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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The South African Gandhi


Between the atom 
and the sky
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September 2015
Dear Palash 

You are receiving our inaugural newsletter because you are a valued reader of our books. We shall bother you every month with our slanted take on the world, and about how it appears to us. Sometimes it appears as it did perhaps to Tuka in the 1630s, as he sat on Bhandara Hill in Dehu and sang to no-one in particular and yet to everyone: Anuraniya thokadha/ Tuka aakasha revadha. In Dilip Chitre's felicitous translation:

Too scarce to occupy an atom 
Tuka is as vast as the sky 

Navayana breathes someplace between the atom and the sky. 

There are many ways of supporting Navayana-and one of the best ways of sustaining us is by buying books directly from our website as you have done. For that, thank you. 

The South African Gandhi
Now, let us tell you about a forthcoming title we are rather excited about: The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire written by two outstanding South African scholars of Indian origin, Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed. Commissioned by Navayana two years ago, this book has been in the making for over seven years and unmasks the many falsehoods we have been made to believe about the transformation of a man into a Mahatma on South African soil by our nationalist historians, with Indian history neatly divided as 'before' and 'after' Gandhi. Co-published by Stanford University Press, this title will be available in bookstores and e-commerce websites from 2 October 2015-a modest birthday gift for Mohandas Gandhi, the man who proudly defended his participation in war by saying: 'No Indian has cooperated with the British government more than I have for an unbroken period of twenty-nine years of public life ... I put my life in peril four times for the cause of the Empire.' (Ah, did we hear someone say Ambedkar was a British stooge?)
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Well, we even have a YouTube book trailer with Gandhiji's favourite bhajan,Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye sung cloyingly by Lata Mangeshkar blended to Gandhi's favourite jam in South Africa: 'Rule Britannia'. For this, a salaam to the inventive editor-filmmaker Tarun Bhartiya. Before this film starts trending (oh yes, we do live in hope), be among the first to view and, of course, share it: for no experience today seems complete until and unless we have 'shared' it (a word so callously stripped of its originary meaning). 

To you, we offer this beautifully produced hardback (6.25 x 9.25 inches) in advance for a special price of Rs 495 inclusive of postage (the list price is Rs 595). This offer is valid only till 20 September-so, well, don't think of saying 'later'. Book your copy now and be amongst the first to read what may be one of the most discussed works of 2015–16. 
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While at it, do also get this very important critique titled The Pariah Problem byRupa Viswanath. The reviewer in Business Standard, who happens to be a DMK spokesperson, says 'the book has been able to put together a very important story about the struggle of a community, the colonial apathy, the interface with missionaries and an ever-growing assertion of basic human rights'. 

The Last Mile Boys 
Sure, there are e-commerce sites driven by big money that perhaps offer better discounts and delivery options: they send you an email and you can track the delivery status on your smartphone. At Navayana, we neither have the resources nor the inclination to be so unctuous; but we do the best we can. Anyone who publishes books, and wishes to sell them, seems complicit and compromised. There perhaps is no greater irony than selling Julian Assange's When Google Met WikiLeaks or André Schiffrin's The Business of Words on Amazon, yet we helplessly do-despite knowing how their staff are pushed at a 'bruising workplace'. In this tainted world, we do not claim to be holier than others. We have no means to ensure that the person who comes to deliver these books to you, the one who walks/bikes/pedals the last mile, has been well paid or is even offered a glass of water, or if the floor workers who fold the 16-page forms of paper in printing presses in the Okhla Industrial Estate in Delhi are getting a just wage. But today, it would be disingenuous to join Tuka and say: I swallowed my death, gave up the corpse/ I gave up the world of fantasy. Yet, in utter self-interest, we do encourage you, your friends and foes, lovers and comrades, to buy our books directly from us. 

See you again in October-with more of our news, slanted views and maybe another poem. Let us end with what we began, Tuka's abhang-

I have dissolved God, the self, and the world 
To become one luminous being 
Says Tuka, now I remain here 
Only to oblige

We remain here to oblige you. But please remember the ways in which you can oblige us too.
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