Weathers . . .

A storm : Outside

Dust trampled all day—

Rises

Dust: thrown and shifted

Aside
Below
Underneath—

Shoes
Heels
Peels
And pebbles

Now rises
Furiously
With vengeance accuracy

Dust: now covers

Tree-tops
Antennas
Atop the tallest skyscrapers

The crows

Now teary-eyed
look down dazed.

Dust: now punctures through eyes

All eyes-seeing and unseeing

Dust: bleeds dust

Dust: clings

Onto well-gelled hair
Onto confident beautiful faces.
Everyone who walks under the sun

Must now walk
Under a sun, screened with dust.

The dust: now rises

And there’s a storm outside

And her window
Is smothered with dust
Pale. Cold. Burning brown
And grey . . .
With a slight thread of red somewhere.

Her window shakes
And throbs and sings
And shivers and shudders.

There’s a storm outside.

He comes in soaked
Orders tea
She refuses.

The dust now rises
There’s a storm outside.

p.s. This poem was written after an ‘interaction’ with Urvashi Butalia. And then, there was a storm that evening. And then this happened. Also, feminism, still doesn’t make any sense to me.
SHAHWAR KIBRIA

Poem

Somewhere between the sheets of cream-wove parchment she lay

Waiting for thought to take shape. Ripe. Full-blown. Secure.

Comfortable in the knowledge that before too long the waters

Would break.

The first wail. Strong and full-throated.

Later. You held her in the crook of your arm. Ginger. Warm.

Even later. You took upon yourself the loving task of nurturing her.

Watched her grow.

Now. Strong and independent it is time for her to take her place in the world.

It isnt easy, is it? To let go? To abandon your musechild, your poem?

Naveen Kishore

Glimpses at the Craft of Catalogues and the Tale of Victor Halfwit

Naveen Kishore: The Craft of Catalogues

Week Two Day Four was a green room tour into the world of publishing, mentored by Naveen. Our initiation into the not-so-breezy aspects of publishing. For instance, recognizing first a list, or the collection of books one will publish. Often the list classifies a publisher but as we later learnt, there’s really no iron rule about it. You might as well have an open list for that matter.

Becoming a publisher, no matter how idealistic, utopian or fairy-tale-ish it might sound, is actually quite a task. Authors need to be roped in, contracts negotiated with them, rights need to be bought, books printed and often on a lot of credit. Naveen took us through this Bildungsroman-esque route by propping up exciting examples from Seagull—of how a few books and obligations to bulk credits in hauling up a list, translated into the now Hall No. 8 at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Seagull also pioneered the concept of the ‘catalogue’, which soon became a rage. The catalogue or a glossary of books is what a publisher proposes to bring out annually. Seagull Books’ catalogues are major head-turners at all key book festivals and fairs the world round.

The road has been tortuous in every way, but Naveen’s spur-of-the-moment decisions and impulsive choices have all materialized into what we now know as this posh, suave and glamorous publisher of poignant and drool-worthy books. A statement well made but genuinely laboured for, aided, of course, by the fact that Seagull had its heart in the right place, all along. ‘I have no sense of scale,’ quips Naveen often, when detailing his decisions, but with his spur of the moments paying off richly, we really don’t mind, do we? There’s a long way ahead still, says Naveen, but trusting his charming defiance of proportions, one can safely say, that too shall be conquered. Amen.

Sunandini Banerjee: The Tale of Victor Halfwit

‘The world would also be so much duller

If we were all one such colour

There can be no one fixed perspective. No one rule for design. No rigid boundaries for creativity—a sentiment clearly evident in the above lines from Sunandini’s poem, ‘I Wonder’. Sunandini’s passionate rule for design therefore states that there can be no one rule, nothing rigid, nothing limiting to contain or hold art down. The second half of day four was thus devoted to a session of letting us know how to let go.

Sunandini, speaking from her own flavourful experiences, of her accidental detour into publishing and her greater head dive into design, was not trained to do what she so beautifully does. Often discomfited by questions of the previous kind, she only has her instinct and her years of reading to blame, which instantly pollutes her head with images, images of living, throbbing words.

Her first brush with designing was while participating in a workshop conducted by the Alliance Francais that brought together French illustrators and writers of children’s books. On the theme of ‘Colour’, Sunandini composed a delightful 12-line poem, which she accentuated with simple geometric shapes and picture fonts from, believe it or not, MS Word. This was the first great coming together of words and pictures, not strictly displaying a tutored skill for drawing but rather the much more important skill of imagining and setting words to their physical form. Thus, when her poem starts with lines like

‘Will tomorrow

The sun be pink

Or yellow

I wonder

 If tonight

The stars will take flight’

 they appear as lines in any children’s book, prettily illustrated with pink suns and fluffy clouds and confettied with stenciled stars, all procured from the picture font harbour in MS Word. Clever, right?

 Not knowing how to draw never posed any roadblocks for Sunandini. For her, the computer, a rarity when she was starting out, was a great enabler. Now, of course, with softwares like Photoshop and Quark Express, her art has notched up galactically. Not knowing to draw was thus compensated by her skill to imagine, to give words their pictorial due, constructed nonetheless as any work of art. 

Designing, like creativity, can have no single, decided perspective, observes Sunandini. It’s an all-accommodating art, a macrocosmic assortment of perspectives, and that is where it thrives. That is where the art of creativity in designing thrives. You come with an imagination of your own, but then, you must create something which resonates with all. Thus, it was only natural that the collage would be her medium of choice, as in her recent Victor Halfwit: A Winter’s Tale, a page-and-a-half story by Thomas Bernhard, which she blew up to a massive 220 page worth of gorgeous illustrations. By all means a collector’s item, it is a ready reckoner for the kind of work she presently does. Though she admits to beginning to get weary of the collage, her admirers needn’t be disappointed, for a futuristic new phase in her design oeuvre is very much on the cards.

 Further on, she mentions how the book cover, being the prime interface between an individual and the world of the book, must ideally contain multiple perspectives and accomodate heterogeneous voices. In short, all readers should find something to relate to in the book cover itself, which will in turn trigger their hopes for the content inside. Thus a collage, ‘which captures many voices, multiple perspectives . . . simply put, shades of everything’, greatly complements her vision as an artist and her motive as a designer, to incorporate varying perspectives, and of collecting the world into a single dashing book cover.

An artist’s vision, ideally, must strongly be anchored in imagination but also communicate with the world outside. It wouldn’t harm, thus, to invest in risks sometimes. To use her words, it’s like bungee jumping, when you have a belt fastened tightly around your waist but you’re also free-falling. She stresses on the being of an individual, an artist, a designer, but maintains that art cannot be pursued in isolation. It must interact with the world and the views stemming from it. Just like her collages invested heavily with layers.

Her design mantra is to own an imagination and also to enrich it with the world outside, with images, visuals—everything that kindles any association must live its life on the page.

The drive then is not to fret about designing a good-looking American or Chinese book. No. But simply, ‘a damn good book cover!’

For, at the end of the day, it’s all about the mind which creates, and it cannot create in an ivory tower, in a bubble cut off from the universe. One must learn to liberate art, to sustain it. Glean inspiration from the world which breathes around us, and not ‘die with the mind you were born with . . . but to grow it’.

Shahwar Kibria Sufi

Entrepreneurship Project 1: How to ride the Publishing-Brand Motorbike?

Sumit Roy’s question has my imagination running away with me in a million directions. I look at the Ducati motorbike staring at me from the PowerPoint presentation and I wonder if that’s really his motorbike. One look at him and I say to myself that he just needs to trade his black shirt, black trousers and formal black shoes for a studded leather jacket, leather pants, boots, a pair of cool glares and he’s set, ready to ride into the sunset on that fancy motorbike.

So, if biker Sumit Roy says he’s going to teach us how to ride the publishing motorbike, we better sit up and take notice.

Steppenwolf’s song ‘Born to be Wild’ from the 1969 Hollywood film Easy Rider is playing on the repeat mode in my head. A scene from the film comes alive: a group of seasoned bikers are heading my way, in what looks like Harley Davidsons, Hayabusas and Royal Enfield Bullets. As they come closer, familiar faces appear—Naveen Kishore, Sunandini Banerjee, Samik Bandyopadhyay, Urvashi Butalia, S. Anand, Chiki Sarkar and V. K. Karthika.

The roaring sound of the motorbikes makes my heart race faster. The ease with which they ride their bikes is admirable and I can’t get over their magnificent motorbikes, nothing like I had seen before, each one a unique masterpiece.

The front wheel of Naveen Kishore’s papyrus-seat-cover motorbike is a spool of rolled film and the rear wheel the lens of a camera. Sunandini Banerjee’s digitally printed motorbike has an exquisite pair of wooden legs for wheels. Samik Bandyopadhyay’s motorbike runs on ink. Urvashi Butalia’s bike has microphones for handles and amplifiers for wheels. S. Anand’s Gond-art motorbike has bull’s horns for handles and for wheels have a spindle and a potter’s wheel. Chiki Sarkar’s bike’s wheels are happy feet. V. K. Karthika’s motorbike’s body is a harp and has white tiger paws for wheels.

Once I am quite done admiring the motorbikes, my attention is drawn to the number plates, needless to say they are exclusive. I can’t recall the numbers but the rest is worth talking about. Sumit’s motorbike has ‘Products have Rationales, Brands have Emotionales’ on it.

As the bikers ride past me, I catch a glimpse of a few number plates. Naveen’s reads ‘Leap of Faith’, Sunandini’s reads, ‘From the Smple Often Comes the Profound’, S. Anand’s reads, ‘Taking Sides: Not the Right Side but the Just Side’, Urvashi Butalia’s reads, ‘Voices of and from the Womb’.

As I watch the bikers disappear into the horizon, not racing against one another but just enjoying their biking adventures, Sumit reminds us that it’s our turn to head out. ‘What? Already?’ I ask.

I’m suddenly plagued by more questions. What kind of bike do I want to ride? What should my number plate read? Do I have the license to head out into the busy roads? Do I understand all the traffic rules? What If I fall? Is my helmet good enough? How many wrong turns and U-turns will I come across? What if I reach a dead end? What will people say?

Not letting my fears and inhibitions get the better of me, I borrow Sumit’s Ducati and venture into the unknown. He lends me his helmet that has ‘Obvious Emotional Truths’ inscribed on it. I struggle a bit to keep balance but I keep going. Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’ starts playing again.

On the journey the sights, sounds, smells and encounters sometimes confuse and sometimes overwhelm. More often than not my reactions were, ‘Aha! I didn’t know that, I didn’t realize that.’

Though the Ducati is fantastic, I’m not entirely comfortable on it. I need to assemble and customize my motorbike to make it my own.

My personalized motorbike and its number plate are waiting to be collected.

All I’m looking for now is a pillion rider, so, come, hop on and enjoy the ride.

Ruby Hembrom

The First Week at the Seagull School of Publishing: 2–7 April 2012

2 April 2012

Another month of another year, another venture towards another chapter in my life.

Added to my (read: wish) list of ‘must reads’ I have, Tomas Espedal’s Tramp and Against Art. Only this time, it jumps out of the shelf right at me. The Seagull core team embraces us with tender generosity. Of the many firsts in my life, today I possess a-never-before catalogue of Seagull Books’ Fall 2011–Spring 2012 titles so artistically introduced. Such skill and taste!

A chalking-out of the journey ahead of us into the world of publishing. Structured guidelines and directions are now mine to follow from this day forth.

The list of the names of my acquaintances and friends just got extended by another 25 new faces. Who is an acquaintance and who a friend remains to be ascertained with time. Yet, as of now, each has found a place in my treasure trove of memory, reinforced by the first glimpses through the broken ice.

 

3 April 2012

The Seagull story—intriguing, enthralling. Enraptured, I am transported back to my childhood when every story told, or read, captured my little heart. Today I felt just so. There was atumult in my heart with this super abundance of enriching experiences shared of the making of this kingdom. The Seagull soars and lifts on its wings, fledglings aiming to take flight.

Lesson learnt: Hurdles along the path get us closer to reaching our goals.

Face to Face 1:  Mahasweta Devi. Admirable. She holds fast to her right to dream. Against all odds she treads.

4 April / 5 April / 7 April 2012

Publishing Lives: Urvashi Butalia—Writer and Publisher, Zubaan; S. Anand—Founder and Editor, Navayana; Chiki Sarkar—Publisher, Penguin India.

Faces of such personas, each telling a story.

As each story unfurls, I am drawn. The connections between each life tell of the gravelled trail every traveller encounters en route to his divine destiny.

Pristine, clean and empty that my slate was, has now etchings taking form. The intention, I hope, is just what its implementation is. To me, an unravelling of novel revelations.

The picture couldn’t appear any clearer than the way we are seeing it unfold through the stories being narrated to us firsthand.

Zeena Singh

Publishing Lives 4. V. K. Karthika, HarperCollins

During a recent talk at the Seagull School of Publishing, V. K. Karthika from HarperCollins explained how we can afford to be optimistic about the future of publishing in the digital age. But this does not forfeit the need for an informed strategy.

This was a welcome view after what had been a much bleaker interpretation of the future of publishing from Chiki Sarkar, publisher at Penguin India which is, interestingly enough, the publishing house that Karthika worked in before making the move to HarperCollins. It is, however, a topic that I am still ambivalent over: to e-book or not to e-book? There is no question as to the convenience of having a large amount of books in one handy device, but I still find that my experience of reading an e-book has never satisfied me in the way a printed book has. Therefore, as I confessed to V. K. Karthika during her session at the Seagull School this week, I have never paid for any of my e-books. However, I still like to hold and feel books, use them, abuse them even, and I do still happily pay for that pleasure. The concern for multinational publishers (as we heard last week from Chiki Sarkar) is that I am part of a minority: those whose love affair with the Amazon Kindle has not led to them effectively cheating on books. In fact, to my own surprise, I have discovered that the digital device effectively re-kindled, so to speak, my relationship with books. Suppose I am a minority. Even so, Karthika is undeterred and beyond resilient, she is, in fact, enthusiastic about the future of publishing in India in the digital reading revolution.

Her optimism, she explained, was not based on her own technological knowledge but on an acute observation of her younger employees and her own children, whose lives are conducted confidently through their increasing technological proficiency. Whereas Karthika confessed that she did not foresee her own reading habits changing from printed books, she considers herself part of the ‘old school’ and believes it is important to recognize and to embrace this growing trend in the publishing industry.

In terms of marketing, the digital revolution is already in effect in India. As an example of this we were shown a series of specially designed animated e-cards publicizing the latest releases from HarperCollins. The e-cards are distributed to everyone on the publisher’s mailing list and are also featured on social media sites. However, the biggest impact that technology could potentially have on this industry in India at least, says Karthika, is not on advertising but on access to the books themselves. What excites her is that in a country where a large part of the population remains illiterate, particularly, but not exclusively, in rural communities, new communication technology could, if allowed, have a major impact on the diffusion of knowledge and education. Books could be transmitted and received without the physical burden of distribution, transforming the social and political lives of many across the country.

This was one of her enthusiastic messages about the future of publishing but there was more. Today, worldwide, there are more books being published than ever, with an ever-increasing number of platforms for publishing that allows authors to bypass publishers entirely. Rather than sensing the end of the publishing industry however, Karthika told us how she believes that such a surge of new information will set a new precedent for quality editing and publishing. A good publisher in this climate is subsequently one who is able to recognize that her trade is not in books per se but in the assembly and dissemination of knowledge, which is not limited in terms of its form. The commodity in publishing is not only the book but also the knowledge within. The latter has a different relationship to notions of value. The quality and range of communication production remains as important for publishers as access to that communication, if not more.

Aside from the increase of digital technology, reading habits are in a state of change, observes Karthika. These sophisticated ‘neo-readers’ embrace plurality, no longer associate stigma with pop fiction. They read J. K. Rowling and Arundhati Roy, Anita Desai and Jane Austen. Rather than maintaining an opposition to a certain type of literature, such a reader of literature discerns quality across a variety of genres. Publishing houses have a responsibility to nurture such diversity. Pop fiction has its place, but can we please lose the typecasting labels? The imposition of certain confined types on readers for books such as the formidable ‘chick lit’ (Let’s not forget Zubaan publisher Urvashi Butalia’s retort last week: ‘Why, then, not cock lit?’) is nothing but a roadblock against diversity—‘This is for you/ not for you.’ So while Karthika may, in her editorial decisions, celebrate an ideal reader who accepts all kinds of literature, at HarperCollins she follows a marketing strategy that puts up barriers (this was also evident at the Penguin India session last week).

An expansion of how to read should be parallel to a diversification of what there is to read and by whom. This involves, as Karthika explained, not always and only publishing writers whose politics you agree with. From within a knowledge-based polis at least, good publishers should have the job of a judge and jury whilst also trusting the capacity for free thought in their readership by producing books that are based upon refined arguments rather than inflammatory opinions, whatever the political persuasion. Easier said than done? Almost certainly. This is clear just from this week when a university professor here in Calcutta has been arrested for allegedly circulating a piece of cartoon satire about the chief minister of West Bengal. No matter how democratic a publisher may aspire to be, the realities of modern politics will always exist to threaten these ideals. Neither publishers nor writers exist in isolation, for better and for worse. Furthermore, relying on technology alone to revolutionize democracy is not only old hat but, quite frankly, naive. Most of us know now that Walter Benjamin was somewhat mistaken in his ideals for the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. On a basic and fundamental level, if my Kindle gets damaged not only do I have no idea how to fix it (unlike sticking pages back together), I can lose an entire virtual library in a millisecond. It all means I feel disconcertingly at the mercy of Amazon.

In the latest Seagull catalogue, Rick Simonson from the Elliott Book Company in Seattle writes of books as ‘a place for imagination, that which it takes to speculatively contemplate books, their subjects, authors, styles—all with the nuts-and-bolts of price, size, page count, ISBN’ (p. 85).

The situation is of course complicated. Rather than opposing e-books to printed books, or vice versa, what I think is needed is a level of discernment over context and content. Why and how do people read in a specific situation? Which books might best suit a digital platform and which a print format? While e-publications have yet to take root for readers in India, much of this debate remains speculative, though Karthika believes that the figures from America signal that it is only a matter of time before it’s a reality. If her own optimistic take is anything to go by then the publishing industry in India has little to lose and a lot, perhaps, to gain from this. It does not mean, however, that the fate of printed books, and therefore publishing, is sealed. I think Kathika sells herself short when she speaks of her own preference for the physicality of a book as something ‘old school’, soon to be lost to the winds of progress. We have surely not yet evolved so grotesquely that what was once revered by a few generations cannot still hold equal importance to new and future ones to come. I love to listen to a lot of music that was not originally made in my own lifetime simply because some art forms have the ability to defy time and the modern notion of progress. True, technology does change lives and for those of us who subsequently are living at a faster pace today than ever before, the ability to acquire a book at the click of a few buttons is an efficient service that has its appeal. Where time itself is money, sales dictate production and books are pulped by multinationals like HarperCollins and Penguin simply for not selling within a few months, it might seem that they are doomed. But speed is not everything and even if we forget this, I think books, physical, printed books, are patient in order that we might remember to be. That’s why even as they become more expensive to produce, I don’t think we can afford to give them up. Add that to the responsibility of publishers.

Rebecca Ayre

Publishing Lives 3. Chiki Sarkar, Penguin India

After exploring the world of independent publishing on the previous days, day five was devoted to multinational (mainstream) publishing. It was our distinct honour hosting Chiki Sarkar, who at the age of 34, heads India’s largest English-language publishing house, Penguin India. Her talk was more like fitting the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle in our minds. She took us through her journey as a student at the Oxford University and how she joined Bloomsbury in London, the publishing house known for producing the most popular Harry Potter series. Then the adventure was spoilt by the problems of getting a work permit and she had to return to India. ‘The first year I returned from England, I literally cried every single day.’ But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise when she was appointed as Editor-in-Chief of Random House, where she worked for four years before she could pilot Penguin India in May 2011.

According to her, the major difference between independent publishing and multinational publishing is rooted in marketing and sales. She gave several instances to prove that some independent publishing houses produce good books that often beat the standard of multinational publishing. Seagull Books was one of those, and she truly admired their cover designs and quality of material used for their books. She mentioned that, in multinational publishing, the process of deciding to accept a manuscript is based on many people including sales and marketing, whilst in independent publishing it is frequently a one-man decision. ‘The battle between the editor and sales helps me to up my game,’ she proudly declared. The marketing department produces a detailed strategy on how to advertise that book. In the case of most independent publishing houses, you are likely to find one person doing all these. The most critical difference is the fact that most independent publishers survive because of funding and sponsorship whereas multinational publishing houses enjoy a certain financial security. This reminded me of S. Anand’s statement on running an independent publishing house, when he said, ‘Paying myself is like eating my own fingers.’

The next day she spoke at length about the entire production stream in a multinational publishing house. She then broke it down to the role of each individual, starting from the writer to the bookseller. ‘If selling is not your aim, then you shouldn’t be a publisher,’ she boldly uttered about publishers irrespective of size. On a controversial note she mentioned that in her opinion the list at Penguin India before she joined was not entirely to her liking or taste. She emphasized that her list defines her ‘good’ taste for books.

The highlight of her session was when she sketched the cash flow of who gets what out of every book sold. She demonstrated how almost 50 per cent of the money goes to the distributor and the bookseller, then the remaining covers production costs, salaries and author royalties. Despite having published books before, some of these factors were unknown to me, and I guess they equally contribute to this unending tension between authors and publishers. If only publishers could supply such budgets along with the contract when they buy manuscripts, perhaps the author’s confusion would be slightly reduced.

Furthermore, she pointed out how vital the relationship between the publisher and the writer is. She explained how she would go all out for her writers to make them realize that she treasures them. ‘I always feel privileged to be with these people [writers] because I’m not as smart as them,’ she confessed. On the other hand, she cautioned that, after editing a manuscript, there’s commonly an undeclared battle between the author and the editor. Authors feel that they deserve every credit for they are the ones who wrote the manuscript, though the editors feel that they also contributed a lot to the making of the book. ‘As a publisher, you will discover talented writers, you will nurture them, and when they get successful, they will leave you—it happens,’ she warned.

She warned us about the technological changes taking place in our times. She was specifically concerned about the role of Flipkart, e-books and book piracy. She mentioned that Penguin India has already started preparing for any change as the result of technology.

All in all, not only was what she was saying significant but her biography was equally inspiring too. Her intimidating background in the world of publishing, at her age for that matter, gives us a reason to dream. And as Mahasweta Devi once said: ‘The fundamental right is the right to dream.’ Perhaps this is the same reason Naveen Kishore decided to address us as publishers right from day one of this course. What a stimulating session!

Ke tšhaba mediti! Let’s carry on . . .

DAVID WA MAAHLAMELA

Publishing Lives 2. S. Anand, Navayana

We were still savouring the wonders that Urvashi Butalia and her Zubaan story had presented earlier that day, when S. Anand opened in front of us another gateway to the publishing world. A vibrant, talented young man, Anand kept us intrigued and smiling throughout his sessions. The publisher and co-founder of Navayana started his conversation with a phrase that is increasingly becoming very common yet very sweet to our ears ‘I stumbled into publishing.’ A Tamil Brahman by birth, Anand seemed to have understood, from a very early age, the vices of belonging to an upper caste. He acted defiantly, refused to agree to what his parents opined about how to live a Tam-Bram life and it was this attitude perhaps that helped him to become the man he is today.

During his college days, Anand became more and more acquainted with caste distinctions in India. Though it is hard to believe so in the twenty-first century, India continues to suffer from such social diseases. Anand’s daily chores at college, his friends, his non-Brahman girlfriend (whom he eventually married), everything and everyone played some role or other in making him who he is today—a staunch and strident voice against caste. Kancha Ilaiah (author of Why I Am Not a Hindu) was his teacher and Anand holds him in high regard. After completing his studies, Anand tried his hand at journalism in Chennai only to find that there was no job satisfaction. In fact, the ghost of the caste system continued to haunt him at the same time as he noticed that the Indian media seemed to have a silent but deep-rooted upper-caste bias.

The other glaring lacuna in Indian publications was the absence of a Dalit voice. Even Ambedkar, the man who gave the Indian Constitution its basic framework and fought all his life for humanization of the Hindu caste system, was not properly represented. Several small yet meaningful incidents in Anand’s life made him realize that his goal in life was something more than just reviewing books, writing media reports or convincing media houses to take a stand on the caste issue. He found support in a close friend, author Ravi Kumar. Three small words—‘Let’s do Navayana’—changed the face of India’s independent publishing scene.

Navayana literally means a new vehicle. Dr B. R. Ambedkar conceived of the idea of ‘navayana’ as an alternative approach to Buddhism in the Indian context. Nothing could be more apt for a new publishing house that wished to address the issue of caste from an anti-caste perspective. Navayana came into being in November 2003. Since then, it has made important contributions in bringing the issue to the forefront. So far, Dalit literature was quite unheard of. Today, because of Navayana, we are getting to see what caste means to Indian culture and society and how deeply it has penetrated each of our lives.

Authors like Namdeo Nimgade, Anand Teltumbde, Chandra Bahan Prasad, D. N. Jha and many others have been published by Navayana. Translated works of Cheran, Namdeo Dhasal are brought out to the world. All these highlight how Dalit representation has been missing in English-language publications. Even the largest Indian publication houses, let alone the MNCs, were not ready to take such a stand. S. Anand shred with us the sorts of difficulties he had to face and is still facing to protect and nurture his ideology. Practically devoid of any permanent working premises, Anand had to work from a small room provided by a kind friend. His works was somehow recognized at the world stage when he was awarded the Young Publisher of the Year Award in 2007 at the London Book Fair. Anand, who was particularly looking forward to this award not for the title but for the prize money was shocked to find out the politics involved. What he was planning to spend on his publications was actually supposed to be spent for taking short-term expensive courses in the UK or for making luxurious holidays!

Technical difficulties and financial troubles seem to have become Navayana’s best friends. Book distribution, publicity and sales face regular problems. In spite of that, graphic novels like Bhimayana and books like Reflections on Apartheid in India have made a place for themselves. A book club has recently been formed for raising readership. The annual talk which featured Slavoj Zizek in India was a grand success. And Anand’s efforts in all such ventures can hardly be overlooked.

For us who wish to become independent publishers or entrepreneurs in related fields in the future, S. Anand can very well stand as an idol. He warned us well about the unglamorous job prospects involved, the hardships that we might have to face to publish a meticulously made and well laid-out book. But all such cautions perhaps have only encouraged us to confidently set foot into this arena. Anand’s ideology, his passion and belief in the cause he supports has ultimately taught us how to proceed towards our goals with a smiling face. I convey my heartiest gratitude to S. Anand, and everyone at the Seagull School for Publishing for adding to our colourful journey a sprinkling of hope and joy.

INDRANI DUTTA