Being a Secular Muslim in India
by Seema Mustafa
“But strangely enough, I find all my identities under threat today. As a woman, as a journalist, as a Muslim, as a secularist, as a liberal and even as an Indian because the Idea of India as envisaged by those who led the struggle for Independence, and enshrined in the Constitution with all its guarantees and its protection, is under threat.”
A fascinating account of an audacious woman’s journey and a rapidly vanishing way of life, Azadi’s Daughter is both a personal memoir and a political commentary. Journalist Seema Mustafa writes evocatively of the secular, pluralist India of the 1960s and ’70s, chronicling her life as a Muslim woman born into the nationalist, progressive Kidwai family in Lucknow. As a child, her life was untouched by communalism, and even as she realizes that this was not the case for many, her book is a testament to the syncretic nature of secularism, in which a staunchly Muslim household was not limited to conservative interpretations of Islam.
Seema Mustafa incisively charts the events which have slowly begun to erode this tolerant, diverse ethos—the government’s handling of the Shah Bano case in the 1980s, the demolition of the Babri Masjid in the 1990s, the mass arrests and torture of Indian Muslim youth in the aftermath of the 9/11 bombings, and the Gujarat riots of the 2000s. She also examines the current state of secularism where people face marginalization and the threat of violence merely for exercising their right to religion, to livelihood and even to what they eat.
This book should set to rest lazy assumptions about Indian Muslims, and women in particular. Even as it highlights the dominant concerns of Indian Muslims—security, employment, education, housing—it also underlines their abiding faith in Indian democracy and its pluralistic ethos. A memoir that defies old assumptions and prejudices, Azadi’s Daughter is an important account of Indian Muslims in the modern world.
Publisher: Folio Books
Publishing date: July 2018
Meeting the South Asian Parents
Who Raised Me
by Sopan Deb
A bittersweet and humorous memoir of family—of the silence and ignorance that separate us, and the blood and stories that connect us—from an award-winning New York Times writer and comedian.
Approaching his 30th birthday, Sopan Deb had found comfort in his day job as a writer for the New York Times and a practicing comedian. But his stage material highlighting his South Asian culture only served to mask the insecurities borne from his family history. Sure, Deb knew the facts: his parents, both Indian, separately immigrated to North America in the 1960s and 1970s. They were brought together in a volatile and ultimately doomed arranged marriage and raised a family in suburban New Jersey before his father returned to India alone.
But Deb had never learned who his parents were as individuals—their ages, how many siblings they had, what they were like as children, what their favorite movies were. Theirs was an ostensibly nuclear family without any of the familial bonds. Coming of age in a mostly white suburban town, Deb’s alienation led him to seek separation from his family and his culture, longing for the tight-knit home environment of his white friends. His desire wasn’t rooted in racism or oppression; it was born of envy and desire—for white moms who made after-school snacks and asked his friends about the girls they liked and the teachers they didn’t. Deb yearned for the same.
Deb’s experiences as one of the few minorities covering the Trump campaign, and subsequently as a stand up comedian, propelled him on a dramatic journey to India to see his father—the first step in a life altering journey to bridge the emotional distance separating him from those whose DNA he shared. Deb had to learn to connect with this man he recognized yet did not know—and eventually breach the silence separating him from his mother. As it beautifully and poignantly chronicles Deb’s odyssey, Missed Translations raises questions essential to us all: Is it ever too late to pick up the pieces and offer forgiveness? How do we build bridges where there was nothing before—and what happens to us, to our past and our future, if we don’t?
“A delightful memoir of people and place that will draw in Deb’s fans and attract plenty of new ones.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“I was moved by the ways in which Sopan Deb taps into both the darkness and light that permeate a story about love, family, and understanding. He’s a masterful storyteller, and I’m thankful for his bravery and willingness to share the kind of human story that we too often prefer to keep to ourselves.”
-Kal Penn, comedian and actor
“Both moving and hilarious, Missed Translations is not just about exploring culture, family, and love, but about understanding where one comes from in the deepest possible way. It’s a wonderful journey.”
-Jake Tapper, CNN host and author of The Hellfire Club“
“Sopan Deb hilariously and truthfully lets us in on the ups, downs, lefts, and rights of trying to understand – as a standup comedian and a journalist – the two grown-up strangers who raised him. It’s a crazy story, but you know. Good crazy. Funny crazy. Read-this-book crazy.”
-Pete Holmes, comedian, podcast host, and author of Comedy Sex God
“As a man who has both been a performer and covered performance, Sopan Deb now paints his most important picture yet, the self-portrait.”
-Roy Wood Jr., comedian and correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
“A sympathetic portrait of South Asians who are neither crazy and rich nor humorless nerds…Memoirs by children of immigrants often fault clueless parents; this one is refreshing for Deb’s realization that—whatever his elders’ missteps—he needed “to take some responsibility for my part in our family’s disconnect” for things to change.”
“While his topic is serious, Deb’s writing is breezy and witty, and his earnestness will sweep readers up into this charmer of a memoir.”
Publisher: Folio Books
Publishing Date: December 31, 2020
Poetry for a New Generation
Rs. 500 | $ 7.00
This is an unusual book — the focus is not on what Ghalib means but on what Ghalib makes us think of contemporary issues. It puts Ghalib to work and brings Ghalib to life. It is an invitation to think with Ghalib about all the big issues — faith and religion, us and them, the nature of divinity, being and nothingness, the importance of thinking for oneself, what it means to believe, and what it takes to be human. It is a roller-coaster ride with one of the most creative minds of all time.
“To think with Ghalib is to think with a fifteen-hundred-year-old sub-continental tradition of dissent that passes through Lal Ded, Kabir, Nanak and Ravidas before it reaches him. The only reason his name sounds odd in their saintly company is that, outside invisible lovers of poetry, he did not leave behind a panth. One can only be grateful to Altaf and Basole for giving us a book that is almost an act of inspiration: 30 couplets in English, Urdu, Nagari, and a transliteration of the original in Roman. Then comes the prose reflection on the couplet: lucid and explorative, it leaves us surprised at how we could have lost the questioning path that was there for the following. A panth of non-believers and doubters, then, something the sub-continent needs more than ever.”
– Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, poet, translator and literary critic
“Thinking with Ghalib is an invitation to South Asian readers to delve into, engage with, and enjoy the unique imagination of the founder of Urdu poetic discourse, shaping the creative orientations of generations through the printed media and expanding schools. By focusing on couplets, Altaf and Basole ask the reader to join them in a quest to experience tradition and modernity as a continuous public debate through one of the enduring forms of artistic expression in our cultures. A brilliant contribution to understanding the past in the present.”
– Ashraf Ghani, co-author, Afghanistan: A Lexicon
“With unusual clarity and a genuine sense of wonder, Altaf and Basole deliver a careful dialogue in thinking through Ghalib’s euphorically elevating verses as he romps through temple, tower and palace, manipulating complex realities in staggering two-line zingers. A must-read for people of all ages and all nationalities.”
– Azra Raza, co-author, A Tribute to Ghalib: Twenty-One Ghazals Reinterpreted
“Mirza Ghalib’s very survival as an inevitable and constant reference point for great poetry, and oftentimes for life’s travails, is a testimony to both the immediacy of his relevance and his transcendence of time. What makes him the extraordinary poet is his extreme sensitivity to the richness of his cultural heritage as well as its attributes of imprisonment. Ghalib imbibes the richness and yet rebels against it. Questioning from within is the single most striking characteristic of his poetry in tune with questioning that has sustained human civilization’s quintessential spirit through the ages: from Socrates to the Charvakas, from Mansoor al-Hallaj and Kabir to Descartes. This amazing experiment in unearthing the layers of meaning(s) in Ghalib’s couplets from their innermost depths sets a superb example of seeking out the soul of poetry. In any case, dissent resides at the very heart of ghazal, the poetry of love, as its raison d’ȇtre. Anjum Altaf and Amit Basole, both Professors of Economics, engaging in this literary endeavour also questions the neat disciplinary divides that academics are so enamoured of.”
– Harbans Mukhia, former Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Trustee, Ghalib Institute, New Delhi
“Here is a unique attempt — often brilliant, wise, provocative and always bravely original — to help young people, especially from South Asia, to discover (or rediscover) the poetry of Ghalib, and in it find both questions and possible pathways to answers to some of the most urgent and perplexing riddles of our times.”
– Harsh Mander, author and Director of Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi
“This a truly invaluable collection of specific Ghalib couplets, reprinted in the Roman, Arabic and Devnagari scripts and accompanied by an informed interpretation in English by Anjum Altaf and Amit Basole. The two authors succeed in highlighting the timelessness of Ghalib’s work and skilfully place his ideas and the profound questions about our world — and indeed human nature itself — within a modern context. The importance of this book lies in the fact that it is aimed at a young audience in the sub-continent and the diaspora. The discussion on each and every couplet succeeds in simplifying, yet highlighting, the complexities and nuances of Ghalib’s words. In the process, the book draws attention to subtleties of the Urdu language itself — and is likely to encourage young readers to reach out for more … I wish my daughters had had a book like this to introduce them to Ghalib when they were at school!”
– Muneeza Shamsie, writer and critic
“These selections, explanations and reflections will bring Indians and Pakistanis closer to Ghalib’s genius and, inshallah, to one another.”
– Rajmohan Gandhi, historian and author of Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten
“This remarkable book offers yet another way to enjoy Ghalib, through an in-depth, contextual and nuanced exposition of thirty of his couplets. Two centuries after his time, the great bard comes back to life in the skilled analysis of Altaf and Basole, giving new meaning to the line hui muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya, par yaad aata hai.”
– Raza Mir, author of Ghalib: A Thousand Desires
“This collection of Ghalib’s couplets was thoughtfully designed to be accessible to language learners at all levels. The writing style is light, even as it engages readers in an essential exploration of what Ghalib’s poetry means now. Each interpretation is deeply grounded in an understanding of Ghalib and his intellectual and social milieu, as well as a profound sensitivity to the poetry itself. In addition to a greater understanding of each couplet, readers will acquire the habits that will help them appreciate the world of Urdu poetry on their own. I only wish there had been a resource like this when I was learning Urdu.”
– Roanne L. Kantor, Assistant Professor of English, Stanford University
“Thinking with Ghalib is a welcome addition to the large archive on Ghalib for three reasons: first, because it makes this nineteenth century poet relevant to the twenty-first century readers in South Asia and the world; secondly, because it is a product of the collaboration of two prominent Pakistani and Indian intellectuals at a distressful juncture of our history which is a good omen for peaceful coexistence through shared intellectual and aesthetic continuities; and, thirdly, because it is in three scripts—the Perso-Arabic script of Urdu, the Devanagari script of Hindi and other Indian languages and the Roman script used for English and other Western languages which makes Ghalib available not only to South Asians but a very large part of the world. This book, I hope, will be the pioneer in the fashion for rewriting our classics so that they appeal to the present generation.”
– Tariq Rahman, Dean, School of Education, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore; author of Language and Politics in Pakistan
“As a Ghalib-lover I often read him and apart from the ecstasy I receive from some of his couplets, what strikes me poignantly is his humanism. Like Shakespeare, Ghalib is always in sympathy with human nature in all its shapes and degrees, elevations and depressions. This is the main premise of Thinking with Ghalib, a meticulously researched book by Anjum Altaf and Amit Basole.
“That Ghalib is for all times is an acknowledged fact. Altaf and Basole explain why it is so. More: they explore the layered meanings of Ghalib’s couplets and relate them to the critical political, psychological and economic issues of our times. Students of literature would benefit hugely from this book which ought to be a part of the syllabi of our universities.”
– Zia Mohyeddin, President of NAPA and author of A Carrot is a Carrot, The God of My Idolatry, and Theatrics
Publisher: Folio Books
Release date: July 10, 2021
Availability: In Stock
Religous Agency or Secular Autonomy?
by Afiya S. Zia
Rs. 1195 Rs.1015
Are secular aims, politics, and sensibilities impossible, undesirable and impracticable for Muslims and Islamic states? Should Muslim women be exempted from feminist attempts at liberation from patriarchy and its various expressions under Islamic laws and customs? Considerable literature on the entanglements of Islam and secularism has been produced in the post-9/11 decade and a large proportion of it deals with the “Woman Question”. Many commentators critique “the secular” and “Western feminism,” and the racialising backlash that accompanied the occupation of Muslim countries during the “War on Terror” military campaign launched by the U.S. government after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Implicit in many of these critical works is the suggestion that it is Western secular feminism that is the motivating driver and permanent collaborator – along with other feminists, secularists and human rights activists in Muslim countries – that sustains the West’s actual and metaphorical “war on Islam and Muslims.” Faith and Feminism addresses this post-9/11 critical trope and its implications for women’s movements in Muslim contexts. The relevance of secular feminist activism is illustrated with reference to some of the nation-wide, working-class women’s movements that have surged throughout Pakistan under religious militancy: polio vaccinators, health workers, politicians, peasants and artists have been directly targeted, even assassinated, for their service and commitment to liberal ideals. Afiya Zia contends that Muslim women’s piety is no threat against the dominant political patriarchy, but their secular autonomy promises transformative changes for the population at large, and thereby effectively challenges Muslim male dominance.
Publisher: Folio Books
Publishing date: May 2018
Rights: South Asia
Availability: In Stock
And Other Poems
‘This translation of Fahmida Riaz’s poetry collection not only preserves the iconoclastic sensuousness of Fahmida’s Urdu original but adds to its evocative power through English diction and figures of speech. Fahmida Riaz’s voice had the distinction of breaking new paths, daring to deviate from fixed civilizational tangents in daring to talk about the female body and libido around which there were, and still are, strong taboos. This translation has been undertaken in the same spirit of daring in defiance of the forces of reaction which prevent the female voice from being heard.”
– Tariq Rahman, Dean of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Beaconhouse National University; Author of A History of Pakistani Literature in English 1947-1988
‘Tahira Naqvi has done a great service to the cause of transnational Marxist feminism in presenting to readers the iconic feminist poetry of Riaz, which evolves over her life and career, from solitary musings of “empowered” selfhood to a more communitarian understanding and embrace of solidarity across gender, class, nation in the pursuit of justice.”
– Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar, Montclair State University; Author of Siren Song: Understanding Pakistan through its Women Singers
“An amazing sangam (confluence) of two creative feminists.”
– Kamla Bhasin, poet, author and feminist activist; Author of Understanding Gender
“Although every language has its own canvas that reflects the beauty of its words and culture, Tahira Naqvi’s English translations of the Urdu poetry of Fahmida Riaz fit well into that canvas, the words are like a stream flowing from the hills.”
– Kishwar Naheed, poet; Author of Buri Aurat ki Kathaa
Publisher: Folio Books
Publishing date: October 05, 2020
Availability: In Stock