Introducing our Grantees! 



The Zubaan Publishers Research Grants for Young Researchers from the Northeast, 2022-23, were announced in November 2022 and invited applications from young women, queer, trans and non-binary people from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, and the hill regions of districts Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, below 45 years of age and working actively within the community.

The selected grantees will look at historically marginalised women, queer, feminist and oral histories from community researchers, writers, artists, etc., focusing on building narratives through storytelling, podcasts, visual mediums, research papers, etc. Read on to get to know our grantees’ backgrounds, interests, and exciting research proposals better!


1. Anshu Chhetri (she/her) 

Food, Memory, and Identity: Oral histories and culinary practices 

Anshu is a literature student interested in reading, researching and writing. She comes from the Dooars region of West Bengal, which forms the gateway to Bhutan from India. Her articles are published on websites and journals like LiveWire, OnEating, and Youth ki Awaaz

Anshu’s research will explore the theme of gustatory nostalgia, culinary practices, and how recipes are narratives that show the connection with people and their life memories. She will focus on the gender norms which keep women from occupying powerful positions in the public sphere of food production/preparation. Her argument will also see women from the lens of the power conferred on them with a form of ‘culinary capital’ within their diasporic community. 

Anshu is deeply interested in discovering more about the recipes passed down through the female line, where food is a female inheritance and part of a collective feminine past. This kind of intergenerational cultural transmission between women links them to their ‘homeland’ and the past and creates an identity for a diasporic community. Through her research, Anshu will address this issue of identity formation through food cultures. 

2. Arpita Chakraborty (she/her), cowriter 

Unwinding the Patterns of Lecheri Ballad: A gendered perspective of Sonowal Kachari’s folklife 

Arpita writes, performs, and curates her ideas into audio-visuals. She is a university student working towards a sustainable and binary-free world. She is inspired and motivated to work towards creating awareness and alliances across the gender spectrum to detangle the social, political, and emotional realities of the community and to overcome social norms through creative pursuit. She is a master’s student in women’s and gender studies. 

Nasrin Shahnaz (she/her), cowriter 

Nasrin is a PhD scholar in the department of English, Cotton University, Guwahati, Assam. Her research interests are gender studies, queer narratives, cultural studies, and Indian literature. She is currently engaged in researching transgender literary representation in Indian narratives. As a literature student and an avid reader, she aspires to devote her voice to society’s well-being. 

Arpita and Nasrin’s research will delve into the historical development, characteristics, and significance of the particular folk art, Lecheri Geet and Dance, through a gendered stance, since Lecheri is the only performing folk art of the Sonowal Kacharis, an ethnic tribe in Assam that is solely female-oriented. Lecheri means the leftover paddy scraps on a harvested paddy field. Moreover, the term Lecheri has a negative connotation that refers to someone who has been abandoned. Their research will examine the representation of women in a folk practice associated with the leftovers of a harvested paddy field. One of the researchers has a mixed origin of Sonowal Kachari and Bengali parenthood. Therefore, this study will be self-reflexive. 

3. Chhaya Namchu (she/her) 

The Story of a Himalayan Town through the Voice of Rebecca Namchu 

Chhaya is from Kalimpong and belongs to the Indigenous Lepcha community. She has been working on climate action, transboundary rivers, and changing ecosystems across sectors and organisations. Much of her work is inspired by her life and Lepcha heritage, which is deeply embedded in nature and community. 

The freedom struggle for India was not lost on the citizens of Kalimpong—a town that was part of the old silk route, in the ’50s, a hub for European, American, and Chinese spies, and finally saw the Gorkhaland movement in the ’80s. These stories of Kalimpong are articulated through colonial and patriarchal perspectives. 

Chhaya will explore the unwritten story of her great-grandmother, Rebecca Namchu (1884- 1958), popularly known as David Babuni after her husband, David Babu. She was widowed at 26 and became the first President of the Indigenous Lepcha Association in 1922. Rebecca would go on to lobby for the inclusion of the Lepchas under the Tribes of India in 1951. As an indigenous tribal woman, Chhaya will reflect on how easy it is to diminish the stories of women from ‘marginalised communities’. 

4. Esther Suantak (she/her) 

Exploring the Lived Experiences of Refugee Women in Manipur 

Esther is a research scholar pursuing a PhD at Manipur University, under the Department of Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy. Her research is titled ‘Gender Relations and Governance in Tribal Areas of Manipur’.
She completed her master’s degree in women’s studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and holds a Bachelor of Social Work in St. Edmunds’ College, Shillong. She works with the NGO Social Human Action for Rural Empowerment. 

Since 2020, the world has witnessed both a pandemic and many localised conflicts. Myanmar experienced this double burden, with political instability happening alongside the pandemic. Specific communities suffered discrimination and atrocities, where human rights were violated. As a result, many from these communities, including women, took refuge in Manipur. 

Esther will focus on women’s experiences in these communities and how they relate to their current context. She will study how these women envision their lives in a place where they migrated with hopes of a better future. 

5. Haidamteu Zeme N (she/her) 

Existing Within In-Betweens: Narrativising the Northeast migrant-woman experience

Haidam is a research fellow at the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) department at IIT, Delhi. Her research interests include translation studies, comparative literature, indigenous cultures, and their language systems and movements. Her essay ‘What Role does Translation Play for the Nagas? A personal account’ was published as part of DRC, Delhi University, international conference proceedings in 2019. Her poem ‘Perfunctory Citizen’ was published in Dark Lanes of the City (2020). She maintains a personal blog on her translation journey at www.translationfornagas.wordpress.com. In her (not-so-free) free time, she does some embroidery, bad watercolour art, thrifts second-hand baubles, and chats with her cat Sir Thomas Zeme. 

Haidam is interested in documenting the lived experiences of migrant women. She will specifically study the ‘Northeast position’ through a gendered lens to highlight ‘migrant-woman’ as a site to which ideas of womanhood and honour, as well as religious, cultural, financial, and community aspirations are tethered. The term ‘Northeast’ is a marker to reiterate a feeling of ‘in-between-ness’ that individuals from these places experience, especially heightened for the migrant figure who leaves ‘home’ in the pursuit of dreams, for many reasons.  Her paper will examine narratives of Northeastern women who have lived in dual places: city and home, and how they navigate existence. Through an interview approach, she hopes to arrive at a critical, reflective, and nuanced articulation of ‘something’— perhaps political, ambiguous, and polysemic, and hopes to document the ‘everyday’. 

6. Jayashree Narzary (she/her) 

Re-framing Dominant Narratives: A study of lived experiences of former women cadres of BLT from Bodoland 

Jayashree is a full-time dog mother and a part-time research enthusiast. 

As a political science postgraduate, she looks forward to exploring socio-political histories and multilayered realities of the region she comes from. 

Jayashree’s research will focus on the lived experiences of the women cadres of the Bodoland Liberation Tigers. She will aim to explore the multilayered-complex realities of how these women create a space for themselves, assert their identity, and history, and critically engage with its connection to memory and agency in negotiating the minutiae of everyday life. 

7. Jobeth Ann Warjri (she/her) 

Ecology and the Lives of Washerwomen and Subsistence Farmers in Laitkor, Meghalaya 

Jobeth Ann Warjri is a writer and researcher from Laitkor, Meghalaya. She is currently based out of Hyderabad, Telangana. Her paper will study the lives of washerwomen and subsistence farmers within the context of ecological transformations in Meghalaya in peri-urban spaces.

The women who will be interviewed represent interesting case studies because their means of livelihood are intimately connected to ecological factors, including citizenship, land rights, and climate change. The participants of the ethnographic study are chosen because of their engagement with worldviews and socio-ecological entities that are precarious. 

8. Mimi Pachuau (she/her) 

Finding Nula Seniar 

Mimi enjoys writing and taking photographs, though that does not happen as often as she would like to. Words that sit in her heart and images that she captures often do not make sense to her. On some rare occasions, when she manages to weave them together to tell stories, she hopes they would make living a little easier for those who read. Her training is in English literature, sociology and history. She currently teaches history at ICFAI University, Mizoram. 

Her research area includes a history of education, Mizo society, Christianity, gender roles, and historical trauma. She is passionate about hiking, drinking industrial amounts of tea and coffee, and still trying to make peace with the long wet season of fur (monsoon) in Mizoram. 

In Mizoram, nula senior’ means older unmarried woman, with a hint of both teasing and dismay. The popular term hides contemporary Mizo society’s numerous social problems, the turbulent decades of the second half of the 20th century, and the social changes brought about by British colonisation from the end of the 19th century. The term’s use varies from region to region, and from church denominations across economic status, among other factors. 

Mimi will aim to study the dynamics and complexity of this traditionally derogatory term and its connections with other pressing issues of gender roles and the ‘dying Mizo men’ (the extremely high mortality among Mizo men from the last decade till today, unofficially considered a social and demographic crisis). She will try to understand who is a nula seniar, how they navigate life in public and private spaces, what their social status is and what their future holds. 

9. Nangsel Sherpa (she/her) 

Mapping My Grandmother’s Footprints: Gendering migration in the Eastern Himalayas 

Nangsel is a researcher from the Darjeeling Hills. Her research interests lie in gender, migration, and minority rights. She is also the co-founder of The Pomelo: Exploring Himalayan Voices, an e-magazine. 

Nangsel’s personal history is intertwined with the history of cross-border migration from Nepal and Tibet to India. Her maternal grandmother migrated from Tibet in search of her parents and was stopped by the Chinese military twice. On the other hand, her paternal grandmother migrated to Darjeeling from Nepal with her elder sister for a better future without knowing exactly where she was headed. 

These stories gave her two perspectives on migration, exposing the complexity and nuances generally missed in the good- vs bad-migrant discourse. Through her research, Nangsel hopes to look closely at the gendered history of migration in the Eastern Himalayas, mapping experiences from Tibet and Nepal to India. She will focus on the socio-political conditions that shaped women’s experiences of migration with an emphasis on the question of labour as new migrants to a foreign country. 

10. Dr Naomi Carey Nonglait (she/her) 

Khasi Traditional Musicians Unsung women 

Naomi works in the department of English at St. Mary’s College, Shillong. She has published articles in journals and books on Khasi folklore, oral literature, culture, tradition, children’s literature, and identity. She has also presented several papers at regional, national, and international conferences and seminars and has read her poems at poetry/literary workshops. During her spare time, she trains ST students, at an official centre, to prepare for entrance exams for government staff positions. Her interests include involving youth through Rangers and training aspirants to become Rangers. Her passion is to research areas that have been overlooked or neglected. 

Naomi will research Khasi women who play traditional music and instruments, which are played mostly by men. Khasi musical instruments are used in religious rituals, weddings, and other customary practices. But many indigenous ways have changed, including those of performance and music. This research will look at the ways and means of preserving something that could be lost, despite a revival of folk singing and traditional musical instruments. For example, stories used to be narrated orally around the hearth, accompanied by the duitara. Stories have now moved to the digital sphere, including Facebook and Instagram. 

Her research would also involve interviews with some Khasi women folk musicians, also focussing on their songs and songwriting. The change in the songs’ themes provides evidence of the changes in Khasi society. Just as the hearth has been moved to the digital sphere, she hopes that digitising or writing about the Khasi women folk singers/musicians could create a space for narratives of a different kind.

11. Nicky Chandam (she/her) 

Judging a Book by its Cover 

Nicky is an enthusiastic and passionate story-seeker from India. She was born in Imphal, Manipur. She explores stories through the medium of photography, written words, the oral tradition of storytelling, and the art of listening. She practices as a director, writer, performer, and curator of art dialogues. Nicky is vocal about mental health issues and strongly advocates for accessible and affordable mental health services in India. She is also the founder of the Octave Foundation, which was built with a vision to bring people together to celebrate the cultural diversity of our planet. 

Nicky’s film, through the lives of people in Manipur, will explore how clothing creates gender narratives. 

12. Nokho N (she/her) 

Courtesans in the Chakhesang Naga Society during the Pre-Christian Era 

Nokho is a slow traveller and a freelance writer. Her first love remains learning about the oral narratives of her ancestors. What began as a small attempt to find answers to her existential crisis eventually became a lifelong quest to trace her roots and make them relevant to the new Generation. After spending the last decade with the older population, her findings are slowly finding their way to mass consumption through articles, poetry, and books. 

Thünoküthami or Thethenumi are words the Chakhesang and the Angami Nagas use to refer to women courtesans during the pre-Christian era. The profession was ostracised with the dawn of Christianity, so even talking about them was highly stigmatised. Even today, they continue to slip through the cracks of written records and all other documentation, as if they never existed. However, some evidence remains about their lives and contribution to society, which risks being wiped out if not documented. Nokho’s research aims to explore the life of the Thethenumis and shed light on their lives in the hope of serving as a voice for the women who lived in the shadows of society and never enjoyed any rights, eventually facing early demise due to the dire conditions they lived in.

13. Renu Koyu (she/her) 

Paper on Galo women foragers, indigenous food sovereignty, and climate change, untitled 

Renu is a research scholar at the department of English at University of Delhi. Her areas of interest include oral narratives, ecofeminism, new animism, food studies, speculative fiction, and detective fiction. 

In Arunachal Pradesh, Galo women foragers sustain the indigenous food sovereignty of their community but this contribution is unrecognised by the community. Renu’s research will study these women’s contribution to indigenous food sovereignty and the systemic invisibilisation of this role. 

Galo women foragers are intimately connected to nature as custodians of traditional ecological knowledge. Acknowledging this, Renu will explore how the climate crisis has changed the landscape through empirical knowledge gathered by women while foraging in the hills they call home, and how the crisis will eventually affect the community’s food sovereignty and the women’s livelihood. 

14. Rishav Thakur (he/they) 

Curating Queerness 

Rishav is doing their PhD in sociocultural anthropology and queer studies at Columbia University. He studies articulations of and the practice of queer affinity across religious, racial and other politicised differences. Rishav’s research is supported by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; The Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life; and The Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender at Columbia University.

Rishav enjoys writing and thinking across different genres and media. They serve as the South Asia editor for Borderlines, a student-run open-access journal. He is a fellow at Domestic Insurgencies, a Feminist working group investigating the processual aspects of home and the domestic, and at A Tale of Three Rivers, which brings together scholars and artists working on the real and imagined histories of Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra. 

Rishav plans to curate a multimedia exhibition of queerness in Assam involving objects, photographs, audio, and text. The exhibition seeks to engage in conversations around the complicated relation between queerness, visuality, and the dominant gaze. 

15. Rituparna Neog (they/she) 

Finding Queer Resilience in Rural Assam through Bhauna, Rati Bihu, and Lora Raax 

Rituparna is a leading queer rights activist from Assam and a poet, storyteller, and development sector worker. They are the founder and director of the Akam Foundation, which works in Northeast India on gender justice and education, and a co-founder of Drishti, a queer collective working on the visibility of the LGBTQA+ community. Rituparna has been working closely with schools, colleges, universities,  and CSOs in Assam to create awareness of gender and sexuality through talks and workshops with students, teachers, and grassroots workers. They are leading the campaign #NoMoreHoldingMyPee which demands gender-neutral toilets and choice-based uniforms in educational institutions in Assam. 

They have also founded a community library project with children from marginalised communities in Assam called Project Kitape Katha Koi (‘Books Speak for Children’), and run a community library in Ahatguri village of Jorhat district for more than a hundred children from five villages and one tea estate. Rituparna is a governing board member of the Free Libraries Network (FLN) India and South Asia, where they lead curriculum and capacity development within the network and regional coordination in Northeast India.

They write poetry and prose that share both the anguishes and joys of being queer, of our societies, and of holding each other through collective spaces. Rituparna loves responding to concerns and issues around society through children’s literature. They read stories to both children as well as adults.

Rituparna has been working on mobilising and organising the queer community in Assam with a special focus on rural areas and small towns. As a trans* person from rural Assam, their lived experience showed them a different way of queer resilience in a rural reality. Through their research, they will explore the lived experiences of queer folks in rural Assam, different agencies and spaces for them, and their ways of finding resilience. They will document stories and elements with a focus on folk elements and different agencies of queer people through a photo essay narrative. 

16. Romik Sai (she/her) 

Queer Politics in Arunachal Pradesh: The intersection of sexuality, ethnicity, and gender in Arunachal Pradesh 

Romik is a student of gender studies at Dr BR Ambedkar University, Delhi. Her interests lie in art and culture, tribal studies, and collecting pretty notebooks she rarely uses. In her free time, she enjoys reading and painting. 

Romik’s study begins by underpinning the lacuna in the study of the queer subaltern, seen more starkly in the northeastern part of India. Against this background, her study aims to look at the politics of queerness in Arunachal Pradesh vis-à-vis the spaces occupied by queer-identifying people. Her focus will be on the growing queer movement and how it enables a new form of assertion for queer people of the region. She will attempt to study the politics of queerness in Arunachal Pradesh while keeping in mind the intersection of ethnicity, rich oral history, sexuality and gender in the concerned region. She will seek to understand how queer people create a distinct space for themselves, along with how language can be an arena of either a queer assertion or queer invisibilisation. 

17. Schulu Duo (he/him) 

Project on the women liquor brewers of Imphal, untitled 

Schulu is an aspiring anthropologist and documentary filmmaker. 

Schulu’s project aims to contribute to the liquor prohibition debate in Manipur. It will aim to highlight the struggles of Rongmei women in the Imphal valley who have been brewing and selling alcohol as an age-old practice and as a source of income. 

18. Swarnim Subba (she/her) 

Tagera Ningwaphuma: A biography of grandmother-goddess 

Swarnim is a research scholar in the department of English literature and cultural studies at SRM University, Sikkim. She has completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Jyoti Nivas College, Bangalore University. After qualifying for the SLET exam, she started her teaching career as an assistant professor of English at  Sikkim Government College, Burtuk. Presently she is working on a translation of the Limboo book of poetry, Sister’s Voices by B L Khamdhak, into English. Her current research interests focus on trans indigenous studies, shamanistic poetics, indigenous spirituality and healing, and native poetics. 

Creation stories and narratives of our various spiritual and indigenous cultures and traditions worldwide have celebrated and glorified goddesses and their feminine power and authority. However, as time passed, and with increasing patriarchal dominance, the worship of goddesses remained merely symbolic, mostly represented and interpreted by male clergies. Swarnim proposes to write a biography of the supreme goddess of her Limboo tribe—Tagera Ningwaphuma, her manifestations, her creations, and the story of the first woman Mujikna Kheyongna and her progeny. This first-ever biography in English aims to record, preserve and protect our worldviews, cosmology and belief system, thereby filling up the much- needed gap in intergenerational memory. It will also enable us to reflect and learn, and to make sense of our lives in these contemporary times. Swarnim wants interpreting these narratives to heal the scars of amnesia and alienation beyond ethnic or community affiliations. Our oral and religious text Mundhum incorporates many stories, myths, legends, sermons, prehistoric chronicles, and cultural traditions. Much of this knowledge tradition has been lost, or has never been told from the perspective of indigenous feminist spirituality. Swarnim’s retelling of this story as a Limboo woman is the act of re-membering her ancestors and the past.

19. Synshar (she/her) 

Bei Kupli (Mother Kupli)/Jaintia Queens 

Jowai and London-based artist Synshar completed her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Chelsea College of Arts. Her practice explores the diversity within the people who call India home, and the role of indigenous people in India. It delimits the domestic landscape of India through the lens and experiences of an indigenous person. 

A multimedia artist, she explores ideas surrounding traditions, crafts, rituals, tea, and the warmth of domestic spaces. She uses these ideas to speak about people, culture, and identity, while simultaneously decolonising these elements by celebrating them. 

If you happen to walk by an elder in town, or hear stories from your parents or grandparents, you may often hear the stories and myths of the people, Gods, and Goddesses who roamed and lived around the hills where the Pnar people reside. They are storytellers by nature; even the most mundane of events will begin and end like a story. The way they describe people is a story, for each river that flows through those hills is a story. 

One story Synshar has heard, whilst listening to her father and his friend converse, is of the Jaintia Queens and Bei Kupli. Through the emphasis and tradition of oral storytelling, she will explore whether there is a relation between the two, for this linkage remains unclear. If there is found to be no connection, exploration about who they are and their stories will be form the work. 

20. Yoši Zaua (he/him) 

Now That We’re Here/Q for Life 

A self-taught illustrator with skills nurtured and honed during the lockdown of 2020, Yoši’s visual language is the amalgamation of various creative personae spanning the fields of performance, photography, music, and visual art. His creative practice stems from exploring themes of identity and power from counter-hegemonic perspectives, using fiction and illustration as an extension of embodied experiences. 

With no pressure to adhere to a specific form or aesthetic, his works grow and expand in various directions as he engages in diverse ranges of graphic design, illustration, animation, and character design. Yoši has recently collaborated with various artists in Canada, Germany, Thailand, and India, which compounds his interdisciplinary interests into concocting new and customisable methods for different artistic trajectories. Part-memoir, part-fantasy, this project is an autobiographical fiction drawing upon bizarre encounters of queer folk as they leave the safety of their artist bubble and enter heteronormative institutions. An illustrated journal catalogued as comic strips, this project dares to embody the living secrets of queer folk with boldness and humour and serve as an archive of conversations and photographs of real interviews and lived experiences.