Profile

As Author :

Kota Neelima, Ph.D., is an author, political scientist and researcher, who writes on gender, farmer issues, poverty and democratic deficit. An alumna of Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Delhi, she 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, gender and issues concerning the rural poor and electoral reforms.

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. Widows of Vidarbha was first presented in Jaipur Literature Festival, 2018. (link to the talk)

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 deliberate policies of the government that neglected farm crisis and denied farmer suicides. Her second novel, Death of a Moneylender (First print 2009. Reprint 2016, Penguin Random House), revealed the hopeless poverty in villages and how it was dismissed by mainstream journalism.

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). She lives in New Delhi.

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As Artist :

Kota Neelima, Ph.D., is an author and impressionist-abstract artist whose paintings are inspired by Indian philosophy, and informed by rural distress and poverty in India. An alumna of Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Delhi, she was Senior Research Fellow, South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC.

The artist follows an elaborate process of making the art works, which begins with extensive research on the field, readings of the texts, followed by charcoal drawings on paper before converting them into oil paintings on canvas. Easy and accessible symbols are used in the paintings such as trees, sky, the moon and birds, which undergo multi-faceted and complex redefinition in every work.

Among her solo shows, are the series First Cause (Delhi, 2012), What the Eyes Can See (Delhi, 2015), Places of Worship (Delhi, 2017), Metaphors of the Moon (Delhi, 2018), The Manifest Absence (London, 2018). Her recent collection, The Nature of Things, Death and Dualism in Indian Villages (Delhi, 2019), is a visual narrative based on spirituality, the state of the seven invisibility of widows of farmer suicides in Beed district of Maharashtra.
Neelima’s works for over a decade have deconstructed contemporary reality through spirituality. The paintings articulate 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 the contemplation of the Unmanifest of the Brhad-aranynaka Upanishad. Her paintings are inspired by the Upanishadic truth beyond the Manifest world. This truth represents Nirguna or the absence of qualities, Nirakara or the absence of form, Nirbhedha, or the absence of discrimination, Nishkama or the absence of desire, Nirvishesha or the absence of attributes and Nirantara or the absence of interruption. The Absence is never inert but is textured with all that which could have been and all that which still can be. The Absence is, also, never the opposite of the Presence, in the same way as the half Moon is not half, but always complete. The Absence is the Unmanifest; it is the original state of the Creation and the mind recognises that.

Neelima’s art has been displayed in several cities in India and abroad; her works have been featured at the China Art Museum in Shanghai, and are in the permanent collection at the Museum of Sacred Art, Belgium.

Also an author and researcher, one of Neelima’s book on devotion, Tirupati: A Guide To Life (Penguin, 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 (2017), which explains the traditions of Naivedyam. Neelima has also written extensively on agrarian crisis, farmer suicides and state of women in India villages. Her latest book is Widows of Vidarbha, Making of Shadows (Oxford University Press, 2018). She paints from her studio, StudioAdda, and lives in New Delhi.

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