident and thus grows up to be a well-adjusted tights-shunning young man whose nascent man pain shrivelled up and died in the faces of his coin-flipping faux father.

**


Of course, there was slightly creepy Superman. I mean, I am of the opinion that Superman inherently as a concept is creepy and bland at the same time, but this was a slightly different weirdness.

For a start, he had forgotten to wear the red outer underpants. As the evening became colder, it quickly became apparent that he had seemingly forgotten to wear any inner underpants. This was something that inevitably became somewhat of a talking point as we ran into people we vaguely knew.

It really didn't help that Superbulge was going around chatting up young women. "Have you seen Superman's crotch?" followed by "How can I avoid it?" was the new small talk while sitting at tables in the food stalls that put one right at lap level. I took the opportunity to provide An Educational Moment regarding dance belts and support thereof.

**


I must also give props to the young lady who was a character from Naruto. I couldn't see any manga distributers in the stalls. I know quite a lot of anime gets aired on Cartoon Network and Pogo and whatever other kids channels are out there, but I'm not sure how much manga gets released as a tie-in product.

There was one guy who was selling 'the first Indian manga'. I felt it was not the appropriate time to have a discussion about the oxymoronic nature of that term, and how, really, were we then going to give Hollywood the permission to make 'the first American Bollywood movie'?

There was, however, a Real Life Mangaka at the con. Blaft launched Yukichi Yamamatsu's Stupid Guy Goes To India, translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian. The mangaka sat next to Blaft publisher Rakesh Khanna, and at various intervals, Rakesh would stand up and read along (in hesitantly accented Hindi) a little announcement about having come from Japan and being a comic maker, while Yukichi San nodded along. It looked like a zen master had built a robot to do his bidding.

Of course I would not be surprised to find robots at the Blaft stall, given their stated avowal to obliterate literary fiction entirely from the face of the earth, by way of 'encouraging people to read comics about extraterrestrial robots, bleeding lizards, exploding donkeys, and defecating cyclopses'.

**


Actually, my second encounter with the Blaft phenomenon was even more surreal than the first. I've had a crush on the publishing house since I saw their cover for the first Tamil Pulp Fiction Anthology, and every succeeding thing they've put out has only heightened my admiration for their design and aesthetic sense, all without having read a single book of theirs. Yes, I am shallow, I fall for publishers based on their covers.

On Sunday, since I was accompanying [personal profile] thedilettante, who had a bright idea related to [livejournal.com profile] con_or_bust, things got much more strange and wonderful. (Including an communication via proxy with [blogspot.com profile] thirdworldghettovampire for which I am pre-emptively sorry for, Kuzhali!) But I shall speak of more about this anon, when I have pictures. Er, of things. Pretty, shiny things. (Not people, because I don't do the people pictures on the internets things, and would very much appreciate the courtesy being returned.)

**


Speaking of pictures, I think I managed to hit every stall, and couldn't find a single female artist. And I don't think I saw any female writers, either. Which is double weird, because two of the better known Indian graphic novels are written and drawn by women-- Parismita Singh's The Hotel at the End of the World and [wordpress.com profile] amrutapatil's wonderful Kari. (Which Harper Collins seems to have allowed to go out of print. WHY?!)

So instead I asked at every table where freebies were being handed out for something featuring the women characters. The pickings were unsurprisingly slim. I got a poster of a Princess Lunestra, from a forthcoming animated series called The Legends of Aveon 9. She's blonde in my poster, but was brunette in the stall's display. I asked one of the dudes at the stall and he muttered something about the vagaries of screen printing. On the website she's dark haired, though, so I might have to get a marker and recolour her hair for my own satisfaction.

Chetan Sharma, the director of Tripura, actually said that there was no scope for women characters in the film because he was trying to stick to the original source. Which, whatever dude, but OMG THE ART! ::flails:: It's so pretty! Check out Shiva getting down with his badass Pashupati self!

So the film apparently airs at random, unannounced times on Cartoon Network, but the DVD is being held up to be released along with the graphic novel, which was supposed to be out in Jan, but has been delayed till October. Chetan said the graphic novel will be closer to his artistic vision than the film, and I am all for delays if they mean taking time over lovingly crafted artwork. It really is stunning. Hurrah for pauranic retellings that are not the Ramayan or Mahabharat!

**


On the other hand Ari Jayaprakash apologised for running out of prints of his women characters, and said he'd send me one. I'm interested in reading The Kuru Chronicles, which wasn't actually launched since it wasn't ready, but which again, had gorgeous, starkly vivid art on display. Plus it has a female protag called Dakini from Sonagachi taking on dystopian Kolkata, written by (lady author!) [wordpress.com profile] anishasridhar. It's going to be self-published, which seemed to be a pretty popular option given the number of independent comic makers with a stall to sell their single title. These ranged from the print version of the webcomic Sufi Comics to Aakash Anand's abstract comic. On the one hand, this means that artists can ensure that the paper quality is exactly what they need for their precious babies; on the other hand, they may not always be able to do quality control for the vagaries of the printing process. Which leads to things like the first volume of a series being printed with blurry lettering.

**


Speaking of said series -- Ravanayan has one more issue to go, so I thought I'd wait to read it. The art was decent, with a sort of punk rock meets Gotham vibe, but I have to say, all these Ravan takes are disappointing me. They trot out the old Shiv-bhakt, Indra-conquerer anti-hero shtick, but they never actually transgress the Valmiki version. And this when there are alternatives canons where he wins Sita. And how about maybe unpacking some of that Aryan-Dravidian toxic demonisation thing? And also, noble but ultimately tragically self-defeating Ravana is three shades fairer than your ordinary rakshasa (who is always dark skinned) but never as fair as Rama (who is never dark skinned).

Krishna wept, people. What is it going to take to get us some actual raincloud coloured avatars around here? Dark-skinned topless men are pretty, just check out the mighty fine nubile gents on your local fishing boat. And considering how many comic publishers are operating out of Chennai and Bengaluru, there is really no excuse for this blatant colourism to continue, ACK be damned.

**


Ravana: Roar of the Demon King was the other one. Lush, fluid art that looked like manga meets Raja Ravi Verma. It was at the Campfire stall, which was a bit of a revelation for me.

See normally, I grew up looking at adaptations of classics with a jaundiced eye. Rewriting Little Women to fit a 30 page picture book format was my idea of blasphemy. I learned really early on to spot the dread words 'abridged' on the copyright page and put the mutilated thing away. But somewhere along the line fandom taught me to appreciate adaptations (especially cinematic ones) as one does an AU fic. Love it or leave it, the original is still there unsullied.

And so when I saw Campfire's graphic novel retellings of Kim and The Jungle Book, I was deeply amused. I think it's kind of cute that an author like Kipling gets reworked by Indian artists, who turn the end of Kim into a straight up Bodhisattva tale. And their artwork and production values are all uniformly top notch. I became an especial fan of the chameleon artistry of Sachin Nagar, who went from the Ravan book to a Disney-pop style for The Treasured Thief and then to the gritty sketches of Photo Booth.

**


Outside the Campfire stall a young lady was offering a lucky dip, with monopoly money type discount coupons. When I closed my eyes and looked away and pulled out a Rs. 20 coupon, she immedietly frowned sympathetically and told me to try again. So I did, nobly resisting the temptation to cheat and pick up the folded Rs. 50 coupon which a staffer had just tossed back into the box to be reused. [personal profile] thedilettante and I both ended up with Rs. 40, which, alas, they did not allow us to combine on one book.

I suspect that my sneaky plan to amass Rs. 100 discount vouchers from the inkfruit stall by way of asking my brother and his friends to go and retrieve them will similarly fail. Woe. For I saw a remarkable number of covetable T shirts. It seems (whodaa thunk?) that graphic designers are close kin to animators and artists and various drawing-wallahs, and so there was all sorts of delectable merchandising on display, from a kolaveri t shirt so that you can continue to annoy everyone, to a Super Kudi mug.

**


On the first day, we tried to track down the comic where the awesome superaunty in the giant banner greeting us on the entrance was from. We failed; it turns out she's Super Mummy, and only exists on a coffee mug with a washing line of superundies flapping valiantly behind her.

Then I managed to get confused by another aunty, compounded by the fact that the artist was responsible for the crowd illustrations in the background of the aforementioned poster. His Aunty was scowling and visible only on coasters and magnets. But he gave me her backstory - she's called Angry Moushi, because her last name is Angre.

"Heh, I bet she lives in a chawl in Khar," I said.

"Yeah! Why, are you from Khar?" he asked.

"No... but one of my cousins lives there..."

Obviously, it turns out Abhijeet Kini is friends with my cousin. The arm of the Mumbaikar is long and many tentacled.

([profile] koyal and [personal profile] noldo, I have told Abhijeet that Angry Moushi needs her own comic book, or Someone Will Have To Answer For It. JAI AUNTISTAN!)

**


The Comic Con was apparently presented 'in association with' (read: funded by) Disney and The Avengers. And yet I barely registered their presence. There was one double stall dedicated to a flat screen TV repeating the Avengers trailer over and over again, all 1 minute 30 seconds of it, and since I've been avoiding the fandom, it took staring at the cut out for me to realise that the Marvel behemoth has managed to make a multi-superhero movie featuring six white dudes and one white lady who was the only one to not get a movie of her own first.

Meanwhile [personal profile] thedilettante had a righteous rant about Disney getting rid of the lady from the title of Burrough's A Princess of Mars. The John Carter stall kept running a bunch of contests, and one of them involved holding a sword straight out parallel to the ground for five minutes. A petite young mom was competing as we passed by, and everyone was just staring silently at her. So of course we took it upon ourselves to cheer mightily for her, and were duly pleased that though her arm was trembling by the end of it, she won.

Actually, I wonder if Disney missed the memo. One single stall focussing on a Hollywood blockbuster when they have characters like the Princess brigade and the Mouse to pimp out and redefine copyright laws over? Looks like they were thinking this was supposed to be a knock-off version of the San Diego Comicon, or some other adult-fanboy oriented affair. I am meanly pleased that all the kiddies will go back clutching Chacha Choudhary and The Adventures of Timpa instead.

**


I think choosing to host it at Dilli Haat was a cool idea. No, it's not a convention, but why should it be? I like the idea of not going down the geek subculture hotel ballroom route, and instead turning cosplay into part of a semi-public mela. People bring their 4 year old to Dilli Haat regardless of her complete disinterest in Ikat saris and Madhubani lampshades; why not apply the same inclusive bazaar aesthetic to comic book marketing.

There's one sentence I agree with in this article:
The graphic novel market in India is a niche one and the real challenge for creators and publishers is to devise ways to expand the reader base. One of the pitfalls that the industry would do well to avoid is the easy construction of the intended reader as a comic addict and the super hero-mythology fanboy, and of comic-reading as a groovy sub-cultural activity.

I think smooshing together all the various kinds of sequential art into a haat is a great idea. I missed seeing Navayana's titles there, and Tara Books' exquisite picture books. I think there's a space for them at this kind of Comic Con, where you can bring your kids, and the graphic nudity is as commonplace and unfetishised as any aghori baba at a kumbh mela.

And I think it's kind of emblematic that one of [personal profile] swatkat's friends ended up spending all her money on a really pretty tussar sari from one of the regular Dilli Haat stalls instead. Like most of the stuff on display at Comic Con, the Dilli Haat shoppables are expensive, pretty things made by Indian artists, which you can admire over a plate of momos and kesar kaava from the wazwan stall.

Even superheroes are best served up hot with easy access to momos.

**


Apparently there was also a whole programming track with phrang comic BNFs and all. There were TOO MANY PEOPLE for me to notice. The kids were the worst; you'd be swimming through the ocean of humanity and feel them lurking underwater ready to mumble at your calves like baby sharks.

I did overhear one set of gentlemen who were doing a powerpoint presentation on RPGs though. Full marks for effort, dudes! May you be blessed with many new fanboys and girls to game with.

The final quote is courtesy [personal profile] thedilettante,who reports:
A Girl, in front of a superhero: Those aren't man boobs! ::poke, poke:: Those are synthetic!
deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
Seven posts in seven days! \o/ I am not a complete and total and not-a-single-example-to-prove-otherwise failure! It is nice to have proof of this sometime.

People have been asking for recs, and I have been cringing from those comments and ignoring them ::waves guiltily to y'all::

Back when I was doing the features writer gig and selling my soul writing about sunglasses shops and British pop stars, I swore to myself never to do reviews. For dance and theatre, I managed mostly; I covered the event, but walked a line that was probably visible only to me on this side of critiquing it. With books, I did write a couple for the kids' page but on the whole I steered clear. Because reviewing, to me, is Taking A Stance. And having enough confidence in one's opinion to state it publicly. In print, which means it's there forever, because ain't no editor going to agree to print a retraction to the effect of "In regards to review printed three years and two days ago, the reviewer wishes to change their opinion of the book based on blog posts from the author that indicate the sexism was, indeed, intentional".

I am not, however, the sort of open-minded person who manages to not have opinions about things until she is educated enough for them to be well-informed. I have Thoughts and Feelings about everything, and with vehemence and caps-lock! So I enjoy talking about books a lot; I just don't know where and how to go about it.

Because I am, for the most part, a terrible reviewer. I can write critiques of books I loathe, on the principle that everyone should be warned off reading them, and people will read spoilers of bad books without caring. When it comes to good books though, I am a spoiler fanatic, so my advice mostly consists of "This book, you must read it! It has a thing, which you will like, and I also really liked some other stuff, which we can talk about after you have finished it!" I suspect this autocratic and high-handed attitude came from having younger brothers who listened to mY "read this now" or "you won't get it yet, wait a bit" fiats with a meekness that I almost certainly did not deserve.

Books I am not certain about are the worst; I wish to warn people about their flaws, but what if I scare someone away from a book they would like, and the world is denied a Book Being Read which is sort of like not clapping your hands even though you believe in fairies.

I much prefer to talk about books to people after they have read them, so that we can squee over the good parts and yell at the bad ones, and my smart friends can dig up blog posts that explain what happened in that plot line that I could not understand.

So talking about books with friends is fun. But taking on the responsibility of reviewing or reccing is scary. And doubly and triply so when the recs are cross-cultural. Apart from my defensiveness about what the book and the rec might say about the culture, and how the reader might interpret the book, and if this is the One Book they are going to base their opinion of Indian women, or children, or elephants on, then what am I doing, flail, etc... there is also the problem of me really, really not wanting to be considered any sort of authority to be reccing in the first place.

Two nights ago I was having a pre-Jaimela get-together with some smashing lady-people, and I found myself asking Who or What Is That of every second reference to a book, author, event or song. I vastly enjoy being in the company of people who know better and more than me, since I find learning to be a lot more fun than teaching. Which is the reason I expect I will have a good time at this mela. As one friend said, it will be four days of practising active listening.

All of which is to bring me to the last Melawalas and Walis. People who do talk about books, and do it with a craftsmanship I can only admire from afar. Because while fests like this do tend to revolve around The Author, I much prefer centring The Reader's experience. And I'm very happy to find Indian readers talking about Indian books in places where I can find them.

Some of them, like Chandrahas Choudhury have published novels of their own (which I haven't read, so I ignore, and anyway, my fond memories of his reviews are the pre-novel Ultra Brown blogging days). A LOT of them are now professional reviewers for mainstream media. And that brings its own elements of collusive circle-jerking to it. Socialising in person with authors and publishers (and other reviewers) doesn't always 'taint the purity' of reviews, but I do find that sometimes passion gets diluted by prudence.

And I certainly don't agree with all their opinions and politics. Nor do I uniformly think that they are qualified appropriately for every subject they talk about.

But they do talk. And write. And do it regularly, and with skill, and with a love for reading and readers, and with a knowledgeable discernment of books.

Nilanjana at [blogspot.com profile] akhondofswat and [blogspot.com profile] kitabkhana
Supriya at [blogspot.com profile] roswitha and LiveMint
Aishwarya at Practically Marzipan and [blogspot.com profile] bluelullaby
Chandrahas at [blogspot.com profile] middlestage

These are the people on my RSS feed reader who'll be there at jailitfest, some on panels, some running around chasing interviews in between attending them. I believe they are all on twitter, so those of you into that new-fangled instant discourse system, can probably get vicarious mela-baazi from their tweets. (If I had the power, I would deem the official hashtag for the fest to be #jaimela, for the dual pun of jhamela and jaimala, but alas, I am a voiceless prole.) You can also go through their posts, get some recs if you like.

Meanwhile, I am offline for the next week, in the company of people more bookish, opinionated and verbose than me, which shall be a nice change from quotidian existence. Inshallah I shall arrive at the correct ISBT to catch my bus, since I am not 100% sure if it's the Kashmiri Gate one or the Sarai Kale Khan one, and no one is answering the phones. But of course, why should they? Travel is meant to be an adventure, interspersed with anxiety and surprise.

If you never hear from me again, assume I have been kidnapped by a flying camel, and am off in some haveli somewhere, swathed in leheriya dupattas and being fed Bikaneri bhujia and kachauris every day. No need to send books, because after these four days, I shall probably need a break from them. Send Afghanistani singers instead, equipped with Khusraw bandishes.
deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
I am more attracted to fiction. I am more moved by non-fiction.

There is this distinction between the two; while both can be educational, the escapism possible in fiction carries a different flavour in non-fiction. I have met news-channel addicts whom I would say have not been any more improved by the content of their attention than were it romance novels or murder mysteries. But in an unexpected, sudden confrontation with the world around you, it is knowledge that most equips you to deal with it, and non-fiction, in idealistic theory, carries truth pure as cocaine to infuse your veins with.

The craft of a journalist; that non-fiction writer in the trenches, is so often a crude and impatient means to an end. The event is all; what matter if the town crier has gone hoarse from the repetitive telling of it, or if the messenger has spewed you in spit?

Of course, it does matter, and so we have the attractive news anchors and the personable opinion-makers and the media conglomerates that command respect because of the number of dead trees they can move on the backsides of strategically naked female bodies. We've all seen the Times of India go from a decently proof-read purveyor of actual news to a rumourmongering pimp whoring its columns out to the most desperate to be talked about. By no means is it alone in its shoddy standards or sell-outedness, and mainstream media, by definition, tends to gravitate to the cause of the dominant.

And then, there's people like Dayamani Barla. Or [blogspot.com profile] dayamani-barla, as I should say, because the lady has had a blog since 2009, posting both her own pieces and articles about her.

Barla is a journalist out of passion. She spends her own money on the travel and expenses required to get a story; money she earns as the proprietor of a chai adda--something she chose because she thinks of them as hubs for discussion of social issues. She is an adivasi who has watched big business strip her family of their land and rights, and she has educated herself in order to call out the wrongs being done. She writes in Hindi for papers like Prabhat Khabhar, having conciously chosen to stay local despite the higher profile jobs that are no doubt available to her thanks to the awards and recognition she has won.
"The corporate houses are simply ignorant of the concept of the subsistence economy of a tribal society that is rooted in agriculture and forest produce. The natural resources to us are not merely means of livelihood, but our identity, dignity, autonomy and culture have been built on them for generations. These communities will not survive if they are alienated from the natural resources. How is it possible to rehabilitate or compensate us?" (Source)

We are not anti-development, we are just demanding sustainable development. Development of our land on our terms. The government says that it will rehabilitate the villages and give us good compensation. But we say you can neither rehabilitate our history, our identity, our rivers, our mountains nor can you compensate the loss of our environment with your money. We are saying this development should include development of our culture, language, history, identity, rivers, mountains and the development of our people. We want development of our indigenous people living in their native lands. (Source)

There's a lot of hue and cry made about every impotently violence-filled threat raised against celebrity writers like Salman Rushdie. And I firmly believe that even the writers of badly-characterised, ahistorical, religiously-offensive fiction deserve the bodily freedom to do it in. But the disparity in a mass response seems stark especially on a day like today when the English speaking online world has decided to make it clear to all of us how very important U.S.-centric threats to online freedom are, in comparison to the many other issues of other nations which receive no such urgent, vehement response.
One of the mails I got yesterday on a social issues list I'm on was a petition asking for endorsement:
On 14th January, in the evening, a Police Mobile Van of Chutya Thana (Ranchi) landed at her hotel on Club Road, Ranchi, and started to harass her staff asking about her links with anti-social elements. The Sub-Inspector making the 'enquiries' had neither no written permission or order. The following day, when Ms. Barla, met SSP Ranchi, Mr. Saket Kumar at his residence to ask why she was being harassed in this manner, his response was that the allegations were being made on the basis of an complaint and the fact that she participated in the "Free Jiten Marandi Convention”, in which Varavara Rao was also present.

It's the kind of thing she lives with. And while I hope that coming to Jaipur will be a nice break for her, and that the festival has funded her attendance so that she can relax and bask in some well-deserved appreciation and bonhomie with kindred spirits, she is not the sort of journalist who ventures out 'into the wild' for a story and then returns to an urbane, cosmopolitan life of comfort. It is not poverty porn she peddles, but a nuanced, persistent outrage that comes from being a gadfly long accustomed to the flicks and flinches from discomforted asses of the hominid persuasion.
The reason why I got into journalism… [was] to get the voice of the people out. If you're thinking of change, you have to deal with these issues and not run away.[...]"You have to give away comforts in life as a woman journalist. [...] The pen is the way to fight against exploitation nowadays. It's my way to fight. (Source)
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Overdue because my day has been... a roller coaster. And while the good parts were exceedingly good, the tiresome parts were horrid.

And I must sleep, so very briefly -

Publishers of small presses, who write the solicitation letters, and the forewords, and the press releases to get mainstream media to cover the books. And who act as gatekeepers. Or corporations, I tend to find them selfish and evil. As community businesses and non-profits; they are one of the most passionate, tireless advocates of ideology. Both good and bad, but one of the nicest things about being back in India is that the moral side I choose tends to have better covers.

Melawali is Urvashi Butalia, for getting together with Ritu Menon back in 1984 to set up Kali For Women - an Indian feminist press that has so many fantastic and important publications to their name that looking at their catalogue is like getting a capsule of second-wave South Asian feminism.

The two ladies split up a while ago, and went on to launch their own independent imprints. Butalia's is Zubaan. I have to say, this functional breakup and continued productivity makes me happy as a success story in a world where women are so often portrayed as unable to achieve anything due to infighting.

I'm not always in complete agreement with Butalia, especially when she theorises as a historian, but I just give major, major props for the mentoring and championing she does of women's voices.
Some years ago I published a book on Partition (The Other Side of Silence, Penguin India, 1998). At the time, I argued that it was important for us to remember our past, and not to pretend that it did not exist. While I still hold firmly to this belief, I am now concerned with another question: how do we remember our past? Or, how do we talk about a violent past in such a way that we do not further increase and exacerbate the cycle of violence?

To take a more concrete example, if we were to think seriously about attempting to include a more realistic history of Partition in our textbooks, to teach the young about Partition, how could we do it in a way that would remain true to the ‘facts’ – which include some very violent histories – while ensuring that the violence was neither legitimised, sanitized, nor passed on? Another way of putting it would be: how can we write non violent histories of Partition while ensuring that the violence is not glossed over? While I have asked myself these questions for considerable time, I have no easy answers to them.
(Source)

It's a wonderful thing when publishers cease to be gatekeepers protecting the profits of an obscenely rich conglomerate, and are allowed to be guides to authors finding their way to a public audience.

A few more pieces by Urvashi Butalia
Mona's Story in Granta
It's a Man's War in The Little Magazine

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Deepa D.

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