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Standing on her own feet Kala Shahani November, 1997

In order to reach Lanka, Rama began to build a bridge. A little squirrel wanted to contribute its mite to this effort. It began to jump into the water and then roll on the sand and then run to where the bridge was coming up to shed the sand. Amazed at this unusual activity, Rama asked the squirrel what it was up to. The squirrel replied that it was doing what it could, to help build the bridge.

There must be many who, like that squirrel, have contributed quietly to our independence. They also have their own stories to tell. Kala Shahani too, has a story of her own.

Pramila Esther Victoria Abraham March, 1998

It has been a long journey for Esther Victoria Abraham, known as Pramila, to the film world. From a girl who stood under the foyer clock of her Calcutta school - punished for giggling and playing pranks - to a Hindi cinema actress in Bombay, from marriage to a celebrated actor to becoming a producer in her own right, Pramila has travelled a long way. The journey of this venturesome, vivacious woman has been marked by many road maps, many destinations. Not all these destinations have brought her joy but if one were to believe Pramila, all of them have been worth the journey. At eighty-one, Pramila's mind is a treasure house of details and anecdotes that she never tires of narrating. From this narration emerges an insider's view of the Hindi film world and of the many women and men who formed a part of it, a part not often revealed.

The World As My Laboratory Shantoo Gurnani's Tryst With Science April, 1998

A young girl in Karachi whose family did not allow her to study beyond the fourth standard; an eager girl who read all the papers especially for information on new discoveries in science and worried that there would be nothing left for her to discover if they did not let her study further; a twenty-two year old girl walking on the streets of Bombay with her brother after Partition, to find out if the city could give succour to her large family of five sisters and five brothers; a research scientist who never got tired of her laboratory; a sanyasi who wants to find out the nature of the subject since as a scientist she can grapple only with the objective world. These images of strength and resilience emerge from the narration of Shantoo Gurnani - a narration that informs us about educational choices women made in the thirties and forties and the careers in science opening out for women in the early half of the century.

Kanaka Stone And Gold May, 1998

As a little girl, Kanaka travelled in a bullock cart to the Somnathpur temple with visitors who came to her house. She would run around the stone figures in the temple; sometimes she would stand and wonder why she could not make such figures. In the village where she lived as a child, she waited for the servants to clean the front yard with cowdung paste, and over that dull green colour she would draw with white powder the rangoli designs she had learnt from her mother. In a family with so many children that it was like a nursery school, Kanaka alone carried in her heart the yearning to create something with her hands; something akin to the grandeur of the sculptures she had seen at the Somnathpur temple. One can truly say that the first fifty years of Kanaka's life are all about the way her dream became a reality with the support of her mother and the immense love and knowledge that her guru Vadiraj gave her so generously. The rest of her life as she is living it now, is about creating through stone some new forms, forms which would not take her away from tradition but which, would emerge as different expressions of her imagination. These notes taken from her dialogue at the SPARROW visual history workshop represent the flights in stone that Kanaka has taken and continues to take.

Amhihi Itihas Ghadawala Urmila Pawar And The Making Of History July, 1998

A widow with a grim face sits in the front yard of her house, under a small tree, weaving baskets for a living. Her little daughter who often plays truant from school wishes her mother would smile and dress up like other mothers. She also wishes her mother would not beat her up so much and not bathe her as if she was inflicting a capital punishment. The young girl has also to run errands for her mother -- deliver baskets woven on order and occasionally run to the Brahmin household opposite to buy pickles for two paise for her mother.

The young girl pushes herself to school to fulfil her father's dying wish and finally takes up a job. And one day she decides to write about her experiences and the experiences of those around her. She gets to be known as Urmila Pawar, the Marathi writer whose writings reflect Dalit experiences of living. In Urmila's narration of her life, one can see many stories and in her stories, one can see her life.

Damayanti Joshi Menaka's Daughter July, 1998

A four-year-old girl met Menaka, a woman who had chosen to be a dancer against great odds. Menaka took this frail child under her wings and persuaded the little girl's widowed mother to allow the girl to be trained a dancer. Menaka became the mentor, guru and a second mother to the girl.

This little girl became the renowned Kathak dancer, Damayanti Joshi, who feels that her entire life and its meaning is contained in her dance. Everything else is incidental and unimportant. To Damayanti, dance is the only story of her life and she never tires of telling it.

Sakhubai Talking In The Transplanting Season October, 1998

When its stock of grains gets over, a tribal family sends its girl-child to mind other people's children in exchange for grains. Sakhubai, as a young girl, was sent to mind other people's children. She was so small she could hardly lift the child she was taking care of; all she could do was to rock the cradle. Sakhubai was pushed into many situations in life even before she realised what she was in for. Sakhubai came out of all this, a fighter. As a member of Kashtakari Sanghatana, she has the courage now to question and to say 'no' to exploitation of all kinds. She is afraid at times, of being attacked, of being hunted as a witch, of being ostracised. She carries on nevertheless for she knows she is not alone in this fight. Sakhubai's life is part of a history, which needs to be known.

Sushama Vhay, Mee Savitribai November, 1998

Early in her career, as an investigative journalist doing reports on dowry deaths, Sushama had to often visit the Burns Ward in hospitals. She used to feel that no words could possibly convey the smell of that ward, the smell of burnt flesh, of medicine, of rot. Perhaps words cannot. But when Sushama decides to perform she is able to convey every little feeling, and emotion with ease and grace. Watching Vhay, Me Savitribai, we can reach out not only to Savitribai's thoughts but also sense the fragrance of her personality. Sushma would accept this comment with a simple and direct reply -- " But Savitri is my spirit."

Jameela Nishat A Poem Slumbers In My Heart January, 1999

Jameela Nishat is an Urdu poet from Hyderabad. She feels that what she writes is intimately connected with her life & her experiences. this is how she describes her act of writing:
What instrument is this
vibrating the strings
of my eyelashes?
what picture forms and unforms on the aural screen?
What shadow is this
that overspreads the clouded heart?
You know
I love shadows,
but whenever this one
unfurls its wings,
a tide of thoughts swells in the blood,
and the blood begins to drip
from my pen.

Maya Vismayah February, 1999

The amazing thing about Maya Krishna Rao is that she has not given up her search for newer forms of theatre for expressing her thoughts, ideas feelings. While her performances are theatrical experiences, as an artiste she uses Kathakali as her inspiration and as her refreshing spring of knowledge. While the body is the centre of her theatrical imagination, the amazing feat Maya is trying, is to get the universe into her body; to take flights with the body, into bodiless spaces.

Neela Colours Of Tradition April, 1999

When Neela chose the Mysore style of painting as her vocation she knew she did not belong to the Chitrakar community. The painters who belonged to this community had practised this style of painting for many centuries with royal patronage. They chose themes from mythologies and puranas but there have also been portraits and other non-religious subjects chosen for this style of painting. Traditionally this art of painting was handed down from father to son and women of the family were not considered inheritors of this art. With lack of patronage this community had to seek other ways of survival. Neela chose traditional painting knowing what obstacles lay before her. But she has managed to make a place for herself and hopes that women from the Chitrakar community itself will one day reclaim an art that was denied to them. Like the bright green parrots with shining red beaks that come out of nowhere and make a place for themselves in Neela's paintings creating little visual surprises, there is always space and hope for changes in the traditional art of painting.

Speaking from the Guts: Memories Of Communal Riots December, 1999

The real tragedy of Indian society today is that the lives of some citizens are considered expendable; that these citizens have to live their everyday lives in fear, anguish and impotent anger. This booklet is about events recalled by people who have been affected by communal riots, about people who have taken up the difficult task of rehabilitation and the more difficult task of questioning, re-questioning and analysis.

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