Navayana is EverBlue

Time’s flitting fast, my friend
It doesn’t begin, it doesn’t end

The beginnings of Navayana are hoary, murky. What should we presume? The voices dying with a dying fall? Beneath the music from a farther room? Ours is not a yield that can be measured in time. How should we measure? What do we measure?

Navayana set out to make something new and unprecedented. Yet it marked a return to the possibilities that the very word Navayana opened up—a new path, a new turn marking a return to an old turn.

First among firsts, I was born first
My elder brother, he came next
My father followed, with drums and trumpets
My mother came last, she’s the youngest
Time’s updowning, my friend

In our twenty years, we may have published a hundred titles. Maybe a few less or more. The exact number eludes us. Curiously, the score does not matter. The game is always on: no winners, no losers. With each book, we are reborn. Like Babasaheb says, ‘To realise that every living being will die sometime or other is a very easy matter to understand. But it is not quite so easy to understand how a human being can go on changing—becoming—while he is alive.’ And so with books that change and become something else when they are read. Navayana is not about being. It is a becoming.

All the same, we took this milestone moment to reflect on how some of our finest books happened when perhaps there were too many barriers between the word and the world. Looking back to look ahead from this unfolding present, we thought to those titles that did not quite ‘succeed’ even by the meagre measures of ‘success’ at Navayana. If we have to learn something from the anticaste traditions of the subcontinent, it is about what gets left behind, what is not remembered. Our list of ten titles to mark twenty years—curated as EverBlue—is not a bow to sales figures or market logic. It is a tribute to some of the best books forged at Navayana by our authors, translators, editors, proof-readers, typesetters, designers, printers and binders. Each book to us, like Kabir sings, is a mad celebration:

An ant sets off after a grand wedding
Eyes rimmed with tons of lamp-black
On its head an elephant is dancing
And a camel’s mounted on its back
Time’s marching past, my friend

On this road, paved with song, we have to remind ourselves that history is nothing but a testament to its own destruction. All that we remember of the past is its momentous element that changed things forever. These shifts may feel remote and obscure from our vantage, but they did happen, and something like that almost inevitably will happen again. We are announcing the EverBlue titles on this day—15 May—when, in 1936, Babasaheb Ambedkar published his most celebrated text, Annihilation of Caste. It laid down the most thorough refutation of caste ideology, and did something that was most unbearable to the orthodoxy—historicise their scriptures. Ambedkar concluded his address with the famous line, ‘I am sorry, I will not be with you. I have decided to change.’ We are living through the vital effects of this declaration even today.

The child in the womb finds speech
Born, she falls into a deep silence
Says Kabir, this lesson is for one and each
It’s not for fools, transcendence
There’s no time to lose, my friend

Indeed, there’s no time to lose, friends. Navayana’s ten EverBlue titles are about what must be remembered, restored, reclaimed, renewed. This list includes two new titles that speak to the present. All ten EverBlue books are designed as a set with striking motifs created by the artist Anurag Jadhav—little medallions worthier than the prizes and fat purses that elude them. The ten:

  1. Reservations: A Spark and the Blaze by Anand Teltumbde
  2. In Pursuit of Ambedkar: A Memoir by Bhagwan Das
  3. Every Day was a B*** Steak Day: Annotated Selections from The Untouchables by B.R. Ambedkar
  4. The Blindness of Insight: Essays on Caste in Modern India by Dilip M. Menon
  5. Seeking Begumpura: The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals by Gail Omvedt
  6. In the Tiger’s Shadow: The Autobiography of an Ambedkarite by Namdeo Nimgade
  7. The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India by Rupa Viswanath
  8. Give us this Day a Feast of Flesh: Poems by N.D. Rajkumar
  9. The Myth of the Holy Cow by D.N. Jha
  10. Riddles in Hinduism: The Annotated Critical Selection by B.R. Ambedkar

Twenty EverBlue boxsets are now available for purchase exclusively on the Navayana website. Patrons—within the few minutes it takes for Mahesha Ram to sing this Kabir song—can get the entire set for a discounted price of Rs 3499 (against Rs 4090).

Get set go.

Our escape from history will only come when our books become irrelevant. Until then, we must sharpen the contradictions of our times on the anvil of the intellect of those who came before us. In this pursuit, we are everblue.