As Author :
Kota Neelima is a political author and has been a journalist for over 22 years in New Delhi. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and was Senior Research Fellow, South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC. She was a political editor for The Sunday Guardian newspaper and principal correspondent for The Indian Express covering politics. She writes on farmer suicides, women farmers, and issues concerning the rural poor in India.
Neelima’s new book, ‘Widows of Vidarbha, Making of Shadows,’ (2018, Oxford University Press) presents the life of the widows left behind by farmer suicides due to agricultural distress. The book presents the story of farm widows who have been invisible to the state, the community, and even to their own families, and talks of their surrender to the rules of patriarchy. Between the ages of 26 and 63, the lives of these widows were followed for three years to record how they survived without hope, and what impact it had on their children. Their stories reflect the Indian reality beyond the glitter of the cities and reveal life in the dark corners of this country.
Based on her experience as a journalist and researcher, Neelima’s earlier books fictionalised the narratives of farmers to contrast the lives of the poor in Vidarbha with the lives of the powerful in cities. Her first novel, Riverstones (First print 2007. Reprint, Penguin Random House, 2016), explored the power play behind the policy shortfalls in New Delhi, which have neglected the rural poor that led to farmer suicides across the nation. Her second novel, Death of a Moneylender (First print 2009. Reprint 2016, Penguin Random House), reconstructed the tyranny of rural power structures and was set in an imaginary village in South-Central India. Both books also critiqued the ethics of journalists and priorities of contemporary mainstream reportage in India.
Her third novel, Shoes of the Dead (2013, Rupa Publications), has been one of the popular political books in India. This work examined, on the one hand, the farm crisis in a hypothetical village and the circumstances that led a farmer to commit suicide, and, on the other, the workings of dynastic politics and the cost politicians paid to survive in Delhi’s power circles. The book tells the story of two young men, one from Delhi and another from a remote village, and contrasts the inheritance of power of a political heir with the inheritance of despair of a poor farmer. The book had been on the national bestseller charts in 2013 (HT-Nielsen Bookscan) and is being made into a motion picture in two languages. Her recent book, The Honest Season (2016, Penguin Random House), reveals the deals that take place behind the closed doors of a mythical parliament. The story is about six conversations that are secretly recorded inside the parliament premises on issues ranging from how corporate houses dictate appointment of ministers to how politicians wash off the taint of communal riots. The book has been well received by critics and readers and was among the top 5 on airport charts across India (WH Smith).
As Artist :
Kota Neelima has studied painting techniques at the Arpana Caur’s Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, New Delhi. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and was Senior Research Fellow, South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC.
Her work for over a decade had deconstructed contemporary reality through spirituality, presented in seven solo exhibitions in Delhi. Her fourth solo show, First Cause (2012), was based on the Upanishadic exploration of the cause of all Creation, the cause of all causes. Three works from this series can be seen on display at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Neelima’s fifth solo exhibition, What the Eyes Can See (2015), continued her inquiry into causation by a contemporary and critical understanding of questions from Indian philosophy. The works articulated the questions of Nachiketa in Katha Upanishad, about that which is beyond the right and wrong, the cause and effect, and the questions of Kena Upanishad on what drives the eye, the mind, the speech, and highlight a force that is separate from choice or survival. Her sixth solo exhibition, Places of Worship in 2017, reimagined devotion spiritually and through symbols of nature. Her seventh exhibition in 2018, Metaphors of the Moon, charts the trajectories of the mind as it travels from absence to presence in an eternal cycle.
Neelima’s paintings are impressionist-abstract and the medium is oil on canvas. She follows an elaborate process of making the works, which begins with extensive research of texts, followed by charcoal drawings on paper before, finally converting them to oil paintings. The symbols used in the paintings are trees, sky, the moon and birds, which undergo multi-faceted and complex redefinition. The accessible symbols, each immersed in one or the other aspect of the concept, assist in the elaborate exploration of each painting. Besides the solo exhibitions, her paintings have been featured in art shows in India and abroad. Her work is also a part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Sacred Art, Belgium.
Her book on devotion, Tirupati: A Guide To Life (2012) has been translated into several languages. The book drew from Skanda Mahapurana to explore the temple of Tirupati in Southern India. She also co-authored another book with Dr. AV Ramana Dikshitulu, Tirumala, Sacred Foods of God, which explains the traditions of Naivedyam. She works from her studio, StudioAdda, and lives in New Delhi.