A Different Destiny In Writing
Giving a voice to questions that have been troubling women for generations are women writers and littérateurs who, through their descriptive prose and...
Giving a voice to questions that have been troubling women for generations are women writers and littérateurs who, through their descriptive prose and poetry, are not afraid to speak out, question and comment on their collective fate. Abha Sharma In all ancient Hindu texts and scriptures, girls and women have been put on the highest pedestal. The reality is in sharp contrast to the glorious treatment they have been accorded to in theory. From the story of Lord Ram's wife Sita's exile to prove her 'purity' to Draupadi's humiliating cheerharan (stripping) described in the epic Mahabharata to the woman of today who is bearing the burden of traditional society that does not allow her to live life on her own terms, it seems as if a woman's destiny has remained unchanged over the ages. Can't women resist, protest and assert their personalities? Do they not have a right to question the decisions that are taken on their behalf? Giving a voice to just some of these questions that have been troubling women for generations are women writers and littérateurs who, through their descriptive prose and poetry, are not afraid to speak out, question and comment on their collective fate. In fact, at this year's Jaipur Literature Festival, considered to be one of Asia's most illustrious literary meets, 40 women writers had come together to share sentiments and feelings of women around the world. While the battle for women's empowerment, liberation and equality is being fought everywhere, even the most spirited and questioning new woman, at times, finds herself constrained by either social caveats or conditioning. Yet, women do not protest. Probably because from childhood they are conditioned to exist just to satisfy men. "Women are not born, they are constructed and it is engraved in their bone marrow not to question anything," feels Lata Sharma, noted Rajasthani writer. According to her, they need to seize their rights from society, which has conditioned everyone, including them, to accept the status quo of women being inferior toA The prevalence of such an attitude has also affected the way women writers express themselves. Most fail to write about their lives and end up talking more about the people in their lives. It should not happen. But it does, as all women are hardwired not to think beyond their loved ones. For them, family comes first. There are not many who can articulate as fearlessly and frankly as the late feminist author, Dr Prabha Khaitan has done in her autobiography, 'Anya Se Ananya', or if we go back further in time, then Amrita Pritam's 'Rasidi Ticket' fits the bill. Noted writer Ira Pande � who has translated Khaitan's autobiography into English, 'A Life Apart', which was released earlier this year � feels that the social activist and poet has revealed a lot about her life "with disturbing honesty". Recalling an incident from the translated version where Khaitan confides to her 'dai maa' (nurse) of her love for a married man, she very bravely admits that she hurt 'dai maa' badly. Pande admits that not many women writers could do it, including her own mother, celebrated Hindi novelist, Gaur Pant Shivani. "My mother had written her autobiography but she too did not mention some incidents of her life," says Pande. But both Urvarshi Butalia and Namita Gokhale, well-known writers in their own right, believe that testimonial literature has great power to break new ground and open up spaces in women's narratives. Lakshmi Holmstrom, who has worked exclusively with Tamil women writers, too, is quite optimistic about the future of women's writings and their commitment towards documenting the larger realities of their sex. Her latest translation is an anthology of poetry, 'Wild Girls, Wicked Words' by four Tamil women writers. She feels good times are ahead since the works of women authors are all set to reach a wider audience now. So what should women do in search of a just and equitable society? While it is certain that they will need to strive hard to secure their rights, it is also quite clear that those who have influence and are successful will need to look out for the welfare of their less fortunate sisters. Homstrom strongly feels that women should have the freedom to speak up and that it is teachers who can make the future generations capable enough to express themselves right from when they are in school. Writer Nirupama Dutt's Punjabi poem, 'Buri Aurat', based on a reunion of friends, shines a torch on the society's perception of women as well as the courage they have to write their own destiny. She writes: Tussi mere shahar aaoge/E buraiyan auratan di pheharist wich/Mera nam darz paoge�/Mere kol jo sab kuch hai jo ek/Buri aurat kol hona bahut/Lajmi hai.../Munh bich baldi aag hai, dil/Dhadkata hai, hathan vich chhalkada/Jam hai, mera kheldadi hansi bada/Badnam hai�/Peran thalle sadak hain, upar khulla aasman hai/Mere kol sehen da housla hai/Mere kol kehne da saman hai...(If you come to my city you will find my name in the list of women with vices� I have everything which a woman not considered virtuous is supposed to have� I can fire salvos with my tongue, have a beating heart, have a brimming glass in my hands, my boisterous laughs have earned me a bad name� I have firm ground beneath my feet, the open skies above, I have the courage to bear; I have a lot to say...)