Celebrating the young voices In Indian publishing!
A WhatsApp group ‘Women in Indian Publishing’ is getting popular where younger women in the industry have the opportunity to air their concerns and connect with each other. Here’s more on this unique social media group.
Arpita Das of Yoda Press initiated Women in Indian Publishing WhatsApp group for two reasons: one, to create a space where younger women in the industry have the opportunity to air their concerns and connect with each other; and two, to create a platform where women in the industry generally could keep in touch with each other.
Here, we talk to two members of the group on how they find this platform useful for them.
Ishita Gupta is Senior Editor and Rights Manager at Yoda Press. While, Sonali Jindal is an editor with DK books.
AABP: What is your objective to join the WhatsApp group?
Ishita: My objective was to be part of the larger network of women working in Publishing in India. The Indian publishing industry is very isolated, not only from other industries but also within itself. We may keep track of each other as competition, trying to stay in the know about who is publishing what or whom, but as individuals and companies we have very little interest in connecting and collaborating with each other. I had hoped that the WhatsApp group would start the process of us talking to each other and empowering each other.
It has been valuable to be connected with people who have been inspirations to us, and there is sometimes lively exchange of thoughts and ideas in the group. Someone will write an article about trends in publishing and it will get shared and discussed. That’s when it feels like the group is doing what it was meant to do. But the vocal participants are usually the same industry stalwarts and seniors. The rest of us are usually audience.
Sonali: It’s a wonderful platform to remain connected to people in publishing and find out about the latest happenings.
AABP: What motivates you about publishing?
Ishita: I want to create positive change in the world in whatever small way I can and my chosen medium for bringing about this change is books. I believe books have the ability to influence people and can give voice to those ignored and marginalised, keeping dissent alive in a world that is increasingly terrified of diversity and change.
That is not to devalue the escapism and entertainment that books provide, there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading for pleasure, and especially when you consider the crisis the whole world is going through, a little bit (read a lot) of escapism is completely called for. For me personally, reading has always helped me stay even-keeled and contributed to my mental health, no matter what the circumstances. If I can contribute in any way to any of the goals above then I feel I’ve done my bit.
Sonali: I firmly believe that we cannot bring about any change by forcing it upon people; it has to come from within. I’m fascinated by the way books can make us empathise with others, they allow us to inhabit different time periods and situations, discover new world views, and then it’s up to us what we’d like to take away from the experience.
It is this hope of helping readers encounter something new, that might go on to change the way they see the world in some small way, that keeps me excited about publishing.
AABP: Any particular challenge you would like to highlight?
Ishita: I’ve been in the industry close to six years now and one thing I have consistently observed is that publishing as an industry seems to be afraid to embrace technology. This is true across the board from what I have seen, but especially so in India. We seem to be determined to cling to old ways of doing things, scared of change, scared of new ideas, new technology.
Barring a few exceptions, this consistently keeps us behind the rest of the world. We have a thriving technology sector that is producing amazing products such as apps, reading platforms, audiobooks and all sorts of other exciting and creative things; then there is the book industry that is a goldmine of amazing content and authors, but the never do the two meet.
Sonali: I do wish there was a little more information available about the publishing industry that would help attract new people to it and make it easier for them to consider publishing as a profession.
AABP: How are you managing work during the current COVID crisis?
Ishita: There is definitely a slow-down in terms of sales and production. We are expecting that it will take some time for things to truly go back to normal. Ours is a small team of three core members and we have each taken on one editorial project, in addition to other work such as promotion, getting ebooks ready, getting our collaborations going etc. Our focus is on working on these projects bit by bit and keeping each other apprised of progress. Communication is key in a small team.
Sonali: Quite well, surprisingly! Though I do miss the sociality of the office.
AABP: Who is your inspiration in publishing?
Ishita: Seeing Arpita Das put in such genuine efforts into building a greater mentorship culture in publishing has been both inspiring and comforting. Casual conversations with her have given me more insight into the profession, than all my other efforts in the direction put together.
Also, Neelam Narula’s calm, quiet and restrained approach to both editing and people is something that I hope to emulate over the years.
Sonali: Every time I discover a book that explores a new topic, or casts a new light on something we think we already know, my faith and love for publishing is renewed.
AABP: Your favourite book/ author and why?
Ishita: My favourite book is Harilal and Sons by Sujit Saraf. It’s an engaging book spanning decades and generations of Marwaris who migrated to Bengal before Independence. This is truly a saga depicting a world so real, that I can’t think of many Rajasthanis who wouldn’t relate to this absolute gem. I got my whole family to read it, and they loved it just as much. It strikes a nice balance between commercial appeal and literary merit.
Sonali: I don’t think I have any one favourite book, so I’ll tell you my current read instead – Anthems of Resistance, published by Roli Books. It talks about some wonderful, hard-hitting Urdu poetry and serves as a dismal reminder of how much our education system leaves out in its single-minded focus on English literature.