To be young is very heaven
A publishing house created by three teenagers is disproving stereotypes about millennials
The Internet blogosphere periodically churns out new think pieces on the status of millennials, the generation of people born between 1980 and the late 1990s. Stereotypically characterised as narcissistic, lazy and entitled, this generation remains a source of intense interest and speculation for the media. That this generation, like all others preceding it, is deeply involved in creating meaningful art and institutions is lost somewhere in the hullabaloo over selfies and Snapchat.
Ishaan Jajodia, Kabeer Khurana and Tanay Punjabi are a set of millennials determined to create an institution for readers like themselves. All three are 19, students and now proud partners in Bombaykala, a publishing house set up with the goal of representing literature that does not make it to conventional publishing platforms.
Launched less than six months ago, Bombaykala publishes works that cap at 1,00,000 words, be it fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Texts are published in English and Hindi, in print and digital formats.
Out of the box
Bombaykala’s origin can be traced back to a conversation between friends. While studying at Dartmouth College in America, Jajodia remembers griping to Khurana about the lack of good books to read. “I threw a fit. I was blabbering about it for two hours and Kabeer said, ‘Why don’t you do your own thing?’” recalls Jajodia.
Things moved quickly from there. The two friends had developed a rapport after working together on events for The Mumbai Art Collective and Artyculate, their respective art organisations. They established Bombaykala soon after. Jajodia took on the role of commissioning editor while Khurana looked at design and layout. As a finishing touch, they brought in Tanay Punjabi, a friend who had worked with them earlier, to look at Bombaykala’s sales and finances.
Today, the three of them work in tandem while giving one another enough space. So far, they’ve published two collections of poetry: the slam poet Rochelle D’silva’s When Home is an Idea and Vishakha Sharma’s Ek Chotisi Dibiya (A Small Box).
They’ve also published Queenie Sukhadia’s short fiction, The City of Sungazerswith a grand launch that was presided over by veteran filmmaker Saeed Mirza. They now aim to up the ante and bring out no less than 10 books for their next publishing cycle. Chief among these is their new imprint Bombaykala Classics, which will re-publish forgotten books already in the public domain, such as Rabindranath Tagore’s Glimpses of Bengal.
Bombaykala’s style of marketing is expectedly unique. They launched Rochelle D’silva’s collection at a slam event where poets like Danish Husain and Imaan Surve performed their verse on stage. In that congregation of young slam poets, the book sold steadily. They also keep a keen eye on places frequented by youngsters and have recently struck up a deal with Mumbai’s hip Birdsong Café to stock their books.
What propels Bombaykala forward is a passion for the liberal arts, which is Jajodia and Khurana’s chosen field of study, and the relative cushioning provided by parental backing. They work out of the office of Khurana’s father (the filmmaker Kireet Khurana) and enjoy expert guidance on how to export their books from Jajodia’s father.
Jajodia modestly suggests that Bombaykala is just finding its feet. But with deals in the offing with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Programme, British and American publishers, this publishing house surely has a bright future.
The author is a writer and feminist based in Mumbai.