Exhibition of Indian Art at the Rustique Cafe

Although Shalimar is primarily a bookshop, we have, through Soma, retained a section on Indian folk craft and Indian art. At present we have an exhibition of selected paintings at the Rustique Literary Cafe in Tufnell Park.

This cafe is a favourite for the local community – as well as regular exhibitions of art, there are also shelves of books – for sale or just for reading over your coffee. When the sun shines, the back garden is a delight.

Do visit, and if you can’t make it you can see a wide selection at our shop in Kennington – including some beautiful original Gond art paintings.


Gauri Lankesh

The Way I See It: A Gauri Lankesh Reader

Gauri Lankesh was an activist-journalist from Bangalore, Karnataka. She was shot to death outside her home in Rajarajeshwari Nagar on 5 September 2017. At the time of her death, Gauri was known for being a critic of right-wing Hindu extremism. She was honoured with the Anna Politkovskaya Award for speaking against Hindu extremism, campaigning for women’s rights and opposing caste based discrimination. A collection of her writings, The Way I See It: A Gauri Lankesh Reader, is now available from Shalimar. More information on the book herehttps://indianbooksuk.com/product/the-way-i-see-it-a-gauri-lankesh-reader/.

Below is an excerpt from an article published on the 29th May in the New Statesman, which is, in its turn, adapted from Kapil Komireddi’s Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India, (9781787380059) published in the U.K. by Hurst.

“Unlike Muslims who deviate from Muslim fundamentalists, the editor Vir Sanghvi wrote in the Hindustan Times in 2007, Hindus who “condemn the worst excesses” of Hindu nationalists “face no real danger”. For all the noise they made about the dangers of Hindu nationalism, affluent Hindus seldom radiated fear of saffron-clad supremacists. They saw their own faith as a form of terror indemnity against the savagery of men who slaughtered Muslims and Christians. This secret sense of security bred a smug complacency that blinded them to the danger staring them in the face. But, in September 2017— almost ten years to the date after Sanghvi’s assertion about the innocuousness of Hindu nationalists appeared in print—Gauri Lankesh, a Hindu journalist who did just that, was shot dead in an ambush outside her house.

The decade in between was the decade in which Modi became the undisputed leader of the Hindu-nationalist cause. If his election to the premiership energised Hindu supremacists, his silence as prime minister emboldened them. Gauri Lankesh, the scion of a distinguished family, edited a tabloid in Kannada that hardly anybody outside Karnataka read. She struggled to make ends meet and paid the bills by writing occasionally for English newspapers. But not for her the preening platitudes about the relative harmlessness of extremists who happened to be her co-religionists: in her work and her life, she was an unrelenting critic of Hindu supremacism and Modi’s project to recast India as a Hindu nation. Seemingly well-to-do and “progressive”, she was the archetypal “presstitute” despised by Modi’s myrmidons. Her killing, and the shock it induced, was an exhilarating spectacle for them. “A bitch died a dog’s death and now all the puppies are wailing in the same tune,” a businessman in Gujarat tweeted after she was pronounced dead. Another Twitter user rejoiced: “So, Commy Gauri Lankesh has been murdered mercilessly … Amen.” Such ravings would probably not matter—were it not for the fact that the accounts that published them were among those followed by the prime minister.”

The full New Statesman article can be read herehttps://www.newstatesman.com/world/2019/05/indian-muslims-narendra-modi-s-emboldened-leadership-reign-terror?fbclid=IwAR2JXZeX_ryRh-WIMsS1QD5LPFO4cfC8IdBPR7anSiyZLPwdh21S81sK6Wk.


Growing up with Shalimar Books


The ethos and vision behind Shalimar Books (formerly Soma Books) was always more far reaching than exclusively being an Indian book and craft specialist in London. It was Independent Publishing Company (IPCO) that started in the 1940s which published two anti-imperialist magazines – The African and Colonial World and The Indian at Home and Overseas.

Outside Soma Books, Kennington, London – now Shalimar Books











They were later to be amalgamated into one magazine called Asia & Africa Review. It also published books, such as Richard Pankhurst’s book on Kenya. It was IPCO, the company which my father Anand Kumria took over from his father, that started importing Indian books and became the first book business to specialise in this area, long before anyone else came on the scene. IPCO also started to import Indic language books in the late 60s to cater to the needs of the immigrant community of Indian descent.

Considering the times in which Soma Books began (born in the 1980s when we were given the franchise to open a shop in the Commonwealth Institute), I see my parents as pioneers and visionaries for many of the kinds of aesthetics which became commonplace in museum shops and areas such as Covent Garden in the 90s, with particular reference to the fine art and handmade craft scene.

Minnie with Ceramic blue pottery craftsman, Rajasthan

It was my mother, Minnie Kumria, who laid the foundations for importing craft with her sister, Kamini Tankha, and her company Some Fine Things based in Delhi. Over two decades they worked closely with craftmakers, tribespeople and women’s organisations in India. This helped to provide a livelihood for the families of the traditional craftmakers and in many cases introduced tribal craft to the western market for the first time. It was what real fair trade looked like in action.


This was also a big part of Soma’s core values and I believe its enduring legacy. Through hard work and determination Soma Books established itself as a fixture at the Commonwealth Institute and realised the opportunity to represent India’s rich tradition of literature, fine art and craft to a western audience. The shop provided books and craft from the Commonwealth and on the Commonwealth to people living here in Britain and provided literature and histories of the Commonwealth countries.


The other dimension to Soma and later Shalimar’s beginnings which I feel is worth mentioning is that both of my parents have been very politically active throughout their lives and this I feel is reflected in the wide range of areas that are covered by Shalimar today. These include history, politics, gender studies, sexuality, yoga and health, religion and philosophy and originally focusing on Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, Soma always maintained a connection to the community, supplying books to schools and libraries across the UK. This expanded to include imported titles from the US to meet the growing demand for books with positive representations of race for young readers.


38 Kennington Lane, London SE11 4LS

Soma was also involved in publishing intermittently, from Indian fiction to dual-language titles for kids. Shalimar has brought this element forward, most recently collaborating and working on Across the Black Waters, and stocking and distributing the books of a number of progressive, independent Indian publishing houses.


Today, when people enter Shalimar Books in South London (where the shop has been since 1973/4), they are met with vibrant colours, embroideries and textiles, fine artwork, vintage handmade craft and, of course, books, all of which reflect almost 40 years specialising in South Asia and the subcontinent.


Inside Shalimar Books

I think people appreciate the complementary nature of having the books sitting alongside handmade craft and art. What makes Soma unique, I believe, is its ability to provide real insight on traditions at a grass roots level. Where do these beautiful things come from? Who made them? What’s the story behind them? In this way, Soma and now Shalimar have never been only a book or gift shop. It’s really an experience in culture and aesthetics and a showroom for Indian art in its many, many forms.


Chetan Kumria

Website: shalimarbooks.com    Email: books@shalimarbooks.com
Twitter: @ShalimarBooks     Facebook: Shalimar Books     Instagram: shalimarbooks




Shalimar Books – our publishers


London Radical Bookfair 2018


The London Radical Bookfair 2018, organised by the Alliance of Radical Bookshops, will be taking place on Saturday 2nd June at Goldsmith’s University. Please save the date !


The bookfair will also have a free programme of talks, workshops and panels featuring the shortlisted authors of the Bread and Roses Prize for Radical Publishing and the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award.


Shalimar Books at The London Radical Bookfair

Shalimar Books will once again have a stall at the bookfair, exhibiting books by India’s leading radical, independent publishers.  These include Leftword, Navayana, Orient BlackSwan, Three Essays Collective, Tulika Books, Women Unlimited and Yoda Press.


You can find details for the event here; https://londonradicalbookfair.wordpress.com/. We hope to see you there !



Book Reviews – Of Gardens and Graves


Of Gardens and Graves

Two reviews of the Three Essays Collective title Of Gardens and Graves: Essays on Kashmir and Poems in Translation by Suvir Kaul.

As Huzaifa Pandit points out in the first review below, Of Gardens and Graves is “hard to classify into a genre”, comprising as it does essays, translations of poetry and a photo-essay.


Huzaifa Pandit reviews Of Gardens and Graves in The Luxembourg Review –

“To read Of Gardens and Graves is to witness the coming to life of Yeats’ famous line: “A terrible beauty is born”. It is to be reminded, if ever a reminder was needed, of the lingering pain that seeps slowly and eternally through the flooded scars of Kashmir, the scowl of the last half a century that darkens the fate of every subject, born under the auspices of its melancholic sky. It is hard to classify the book into a genre as it repudiates traditional hierarchies by refusing to be neatly categorized into one – it is simultaneously a memoir, a critical commentary, an anthology, collaboration, and a history all rolled into one, held together by a single source- Kashmir. An arbitrary classification of the book structure could be that the book comprises of three basic divisions: Essays, translations and photographs. On a reading, though, the narratives under each rubric just blend with each other, without any manifest hierarchy.”

To read the full review click here


Gowhar Fazili reviews Of Gardens and Graves in Biblio

“The juxtaposition and the parallel reading of poems written by Pandit and Muslim poets is a conscious move to see the shared language and poetry as the “affective glue that binds” them together even as they bear witness to “the destruction of the community”. Kaul does not perceive the suffering of the two communities – of one in the form of exile and its concomitant loss and hurt, and of the other, through militarized repression, systematic humiliation and denial of political agency – as opposed to each other, but as corollaries of the same phenomenon. The extraordinary sensitivity and scrupulousness with which he is able to navigate between the two sets of subjectivity, and not undermine either, despite being personally implicated as a Kashmiri Pandit, who also identifies as an Indian, is remarkable.”


A full description of the book here.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Shalimar to distribute Navayana

We are extremely pleased to announce that at a meeting at the World Book Fair in New Delhi, Navayana have appointed Shalimar Books as their UK stockholding distributor.

About Navayana

Named after Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s socially and morally concerned interpretation of Buddhism, Navayana is India’s first and only publishing house to focus on the issue of caste from an anticaste perspective. Navayana launched their first titles in 2003.

Since 2009 Navayana decided to broad-base its publishing programme, for the struggle against caste cannot happen in isolation from other struggles for justice and equality. They now publish the best of socially engaged writing from South Asia and across the world: B.R. Ambedkar, Namdeo Dhasal, Slavoj Zizek, Arundhati Roy, Michel Foucault, Kancha Ilaiah, Anand Teltumbde, Angela Davis, Gail Omvedt, Jeremy Seabrook, Sharmila Rege, Shashank Kela, Dilip Menon, Eleanor Zelliot, Gogu Shyamala, Ajay Navaria, K. Balagopal, Jacques Ranciere, among others.

Independent and politically committed, Navayana publish, as well as non-fiction titles, fiction, graphic format literature, and poetry.

navayana logo




The logo

The full story of the logo can be found on the Navayana website -, an abbreviated version is –

The logo of the publishing house is an ink sketch of two buffaloes kissing. The publisher, S. Anand, explains that the iconography comes from an excerpt from Aravind Malagatti’s autobiography in Kannada, Government Brahmana. It is a story about how the ideology of caste does not allow a dalit-owned she-buffalo in heat to mate with a he-buffalo owned by a landlord. For the cover art of the April 2003 issue of The Dalit, a journal run by the Dalit Media Network, Chennai, Anand approached the artist Chandru (G. Chandrasekaran) with this story. The logo is a close-up of the artist’s interpretation. [Wikipedia].

Some Navayana titles on our site






Rare Postcard on Display

Kishan Devi postcard

Kishan Devi postcard

A unique event marking the centenary of a rare postcard written in the Great War by Kishan Devi to her father, Sepoy Sewa Singh, was held at the Pictorem Gallery in Walthamstow, London on 25th January. This postcard is possibly the only surviving example of its kind.

The card is postmarked 7 February 1916, and is written in reply to a letter home from Sepoy Singh, who was serving with Empire troops in the Sinai and Palestine campaign against the Ottoman Turks.

Postcard address

Postcard address

Kishan Devi, who was from a Panjabi background, had recently learned to read and write.

The postcard’s owner, Avtar Singh Bahra, spoke at the event and the contents were read in English translation and in Panjabi by the actor Pia Khan.

Dominic Rai, the organiser of the event, shared about the four-year project, Salt of the Sarkar, which tells the story of over a million soldiers from Undivided India who fought for Britain in the 1914-18 War.

Postcard text

Postcard text

Last year Shalimar Books, in association with Salt of the Sarkar, published a World War One centenary edition of Across the Black Waters, a classic novel by the great Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004) the father figure of modern Indian literature in English.

The novel follows the progress of the sepoys from their arrival by ship at Marseilles in September 1914 to the bloodstained wastes of the Western Front during the first winter of the War.

The project was launched in October 2014 in the House of Commons at a Commemorative Event chaired by Labour MP John McDonnell.

Details of Across the Black Waters can be found hereFacebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Shalimar distributing Orient BlackSwan

Shalimar Books is very pleased to announce that we have been appointed distributors for the UK and Europe of Orient BlackSwan and Permanent Black, as well as the publishers distributed in India by Orient BlackSwan.


Understanding Caste: From Buddha to Ambedkar and Beyond by Gail Omvedt

Orient BlackSwan is one of India’s best known and most respected publishing houses. Incorporated in 1948, the consistent emphasis of their publishing has been on quality.

They publish well-researched academic books by distinguished authors; interesting and informative general and trade books such as Indian literature in translation, books for children, Tracts for the Times, a series on contemporary social, cultural and political issues, popular books on the environment, mathematics and science; and distinctive school textbooks reputed for their high quality, relevance and affordability.

Through their associate company, Universities Press, they offer cutting edge professional books in biotechnology, computer science, engineering, home science, management and medicine.

Permanent Black was set up in 2000 and very quickly established a reputation as one of India’s most prestigious academic imprints. They now have well over 300 books in print and have published the region’s most eminent scholars.

Two series published by Permanent Black are – The Indian Century (editors Ramachandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani), and Nature, Culture, Conservation (editors Mahesh Rangarajan and K. Ullas Karanth).

The full list of publishers we will be handling along with Orient BlackSwan and Permanent Black are Sangam Books, Universities Press, Social Science Press and Tata Institute of Social Sciences.


Beyond the World of Apu by John W. Hood

Subject areas covered include Anthropology and Ethnography, Dalit Studies, Economics and Development Studies, Education and Psychology, Environmental Studies, Film, Media and Culture Studies, Gender Studies, Health and Disability Studies, History, Literature and Language (including literature in translation), Political Science, Sociology.

Shalimar Books will be stocking titles published by these publishers over the past four years, and a selection of their backlist. Older titles will be available to order (estimated time for procurement 14-21 days). Some titles are already on our website – we will be updating regularly.

Indian literature in English translation – stock titles can be found here, along with some titles on cinema.

Trade representation will be through Global Book Marketing.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Launch of new book on Shaheed Bhagat Singh

On 26th March, the new book by Reginald Massey, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and the Forgotten Indian Martyrs, is to be launched at Keats House, along with a special poetry reading.

The book will be launched by Professor Lord Desai of St. Clement Danes, and will be followed by poems commemorating martyrs, read in English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. The readings will be compered by Dr. Padmesh Gupta, and the participants inlude India Russell, Sathi Ludhianvi and Pran Sharma.

If you wish to attending this event, please contact Divya Mathur at vatayanpoetry@gmail.com


Shaheed Bhagat Singh and the Forgotten Indian Martyrs by Reginald Massey

The launch is being held from 6.30 – 8.15 pm on Thursday 26 March 2015 at Keats House, 10 Keats Grove, London NW3 2RR. Nearest tube stations are Hampstead or Belsize Park.

Shalimar Books will be running a bookstall at the event, where the new book and other titles will be on sale.

More details about Shaheed Bhagat Singh and the Forgotten Indian Martyrs here.

Shaheed Bhagat Singh (28 September 1907-23 March 1931) was one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. As a teenager he studied European revolutionary movements and was attracted to anarchist and Marxist ideologies. He was involved in the murder of British police officer John Saunders, and eluded efforts by the police to capture him. Soon after, he and an accomplice threw two bombs and leaflets inside the Central Legislative Assembly. He gained widespread national support when he underwent a 116-day fast in jail, demanding equal rights for British and Indian political prisoners. He was convicted and subsequently hanged for his participation in the murder.

Reginald Massey has written books on India on a variety of subjects ranging from history, culture and travel to classical music and dance.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Zohra Segal (1912-2014)

Tributes have poured in for celebrated Indian actress Zohra Sehgal who died in New Delhi on July 10th, aged 102. She had been ill for several days and suffered a heart attack in a hospital in the capital..

In a career spanning more than seven decades, Zohra Sehgal entertained millions through her performances in films and on stage.


Close-Up by Zohra Segal

Zohra Sehgal was born in 1912 in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

In 1930 she struck out and went to Germany to study modern dance at Mary Wigman’s Dance School in Dresden. In 1933 she returned to India, and in 1935 joined Uday Shankar’s famed dance academy in Almora, together with fellow dancer Kameshwar, whom she married in 1942. On to Lahore and the Zoresh Dance Institute and then her big move into acting: Prithvi Theatres, the Old Vic, the British Drama League, BBC television, The Jewel in the Crown, Toba Tek Singh, Bhaji on the Beach

Among the many honours and awards that have been conferred on Zohra Segal are the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1963); the Norman Beaton Award for significant contribution to the development of multicultural film and television drama in the United Kingdom (1996); the Padma Shri (1998); the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement (2004); and the Padma Vibhushan (2010).

Her autobiography, Close-Up: Memoirs of a Life on Stage and Screen, is available from Shalimar. Details here.