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The Press on the Roof of the World

  Somewhere in these mountains is the only independent press situated on the roof of the world.  It will turn twenty next year.  To mark the end of our teens, we've instituted a prize. The Kosambi Memorial Book Prize will be given annually to the best student in ancient Indian history at Ashoka University, Haryana.  The first prize was awarded on 13th November 2019 to Revanth Ukkalam and Haritha Govind of Ashoka University's Class of 2020.  Haritha Govind with Mahesh Rangarajan Revanth Ukkalam with Mahesh Rangarajan, Nayanjot Lahiri, and Pratyay Nath The prize also marks our extensive co-publication programme with Ashoka University in the series Hedgehog and Fox, edited by Rudrangshu Mukherjee. Over 75 titles have been published in this series in the five years since it came into existence. As every year here at Permanent Black we proved that you don't have to add to the world's carbon footprint to publish internationally. We did not

BACK IN PRINT: PLAIN SPEAKING, A SUDRA'S STORY

"Being the only boy in the house, I ran errands, went to the shops to buy our necessities, and delivered small quantities of milk and buttermilk which we sold to some neighbours, and then had my morning meal. Breakfast consisted of a small quantity of rice kept overnight in rice water which by the morning had slightly fermented, and a little lime pickle or chutney made dal, tamarind, and chillies. Sometimes a single hot chilli was all that was available to eat with the rice." The memoirs and lectures of A.N. Sattanathan, presented here in a fully annotated edition, with a critical introduction, constitute a key literary-historical document of the caste struggle. Sattanathan’s autobiographical fragment is a unique record of non-brahmin low-caste life in rural South India, where the presence of poverty and caste prejudice is the more powerful for being understated. As the experience—sparsely and beautifully rendered—of the low-caste but not stereotypically ‘untouch

THE STRANGENESS OF TAMILNADU: M.S.S. PANDIAN'S LAST BOOK

M.S.S. Pandian (1958–2014) was an eminent historian of South Indian politics, caste, culture, and cinema. His writings offer distinctively Tamil insights on these areas. In this book his chief focus is Tamil political culture for roughly thirty years since 1985. His success lies in bringing a historical understanding to bear on what he called “the strangeness of Tamil Nadu”. A key figure in Pandian’s thinking was E.V. Ramasamy “Periyar”. Pandian argues that Periyar’s ideals and strategies long remained popular among Tamil progressives, but that their survival became difficult because of radical changes in pan-Indian political culture. To show these changes, this book is organised chronologically as well as along thematic sections that reflect the themes of Periyar’s Dravidian ideology: linguistic identity, state politics, religion, and caste.  Periyar’s ideas, Pandian argues, can still provide productive standards for critical analysis of politics in India. But because th

TRANSLATING THE INDIAN PAST by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

An excellent review of this book THE TRIBUNE by the renowned Tamil scholar A.R. Venkatachalapathy ( click here or paste the link into your browser: https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/sunday-special/book-reviews/a-subtle-feast-of-words-to-be-valued/829591.html) is good reason to remind readers of how wonderful, as a work of Indian literary and cultural history, this book really is.     "Critic, poet, anthologist, scholar and translator. Mehrotra’s literary career is as multifaceted as it is difficult to write about. To do justice to it, we would need a higher vantage point than what’s afforded by the book review format. For those who haven’t read Mehrotra before, Translating the Indian Past serves as a decent introduction to the author’s longstanding literary preoccupations; the book can also be seen as a belatedly written preamble to the poems" Vineet Gill, Scroll Through his poems, criticism, translations, and edited books, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra has played a

OUT IN PAPERBACK: THE CONCEPT OF BHARATAVARSHA

This collection explores what may be called the idea of India in ancient times. Its undeclared  objective is to identify key concepts which show early Indian civilization as distinct and differently oriented from other formations. Read an excerpt here in Scroll.in The essays focus on ancient Indian texts within a variety of genres. They identify certain key terms – such as Janapada, Desa, Varna, Dharma, Bhava – in their empirical contexts to suggest that neither the ideas embedded in these terms nor the idea of Bharatvarsa as a whole are “given entities”, but that they evolved historically. Professor Chattopadhyaya examines these texts to unveil historical processes. Without denying comparative history, he stresses that the internal dynamics of a society are best decoded via its own texts. His approach bears very effectively on understanding ongoing interactions between India’s “Great Tradition” and “Little Traditions”. As a whole, this book

Sumit Guha: History and Collective Memory In South Asia

        BUY THE BOOK       “Much of this rich and exciting material has not been discussed in published form before. The subject of how South Asians have constructed the past has been an increasingly important one in the field; this book will become one of the most original and substantial contributions to this literature” Douglas E. Haynes    “Guha reminds us that the now-standard Western method of history writing, as practiced and taught in university departments, is of fairly recent vintage. This book should go well beyond the usual circles of South Asia specialists to general readers” Samira Sheikh “Not only does Guha possess a mastery of a staggering diversity of historical practices in South Asia, his analysis extends to a thoughtful discussion of (and argument about) the origins and development of European history writing” William R. Pinch “Guha charts the rise of historical memory in South Asia in a way that moves past literary affect or philosophical predisposition, ref

ROLL OVER, E.H. CARR

 A PS to our 2013 post on  ROMILA THAPAR'S MAGNUM OPUS 1 September 2019 " The Jawaharlal Nehru University administration has asked historian Romila Thapar to submit her curriculum vitae so that it can decide if she should continue as professor emerita, The Telegraph reported on Sunday. Thapar had retired from the university in 1991 and was made professor emerita two years later. An emeritus position is an honour conferred by the university on a retired professor in appreciation of their past work. Once chosen, an academic typically continues in the post throughout, unidentified JNU faculty members told The Telegraph. The university’s website already has Thapar’s CV, though seemingly an earlier version. “It is a very unfortunate thing,” Thapar told Anandabazar. “We are going through a strange time. Emeritus is not a mere designation. It is an honour related to the university’s goodwill.” Writing in Economic and Political Weekly , economist Prabhat Pa

What it is to be a Conscious Person in Community

When first published in 1976, Ramchandra Gandhi’s The Availability of Religious Ideas was described thus by John Hick, Professor of Theology at Birmingham University: “This is an unusual and a genuinely original book . . . on the basic problem of our existence as persons in community. The author embodies both the spiritual tradition of India (for something of the spirit of his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, is powerfully present in his outlook) and the intellectual tradition of the West (for he holds an Oxford doctorate . . . ) With this double focus he explores philosophically, and in a way which shows the influence of Wittgenstein, what it is to be a conscious person in community and shows how the religious ideas of the soul, of God, prayer, immortality, the mystical and miraculous are generated by a kind of moral necessity . . .” This reprint includes a new Introduction by the eminent philosopher Arindam Chakrabarti (currently Professor at Stony Brook University), who knew Ramch

MEDIEVAL HINDUISM IN THE MODERN HIMALAYA

Hinduism, as is well known, has taken a multitude of shapes and forms. Some Hindu “little traditions” have remained obscure or under-studied to this day on account of their regional remoteness. One such offshoot is the influential cult of Mahasu, which has existed since medieval times in a part of the western Himalaya. The deity at the core of the cult takes the form of four primary Mahasus with territorial influence, installed in various far-flung temples. Their geographical centre is the village of Hanol, and the larger territory is integrated to the Mahasu politico-religious system by a peripatetic deity with loyal followers across a considerable domain. Mahasu remains influential in the region, its ritual practices having remained quite distinct despite social change. An anthropological survey was conducted in its terrain during British times, but Lokesh Ohri’s book is the first to offer a detailed framework, a fine-grained history, and an analytically nuanced understanding of one

INDIAN MIGRATION AND EMPIRE

How did states come to monopolize control over migration? What do the processes that produced this monopoly tell us about the modern state?  "Mongia has written a pathbreaking book. In the wake of this work it will no longer be possible to tell the story of border-making without a scrutiny of how human labor was dehumanized on an imperial and global scale" H-net "Mongia’s book is a methodological tour de force in migration studies and theories of the state. But the commendable feat of this book is that these accomplishments do not stand apart – her contribution to migration studies is enriched by the careful theorising of states, at once colonial, transcolonial and metropolitan" Wire "Mongia’s account is a fresh, fascinating explanation of the intricacies of migration and its impact on host-countries, nation-state and bureaucratic development, and at the heart of it all, the emigrant" International Social Science Review It is also review

A SABDA READER

Language (śabda) occupied a central yet often unacknowledged place in classical Indian philosophical thought. Foundational thinkers considered topics such as the nature of language, its relationship to reality, the nature and existence of linguistic units and their capacity to convey meaning, and the role of language in the interpretation of sacred writings. The first reader on language in—and the language of—classical Indian philosophy, A Śabda Reader offers a comprehensive and pedagogically valuable treatment of this topic and its importance to Indian philosophical thought. A Śabda Reader brings together newly translated passages by authors from a variety of traditions—Brahmin, Buddhist, Jaina—representing a number of schools of thought. It illuminates issues such as how Brahmanical thinkers understood the Veda and conceived of Sanskrit; how Buddhist thinkers came to assign importance to language’s link to phenomenal reality; how Jains saw language as strictly material; the po

PARTITION'S LEGACIES: JOYA CHATTERJI'S NEW BOOK

Known for the elegance of her prose as much as for the sharpness of her insights into Indian history, Joya Chatterji’s new book will enthral everyone interested in modern India’s apocalyptic past. She provides here a selection of her finest and most influential essays. “Partition, nation-making, frontiers, refugees, minority formation, and categories of citizenship have been my preoccupations,” she says. These are also the major themes of this book. Chatterji’s Bengal Divided (1994) shifted the focus from Muslim fanaticism as the driving force of Partition towards “secular” nationalism and Hindu aggression. Her Spoils of Partition (2007) rejected the idea of Partition as a breaking apart, showing it as a process for remaking society and state. Her third (jointly written) book, Bengal Diaspora (2016), challenged the idea of migration and resettlement as exceptional situations. Partition’s Legacies can be seen as continuous with Chatterji’s earlier work as well as a distillation a

Sexed In, And Cast(E) Out Of, The City

by Simona Sawhney Reviewed in The Book Review Focusing on eight Hindi novels, Vasudha Dalmia’s new work traces the emergence of a modern urban culture in North India and the changing shapes of its political, aesthetic, and moral concerns. Beginning with Pariksha Guru by Lala Shrinivasdas (1882), the book engages, successively, Premchand’s Sevasadan (1918) and Karmabhumi (1932), Yashpal’s Jhuta Sach (1958, 1960), Agyeya’s Nadi ke Dweep (1948), Dharamvir Bharati’s Gunahom Ka Devata (1949), Rajendra Yadav’s Sara Akash (1951) and Mohan Rakesh’s Andhere Band Kamre (1961). Written during a period when print had an energy and power that has long been depleted, these novels actively participated in the forging of language, of sensibility, and of political and sexual subjectivity. Yet as Dalmia’s book progresses, certain strands come to the fore and gain evident prominence. In the epilogue, she reflects upon what became, for her, the most salient thematic link between the novel

The Girl with Questioning Eyes

A novel that understands the soul of middle India like no other "Written in straightforward language ... the novel, even as it describes ordinary everyday events, gets an odd raciness — you want to turn the pages quickly, know what happens next."  Sara Rai, Indian Express Babli, sixth in a line of nine siblings, is carrying dried cowpats – fuel she has to deliver to her father, who runs a wayside dhaba. On her way she is stopped in her tracks by a well-dressed college teacher who asks: “Is my bindi properly centred?” “Yes,” gasps the child, aghast at being seen carrying smelly cowpats by such a grand lady. The encounter seems inconsequential, but it lodges deep in Babli’s mind. When the novel ends, many years later, she understands how much this image – of a labouring child bewildered at being addressed by an educated woman – has driven the twists and turns of her life. The world of Babli’s family is the distillation of small-town India. Through her we li

Dhriti K. Lahiri Choudhury

We are very sad to know that Professor Dhriti K. Lahiri Choudhury has passed away. He died on Friday morning in Calcutta.  Dr Lahiri Choudhury, born in 1931, did many things: with a PhD from Leeds in English Literature, he combined his work with elephants with teaching at Rabindra Bharati University. He was a member of the IUCN elephant group and of Project Elephant. It was a joy for us to publish his Trunk Full of Tales: Seventy Years with the Indian Elephant -- the editorial sessions involved long, old-style sessions of story-telling which should have been around a campfire. He would tell of his many hair-raising journeys across Assam, Meghalaya, Bengal, the Barak Valley and elsewhere, in search of rogue elephants or on arduous elephant surveys, when the evenings always began with emptying blood-soaked boots of leeches; he would talk lovingly of the elephants in his childhood home in Mymensingh -- now in Bangladesh -- their names and foibles; and of drinking elephant milk