Finding their feet

The notion of the threshold, indicating the restricted periphery of the ‘woman’s place’ in family and society, was firmly embedded in the psyche of nineteenth century women is Western India. Yet some remarkable and articulate women (who are the focus of this book) ‘transgressed’ patriarchal boundaries--crossing thresholds, literally and metaphorically -- to make their mark in the public sphere. These Indian women created the ‘first ripple feminism’ of the region.

Nineteenth-century men also inhabit the book social reformers and those who helped these women, as well as conservatives who opposed both the reformers and the progressive women.

The central objective of professor Kosambi’s book is to interrogate official social history--which posits strong male reformers and passive women’s recipients--as well as retrieve and assess women’s own pioneering contribution to their proto-feminist efforts.

The introduction presents a conceptual framework of public/private spheres, attempts to retrieve women’s subjectivity through their published narratives, and discusses questions of representation and ‘voice’.

The ten essays that follow span a variety of topics--the politics of iconising individual women, women’s complex relationships , women’s exposure to education and nationalism, ideas of motherhood and widowhood. Uniting all these themes is the effort to amplify women’s voices and reconstruct their experiential worlds.

The book straddles the areas gender studies, history and Asian studies while underscoring the resonance of these women’s lives with those of other women across South Asia and the West.

Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History
Meera Kosambi Permanent Black Rs. 695

A slice of history

Dilli’s Red Fort: by the Jamuna presents the story of the imposing Fort in red sandstone built by the Mughal emperor Shayjahan (1628-58). Originally known as Qila-I-Mubarak-the Fortunate or Auspicious Citadel-its construction began in April 1639 and was completed in 1648. In 1659-60 Shahjahan’s son and successor Aurangzeb built the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), while in 1809, Akbar II added a balcony projecting from the central side of the Mussaman Burj. The Moti Mahal, the Hira Mahal and the Zafar Mahal were added by the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. A lieu replete with history, ‘mutineers’ defended the Fort fiercely against the British during the 1857 uprising. In the aftermath, the British demolished many structures within the Fort replacing them with barracks. Under the British, the Fort also doubled up as a criminal court. The first trial held here was that of Bahadur Shah Zafar, charged for treason by the British for his involvement in the 1857 uprising. The historic 1945 trial of the INA soldiers was also held at the Red Fort. Two years l

ater, on 15 August 1947, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled independent India’s flag from the Fort’s ramparts, the Red Fort, a monument that recorded some watershed moments of the anti-colonial struggle, became India’s lasting symbol of Independence.

On 28 June 2007, the Red Fort was declared a World Heritage Site.

Dilli’s Red Fort by the Jamuna
N.L. Batra Niyogi Books Rs. 1,500