Tag Archives: Zubaan Books

Mannequin: Working Women in India’s Glamour Industry by Manjima Bhattacharjya

MannequinTitle: Mannequin: Working Women in India’s Glamour Industry
Author: Manjima Bhattacharjya
Publisher: Zubaan Books
ISBN:978-9385932229
Genre: Gender Studies
Pages: 216
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Can fashion and feminism ever go hand in hand? Hard to think of them together, right? Like the perfect bedfellows, isn’t it? And yet, lo behold, “Mannequin” by Manjima Bhattacharjya marries them and how! We are, in my opinion, quick to judge the fashion indsutry, without knowing its ongoings or caring to know about it. And the brunt of it all, whether you admit or not is borne by the women in the industry. Bhattacharjya through this book reflects on feminism and the beauty business and this is done purely through first-person narratives, insider stories, histories that have been buried long before and heavy research and subtext.

“Mannequin” looks at the 70 billion dollar industry at home and what it does and doesn’t do for the women who work in it. The recognition they deserve and do not get most of the time. Bhattacharjya with a very detailed view, traces the history of the fashion industrt – the role of women when it started in the 60s to what it is now and frankly as a reader I felt, not much has changed. The industry sadly still objectifies women instead of seeing and acknowledging their agency and talent.

At the heart of the book there are uncomfortable questions for sure but it is also a personal account of the author, the industry and its women. The writing at no point is pedantic. Yes it is data heavy but that is alright. The narratives and stories are told humanely and that is what is needed.

What role does fashion play in the entire feminist discourse? Does it have a role at all? What about the industry? What do the men of the fashion industry think? The author raises questions and answers are given – maybe not all the time but most of the time with solid research to back. “Mannequin” is the kind of book we always needed and finally got it.

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Centrepiece: New Writing and Art from Northeast India. Edited by Parismita Singh.

CentrepieceTitle: Centrepiece: New Writing and Art from Northeast India
Edited by Parismita Singh
Publisher: Zubaan Books
ISBN: 978-9385932410
Genre: Anthologies, Essays
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

It is always a fantastic idea to be acquainted with a place or places you know nothing about and what better way to get familiar with it or them than books. And what better place to start than home? We do not know Northeast India (as it is known) at all. I know for a fact that I did not know the “seven sisters” till I got to know them but knowing their names and capitals isn’t enough. There is so much more that we do not know. So much that we generalize as we go along and not think twice about it.

“Centrepiece” is an attempt to change that. To make readers in different parts of the country aware of what the Northeast is really. What I loved about this book is that there are 21 women writers and artists who are telling stories, speaking of facts and weaving dreams. This is done in various forms in the book – through prose, poetry, short stories, or even pictures for that matter. In these pieces, the range is so vast and varied that it will sure take your breath away.

What I loved though was the right balance of fiction and non-fiction. An anthology needs to have it all and yet somehow not go overboard with its own content. Parismita Singh has carefully curated this book. The blend of these landscapes with stories told by the 21 women is effortless and sucks you in every narrative. I saw Northeast with its own pair of eyes and honestly it was surprising, shocking and full of emotion at the same time.

Whether there is brewing of rice beer told beautifully through words and pictures (Rini Barman) or carrying of cow dung or just selling everyday products (Gertrude Lamare), or even the feelings when it comes to mothering a child, these women have made it so personal and intricate, that these pieces will just not leave your mind.

My favourite ones were those of weaving fabrics (Shreya Debi and Bilseng R Marak) and the one that spoke of fairy tales. I loved them all and kind of difficult to pick favourites really, but these stood out for me. At the heart of all of this is the fact that gender plays a strong role in this anthology and I loved and appreciated that aspect more so, because I like no one can tell their stories better than women (it is just my opinion).

“Centrepiece” delves into the heart of what it is like to be forgotten and to not let that happen. Stories from each Northeast state, their diversity, their culture and the fact that they aren’t similar at all is portrayed beautifully through great prose and stunning pictures. Every piece in this anthology is making its point with great enthusiasm, sometimes wit and most of all with a lot of assertion as it should be.

 

Foxy Aesop: On the Edge by Suniti Namjoshi

Foxy Aesop Title: Foxy Aesop: On the Edge
Author: Suniti Namjoshi
Publisher: Zubaan
ISBN: 978-9385932427
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I love Suniti Namjoshi’s books. They are not what you expect or have been conditioned to expect and that’s the primary reason I love what she writes. Her works are heady, over the top, campy even, but above all honest and feminist to the core. She doesn’t mince her words and that’s the only way to write in my opinion. “Foxy Aesop” reminded me of her Fabulist Feminist tales, but more than anything I was drawn into her world so strong that I just didn’t want it to end. Her world is weird (and all weird works for me in more than one way), intriguing and mind you she is one writer who will not let you have it easy. Her prose evokes thoughts but naturally and that’s that.

“Foxy Aesop” to me was everything rolled into one – a fantastical story, a story so quirky that I laughed straight out loud in so many places, a satire as well – something that crescendos into something unusual, only leaving the reader with the hope that she will write something similar. “Foxy Aesop” may suggest that the book is about Aesop, but it is actually about Sprite, a fabulist from the future who transports herself to the century of Aesop and that’s where the book begins. Aesop, on the other hand is busy writing his fables and trying to make ends meet. The book is about fables at the core – what they do to the moral fabric of our society and do they play any role in it at all or not. Sprite and Aesop make for delightful characters in this fantastical piece by Namjoshi.

Namjoshi’s writing is irreverent and that is another quality I love about her prose. She has literally taken the concept of fables and turned it on its head. She makes you rethink and evaluate those morals all over again in light of our world and what we think of them at all – if we do that is.

“Foxy Aesop” is a book that is witty, unusual, full of quirk and life. Suniti Namjoshi has done it again, as always, and not just in storytelling but creating it in a dimension probably unheard of to many. Read it for its fabulousness. Just go read it.

Squiggle takes a Walk : All about Punctuation by Natasha Sharma

Squiggle Takes a Walk by Natasha Sharma Title: Squiggle Takes a Walk : All about Punctuation
Author: Natasha Sharma
Publisher: Penguin Books, Zubaan Books
ISBN: 9789383074013
Genre: Children’s Book, Knowledge and Learning
Pages: 70
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Squiggle wants to belong. Squiggle does not know where she fits in. She is confused. So she decides to find herself in the pages of a notebook and discovers the world of punctuation, until she finds someone her own kind. That is the plot of “Squiggle Takes a Walk” by Natasha Sharma – a delightful tale of Squiggle and her introduction to punctuation.

Squiggle Takes a Walk  - Image 2

I wish we had such books while we were growing up. A book that would talk to us about punctuation and the English language without being a bore like those Wren and Martin books. Natasha Sharma makes punctuation fun through the story of Squiggle and also the easy to understand concepts for children, not to forget the activities at the end of the book. The format of the book is delightful, as it is in the form of a notebook, which will only generate more excitement among kids.

Squiggle Takes a Walk  - Image 1

“Squiggle Takes a Walk” is the kind of book that can be read by children in less than half an hour but stays in the memory and the punctuation uses and points stick. Natasha Sharma has also with this book reached out to an adult who always had a problem with punctuation and still does. I plan to change that soon enough. Read it and so will you.

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Book Review: Suki by Suniti Namjoshi

Suki by Suniti Namjoshi Title: Suki
Author: Suniti Namjoshi
Publisher: Zubaan/Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9789383074105
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 132
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A new year should always ring in with a new book – read and cherished and thought after for a very long time. Books that start the year on a great note are the ones that are fondly remembered as the year ends. For me, the year began with Suniti Namjoshi’s latest book, “Suki”.

Suki was the name of Suniti’s beloved cat and this is what the book is about – her memories with her cat – dear ones and sometimes the irritable ones, but memories nonetheless. The book is about Suki’s 4803 days and how each one mattered to Suniti. The book is structured in the form of conversations that Suniti has with Suki – on love, life, meditation, their relationship, other animals, morals, philosophy and a varied range of topics. The character sketch of Suki is so strong that at times, while reading the book, I actually wished she were a talking cat. To also be fair, maybe she did speak with Suniti in her own manner.

Why did the book interest me and why did I like it?

To begin with, the way the book is written. There is no linear narrative and that I loved. I mean, for how long should one read the same old style of writing? Something new is always welcome. The way Namjoshi speaks of her life in England and integrates with that of her cat’s is quite charming. The book then veered to the loss of Suki and how the writer came to cope with the loss of a loved one, through meditation.

“Suki” in my opinion celebrates life and its moments. It is not soppy. It is not preachy. It is not even sentimental. It is just an honest book – full of tenderness, of energy, of biting dialogues and more than anything else of relationships of every kind and nature.

Next Up: The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

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