In conversation with Urvashi Butalia

pujab

Puja Bhattacharjee | May 29, 2015


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Urvashi Butalia is a publisher who along with Ritu Menon had co-founded Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house in 1984. After the closure of Kali, she founded Zubaan as an imprint of Kali for Women, and continues to publish books on, for, by and about women in South Asia. She is a consultant for Oxfam India and has written prolifically on gender, communalism, fundamentalism and media. Butalia has authored or co-authored several books. Of these, The Other Side of Silence (1998), which is a product of more than seventy interviews with survivors of the partition, and emphasises particularly the role of violence against women in the collective experience of the tragedy, is being used as a textbook in some Indian universities. In 2011, Butalia was conferred the Padma Shri.

The book I am reading: Right now I am reading a screenplay by Kiran Nagarkar, a novel on partition by Ikramullah and Amrita Pritam’s Pinjar in Hindi

One thing I wish I had done:
Learnt how to sing

First thing I do in the morning: Go for the Yoga class

My favourite pastime: I love reading books and manuscripts

My biggest strength: I am a determined and persistent kind of person

My biggest weakness: Laziness

My fitness regime includes: I practise Yoga for an hour and then walk for another hour

One thing nobody knows about me: There are lots of things nobody knows about me

My greatest challenge so far: Has been to ensure that the publishing house I run survives commercially. It is an ongoing challenge

My advice to the young generation: Believe in yourself and follow your dreams to the best of your ability

If I were not a publisher: I would have done exactly the same things

The person I admire most and why: I admire many people for their courage and for what they have achieved

The person I despise the most and why: I would rather focus my energy on constructive things than waste it in despising someone

At present I am busy with: Editing a manuscript of short stories by Avinuo Kire, a Naga writer and trying to finish working on my book about the life of a hijra

I want to be remembered as: A feminist publisher

(The interview appears in the May 16-31, 2015 issue)

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