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Books: Dalit literature about the City of Gold

SUNDAY MID DAY 32nd Anniverary Special, Mumbai

SUNDAY MiD DAY turns 32: Click here for more stories

1982: City Of Gold: The Biography Of Bombay releases
Gillian Tindall’s book, City Of Gold: The Biography Of Bombay, is one of the first books on the city which puts its life and complexities on paper so deftly. In Tindall’s own words, “Like London, like Paris or New York or pre-war Alexandria, Bombay contains not just many different social worlds but whole solar systems of different societies moving separately and intricately over the same territory.”

Readers at a city library

1994: Giant leap for Dalit literature
In October 1992, Poisoned Bread: Translations from Modern Marathi Dalit Literature, translated by Priya Adarkar, is the first-of-its-kind translated anthology of Dalit literature to have come out of the country. It is remarkable because, though Dalit writing was creating waves, it continued to remain elusive to many English readers.

1999: Kala Ghoda Arts Festival boosts literary, art scene
The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival boosts the city’s art and literature scene and draws attention to self-published books. Colony, translated by Ashlesha Athavle, is one of the more noteworthy books which have received attention after being featured at the festival recently.

1995: Cities within a city
Bombay: The Cities Within, written by Sharada Dwivedi and Rahul Mehrotra, is considered as one of the most expansive and seminal works on the city’s architecture and history. It is accompanied by old, charming photographs, which continue to delight readers. Another book, though narrative non-fiction, which chronicles Mumbai beautifully is Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, which releases in 2004.

2005: Lotus Book House shuts down
The manager of Lotus Book House, Virat Chandok, was known as a passionate collector of books and, like other bookstores, did not solely depend on book distributors alone. Instead, he ordered his own titles, based on his reading and on international book reviews and book catalogues.

Then & Now

Adil Jussawalla, poet

‘Smaller city publishers are thriving, too’
Among the leaps literature and publishing have taken in Mumbai over the past 32 years, I think the changes brought about by smaller publishers are most remarkable.

Adil Jussawalla

The first publishing house which comes to mind is Pras Prakashan, run by Ashok Shahane. We all know about the funds and publicity machinery big publishers have. But I also know that small publishers like him are making a difference, and that they have sales figures to show for it. Pras Prakashan published Arun Kolatkar’s Kala Ghoda Poems in 2004, and by 2006, the book was already in its third print. In the same year, the publishers published Kolatkar’s Sarpa Satra, another lovely collection. His Collected Poems, published by Bloodaxe Books in England, had its sources in the books brought out by Pras Prakashan.

Another publisher, Almost Island, recently published Sharmistha Mohanty’s Five Movements In Praise, Shrikant Verma’s Magadh, translated by Rahul Soni and my poetry collection, Trying to Say Goodbye. Almost Island books have also sold well, here and in the US. It began as an online literary journal, and is already in its nineth edition. 

Poetrywala, another new publishing house founded by Hemant Divate, is relatively new but has many impressive titles to its credit. It is responsible for organising an international poetry festival in Mumbai later this month.

Big publishers will continue publishing many books, of course, but we need more small presses to keep things interesting. It is heartening to know they are based in this city and thrive amid tough competition.

Sepia memory: Anil Dharkar
My most exciting time in Mid Day was when we revamped the Sunday Mid Day in 1988. It was so popular that all correspondents wanted to write for it. We had a tough time getting great stories for the daily editions. Mid Day also hired India’s first sports writer, Sharda Ugra, in 1989.

Then, there was a story given to me which claimed that then Chief Minister, Sharad Pawar had resigned. The news editor was dead against it, but we ran with it anyway. It turned out Pawar hadn’t resigned, after all. He had written a letter which claimed that he would, though, and our correspondent got access to it.

It was a pressure tactic. The day after, the correspondent came up to me with his resignation, which I tore on the spot. A day or two later, we carried another story which announced Vinod Mehta’s resignation from a publication, which, again, turned out to be false. I remember explaining the two news items in my note to the readers, which I called, A Tale of Two Resignations.

Anil Dharkar was editor, Mid Day, during the late 1980s.

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