A little over three decades ago I made my first, accidental, entry into the world of publishing in India. I was just finishing my Masters degree, and wanted to make a decisive move away from English literature to something more ‘relevant’ to my life in the thriving, bustling, politically alive city of Delhi. The university was a hotbed of furious political debate, the women’s movement was just taking off – surely, I thought, there has to be more to life than Spenser and Milton (much though I loved them). At the time, a friend worked as a secretary in the Oxford University Press office in Delhi. Perhaps, she suggested, I should do some freelance work there and see how I liked it. I thought it was a brilliant idea.
|Image: Priya Kuriyan|
|Photos: Frederick Noronha|
For anyone and everyone
During the 1970s and 1980s, the focus on textbooks and educational publishing also meant that there was not much happening with regards to translation. Given that India has 23 official languages and publishes in 22 of those, with many having rich, and strong literary traditions, this was an odd lacuna. Even when there were translations, they were seldom direct from one Indian language to another, but rather went via a link language such as Hindi or English. Today, translation forms a vibrant and lively part of Indian publishing.
Feeding the hunger
Most discussion on Indian publishing today tends to focus on trade publishing, where the growth is – some say as high as 30 percent a year, while others put the figure at 10 percent (which is a high enough figure). Much of this growth is attributed to the entry of the big Western giants, and there is no doubt that these houses are publishing new and interesting titles. But it is the independent, small (and sometimes not so small) Indian publishers who are really the ones who should be credited with putting Indian publishing on the international map. Not only are independent and small publishers doing exciting things, they are also thinking innovatively about distribution. One of the new models is to co-publish with a larger publisher, something that is unheard of within the same country elsewhere in the world. The Zubaan-Penguin list, as well as those by Collins-Ratna Sagar, Ravi Dayal-Penguin and Mapin-HarperCollins are examples of these, and there are more in the offing. Further, a group of independent publishers – the Independent Publishers’ Distribution Alternatives (IPDA) – has come together to set up a collective to work on distribution and marketing.
|Photos: Min Ratna Bajracharya|
~ Urvashi Butalia is co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house, and now heads Zubaan, an imprint of Kali.
Romila Thapar addresses invitees at the
Southasian relaunch of Himal Southasian,
IIC, New Delhi, January 2013.
flickr / The US Army
On 1 December 2013, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the US of cutting fuel supplies to Afghan security forces. Despite US pressure, Karzai continues to stall the signing of a Bilateral Security Agreement.
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