One Delhi winter, ‘Manushi’ and that scene from ‘The Piano’

The middle-aged proprietor of our local news stand was sitting cross-legged in a lunghi on the pavement, chewing paan, his newspapers and magazines in neat stacks around him.

‘Do you keep Manushi journal?’ I asked.

He scowled and spat a bright-red, betel-stained gob at my feet. Hmm, I thought – I might be onto something here …


It was 1995 and I was living in Jaipur, Rajasthan when I first heard of the Indian feminist journal Manushi. On my next trip to Delhi I went to Connaught Circle and visited a bookstore, one of those dim, dusty rooms crowded with creaky spinners, cheap Indian publications of Western literary titles, and shelves of Russian classics and socialist texts. ‘Manushi journal?’ I asked. The owner, in homespun Gandhi kurta pyjama, roused himself and pointed at a far wall.

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