#KLF19: An Exclusive Interview with Arpita Das

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Arpita Das at Kolkata Literature Festival

 

Q: Can you tell us something about the self-publishing platform called AuthorsUpFront?

Das: AuthorsUpFront is something I did start, but, you know what I run, is actually my own independent publishing house, Yoda Press. The part of AuthorsUpFront that I was more involved with, was where we were dealing with the whistle blowers like the Rana Ayyub book on Gujarat files. So, we edited that and we helped her to put that out, self-published that and that political kind of whistle blowing publication, self-publishing, is very interesting to me. So, that is the part of AuthorsUpFront that I was a part of. Generally, about self publishing what I can say is that the technology is there and authors have wonderful ideas, young authors even more wonderful ideas, and if publishers don’t catch on and catch up fast, authors are going for self-publish, more and more.

Q: Tell us something about the Yoda Press.

Das: So, Yoda Press, I started it 15 years ago but the idea was that we wanted to have lists which were not mainstream. So for instance we have even now the only LGBTQ list in the country, at Yoda Press. We have a list on political dissent; we have a list on city writings, new ways of looking at history, and of course, now we are doing fictional poetry and very powerful kind of fictional poetry. So I think the core thing with Yoda Press is always been to try and find the alternative voice, not the mainstream, and to focus on making really good writing out of political ideas. So, a lot of times we feel that if it’s political it will be bad writing, no, if it is political, it doesn’t mean it has to be a bad writing. It can be brilliant writing, and political as well.

Q: Nowadays girls are obsessing over the size zero trend, what do you think started it at the very first place?

Das: I think Bollywood has to be blamed to a very large extent, but, of course, it is also advertising, it is of course, also popular media, because you know somewhere in the 80’s, I feel things were a little different from what I know or see. I think sometimes in the 80’s there was this growing feeling of a particular kind of beauty being only acceptable kind of womanly beauty in India. And, I think, of course, that meant thinness, that meant fair skin, that meant long straight black hair, all of those typical stereotypes that we/I have all grown up with, and fought against it constantly, because I did not belong to that category at all. And I think popular media, popular culture, cinema, Bollywood, advertising, the cosmetic industry are all responsible; you know, once we started getting those Miss Indias and Miss Universes, all of it sort of reiterated and reinforced this one notion of beauty.

 

Interviewed by Ahona Das

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