06 Jan 2020 15:46 IST

MICA Prof's book rated best work on modern Indian history at Congress

Prof Harmony Siganporia

The author compares and analyses the life, work and times of Behramji Merwanji Malabari

MICA Prof Harmony Siganporia’s book I am the Widow: An Intellectual Biography of Behramji Malabari  has been awarded the Prof Sneh Mahajan Award for the best book on modern Indian history (2015 to 2018).

The award was presented at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, recently held in Kerala.



The book is a biography that compares and analyses the life, work and times of Behramji Merwanji Malabari (1853–1912) — a Parsi social reformer, journalist, poet, anthropologist, travel writer, and a vital catalyst of change who did a lot to shape the national reform discourse.

Always speaking truth to power

Prof Siganporia, who teaches in the area of Culture and Communication at MICA, said:“I am full of gratitude that the Indian History Congress thought my work was worthwhile. The award means a lot because I see it as an exercise in undoing erasure: lives like Malabari’s, with his belief in always speaking truth to power, have lessons for us, especially in the contentious times we live in.”

The book evaluates Malabari’s lifelong commitment to working for the upliftment of women, particularly widows, even as it explores the politics of representation and outlines some of the tensions that such a voicing of ‘women’s issues’ by male reformers like Malabari, who possessed the ‘innate human ability to identify with another’ as much as ‘the ability to refuse to identify solely with oneself’, entails.

There were two biographies written about him before he turned 40, and a third one two years after his death. He then vanished almost completely from the pages of Parsi and Indian history, reduced, at best, to a footnote. This fourth biography attempts to discover why.