10 Reasons To Love Urvashi Butalia

28th Apr 2014

10 Reasons To Love Urvashi Butalia
Feminist, publisher, historian and co-founder of India's first feminist publishing house, we can think of so many reasons to love Urvashi Butalia!

1. The Other Side of Silence

Urvashi Butalia researched and wrote The Other Side of Silence: voices from the Partition of India (1998).

Fifty years after the Partition of India, The Other Side of Silence documents the stories of violence and ongoing trauma suffered by women as the division of the subcontinent took place. Many were raped and abducted by men of the ‘other’ religious side, others were killed by their own male relatives to prevent this shame.

This was the first time their stories were heard in the public domain and the book became a best-seller in India and is taught on courses all over the world.

2. Kali for Women

Urvashi Butalia co-founded India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women in 1984, paving the way for many similar organisations and focussing on publishing women; giving a voice to writers of both academic works and fiction.

3. Zubaan Books

Her publishing imprint, Zubaan Books, publishes books by women writers on gender and development as well as genre fiction and children’s books.

Check out their Poster Women project, a visual mapping of the women’s movement in India through the posters!

4. The Voices of Zubaan

Zubaan publishes some of the most interesting and radical Indian women writing fiction today. Just some of their titles include: Eating Women, Telling Tales, Female Masculinity and In the Shadow of Freedom: Three Lives in Hitler’s Berlin and Gandhi’s India.

5. Her Views on Motherhood

I’m told motherhood is a woman’s destiny, it’s what completes her. So what’s all this about publishing? Her article ‘Childless, naturally’ is must-read for all women who live with the cultural and societal pressure that their path is to get married and become mothers.

Urvashi Butalia writes with strength but also a beautiful vulnerability that explores the questions often posed to women who are either unable or choose not to have children.

6. She’s Inspired by her Friendships

Her friendship with Mona Ahmed, a hijra (transgendered) inspires her work and philosophy, something unheard of in polite Indian society. Mona’s life is also movingly documented by one of India’s leading female artists, Dayanita Singh.

7. Speaking of Peace: Women’s voices from Kashmir

She carries on the practice of privileging oral histories and challenging mainstream rhetoric in her book Speaking of Peace: Women’s voices from Kashmir .

I mean, how many books from Kashmir have you read? And ones that feature women’s voices? Exactly.

8. Recipient of the Padma Sri Award

Even the Indian government appreciate her: in 2011 she was awarded a Padma Sri alongside her Kali for Women co-founder Ritu Menon for their distinguished contribution to Literature and Education in India.

9. She’s An Activist and Inspiration for women of every class

Her columns (she writes for The Guardian, The Statesman and The Times of India) always focus on issues women of all classes in India face – being stigmatised following divorce, the economic undervaluing of housework, the reason why book-buyers in India are mostly male etc.

She continues to inspire generations of women to intellectually engage with female marginalisation, to speak out for women’s economic and social rights, to protest against sexual violence and to fight for gender equality:

“I am fiercely passionate about this, it’s what gives me joy, it’s what involves me, I know this is what I want to do all my life. I want somehow to make a dent in the way the world sees women, to be part of that change.”

10. Oh, and she is multi-lingual!

She speaks several Indian languages (Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali), English, French and Italian! We’re in awe!