An introduction to a book we all should read.

A couple of weeks ago we got a call from the local rep of Harper Collins asking us if we would like to sell copies of Walking towards ourselves at a reading at Ashoka trust. Response was immediate that we would love to, it went a little like dis.

 

Set up, a few brief introductions to the organizers and host. Delay because one of the contributing authors was late. Smoke, head to take a seat, spot a familiar face – Anjum Hassan, head over say hello and have a brief chat and express a state of disinterest of any socializing, a preference for heading home and reading, a state of joy while having the time to read and not have to do anything else in the evenings. Anjum says that I should consider myself lucky to reach a state of contentment, what about the social aspect of meeting actual people – do you feel a void? Well, not really for that there is Tinder.

Brief introduction about the book and the three authors who were there for the reading – The book is a collection of essays non fiction by women writers in response to Nirbhaya’s death, being a man one takes things for granted, reading such stories makes one a little more sensitive, maybe a little less sexist and a little more feminist, make a decision that regardless of the sales of the book at the event, we will try and sell the shit out of the book at the store.

Salma talked about her piece in the book and about her experience as a woman in a traditional muslim community in Tamil Nadu, Sharanya Manivannan her experiences as an outlier in Indonesia and Anjum about a NGO worker who sees things on a daily basis that might make a “strong” person weak in the knees and even question how does one go through this without becoming hard – just using it as fuel to work harder towards a recovery. I am not going to get into an elaborate description of the pieces or more about the book and give spoilers – I will just say that all thinking individuals need to read this excellent collection of pieces, become stronger, more confident, proud and less sexist.

There was talk about the difficulty in current oppressive times where authors have even been killed for liberal non-conformist writings, the feeling of fear was quite visible, I wish I was more eloquent to give courage to our scribes, instead I will paraphrase from Herman Hess’s words in 1914 on the responsibilities of intellectuals in a time war (which we bloody well are in).

” I would be the last to deny affinity with my native country”” I have no desire for soldiers in doing their duty. But my duty is another…”

The first casualty of war is truth. Does a Japanese drama become worse because the Japanese fleet has shelled Tsingato? Has a bad German book become superior to an English book because those countries are at war? Does the outbreak of war make French culture worthless?

That is what they want us to think. We must refuse to participate in this deceit.

It is understandable that politicians and soldiers are blinded by hatred of the enemy. But when intellectuals are also seized by warmongering and write battle poems, boycott ‘enemy’ art and defame whole peoples – who will then defend the truth?

Goethe did not write war poems in 1813. He retained his own inner freedom and followed his intellectual conscience. Anyone who has once believed in the idea of humanity, in the universality of science, in art with no national boundaries, must not betray his conviction now that it is being put to the test. If intellectuals betray spiritual values, war will destroy the foundation of Europe. Someone must uphold peace even if the whole world is at war. Someone must attempt to preserve as much peace as possible – that is the task the future poses today.”

Hess was exiled and went on to be a great writer remembered to this day.

To you my beautiful scribes – you must write and not succumb to any pressure, you will be remembered for your intergrity and words not for your fears, so go on fighting the good fight.

In closing the authors were asked a question regarding what one is to do in times like these, all three of them responded in like an echo “read”, “read” and “read”…

There was a story telling workshop for the folks who were attending the reading, I think a team building kind of thing for the newbies at Ashoka, I stayed and quite enjoyed the program by Storywallahs, Got to exchange some really personal stories with a couple of complete strangers, got to look into a set of dilated blue eyes in very close proximity.

Went back to the store with a conviction to sell this book, so if you swing by our store and are exposed to hard hand selling of this book – you have been forewarned. But seriously go out and buy this book from your favorite independent bookstore.

Walking Toward Ourselves Indian Women Tell Their Stories edited by Catriona Mitchell 2

 

 

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