Bookmark This! 40 Years And Counting, The Story Of Seagull Books

The ability to visibilise the invisible, be politically incorrect, and publish books that swim against the stream is what maverick publisher Naveen Kishore, and by extension his Seagull Books, have always represented

Readers’ paradise: Seagull Books office in Calcutta | Photo: Naveen Kishore/Seagull

December  6, 1992. It is the hour after the demolition of the Babri Mosque. Naveen Kishore, the founder of Seagull Books (then in its 10th  year), was preoccupied with designing a stage for an Indian music concert featuring Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on the flute and Ustad Zakir Hussain on the tabla, when he heard a rumour that some people had apparently rushed on to a train from Pune to Bombay, wanting to cut off Hussain’s hands.

With a jolt, he realised that the found objects and ephemeral smoke effects he had been playing with till then would no longer do. So, he reached for an aluminium ‘A’ ladder lying in the theatre, and another ladder and placed them diagonally across the  back of the 16x8ft platform covered in black velvet. He placed this platform square on the stage floor that was shrouded in a matte black cloth. He then inserted wooden battens like giant spikes between the different rungs and ripped open reams of blood-red cloth, suspending one end from the black flies (the theatre term for extending stage walls upwards to allow the scenery to be flown upwards till the audience can’t see it anymore) above the ladders, while the other end was used to tie the ladders into knots. The rest of the cloth spilled onto the black velvet, making its way across the black of the floor cloth.