The first full-length autobiography in Bengali, Amar Jiban (My Life) was written in the early nineteenth century by an upper-caste rural housewife named Rashundari Debi. Published in 1868 when she was eighty-eight years old, the book is a fascinating snapshot of life for women in the nineteenth century. Debi, who gave birth to eleven children - her first was born when she was eighteen years old, the last when she was forty-one - ruminates on her very individual understanding of bhakti beliefs as well as the new times that were unfolding around her. Offering a translation of major sections of this remarkable autobiography, Words to Win is a portrait of a woman who wants to compose a life of her own, wishes to present it in the public sphere, and eventually accomplishes just that. The words, in the end, win out. First published in 1999, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in nineteenth-century Indian history. The classic text is reissued here in a new paperback format.
Tanika Sarkar is a historian of modern India and the author of Bengal 1928-1934: The Politics of Protest and Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion, Cultural Nationalism. She also coedited Women and Social Reform in Modern India.