Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Out of Print Curates the March 8 Readings at G5A

MARCH 8 – ON CONSENT

Really pleased to post the bios of the writers invited to read at the March 8 OUT of PRINT-G5A event ON CONSENT celebrating women’s voices. It was an evening ripe with energy and a joyous recognition of the power of voice.



A great big thank you to
G5A who hosted the event, invited Out of Print to curate it, and also, with their wonderful team led by Suruchi Pawar and Siddharth Cougnery participated in conceiving of and curating the event

The PEN All-India Centre and Jennifer Robertson for curating and filling the space with poets and protest and insight

Akshara who ran, with G5A, a film event featuring the marvellous Paromita Vohra in parallel, but also generously shared Rochelle Potkar’s suggestions on some great voices that read at the event

To Port@G5A and Ishan Benegal who helped Out of Print fill the writers with goodness



THE WRITERS

Indira Chandrasekhar is a scientist, a fiction writer and the founder and principal editor of Out of Print, an online platform for short fiction connected to the Indian subcontinent. Her own short stories have appeared in anthologies and literary journals across the world, and a collection of her works will be published by HarperCollins India in 2017.

She is working on the archival book of the forty-year-old International Music and Arts Society in Bangalore on whose Advisory Committee she sits. She has long been actively associated with the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture.


Jennifer Robertson is a contemporary Indian poet, critic, and independent curator living in Bombay. Her book reviews and essays have appeared in American Book Review, Scroll and the Telegraph. Her poems have appeared in The Missing Slate, 40 Under 40: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation poetry published by Poetrywala and in Urban Myths and Legends anthology published by The Emma Press. Jennifer is the convener for literary events hosted by the The PEN-All India Centre. Her frst poetry manuscript was chosen for the Editor’s choice award by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective and will be published in 2017


Author of three books of poetry, Vinita Agrawal is a Mumbai based, award winning poet and writer. She is Editor Womaninc.com an online platform that addresses gender issues. Recipient of the Gayatri GaMarsh Memorial Award for Literary Excellence, 2015, her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals all over the world. She was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards in 2011 and won the first prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2014. Her poems have found a place in several anthologies. She contributes a monthly column on Asian Poets on the literary blog of the Hamline university, Saint Paul, USA. She has read at SAARC events, at the U.S. Consulate, at Delhi Poetree and at Women Empowerment and Cappucino Readings, Mumbai. She was featured in the transatlantic poetry broadcast online. She can be reached at https://www.pw.org/content/vinita_agrawal and at www.vinitawords.com


Smeetha Bhoumik is an artist and a poet, having arrived home to art  through mysterious, meandering routes, totally diverse! She paints the universe with all the magic of a star forming regions, supernovae, galaxies, globular clusters and constellations, and believes we are all made of star dust! This oneness, to her, is our greatest beauty. Her work has shown in exhibitions around the world, thanks to a great representation by the Global Art Agency . Her poetry speaks softly for the vulnerable.

She founded Women Empowered-India in Sept 2016, putting forth WE-i's vision as that of resource creation, shared learning and an empowering network of individuals that will be a powerful tool for change in years to come.


Mrinalini Harchandrai’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in both Indian and international platforms like KaviKala, The Bangalore Review, Quill Magazine, The Joao Roque Literary Review and Different Truths. Her poems have also featured in a visual art show entitled Breaking Ranks at the Headlands Centre for the Arts, San Francisco. On private commission, she has written the biography of an Indo-Tanzanian freedom fighter.

Most recently, she was invited to speak and recite her poetry at the Goa Arts and Literary Fest, 2016.

She is visiting faculty at Ecole Intuit Lab, Mumbai.


Gayatri Jayaraman is a journalist and author of the forthcoming Who Me, Poor? and Who Me, Feminist?. She specialises in an intersectional study of social trends. She has over 19 years of experience in journalism and has worked with India Today and Mint Lounge amongst others. Her sentences are always too long and she spends life teetering on the sharp edge of ideological balance because it is more important to be fair than to be correct. Her writing appeared in Out of Print in the issue dedicated to sexual and gender violence. She is 40 years old, a single mother to a 15-year-old future Chief Justice of India, and lives in Thane with her German Shepherd, Zitto.   


Meghna Pant is an award-winning Indian author, columnist, feminist and TEDx Speaker. Meghna's debut collection of short stories Happy Birthday was long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Award 2014One And A Half Wife won the national Muse India Young Writer Award and was shortlisted for several other awards, including the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Her latest book is The Trouble With Women. Meghna is the winner of the 2016 FON South Asia Short Story Award.

Among her many acheivements, she abridged the world’s longest epic, The Mahabharata, into one hundred tweets.  

She curates a monthly panel discussion on feminism called Feminist Rani, and interviews India’s female leaders and opinion makers on two online shows – First Lady With Meghna Pant (Firstpost/ Network 18) and Get Real With Meghna Pant (SheThePeople). 


Anjali Purohit is a writer and an artist who paints pictures often with words on paper and at other times with oils on canvas. She writes poetry and fiction. Her story, Bitter Harvest, was a winner in the Highly Commended Stories category in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2008-09.

Her writing has featured in several anthologies and literary journals including Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry II, Four Quarters Magazine, Guftugu, and The Bombay Review. Her book Ragi-Ragini: Chronicles from Aji's Kitchen​ was published in 2012. 

She is presently completing the translation of the Marathi (Ahirani) poetry of the 19th Century peasant poet Bahinabai Choudhary.

Anjali is part of the team of Cappuccino Readings, an initiative aimed at promoting a literary cafe culture in Mumbai.

She holds a PhD in Philosophy. Anjali lives in Mumbai with son, spouse, an equanimous disposition and fond memories of Misty, her dog.


From Paree to Waqt, Suneeta Rao's musical journey over the years has deemed her the ‘Paree of the Masses’.

Suneeta has written the lyrics for many of her works, including for her latest pop-fusion album Waqt. Her articles have been published in local and national newspapers. Her blog on motherhood in the Times Wellness section was a continuing feature for over a year.

Her roots lie in Musical Theatre – she has sung and performed in a number of plays including Evita, and Man of La Mancha. More recently it is her music videos and her stage shows that have travelled across the world, which capture her fans.

Suneeta is the spokesperson for the girl child initiative Laadli, and is on the Advisory Board of Population First, Laadli’s parent NGO. The album, Waqt includes a song and music video, Sun Zara for the girl child, which was sponsored by UNFPA for the cause.

Suneeta is currently touring with her live band and working on new material that has contemporary treatment of Ghazals and Carnatic music.


Barnali Ray Shukla is a filmmaker and a writer.

Starting off as a cell-biologist specializing in plant tissue culture Barnali turned to filmmaking. Her debut feature-film as a writer-director Kucch Luv Jaisaa, was released in May 2011.

In addition to story and scriptwriting, she also writes poetry and was published in Kitaab, teksto and the Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry II. She has read her work for PEN India Events and has been part of the 100Thousand Poets for Change and read at their Mumbai Chapter.

Her scripts were long-listed for the SUNDANCE-Mahindra Script Lab in 2013 and 2014; she will use one of them in a feature film she is making in Bengali. She has been invited with her documentary Liquid Borders to film festivals across North America, Italy, and to more than eleven film festivals in India.

She is the India winner of the Raed Leaf Poetry Award 2016. She likes to describe herself as a ‘mutant poet’ and when she is not doing any of the above, she goes off to climb mountains.
She is currently shooting her second documentary film.


Smita Sahay co-conceptualised and served as associate editor of of Veils, Halos & Shackles - International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women. Her writings have appeared in various national and international journals and anthologies. She holds an MBA from the Indian School of Business and is the founder of Acciohealth, a social venture that works to shatter the stigma associated with mental health and make information and care accessible to everyone. She's currently working on her first novel.


Ankita Shah is a full-time poet and part-time tax consultant. She co-founded The Poetry Club (TPC) in 2013, an organisation dedicated to enabling more people to practice and access poetry. As a part of TPC, she has curated many poetry reading events in the city including at the Lil Flea, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, the AIESEC Mumbai Youth Speak Forum and Canvas Kavita. She also co-conducted Verse Voyage – a camp cum poetry writing workshop, and introductory poetry workshops with young students at the Akanksha Foundation.  

She was featured at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2016, Times Literature Festival 2016, Kavya Hotra 2016, an annual multilingual poetry festival in Goa and the Poets Translating Poets Festival 2016.  


Lavanya Shanbogue-Arvind is the winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Special Prize, 2011. Her short story, The Crystal Snuff Box and the Pappudum was adapted for radio by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and was broadcast in Commonwealth countries.

Her debut novel, The Heavens We Chase has just been released. Her short stories have been published in both Indian and International presses including the Griffith Review, Australia, Blink, the year-end fiction edition of the Hindu Business Line and New Asian Short Stories. Her non-fiction writings include work on gender, sexuality, and citizenship, women’s engagement with the law, women’s writings, and history amongst other humanities related subjects.

Apart from a Master’s degree in Business, she holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing (Fiction) from the City University of Hong Kong. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

In an earlier avatar she spent 7 years in financial services and worked in the areas of credit risk management and underwriting of diverse kinds of risks


Maya Sharma Sriram is a writer-poet. Her work has appeared in many journals in India and abroad, including the anthology, Voices in Time, a collection of poems short-listed in the All India Poetry Competition conducted by The Poetry Society of India and The British Council, Kavya Bharathi, Brown Critique and Mused Literary Journal.  She is a winner of the Elle Fiction Award, 2010. She is also the author of the book, Bitch Goddess for Dummies.


Tanuj Solanki’s Neon Noon, was shortlisted for the Tata Lit Live First Book Award (fiction). His work has appeared in Caravan, Out of Print, Hindu Business Line, and numerous other publications. He is currently at work on his second book, a collection of short stories about characters from his hometown, Muzaffarnagar. The book, tentatively titled Compassionate Grounds is due in late 2017.


Shruti Sundarraman writes about culture, music and the human condition. She performs her songs to those who listen and spoken word to those who won't. She finds bios ironic because no one really knows themselves. 


Annie Zaidi is the author of Gulab', 'Love Stories # 1 to 14 and Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, which was short-listed for the Crossword Book Awards. She is also co-author of The Good Indian Girl, a series of inter-linked narratives that trace young women's lives and liberties, and has edited Unbound: 2000 Years of Indian Women's Writing. Her work has appeared in Out of Print.













Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 DNA-OUT of PRINT Short Fiction Winner and Finalists

DNA-OUT of PRINT Short Fiction: The Winners


The entries for this year’s DNA-OUT of PRINT short fiction special were exceptionally strong and we had a difficult time narrowing down the lists at every stage of the reading. We are thrilled to announce the final four stories of the feature.

The stories on the final list not only have remarkable inherent merit but also, approach the theme of this year’s feature, Dissent, in different and interesting ways. In bhavani’s A Fragrance That Could Have Been, dissent is woven through the narrative: a child rebels, society does not follow quotidian rules, and the system is challenged as a sensitive young woman attempts to mentor across societal divides. R K Biswas’ The Rabbit, a story of rebellion, guilt and reckoning is skilfully worked around a father-son thread; memories and sentiments are brought to the fore by the manifestation of a rabbit from the past. Zui Kumar-Reddy the winner of the 2015 feature has the most direct approach to the theme in her 1977; dedicated to her grandmother, the iconic Snehalatha Reddy, and referencing the Emergency, the story examines the meaning and the repercussions of political dissent from a deeply personal space. Karthik Shankar’s Appa’s Scooter looks at the perturbations that tear at the fibre of a conventional family when one among them expresses their identity with uncompromising clarity. A trans grandson, an insular neighbourhood, and a neglected scooter drive this story.

Other stories stand out: Shabnam Nadiya’s Spin, a delicately rendered study of the tough moment when the seed of dissent is planted; Trisha Bora’s The Guests, with its subtle, personal complexities of multiple rebellions; Kulpreet Yadav’s story of a wild and symbolically bloody breaking free…. We are tempted to list every story on the shortlist … and many more. We thank every author who sent in a story, and congratulate the ones whose stories have been chosen for publication. 


bhavani
R K Biswas
Zui Kumar-Reddy
Karthik Shankar


Judges: Out of Print editors, Ram Sadasiv, Leela Levitt, Indira Chandrasekhar




2016 DNA-OUT of PRINT Short Fiction Winner: bhavani

A Fragrance That Could Have Been
bhavani

I stood outside the houses next to the temple, wondering which one was hers. 

Mehak? I said tentatively. To my left, on a metal balcony, a woman came out of a doorway. By her side was a black and white mongrel barking furiously, peering down the steps, threatening me. The woman wore a crumpled nightie, her tobacco-stained teeth rivalling its faded orange-brown design. 

Chai? She asked.

No, I shook my head.

A large drop fell on my forehead. A leaking pipe covered with grime made its way down from the balcony. I wiped my forehead with my hand, shuddered involuntarily, took a deep breath and continued. 

‘Where is Mehak?’

‘Downstairs,’ she said, gesturing with her hand towards the ground floor. 

I removed my sandals, squeezed past two large plastic tanks, their water supply, and pushed open the dirty curtain hanging at the doorway. 

I’d met Mehak for the first time at her school; a programme identified students who needed special care either because they came from challenging backgrounds or because of poor academic performance. At the introductory session fifty children interacted with the teachers, interns and volunteers. It was my first week as an intern and her first day on the programme.
*
I stepped inside the room, about five feet by five feet with little furniture. The television was on at full blast, stuck on a cartoon channel. Mehak sat to one side on a haphazard pile of bed sheets, leaning on pillows piled against the wall. She turned towards me, briefly, then looked back at the television. I settled down on the floor. 

‘Hello Mehak. How are you?’

She increased the volume. I opened the sketchbook and started drawing. A few minutes later she was next to me, peering into my page. 

‘I can draw that better.’ She grabbed the book and began re-drawing the bunch of bananas. She chewed the back of the pencil as she worked her way through the bends and curves of what would become a dozen of bananas. Our one-hour session was spent drawing in separate books. We didn’t speak.

Go slow, the counsellor had told us. Get to know them and their families first before pushing our agenda. We want to change their lives, want them to dream big and let them know they can, with our help.
*
I met her twice a week after school and we walked to her house together. The walk made my heart beat doubly fast as she darted away, refusing to hold my hand at a busy crossing. After a few weeks, I met her only at home, avoiding the perilous walk.

One day, a month into our sessions, I taught her a line. I would say, see you later, alligator. She would reply, after a while, crocodile. The words stumbled from her twelve-year-old tongue, she stopped halfway, shook her head. I made her say it again with me. She smirked. I waved goodbye, a smile on my face, and made my way home in a rattling auto-rickshaw. At a large junction, the light red, the auto-driver increased his speed, I clutched the bar in front of me as we jolted across between vehicles. 

Why did you break the signal?

Everyone does.

And that makes it right?
*
Today it had taken me one and a half hours to reach her house. The traffic had been insane. I sat in that small room, Mehak refusing to make eye contact. Do you want to play? What do you want to do? 

Silence. 

Then a sudden, why are you here?

I pulled out books filled with bright pictures of fruits, vegetables, dogs, monuments and people. 

Just go.

I walked down the lanes out of the slum. The houses were squeezed together, even air seemed scarce. Outside on the road, the traffic had piled up. Autos, cars, even a large van, sped down the wrong side of the road, intent on beating the jam. 

Don’t do that, I told my auto-driver. Stay in this lane. 

Madam … we will be here forever. Seeing the traffic?

That’s fine. Why break rules? The system is designed to make our lives smoother, otherwise we would collapse into chaos and anarchy.

He looked at me in the mirror, his eyebrows scrunched on his forehead, shaking his head.

Tears chased down my cheeks blurring the red tail-lights that whizzed past.
*
I’m not able to do much with her, I told the counsellor in my review meeting after three months. The sessions are a study of silence.

She is a difficult child, the counsellor pacified, tough family background.

Mehak’s parents had fallen in love – he a Muslim, she a Hindu. They eloped, so her family disowned her. They came to Bombay from the village to build their paradise. It could have been a beautiful story. The father drank every night, rumour had it that he slept with women in the slum. 

What about the mother?

He doesn’t let her out of the house. Suspects her. He doesn’t think Mehak and her brother are his. Outside the window a group of parakeets were shrieking, tumbling in the air, weaving through branches. I looked back into the counsellor’s eyes, they weren’t cold but lacked emotion. Life had failed Mehak so the system attempted to intervene. She craved something else.

A group session was organised that weekend. All the other volunteers and interns showed progress. Mehak sat away from me. I wanted to reach out, but knew she needed to come to me.

How’s your kid?

Good.

Mine just cannot stop talking. We worked on her dreams’ chart.

Already? Thought that was the goal after six months.

The volunteer shrugged her shoulders, tilted her head and gave me a crooked smile.

I went to look for Mehak. She’d gone downstairs to play during the break and refused to come back.
*
Hey, I’ve brought a lantern. Do you want to learn to make it? 

Her father was lounging to one side of the room in a thin baniyan and badly tied lungi, the bottle of local liquor hardly hidden from my view. His right hand curled around a glass.

Mehak agreed. She was chirpy, engaged but looked at him every few seconds. He stared straight at the television. Bed sheets lay crumpled on the floor, pillows strewn everywhere. I wondered if he’d had someone over the previous night. Had Mehak ever chanced upon him with one of his women? How did they explain it to her?

Don’t venture into a conversation on values, the counsellor warned, it gets murky. Talk about how she can make her life better. Period.

Once there was a man sitting in the room with Mehak and her mother. He was young, dressed in tight pants and a shiny black shirt with a sly smile on his face. Mehak calls him Mama.

She takes a thick sketch-pen and writes on a piece of paper, decorating carefully, then shows it to him. He laughs looking at her mother who raises her eyebrows. It read ‘I love you’. Mehak smiles and says Mama, I love you Mama.
*
I’m going cycling she shouted, six months after our first meeting, just as I reached her home. 

Do you know how to cycle?

Of course, she said. Come. Her eyes were lit, mischief rippling through her thin frail body. 

I tried to keep up, my big bag full of books thumping against my side. I now carried storybooks, drawing books and a range of crayons and sketch-pens to entice her. I was still the Little Prince waiting patiently for the fox to come closer, but unlike in the book, she only ran further.

I lost her quickly in the labyrinth. Mehakkkkk…. A little girl at a corner said, pointing to the right, go towards the ground, behind the Police Station.

There was a large clearing between a few government-built apartments in a compound adjacent to the slum. 

The ground was as crumbly as the buildings themselves; dust rose and hovered like a low cloud. Sewage pipes leaked, streaking the walls with black grime, as they made their way down into the ground where garbage hurled out of windows lay in piles. In the distance, Mehak was running. Her pink and black kurta fluttered, her dupatta trailing in the wind. In one session, she’d announced with a smile, my favourite colour is pink. She was wearing a pink kurta and had showed me her pink pencil box with Dora on it. 

The dupatta dropped to her side as she reached a boy on a cycle. After a brief conversation, she took the cycle from him, jumped on and went off pedalling. 

Careful. 

She went down a slope then came back up, cycling with great speed toward me, jumped off and gave me her dupatta. 

Hold! 

I held on. She went down the slope but lost control and fell. I ran towards her, reaching just as the boy who owned the cycle yelled, it had better not be scratched.

You ok? I asked. 

She got up, dusted herself and nodded dismissively.

I looked at the boy. Before I could intervene she turned and said, on my birthday, when my dad gives me my new cycle, I’ll give you a ride. She jumped on and sped away.

Mehak, my father will get angry … Be careful … he yelled after her.

After an hour spent watching her, I gave the dupatta back and said bye. 

Should I come back next week?

No. Never. She yelled as she ran home.
*
It had been a long day that faded into a smog-filled night with no moon or visible stars. I sat on those metal steps, the dog barking somewhere behind me, watching the slum wind down. I had reached at five pm for the regular Wednesday session only to find Mehak missing. Since when? Her mum shrugged as she continued to make some chai.

How can you sit still?

What do you want me to do? I’ve looked. Police will register the case for a missing person only after twenty-four hours. 

Mehak’s brother had gone missing before. They found him after months, with a group of teenagers in a desolate place nearby, living in abandoned furniture and autos. Addicted to cheap drugs, he refused rehab, refused to come back.

I want you to do something. She’s a girl. She’s thirteen!

Her mother shrugged. 

I looked everywhere, sweeping the tiny lanes with matchbox houses that sunlight bypassed, knocking on random doors, that girl who came to the doorway, the boy with the cycle, outside on the streets and that dusty ground.

It had been ten days since her birthday. My father is getting me a new pink cycle she’d said for weeks leading to it. I came by on her birthday with a strawberry cake, large balloons and a twenty-four crayons colouring set. There was no cycle. Not on that day or for days after.

When it was ten pm, too late for me to stay, I walked to my car. The streetlights were blazing, headlights bright, everyone headed home. As I neared the signal, it turned orange and then red, the car beside me accelerated while I braked. The countdown on my signal had reached twenty seconds when a car behind honked, two rickshaws to my right inched forward blocking moving traffic, a group of two-wheelers darted across, one narrowly missing a BEST bus. The signal said ten seconds. Honks reverberated down the line. An auto went past my right, the driver yelled, gesturing at me. The junction was busy with people and vehicles converging from all directions, the law abandoned, the common man deeming his method better, faster.
I closed my eyes. I’d tried. The system had tried. We’d reached out but she squirmed, thrashed, refusing to be held and slipped deeper into the pit. That large cavernous one which opened up and sucked everything in.

See you later, alligator.



bhavani is an independent fiction and non-fiction writer. Her fiction has won contests at Women’s Web and made it to the 2015 Out of Print-DNA shortlist. She has over 70 non-fiction articles published in leading national and international magazines, newspapers and netzines. In a dedicated relationship with her husband, chocolate, her puppy and lower case, though not necessarily in that order, bhavani lives in Mumbai and loves working from home though she misses a regular dose of office gossip.