India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument

August 20, 2020

About the Book:

Throughout Indian history, various individuals and groups have questioned, censured and debated authority—be it the state or empire, religious or political traditions, caste hierarchies, patriarchy or even the idea of god. These dissenting voices have persisted despite all attempts made to silence them. They have inspired revolutions and uprisings, helped preserve individual dignity and freedom, and promoted tolerance and a plurality in thought and lifestyle. India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument brings together some of these voices that have sustained India as a great and vibrant civilization. Collected in these pages are essays, letters, reports, poems, songs and calls to action—from texts ranging from the Rig Veda to Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste; by thinkers as varied as the Buddha, Akka Mahadevi, Lal Ded, Nanak, Ghalib, Tagore, Gandhi, Manto, Jayaprakash Narayan, Namdeo Dhasal, Mahasweta Devi, U.R. Ananthamurthy and Amartya Sen; and from civil rights movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Dalit Panthers movement, the Pinjra Tod collective and the anti-CAA protests. Their words embody the undying and essential spirit of dissent in one of the world’s oldest and most diverse and dynamic civilizations.

Habber-Jabber-Law: A Nonsense Adventure

July 1, 2020

Blurb:
On a hot afternoon, a boy sitting in his garden suddenly finds himself transported into a land full of ridiculous creatures talking absurdly. There is the cat that was a hanky. The raven who is an accountant. The old men Uto and Booto who are as bald as eggs and claim to be thirteen years old. And then the sudden commotion about a defamation suit where a barn owl is the judge. Will the crocodile, the frog and the hedgehog ever be able to present their case? And what speech will the billy goat Wren and Baartin BA bleat in the end?

Sukumar Ray’s classic work of nonsense, Haw-Jaw-Baw-Raw-Law, has entertained children and adults for almost a century now. Guaranteed to send you into side-splitting laughter, this iconic piece of literature now appears in an exuberant translation for the modern reader, accompanied by the author’s original illustrations.

A Bend in Time: Writings by Children on the COVID-19 Pandemic

July 1, 2020

Blurb:
Homebound. Bewildered. Deprived of school, playmates, friends and open spaces…How have the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdowns affected the lives of children?

In this collection of stories and essays by children and young adults from different parts of India, we see unbridled imagination and empathy, as they write about what is happening around them. While one writer wonders why her dreams have gone missing, another turns to history to see what lockdowns would have been like in ancient times. There are heartrending and deeply emotional stories of lives lost and the stark inequalities that the pandemic has laid bare. Some writers wonder if the star of hope will ever shine again, and others look for relief in scientific thought, in writing, and in books.

Throughout the collection there runs a sense of time lost and gained—of how this phase of global history is a bend in time. Intensely honest, wise yet innocent, thoughtful and full of hope, this anthology, introduced by award-winning children’s writer Bijal Vachharajani, is a peek into the mind of a generation that could re-imagine our world and, if we are lucky, make it safer, wiser and more compassionate.

Where Some Things Are Remembered

November 30, 2018

Dom Moraes was not only one of India’s greatest poets, he was also an extraordinary journalist and essayist. He could capture effortlessly the essence of the people he met, and in every single profile in this sparkling collection he shows how it is done.

The Dalai Lama laughs with him and Mother Teresa teaches him a lesson in empathy. Moraes could make himself at home with Laloo Prasad Yadav, the man who invented the self-fulfilling controversy, and exchange writerly notes with Sunil Gangopadhyaya. He was Indira Gandhi’s biographer—painting her in defeat, post Emergency, and in triumph, when she returned to power. He tried to fathom the mind of a mysterious ‘super cop’—K.P.S. Gill—and also of Naxalites, dacoits and ganglords.

This collection is literary journalism at its finest—from an observer who saw people and places with the eye of a poet and wrote about them with the precision of a surgeon.

Uncertain Journeys

November 30, 2018

The topic of labour migration appears constantly in the media, but too often, the issues take precedence over the people involved—the migrant workers who leave Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to work long hours in precarious situations across the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Here, eleven journalists explore the lived realities of migrant workers from South Asia—their aspirations, fears and dreams; how global forces determine their freedom; how they navigate the policies that attempt to regulate their lives; and their hopes for a better future which carry them through years of unrelenting toil.

Uncertain Journeys asks fundamental questions about the nature and costs of labour migration. Essays about the plight of Indians stranded in Kuwait due to bankrupt employers query whether labour-sending countries can assume that their responsibilities to their citizens abroad end with enabling remittances. The horrifying stories of men and women suffering forced labour, abuse and de facto imprisonment demand whether the blurred borderlines between migration and human trafficking effectively enable modern-day slavery. Most crucially, the book questions whether human beings can be reduced to a mere commodity. Written with empathy, yet with a critical take on the stories being told, this book is an important contribution to the conversation about labour migration in South Asia.

Embrace Our Rivers

November 28, 2018

Art and its ideas have a special role to play in shaping our consciousness. Urban spaces, particularly those in rapidly expanding cities in new developing economies are in direct conflict with nature, as rivers, wetlands, green areas, are being changed to suit urbanization’s short-term goals. To help re-think urban space as democratic and in coexistence with nature, Embrace our Rivers was proposed as a public art project in the coastal megacity of Chennai, India. It was to be held on the estuary of the very polluted river Cooum. Thirteen artists—Indian and international—were invited to respond to the city’s rivers and canal systems.
They produced a myriad of new ideas. The project however could not be installed at site, as it was denied site clearance even after two years of it being proposed. The artist’s voice though found expression in an exhibition—DAMnedArt which was held at the local Lalit Kala Akademi, in February 2018. This book, a first on public art and ecology in India, is an outcome of this effort. It also locates the project in a wider context of public art practices in India and elsewhere, through invited essays, and calls for broader collaborations for urban sustainability.

The Engaged Observer

August 29, 2018

For over four decades, Shanta Gokhale has entertained, informed and challenged us with her insightful, witty and forthright writing in both English and Marathi. With rare objectivity and consistency, Gokhale has tried to decode our unique social etiquette while subtly exposing our hypocrisies, and celebrated tradition-defying women while forcefully criticizing the patriarchal and misogynistic structures of society. Her essays on theatre not only illustrate its evolution in India, but also provide arresting portraits of theatre personalities such as Satyadev Dubey, Vijay Tendulkar and Veenapani Chawla. And her detailed yet accessible articles on Indian classical music are a delight to read.
In her short stories, she shapeshifts effortlessly from old men to teenage boys and college students. And finally, her two takes on Shakespeare show us how the Bard’s ideas continue to remain relevant and, more importantly, how little attention he paid to his women characters.
Candid, intense and often humorous, The Engaged Observer is also an invaluable record of the social, political and cultural changes that have taken place in Bombay, Mumbai and beyond.

Great Indian Speeches for Children

August 29, 2018

In this book, brilliantly introduced by Derek O’Brien, legendary Indians speak on diverse topics that will motivate young readers: freedom and equal rights, science and sports, friendship and education, the environment and social responsibility, ambition and courage, the love of books and the burden of schoolbags. Even in this age of speed and bite-sized attention spans, these timeless words reach out across years and touch us, provoke us, make us think, and become a call to action.

The Authors:
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Amartya Sen
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Azim Premji
Baba Amte
B.R. Ambedkar
Balgangadhar Tilak
Jagdish Chandra Bose
Jaipal Singh Munda
Jawaharlal Nehru
M.K. Gandhi
Medha Patkar
Mother Teresa
Paro Anand
R.K. Narayan
Rabindranath Tagore
Raghuram Rajan
Rahul Dravid
Rajendra Prasad
Ruskin Bond
S. Radhakrishnan
Sarojini Naidu
Shashi Tharoor
Subhash Chandra Bose
Subroto Bagchi
Swami Vivekananda

Manto-Saheb

July 27, 2018

This remarkable anthology brings together stories about Saadat Hasan Manto, essayist, scriptwriter, and a master of the short story, by his friends, family and rivals—among others, Ismat Chughtai, Upendranath Ashk, Balwant Gargi, Krishan Chander, his daughter Nuzhat and nephew Hamid Jalal. These are accounts of grand friendships and quarrels, protracted drinking bouts, cutthroat rivalries in the world of Urdu letters, and intense engagement with issues of that turbulent age. Together, they form an unprecedented portrait of the literary and film worlds of the time, and of the great cities of Bombay, Delhi and Lahore.
They also offer a glimpse of the making of a legend even as they reveal Manto as a complex man of many contradictions. A devoted husband and father, he was as comfortable at home as he was at prostitutes’ quarters, seeking new material. Generous to a fault, he freely gave away his earnings and often put his family in financial jeopardy. Fiercely competitive and an outspoken critic of others’ writing, he brooked no criticism of his own, at times choosing to sever ties rather than have his words tampered with. And, for much of his adult life, right until the end, Manto was an alcoholic who fiercely defended his choice to remain one.
Honest, frank and personal, at times sentimental, and critical—even gossipy—at others, the pieces in Manto-Saheb constitute an unparalleled, multi-faceted biography of a genius

On Your Marks

April 3, 2018

Did Early Man and Woman make their children take fastest-firemaker-first exams? What happens when a gorilla gatecrashes the examination hall and asks difficult Gorilla Pythagoras questions? Who is a zgnogir and did he pass the most difficult test ever when he was sent to Mumbai? Did Lakshmi Perumal really make the philosopher’s stone while doing her Chemistry practicals? And how did exam day solve the problem of the boy who had a really long name?
Exams have never seemed as full of mischief, and as fun, imaginative and fantastic as in these stories by the very best children’s writers of the country. Jerry Pinto, Shreekumar Varma, Deepa Agarwal, Shabnam Minwalla, Jane D’Suza, Andaleeb Wajid and many others provide a laugh and a chuckle on every page in this book that is sure to chase away the examination blues.

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