Saturday, December 2, 2023
HarperCollins is proud to announce the publication of 'The Day I became a Runner' A Women's History of India through the Lens of Sport by Sohini Chattopadhyay
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A Fourth Estate book

Hardback | 360 pp | INR 599

Releasing on 23rd October 2023

"One of the finest works of non-fiction I have read in years."
Ramachandra Guha

NEW DELHI, Sept. 27, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The Day I Became a Runner  starts on a striking premise—that, since running is a solitary activity conducted in the public sphere, women who take up this sport pose a more direct challenge to patriarchy than those who play sports such as badminton, cricket, tennis and so on. To support this thesis, award-winning journalist Sohini Chattopadhyay presents the compelling stories of athletes spanning the entire history of independent India and involving women from a wide range of social and geographical backgrounds. Whether it is Ila Mitra, who could have been the first Indian-origin woman at the 1940 Olympics, or Mary D'Souza, who ran and played hockey for India through the 1950s, Kamaljit Sandhu, the first Indian woman to win an individual gold outside India in Bangkok in 1970, or P.T. Usha, who redefined the 1980s and the decades that followed for women in sport across the country, each of the women in this book is a remarkable figure of post-independence India.

Written with remarkable insight and poignancy, The Day I Became a Runner is an alternative account of the Indian republic chronicled through its women athletes. In that sense, it is a women's history of India.

"I wanted to attempt a story of India through the embodied experiences of women: what it is like to inhabit this nation as a woman citizen. From the start, my ambition was that this would be a history of the republic, a history told through the lens of sport and the lives of women. This is probably why it took me a while to write it—more than eight years, to be precise. I am truly thrilled that  HarperCollins shared this vision with me—that this is a story of India, seen through what is hopefully a fresh lens—and enabled me to bring this book to you."

Sohini Chattopadhyay, Author

"Written with stunning felicity, Sohini Chattopadhyay's The Day I Became a Runner is a brilliant work of narrative non-fiction. This is a history of modern India, seen through the unusual but very insightful lens of women's sports, and it reveals uncanny truths about our society and culture. A book like this comes along only once in a while. We at HarperCollins are hugely excited to be able to bring Sohini's first book to readers under our prestigious Fourth Estate imprint."

Udayan Mitra, Executive Publisher

"The Day I Became a Runner is a spectacular debut, not only because it is an extraordinary narrative, but because it brings so many diverse strands deftly together—history, gender, sports, reportage and personal experience. We publish this important work at a time when conversations around women and sport are becoming increasingly urgent and relevant."

Swati Chopra, Associate Publisher


Sohini Chattopadhyay is a journalist and National Award-winning film critic. Her work has been translated into German, Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam. She is a recipient of the New India Foundation fellowship, and has been bestowed the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award and the Human Rights Press Awards citation, among others. Her writing is archived on her website.


Anjum Hasan says, "With curiosity, sensitivity and agility, Sohini Chattopadhyay creates a sisterhood of Indian runners."

Jairam Ramesh says, "A hobby runner herself, the author weaves together the lives of nine notable Indian women runners to "trace the arc of citizenship in the Indian republic". Each of them has left their imprint on not just our athletic but also our social history—one is now my colleague in Parliament. Their achievements could not have found a better chronicler and analyst. The book is delightfully written, and it has been an education to read it."

Mukul Kesavan says, "The Day I Became a Runner isn't just the best book ever written about Indian women in competitive sport, but it is the best book about India that you're likely to read this year."

Nida Kirmani says, "Sohini Chattopadhyay's The Day I Became a Runner is a beautiful tribute to Indian women in sport. She skilfully interweaves her own  relationship with running with stories of Indian women athletes from the 1940s to the present, demonstrating how women have creatively used professional sports as a way of creating space for themselves in the Indian republic. The Day I Became a Runner is a history of India told through the lives of these incredible, boundary-pushing women. It is also a touching personal story of a woman struggling to connect with her body despite the odds."

Shobhaa DĂ© says, "A searing comment on the harsh realities that women athletes face as they try to make their way in the sporting world. But The Day I Became a Runner is not only about sportswomen, it is about all of us who struggle against stereotypes and the world's expectations of how women should live."

Sonia Faleiro says, "A beautifully written and thoroughly captivating ode to the power of dreams and the pursuit of excellence."

Srinath Raghavan says, :This remarkable and highly readable book braids together the lives of Indian women runners and the history of sport in a deeply gendered society. In so doing, Sohini Chattopadhyay also offers us a subtle and moving account of the meanings of freedom in India since its Independence."

Sumana Roy says, "It is possible that many of us—particularly a generation of women— have willed this book into existence. Sohini Chattopadhyay gives us a history of Indian women in a manner never attempted before, without ever letting go of an opportunity to share a joke."

Nilanjana Roy says, "This is what the 'Big India Book' used to be, only better and more fascinating. Through running, Chattopadhyay traces a map of the country's dreams, fault lines and struggles, of gender, sport and nationhood. A work of incredible research, engrossing and powerful."

Ramachandra Guha says, "I have had the great pleasure of having read, in manuscript form, Sohini Chattopadhyay's wonderful book on women runners in India. Sohini is both a superb reporter and a beautiful writer. While the  motif of struggle and sacrifice runs through the book, each story is moving in its own distinctive way. This is one of the finest works of non-fiction I have read in years."


HarperCollins is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having begun publishing in India in 1992. HarperCollins India publishes some of the finest writers from the Indian subcontinent and around the world, publishing approximately 200 new books every year, with a print and digital catalogue of more than 2,000 titles across 10 imprints. Its authors have won almost every major literary award, including the Man Booker Prize, JCB Prize, DSC Prize, New India Foundation Award, Atta Galatta Prize, Shakti Bhatt Prize, Gourmand Cookbook Award, Publishing Next Award, Tata Literature Live! Award, Gaja Capital Business Book Prize, BICW Award, Sushila Devi Award, Sahitya Akademi Award and Crossword Book Award. HarperCollins India also represents some of the finest publishers in the world, including Harvard University Press, Gallup Press, Oneworld, Bonnier Zaffre, Usborne, Dover and Lonely Planet. HarperCollins India has won the Publisher of the Year Award four times at Tata Literature Live!, in 2022, 2021, 2018 and 2016, and at Publishing Next in 2021 and 2015. HarperCollins India is a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers.





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