Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas Book Launch in Kolkata

Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas Book Launch in Kolkata

Dear Bookworms,
We appreciate when book lovers share their experiences with us. Sharing their inspirations about a book and the people behind a creative piece of work gives us the hope that books are still thriving in our world. We hope you will enjoy this personal experience as much as we did.

Of “No Vanilla Women” and a Lot of Incredibleness by Dr. Amit Shankar Saha

“Incredible” in an incredible word for it takes the subject it is applied to from the realm of believable and ordinary to the realm of unbelievable and extraordinary. Take for example the quotidian category of women in Indian society. The very fact of being a woman as an objective gendered construct in a patriarchal society is in itself incredible. And then there are stories of their defiance, dreams, inner strength, resolve, and the overcoming of impediments planted in their paths on a day to day basis. These count for a lot of incredibleness, the basic ingredient that goes into the concoction called Incredible Women of India (IWI), an ezine run by Rhiti Bose and Lopa Banerjee. IWI was founded by Rhiti Bose in 2013 after which it has been able to touch hearts across borders and It is this incredibleness that has spilled over in fictional form into the book Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas, a collection of short stories curated by Rhiti and Lopa, in association with the publishing house Readomania, through an online competition called “Stree.” The launch of this book was organised by Mona Sengupta and Sushroota Sarkar of Ahava Communications at Weaver’s Studio, Kolkata, on 18th December 2015. This event was prefaced by the the cover revealing of the book a few days ago in the talented poet and painter Sufia Khatoon’s Art Fair Season V, at Chemould Art Gallery.

Women have long been objectified by the male gaze and let me do the same here but with a difference. I shall use the gaze as a deconstructionist’s critical tool and try to make it the agency of the subaltern called women much like how women’s body has been used as an ecriture for their subjectivity. So I excuse those who do not have a literary bent of mind to from further reading to avoid affront to their sensibility or lack of it. There was a nip in the air and so the berets were out. A black one caressed the auburn head of the young poet Joie Bose, who exuded warmth that the grey cardigan hugging her pink dress desperately tried to contain. She was one of the panelists for discussion on the book launched. Beside her, looking no less stunning in a green sari but with a nervous mixture of coyness and confidence, was Rhiti Bose, the Founder and Chief Editor of IWI. On the other end, to the right of the audience, sat the Creative Editor of IWI, Lopa Banerjee, looking like a sweet brew of coffee in a brown sari. 

Next to her was the eminent author of many books, the latest being Ballad of Bapu, and one of the contributors of the anthology under discussion, Santosh Bakaya, who looked fetching in green with a prim bob cut. She was followed in the seating order by the noted filmmaker and social activist Anindita Sarbadhicari, whose black bindi complimented her black dress perfectly. And in the middle in pastel patches of red and black sat the moderator Rakhi Chakrabarty, the Assistant Editor of The Times of India. Apart form the panelists there were other contributors of the volume present too. There were Paulami DuttaGupta, in black and red dress from Nagaland paired with red and gold beaded necklace from Meghalaya, Debosmita Nandy, sparkling in a pink sari with a golden border, Radhika Maira Tabrez, in a vanilla diffused blue dress, and Anirban Nanda, one of the three male contributors to find a place in the volume, in a pale white shirt. They either read extracts from the book or narrated their experiences about the “no vanilla women” they wrote about.

What transpired amongst the panelists in the next hour or so could have been found in the first page of a newspaper delineating the struggles of a nineteen year old girl in Kashmir while overcoming drug addiction and starting an orphanage; or the inside page of a newspaper portraying a girl in the North-East trying to come to terms with the mental trauma caused by the army’s AFSPA and the ULFA’s insurgency; or could be heard from a housemaid of how she escaped her traffickers, made herself economically independent and now wants to go back to her village; or could be experienced first hand in the dusty paths of Basirhat, where regularly parents are duped with promises of work or marriage to virtually sell off their teenage daughters; or could be an anecdote about an acid attack victim and her convicted perpetrator attaining realization and turning over a new leaf; or it could just happen among one’s family and friends, where a widow from a foreign shore brings her husband’s ashes to her in-laws, whom she has never met; or it could be found in the cancer ward of a hospital where a woman defies the deadly disease to live again; it could very well be surreptitiously seen behind closed doors of so-called respectable people of society where gender identity becomes pronounced. I could write about how Rakhi Chakrabarty and other panelists spoke about the vulnerability of women and their fortitude. I could also write about how Readomania founder Dipankar Mukherjee and resident editor Indrani Ganguly brought Rhiti and Lopa’s vision into a reality. But those things I have already written about during the cover reveal event of the book.

Rather I will love to write, perhaps still with a male gaze, about the bonhomie shared by friends meeting for the first time after a long acquaintance in the virtual world. I will love to write about the literary bond I share with Lopa. I will love to write about the warmth with which Rhiti welcomes me. I will love to write about how Lopa, despite being settled in Dallas, Texas, still calls Kolkata her home, even though each time she comes here she has a bout of Laryngitis.  I will love to write about how Rhiti stalked some of my friends in the virtual world to bring out the extra-ordinariness of their apparently ordinary lives for IWI.

 I will love to write about the sparkle in Santosh Bakaya’s eyes as she penned her autograph in my copy of the book. I will love to write about how Mona and Sushroota pursued me with their cordial invitations for the event. I will love to write how and why Sufia made me write about this event. I will love to write how Joie gave me a lift in her car amidst goodbyes at the end of the programme. But all these are personal musings and I will restrain myself here. Maybe someday there will be one more nip in the air and I will revisit this event, probably without being a voyeur and without a deconstructionist’s agenda, and the incredibleness of it all will engulf me once more and make me write again. Till then my best wishes are with Defiant Dreams.

Bio: Dr. Amit Shankar Saha is a scholar, critic, poet and writer. He has a PHD in English from Calcutta University. His research articles have appeared in anthologies and journals both in India and abroad, prominently in the journals of Purdue University (USA), Drew University (USA), Bordeaux University (France), BHU (India), etc. He was a guest lecturer in the distance education center of Madras University and is currently pursuing postdoctoral research. He is also the co-founder and coordinator of Rhythm Divine Poets group. He has won a number of creative writing competitions too. 

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