Interview with Ishaan Jajodia, co-founder Bombaykala Books (Jaya Bhattacharji Rose’s Blog, Feb 5, 2018)

Read the full interview here. Excerpts from the interview:

“Ishaan met Mrinalini initially because Bombaykala was interested in publishing her book of jazz poetry, A Bombay In My Beat.  They landed up publishing her book, by the way! The team really enjoyed working with her, and she seemed to be the right fit as the team expanded at Bombaykala Books. “She’s really passionate and knows exactly what goes where. She handles poetry (or anything to do with literature) with such poise and grace. Mrinalini is curating a series of anthologies and commissioning a slew of books for Bombaykala Books. She’s also got great experience in dealing with the genre we call creative nonfiction now in her many years as a magazine editor.” What Ishaan also likes about Mrinalini’s poetic practice is that it is innovation that is not built on provocation. Provocation is the staple of avant-gardists throughout, from Hugo Ball’s poetry of nonsense to José Clemente Orozco’s The Epic of American Civilization. This is similar to what Ishaan want for Bombaykala Books- “for us to change, without unnecessary provocation, and in a manner that is decidedly less brash and more systematic. It requires a certain personality and demeanour to do that, one that is far less based off sentimentality and knee-jerk reactions, and more focused on a developed and more heightened sense of working and writing.”

What is the focus?

The focus is to create a literature around a city, but also to publish stories that pique our interest. I’m looking for stories that are authentic, and in some way, have a go at the epistemological roots of what we know. To that end, I’ve published collections of war poetry from a former consular officer for Bosnia during the Yugoslav wars, who saw what was happen first hand. Tomorrow It Will All Run Backwards is the story of war told through poetry, which makes for far more emotive reading than, let’s say, AJP Taylor, who’s as close as we get to great writing in History.

What are your plans for the next few years?

We want to publish a book a fortnight this year without diluting quality of any kind. I think that’s the most important part. We’re also exploring other ways to bring books to readers- audio books, multimedia expansions. I think at this point in time, planning wise the sky is the limit, but only time will tell what we can do.

Now that Mrinalini and I are both commissioning, there should be a lot more diversity in the approach to books, yielding some interesting stuff.

Why did you decide to publish poetry apart from mainstream literature?

For me it was never an either-or situation. We launched Bombaykala Books with a book of Hindi poetry, Ek Chotisi Dibiya, and a set of short stories that works as a novel, A City of Sungazers. I’ve never looked at poetry as anything lesser than or different to mainstream literature. It is ultimately a form of literature, one that tells stories in a way that can be as visceral (or more) than “mainstream literature.”

India Today 42nd Anniversary Issue: DIY generation – Walking in Wonderland

MOEENA HALIM | December 2017
Read online here. This was part of a list of 42 youngsters from the generation born after 1991, similar to a 20 under 20 list.


When Ishaan Jajodia first set up his website, The Mumbai Art Collective (TMAC), in June 2016, it was a bid to create an art repository that did justice to Indian art and heritage. He soon realised that the repository in itself would not provide context to the art.

“I realised that just the images would mean very little to viewers,” says Jajodia.

“It was important to chronicle what was behind the artwork.” That’s when he introduced The Creative Process, an online magazine about art and literature, which he hopes will provide people a gateway to all things artistic.

“Because of the magazine, I had begun writing and editing so much that I decided to utilise my expertise to set up a publishing house. People said writing doesn’t pay; I wanted to show them that it can,” says the enterprising student, explaining the inception of his latest project, BombayKala Books.

All his small ideas come together and converge into one big one, he claims.

Jajodia, studying Art History and Government at Dartmouth College, partnered with Kabeer Khurana and Tanay Punjabi to set up BombayKala this May. Their aim is to “change the way stories are told”.

In the six months since its inception, they have published four books, including Queenie Sukhadia’s A City of Sungazers and Rochelle D’Silva’s book of poems, When Home is an Idea.

Jajodia divides his time between academia and his projects. Along with his partners, he also runs an events space called Gharaunda in Bandra, Mumbai. ‘Walk in Wonderland’ this summer by Kaushik Mukhopadhyay was about surrealism in the city’s architecture.

“You don’t appreciate some things unless they are pointed out to you,” says Jajodia.

That is precisely what he is aiming at through his projects. For instance, BombayKala’s upcoming book on the low level operators, or “forgotten foot soldiers” as author Mamta Sen calls them, will tell the story of the people who sit at shakhas all day long.

Jajodia and his partners pooled in a total of Rs 50,000 to start on BombayKala.

Lucky enough to have office space from Khurana’s father, filmmaker and adman Kireet Khurana, the six-month-old publishing house mainly relies on e-book sales, printing only about 100-500 hard copies.

Selling a total of 600 copies and managing to break even on all the books, they have signed 12 more authors and hope to launch five more books by December this year.

As editor, BombayKala takes up most of his time, but Jajodia has also managed to get grants from his university for two TMAC projects. The grants have allowed him to commission translations of Antigone in Marathi and Hindi as well as work on a book on avant garde art in India.

The Hindu Literary Review: To be young is very heaven

To be young is very heaven

The Hindu Literary Review: Pub Crawl

August 6, 2017 | The Hindu Literary Review
“Three young book lovers— Ishaan JajodiaKabeer Khurana and Tanay Punjabi—have launched a publishing house called Bombaykala. All three are students. They hope to democratise publishing by bringing out literature that may not have commercial appeal but are worth printing. Bombaykala is launching with A City of Sungazers by Queenie Sukhadia, and Ek Chotisi Dibiya by Vishakha Sharma. The publishing house may well challenge the widely-held opinion that millennials do not have the habit of reading books.”
August 6, 2017 from The Hindu Literary Review, Page 2

Mid-Day Mumbai: Publishing house hopes to democratise process of launching books

July 26, 2017 | Snigdha Hassan

When you look around and see heads buried in smartphones, it’s easy to assume that reading is a forgotten pursuit. But when a trio of 19-year-olds thinks otherwise, there’s hope. “As much as we’d like to say that people don’t read, all we need to do is look closer. Those who love books may have switched to reading more on their smartphones, but nothing has wavered their love for the written word,” says Ishaan Jajodia, a student of art history and government at Dartmouth College, and founder of The Mumbai Art Collective, a platform for the preservation and appreciation of the city’s cultural heritage. Jajodia, together with his founding partners for the art initiative — Kabeer Khurana, a student of history at Delhi’s Ashoka University, who is working as an assistant director, and Tanay Punjabi, a student of engineering at Thadomal Shahani college — and Artyculate India, is set to launch their next project, a publishing house called Bombaykala.

“There are many beautiful stories out there that may not have commercial appeal, but need to be told,” shares Jajodia. The idea behind Bombaykala, he says, was born out of a desire to read and create awareness about literature that does not make it to conventional publishing platforms. It hopes to democratise book publishing, where the criterion for accepting a manuscript would alone be merit.

The publishing house is launching with A City of Sungazers by Queenie Sukhadia, and Ek Chotisi Dibiya by Vishakha Sharma. Set in Mumbai, the former is a collection of interlinked short stories and explores the city through multiple characters. The title was Sukhadia’s honours thesis, and won the Sidney Cox Memorial Prize for the Strongest Creative Writing Honors Thesis. Sharma’s book is a collection of poems in Hindi that transcend the complexities of love to capture its innocence. The books will be unveiled by veteran screenwriter and director Saeed Mirza, who will read excerpts, followed by a discussion.

“The trio are passionate individuals who know what they are doing. I have worked in the corporate world for seven years, and I am amazed to see how professional they are at a young age,” says Sharma, who quit her job in advertising to pursue writing full-time.

Once the call for submissions is put out, the contributors receive a response within four weeks. “Kabeer, Tanay and I have different tastes in literature, and it helps us remain objective,” shares Jajodia.

Bombaykala is also launching a series of classics, with a new book every fortnight. “The aim is to expand the definition of classics and expose readers to works they may not have come across. We will soon release an account of World War I in the words of a veteran Sikh soldier,” he says.

In times when established publishers are cutting costs and resorting to populist measures, how feasible is it to start a publishing house? “Once a story has been published, the next step is to make it accessible to readers,” explains Jajodia. “That’s why, we have also registered ourselves with Amazon as publishers, and ebook versions of our publications will be readily available. Those who have Kindle Unlimited will be able to read our ebooks for free.”

LBB Mumbai: This Mumbai Art Collective Organises Literary Workshops, Events & Can Even Help Publish Books

Jayati Bhola | July 13, 2017
Read it online here.

Ten-Second Takeaway

The Mumbai Art Collective is a community and a digital portal that curates thematic events, workshops and will also publish books for upcoming writers.

Events, Workshops And More

The Mumbai Art Collective is a community started off by 19 year-old Ishaan Jajodia, which also doubles up as a publishing house. The idea behind the community is to have a dedicated space for art and literature. It encourages people from the city to get involved and the digital portal has guest columnists, curated poetry {which you can read here} and even poetry slamming sessions for you to watch.

What We Love

The community organises thematic events and workshops. The idea is to get people together and organise discussions, engage with varied opinions and more. The themes they have explored in the past include “Why is art considered taboo in India”, “Art of War” and even a fan fiction workshop.

We love that this collective has actively taken charge of art and literature and is bringing it to the public. If you’d like to get involved, there are plenty of ways. You can write for them or attend their events and workshops.

In fact, if you’re an aspiring writer, you can write to them with your manuscript as they are also looking to publish new talent, digitally. Ishaan tells us, unlike other publication houses, they give double the royalties to the writer.

So, We’re Saying…

It’s a great way to explore interesting topics on art and literature, or even attend related offline events. You’ll meet new people, established people who lead the sessions and more.

Keep yourself updated with their events on Facebook here.

Mid-Day Mumbai: Building Blocks of Mumbai

Shraddha Uchil | 27 June, 2017

“We’ve forgotten how to preserve our cultural heritage. The architecture has lost its beauty. Now, it’s only about making money,” says Ishaan Jajodia, 19-year-old founder of The Mumbai Art Collective, which will host A Walk in Wonderland, a discussion on the changing face of architecture in the city.

Artist Kausik Mukhopadhyay will lead the discussion and share insights on the evolution of Mumbai’s architecture, where it is headed, and how we can innovate. “People designed beautiful buildings in the past, like CST, a Gothic masterpiece, as well as the Art Deco beauties across Marine Drive and Oval Maidan. Now, every building looks the same. This needs to change,” says Jajodia.

The collective regularly hosts workshops and talks on topics related to art. “You don’t have to be an architect to attend. The talk is all about learning to appreciate architecture. Appreciation is the first step to recognition,” Jajodia signs off.

DNA India: Ishaan Jajodia: Make sure your college application reflects the person that you are

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 | As told to Avril Ann-Braganza
Read it online here.

Ishaan Jajodia

Make sure your college application reflects the person that you are

Picking a college

Located in Hannover in rural New Hampshire, Dartmouth is the only Ivy League institution to use ‘College’ instead of ‘University’ at the end of its name to emphasise its undergraduate character. I applied to Dartmouth College as an Early Decision applicant. Early Decision is a binding application track that commits students to attending the college they apply to, and they can only apply to one college early. I was accepted and I’m now pursuing a four-year Bachelor’s degree in Art History and Government.

I was primarily attracted to Dartmouth, because of its focus on undergraduate education and small class sizes. This gives students the opportunity to learn from, research with, and discuss issues with people who are at the vanguard of their field, some of the world’s foremost scholars in their areas.

Before you apply

I think the real preparation began when I was in Class 8, and I started studying for the IGCSE examinations. I’ve always been involved in extra-curricular activities, because they help ground my learning in something real and tangible, and this helps during college admissions.

I started preparing for my SAT I early in Class 11, finishing the exams with a 2320/2400 (when the test used to be scored on 2400. It’s now 1600). I attempted it twice, in October and December 2014.

The application process actually begins the summer before you are to apply. I started by researching colleges. Begin with writing essays, interning and writing reports. It depends if you want to apply to Early or Regular Decision; understanding these cycles are really important.

Preparation tips

Go to a good guidance counsellor, who will help you figure out how to navigate this rather complex process.

Follow your passion and be genuine. Love what you do. This is the only way that you will enjoy what you are doing, and for the college to see that you are passionate.

The college admissions officers do not know you personally. Your application is the only way they can translate the numbers on your transcript into something human. Don’t curate your appearance, but make sure that your essays truly reflect the person that you are.

Academics aren’t enough. You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you are no more than a bookworm, you are unable to translate your knowledge into the real world. You need to be a leader; the education here is to craft you into the leaders of tomorrow.

Benefits of an Ivy League environment

At Dartmouth, the classes are small and the student is the focus. The purpose of education here is to promote critical thinking and the skills that come with processing knowledge. This helps you perceive knowledge and epistemology in very different ways.

The amount of times I’ve received special treatment by people because I’m an Ivy League student is startling. There is an underlying assumption that if I was chosen from tens of thousands of applicants to be a member of an elite educational institution, I would be smart. It is helpful when introducing oneself.

The resources that I have access to here, including an original copy of Shakespeare’s full collection of plays (the first folio), the first book printed fully digitally, and art by Rembrandt and James Nachtwey at The Hood Museum of Art are just some of the benefits.

The ability to call upon alumni, too, is spectacular. Alumni networks tend to be tightly knit, and geared towards helping students. The college has given me opportunities that would not be available anywhere else, apart from here.

As told to Avril-Ann Braganza

(This is the first in the series of How I got into an Ivy League. If you are an alumnus of, or a current student at an Ivy League,and would like to share your story, write to avril.braganza@dnaindia.net, rama.ramanan@dnaindia.net)

Teenpreneurs who are blazing their own trails: DNA India, December 16, 2016.

DNA Ishaan Jajodia TMAC

At 18, when most of us are still trying to figure out what career options are available to us, Mumbai-born Ishaan Jajodia decided to take his love for art and photography a notch higher. “In the summer of 2015, I worked with a former Indian royal who had an extensive family heirloom. In 2016, he reached out to me to see if I would be interested in helping him break up and auction off the entire collection. My time with the collection led me to believe that it held greater value as a whole, open to the public to view. I realised that the need of the hour was preservation of what we already had — and that led me to start The Mumbai Art Collective.” Not just art events, Ishaan also publishes a magazine related to art. “I aim to make art more accessible to everyone. I hope to educate people about the story behind art rather than just the art itself.”

Since Ishaan currently goes to Dartmouth University in the United States, he needs to coordinate with his team back in Mumbai. He uses apps such as Telegram, Google Docs etc, to make it all work, but gives priority to his studies as well. “Since art is my passion, I decided to put all my energy in to that which caused my social life to take a hit, but I was more than willing to give it up for something that I loved.” He started The Mumbai Art Collective while he attended Dhirubhai Ambani school in Bombay.

December 16, 2016. READ IT ONLINE HERE.

Dartmouth College: Interview for The Humanities Sequence

I appear in this video for Dartmouth College’s Humanities Sequence.

From the Humanities Sequence Website:

Humanities 1 (Fall term, Dialogues with the Classics) and Humanities 2 (Winter term, The Modern Labyrinth) form a two-term sequence designed to introduce first-year students to the subject matter and intellectual perspectives of the humanities.

Students engage with professors and each other in small and intense discussion sections, and meet regularly with professors for individual writing conferences. Faculty from several humanities departments (e.g., French, Music, Classics, and Asian Studies) also lecture from week to week on texts from many historical periods, national traditions, and literary genres.

Humanities 1 & 2 draws students who want to immerse themselves in texts of all kinds, texts that have profoundly influenced cultures across the world from antiquity to the present day. Humanities 1 and 2 thus seeks students who look forward to the intellectual challenges these texts present.

The Humanities sequence lays an excellent foundation for further study in departments across the humanities and social sciences, from religion to anthropology and from art history to government.

Championing Culture: Simply Mumbai, India Today (August 2016)

Screenshot 2016-08-20 11.11.57
Click to view full size image.

Championing culture
ISHAAN JAJODIA, 18

THE MUMBAI ART COLLECTIVE

Ishaan Jajodia’s eyes light up when he talks about the Art Deco and Victorian architecture along the two sides of the Oval Maidan, the forgotten frescoes inside the dome at the General Post Office building and the heirloom silverware at his grandmother’s Marine Drive apartment. His appreciation for art comes from a privilege of access and Jajodia is keen to pay it forward. This June, he founded The Mumbai Art Collective (TMAC), a non-profit organisation that aims to promote and preserve art digitally. It is an ambitious project, and step one, says Jajodia is to identify and reach out to artists. He and his co-curator Aryaman Sen decide what goes on their web page and what doesn’t.

Multimedia Mavericks

Jajodia, who is headed to Dartmouth College for a degree in art history in a few months, has been employing a multimedia strategy to create his art repository. Videos of classical dance performances in the city will soon be up on the website, as will photographs of Mumbai’s vibrant street art. Jajodia hopes to be able to use virtual reality and other digital technology to do justice to Mumbai’s heritage, but in the meantime, he is telling the stories of the buildings through video interviews of the people who embody them-the pastor at Afghan Church, for instance. “Not only do we wish to create a platform for art-lovers and historians to get a picture of Indian culture, we also wish to promote art amongst the citizens of Mumbai,” says Jajodia.

Website: themumbaiartcollective.com

Text by Moeena Halim, Image by Danesh Jassawala, for Simply Mumbai & India Today, Aug 29 2016 Issue. Read the article online here.