We started Café Dissensus on 15 February, 2013. As we complete five years today, our editors look back to the past and reflect on our practices.
Bhaswati Ghosh, Editor-at-Large
Café Dissensus is five today. Half a decade. A period of time for which the Indian voter elects a government. Over the past five years, I have seen it mature into a truly democratic space, especially at a time when such spaces are shrinking at a frightening pace. Dissenting informs the core of our expression, but this dissent isn’t the opposite of assent. It is more about creating room for a plurality of expressions, to argue and counter argue, to resist and engage, to learn and guide – and do all this without compromising civility and critical discourse.
My own bond with Café Dissensus goes back to its initial days, and I can’t say enough about its influence on my growth as a writer and an editor. Besides my work as the editor at large, I have had the pleasure of guest editing three special issues – on diaspora, Tagore, and India at 70 – that have educated me way more than they benefitted from my curating. I look forward to more such opportunities even as I marvel at the range and quality of content produced in each of our special issues, brought together by excellent editors from all walks of life.
As in the other years, in this past year, too, Café Dissensus teleported me to worlds I hadn’t seen before and allowed me to read, review and edit the works of gifted writers and poets, a privilege I don’t take lightly. As we move into our sixth year, I hope (and I think I speak for all our editors here) our readers feel we showed commitment and purpose in our first five-year term. The café is ever open for more impassioned debates and brainstorming. Come on in and grab a table.
Rashida Murphy, Books Editor
As Café Dissensus celebrates its 5th year of existence, it is my pleasure to reflect on what these years have meant to me, personally and professionally. I first became aware of the journal in 2014, when I noticed a call for submissions for ‘Here and There – The Diaspora Universe’ and I sent in a short story which was accepted and published. Naturally I was delighted and started writing stories, essays, and reviews for Café Dissensus on a reasonably regular basis. When I was invited on board as Books Editor, I accepted without hesitation. While continuing to write reviews, I also began to receive reviews on some innovative and excellent prose, poetry, and current affairs being written in and about South Asia. We are proud to have published both first time reviewers and established ones, along with debut writers and veterans. This, to me, is one of the strengths of this journal. I am always delighted to discover new writers through the reviews sent to me, while sighing contentedly when a review about a book I love also arrives.
In 2016, another highlight for me was editing a special issue on Female Genital Mutilation within the Shia Dawoodi Bohra community world-wide. This connected me to an international group of activists campaigning to end the practice. Café Dissensus has been crucial in its support and activism and I applaud its inherent integrity and sense of fair play.
In 2018, I hope to publish in-depth interviews with writers about their motivations and passions. Happy Birthday Café Dissensus and thank you for inviting me to celebrate with you. As always it is a pleasure to work with Mosarrap Khan and Bhaswati Ghosh. I look forward to the continued growth of this journal on the international writing platform.
Adil Bhat, Assistant Editor
My experience with Café Dissensus (CD) has been enriching in terms of writing and editing. I started working with CD in April 2016 in the capacity of an Assistant Editor and three years on my journey is that of learning. As a fresh graduate, CD offered me a space to express myself without any inhibitions. Prior to joining CD, I was a contributor with Greater Kashmir, where I use to write on issues of Kashmir conflict. However, I aspired more and, interestingly, I found CD as a mentor.
In times when networking and connections are important to get through, CD came as an unbiased opportunity for me – somebody who was still making sense of his career. It was here at CD that I got direction for my work and started contributing to other bigger platforms. This is how CD became instrumental in helping me navigate through other tougher and closer channels of literary and political writings.
I remember my first random mail to the Editor of the magazine asking for a work opportunity. To this he responded and first appointed me as an intern. On seeing my work, he promoted me to the position of Assistant Editor in a matter of three months. This consideration boosted my confidence and encouraged me to write more in fields of conflict and other related issues. Thereafter, I pursued other mediums of expression and started contributing for other leading publications like The Wire, Himal South Asia, The Hindu, and Dawn among others.
CD is a big platform for young writers and more importantly it gives space to dissenting voices from across the wide spectrum of our society. I would encourage all young writers to contribute in this journal and also urge established writers to add to the richness of this Magazine.
Mary Ann Chacko & Mosarrap H Khan, Editors
If someone had said to us in 2013 that Café Dissensus would complete five years, we would have laughed it off. There are a couple of reasons. When we started the platform on 15 February, 2013, we hardly knew where we were headed. It was a fun project, conceived without much plan about its future. We were dissatisfied with the way some of the important issues, especially those of the marginal communities in India, were ignored. In fact, when Mosarrap published his first political piece in August 2012 on an online platform about violence perpetrated by Muslims during a demonstration in Mumbai, the piece was given a liberal twist. It made us think of a platform where we could write without second-guessing about what the editors would like to carry and what would constitute a sanitized liberal piece of writing. We needed to build a space where we could be ourselves, with our unabashedly offending and obnoxious (to the mainstream) views. A space, where we could speak back to the centre, if you wish. The second reason why we couldn’t think much ahead was because there were very few established online spaces in 2013. Much of the boom in online publishing in India that you see today started in 2014. It was hard for us to think of the future without a professional organization and source of funding.
However, here we are now after five years. In February, 2013, we really didn’t know where we were going with the magazine. Nor can we claim with certainty where we will be five years hence. This sense of contingency and uncertainty has served us well. We have taken Café Dissensus as a fun project, where eclecticism rules supreme, where we do what we like to do, where we don’t have to sweat about making profit. However, that doesn’t mean we have compromised with quality. We are grateful to all our guest-editors over the years for deploying their expertise in different areas while editing an issue for us. They have produced some of the best content comparable anywhere. Without the generosity and kindness of our guest-editors, Café Dissensus won’t be what it is today.
While Café Dissensus continues to tread uncharted territories, Café Dissensus Everyday remains committed to featuring current affairs/culture/literature and new/young writers. In 2017, around 140,000 people visited our sites. We hope this will continue to grow in the coming years.
Our only regret remains our inability to start a new website this year. Our plan was to launch a new integrated website of global standards for better readability. We had to put off that plan because we have no money at the moment. We hope to solicit donations from our readers and supporters once we launch the new website, hopefully later this year.
Thank you all for accepting Café Dissensus as your own, for giving us the courage to continue, and for being part of the fun project. We are grateful to our readers, supporters, guest-editors, and editors.