The Bhopal gas tragedy, Savitribai Phule, children from marginalised communities, street fashion, xeroxwallahs, the A-B-C of anarchy: think of a topic and you will probably find someone has created a zine on it. If you have time, head to a tiny library in Bandra and you can peruse through some of them.
The Underground Bookhouse, unlike its name isn’t underground but it certainly is hidden, deep at the back of a society near the Taj Mahal Tea House (look for the red gate).
The library, started by activists and artists Himanshu S and Aqui Thami (Bombay Underground Collective founders) is located in a garage and is actually just one room. It’s plainly furnished – one stack of shelves is stocked with books collected over the years (including classics, comic books, self-help books and the like) and the other – with zines curated from across the country and India. A little makeshift tarpaulin room nearby doubles up as an exhibition space and a drawing room for kids (from the Dharavi Art Room project) to gather and do their artwork. The outside wall of the room doubles up as an exhibition space too.
“We’ve been trying to set up a library and reading space – a place where people can come to look at quality work from across the country. So, we thought of putting up an exhibition of some of the zines we like,” says Himanshu.
The duo recently organised the 1st Bombay Zine Fest to showcase independently published literature, comic books, poetry, journalism, and drawings. They have zines from England, the USA, Australia, Spain. These include a Patti Smith fanzine, collaborative zines with women writers, a Safdar Hashmi zine, a DIY ‘how to’ guide, dialogues between couples, food, Bhagat Singh fan zine, and even one about women narrating stories about their periods. “We had put out a submission call in October. We have over 120 zines on a good range of personal and random pieces covering art, culture and activism. These zines include our own works, those from our collection and books we’ve found interesting,” adds Himanshu.
The final plan is to create a library of zines from across India and the world. They’ve also put out a call for help, asking people to either host the fest or contribute towards hosting it in other cities.
The Underground Bookhouse is located at Garage No 5, Luisa Chs Ltd, St John Baptista Road, Bandra (W); Log on to Bombay Underground on Facebook; membership begins at Rs 1,500 for three months.