Jaya Posts

Ravi Subramanian presents a crime thriller series at HarperCollins India

Ravi Subramanian presents a new series with HarperCollins India focused on #crimethrillers. According to the information I received, these are “all stand-alone novels – gripping, pacy and often spine-chilling from the house of Ravi Subramanian”. The two Mansi Babbar titles are new in the market, while the Jigs Ashar ones are republications.

HCI recently announced a launch of thriller series with Ashwin Sanghi, but those are his own stories. HCI have fair experience of collaborating with commercially successful writers such as Ravinder Singh to curate and establish niche imprints. This institutional knowledge and experience will be in their favour as a new form of business in publishing — relying upon the combination of brand recall of certain authors and their expertise in storytelling. Last but not least, this genre of storytelling is also one of the most lucrative in terms of conversion into films/web series and other OTT platforms. So the ROI on the investment of creating such a niche within an established publishing firm, is a good business strategy for the future. It is a fine example of the convergence of print and digital.

Good luck to this new venture!

Farah Ahamed’s “Period Matters”& International Women’s Day 2023

On International Women’s Day, it is worth reflecting upon this statistic. According to UNICEF’s 2019 Menstrual Hygiene report, 1.8 billion people Menstruation globally and millions of those are unable to exercise their right to good menstrual health and dignity due to discriminatory norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of access to basic amenities. Adolescent girls often face stigma and social exclusion during menstruation, resulting in school absenteeism and frequent dropouts. Women with lower literacy levels face additional chronic nutritional deficiencies and health problems. Cumulatively, these practices have far-reaching negative consequences on the lives of girls and women as they restrict their mobility, freedom, choices, affect attendance and participation in school and community life, compromise their safety and cause stress and anxiety.

To put that figure of 1.8 billion in perspective, it is more than the current population of India of 1.4 billion and the approx. 400m in the European Union. Given that this is a 2019 statistic, more menstruating girls have probably been added than those dropping off due to menopause as many countries have younger populations than greying elders. Yet, the topic of menstruation is a taboo topic. Human rights lawyer and writer Farah Ahamed asserts that menstrual dignity is a basic human right.

It is also peculiar that this large chunk of the global population is ignored when it comes to discussing women’s health and designing programmes specific to their needs. Years ago, Dabur launched a campaign promoting its bestselling product Pudin Hara (pearls and liquid) as being an effective cure for period pains. Pudin Hara is an ayurvedic extract from mint leaves. It is usually used for indigestion and other tummy ailments. Unfortunately, the campaign was an utter flop since women’s health especially pertaining to sexual health is taboo. But the fact remains that it is an extremely effective remedy to easing dysmenorrhea. It is definitely preferable to taking allopathic painkillers.

Given that this is the information age, big data and digital technology rules our lives, it is perhaps worth reflecting on this detail shared by Alnoor Bhimani in his essay, “Digitisizing Menstruation: Algorithms for Cleansing Bodies”, included in Period Matters, published by Pan Macmillan India . He is the Professor of Management Accounting and the Director of the South Asia Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The global market for all digital technology-based products and services focused on women’s health could be worth $60 million by 2027. Although South Asia comprises about a quarter of the world’s female population, at present, ‘femtech’ investments in the region amount to only about 1 per cent. Of 1,323 femtech companies globally in 2021, only 41 were in South Asia. Perhaps this is because less than 10 per cent of individuals in low-income countries can access the Internet, and of the 3.5 billion people without Internet access in the world, South Asian citizens are among the least well served. A further explanation may be that women in developing nations are 34 per cent less likely to have access to the Internet, compared to men. Nevertheless, women who can access digital technologies are increasingly using period tracker apps (PTAs), making them part of a fast-growing femtech product market.

8 March 2023

Annie Ernaux podcast, 27 Feb 2023


1 March 2023

The New Delhi World Book Fair, 25 Feb – 5 March 2023

The National Book Trust, India is promoting the New Delhi World Book Fair 2023 on social media in multiple languages. This is the first time in three years that it is being held in person.
Dates: 25 Feb – 5 March 2023
Venue: Pragati Maidan
24 Feb 2023

“The Years”, Annie Ernaux

We reflected on our lives as women. We realized that We’d missed our share of freedom — sexual, creative, or any other kind enjoyed by men. We were as shattrteded by the suicide of Gabrielle Russier as by that of a long lost sister, and were enraged by the guile of Pompidou, who quoted a verse by Eluard that nobody understood to avoid saying what he really thought of the case. The Women’s Liberation Movement had arrived in the provinces. “La Torchon Brule” was on the newsstands. We read “The Female Eunuch” by Germaine Greer, “Sexual Politics” by Kate Millet, “Stifled Creation” by Suzanne Horer and Jeanne Socquet with the mkngled excitement and powerlessness one feels on discovering a truth about oneself in a book. Awakened from conjugal torpor, we sat on the ground beneath a poster that read “A woman without a man is like fish without a bicycle” and went back over our lives. We felt capable of cutting ourselves loose from husband and kids, and writing crudely. Once we were home again, our determination faded. Guilt welled up. We could no longer see how to liberate ourselves, how to go about it, or why we should. We convinced ourselves that our man was neither a phallocrat nor a macho. We were torn between discourses, between those that advocated equal rights for the sexes and attacked patriarchy, and those that promoted everything feminjne: periods, breast-feeding, and the making of leek soup. But for the first time, we envisaged our lives as a march towards freedom, which changes a great many things. A feeling common to women was in its way out, that of natural inferiority.

The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie ( Fitzcarraldo Editions)

24 Feb 2023

“A Man’s Place” Annie Ernaux

One Sunday after church, when I was twelve years old, my father and I walked up the sweeping staircase inside the town hall. We were looking for the public library. I was terribly excited, we’d never been there before. We couldn’t hear anything on the other side of the door. All the same my father pushed it open. It was completely quiet in the room, quieter even than in church. The floorboards creaked and there was a strange, musty smell in the air. Perched behind a high desk barring access to the shelves, two men watched us approach. My father let me say: ‘We’d like to borrow some books.’ One of them immediately asked: ‘What books do you want?’ At home it hadn’t occurred to us that we had to prepare a list and reel of titles as easily as if they had been brands of biscuits. They chose the books for us: “Colomba” for me and a “light” novel by Maupassant for my father. We never went back to the library. My mother must have returned the books, maybe when they were overdue.

A Man’s Place Annie Ernaux , Translator is Tanya Leslie

( I posted this on Facebook on 22 Feb 2023. It resulted in a fascinating conversation with Miguel M. Abrahão. )

24 Feb 2023

“Urdu Bazaar, within the Walled City of Delhi” by Mayank Austen Soofi

On 23 Feb 2023, the well-known Delhi chronicler and photographer, Mayank Austen Soofi, created a fabulous Facebook post about Urdu Bazaar. It is within the Walled City of Delhi. With his permission, I am reposting his text and photographs on my blog. Thank you, Mayank!

Urdu Bazar is a terrifyingly congested block of human cacophony and traffic tumult. Tolerated only because it hosts a picturesque part of the Walled City (Jama Masjid gate no. 1), and because of its dozens of kebab shacks (Chunnu Chacha Kakori Kebab’s, etc). Not many are aware that these popular eating joints replaced the once-popular institutions that constituted the spine of Delhi’s literary world—the Urdu bookstores and publishers that gave the bazar its name (according to a version). Today, a Walled City bashinda finds it impossible to name even a single of those extinct landmarks. But reader, you won’t be one of those ignorant citizens. Here’s a list of all the disappeared icons:
Azad Kitab Ghar
Central Book Depot
Chaman Book Depot
Deeni Book Depot
Ilmi Kitab Ghar
Kutub Khana Hamidia
Kutub Khana Nazirya
Kutub Khana Rashidia
Lajpat Rai and Sons
Maktaba Akhlaqia
Maktaba Burhan
Maktaba Ishat ul Quran
Maktaba Shah Rah
New Taj Company
Saji Book Depot
Sangam Kitab Ghar
Make no mistake, Urdu Bazar is still left with a few bookshops:
Kutub Khana Anjuman-Taraqqi-e-Urdu
Kutub Khana Azizia
Kutub Khana Rahimiya
Maktaba Jamia Ltd
Markazi Maktaba Islami
Madina Book Depot
Rizwan Book Depot
Indeed, it is the generous gentleman at Maktaba Jamia Ltd who listed out all the extinct bookstores. The unassuming Ali Khusro Zaidi, 68, is the bazar’s longest serving bookstore staffer (see photo). A Sikandrabad native, he has been manning the shop since 1978. “All those bookstores were in existence when I started working in Urdu Bazar.” The man’s Urdu diction is genteel, leisurely paced and melodious. You are tempted to preserve his speaking voice into the mobile phone recorder to replay later on loop. “Urdu ka mahaul waqt ke saath ujadta raha,” he mutters, picking up a receipt booklet.
This afternoon, the bookstore is as quiet as a qabar. A 2023 wall calendar is highlighted with an Allama Iqbal verse:
Sitaaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain
Abhi ishq ke imtihan aur bhi hain.
(More worlds exist beyond the stars,
More love trials still to surpass.)
On enquiring about a framed calligraphy nailed on the shop’s mehrab, Ali Khusro explains “that’s ‘khushamdid,’ meaning welcome.” And this paper scrap with handwritten Urdu on the desk? These are the books ordered for a customer, he says. He reads aloud the list:
“Yehudi ki Ladki
Urdu Shayari Ka Fanni Irtiqa
Urdu Nasra Ka Fanni Irtiqa
Tamasha Ghar
Rasta Band Hain.”
The bookstore, since 1949, stands beside the much-loved Tasty Chicken Corner, formerly Maktaba Akhlaqia.

24 Feb 2023

“Defeating the Dictators: How Democracy Can Prevail in the Age of the Strongman” by Charles Dunst

In the week, when it is a year since Russia invaded Ukraine and days after Soros’s controversial remarks about the “democratic revival in India”, here is a book that may be worth reading. It has been endorsed by multiple people, including diplomats, security advisors, think tanks, academics, and journalists. Interesting times we live in when many of us, in our living memory, can remember a freer and a more democratic world. Not this.

Here is the book blurb:

The world is currently experiencing the lowest levels of democracy we have seen in over thirty years. Autocracy is on the rise, and while the cost of autocracy seems evident, it nevertheless remains an attractive option to many.

While leaders like Viktor Orbán disrupt democratic foundations from within, autocrats like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin do so from abroad, eroding democratic institutions and values and imperilling democracies that appear increasingly fragile. There are even those who, disillusioned with the current institutions in place, increasingly think authoritarianism can deliver them a better life than democracy has or could.

They’re wrong. Autocracy is not the solution – better democracy is. But we have to make the case for it. We have to combat institutional rot by learning from one another, and, at times, from our rivals. And we have to get our own houses in order. Only then can we effectively stand up for democratic values around the world and defeat the dictators.

Charles Dunst Defeating the Dictators: How Democracy can prevail in the age of the Strongman, published by Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette India.

20 Feb 2023

Salman Rushdie tweets on 16 Feb 2023

19 Feb 2023

Library at UPES University, Dehradun

UPES is the university where I teach at the School of Modern Media. It has this incredible library that Prabhjot Kaur visited earlier this month. She made this Facebook post recently. As a librarian herself, her generous appreciation of another institutional library is very kind. On this magnificent floor that she has photographed, there is a special corner of books that is named after me. It consists of books and periodicals that I have either donated or recommended. The SOMM management surprised me by instituting the “Jaya Bhattacharji Rose” corner.

The section in my name was very kindly established by Dr Nalin Mehta, Dean and Dr Sanjeev Singh, Associate Dean, School of Modern Media, UPES. It was inaugurated in August 2022 in the presence of the Chief Information Commissioner, Uday Mahurkar and Karthika, Publisher, Westland, a division of Pratilipi.

19 Feb 2023

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