'Women's writings break stereotypes'

'Women's writings break stereotypes'

Renowned Indo-Anglian novelist Shashi Deshpande goes down memory lane

Images of women first came up in the writings of men. It portrayed the idea a man had about a woman.

It was when women started writing, the stereotypes broke as women knew what they were and wrote what she was, said renowned Indo-Anglian Novelist Shashi Deshpande after inaugurating the national seminar “Emerging images of woman in Indian fiction in English and in translations from regional languages,” organised at Besant Women’s College in Mangalore on Friday.

It was with women’s literature, the truth about the woman was portrayed. This was something that literature lacked earlier. It is not that women have changed, but society that has changed. 

Speaking about her mother, she said that her mother saw the maximum change as she saw the 20th as well as the 21st century. In first half of her life, she saw the struggle for freedom and in the second half, she saw urbanisation, nuclear family set-up, better health facilities, globalisation and various other developments.

“My grandfather was very particular about the education of my mother. My mother was highly educated for her time and not married like her peers. This troubled her as she had a desire to marry and take care of a family. However, later in life when she saw ambitious women, she became bitter as she felt she had not achieved anything. She was an intelligent woman caught between the images the society had set for a woman and the real-ambitious self she was,” said Deshpande.

Roles give rise to images and images are nothing but social creations. “I was very disappointed with some of the great writers like Tagore as they defined roles for women. Tagore portrayed women as a caring mother, feeding a man and always taking care of a man. However, I realised that a woman does not change overnight after she becomes a mother. Images are nothing but generalisations,” she said.

“It was my problem with stereotypes that made me a writer. The confusion and turmoil around me made me write,” she said and added that creative literature is a dynamic living thing. “To a writer, each character is a living person. To see all women in a woman is an endeavor for the author within me,” concluded Deshpande.

“At last women have been found worthy of academic analysis. This is the result of the long desired change in social conditions,” said Women’s National Education Society Secretary Professor P P Gomathi.

She also asked men to cooperate with women and help her find her place. Man and woman should walk hand in hand and man should give space to woman as his equal, she said.

CIEFL School of Critical Humanities Professor and Coordinator Dr Susie Tharur spoke on how images are created in her key note address. She showed a set of photographs exhibited in an expo re-created by Pushpamala and Claire Arn.

The photographs showed different depictions of women starting from the classic representation of Ravi Varma’s Lakshmi. “Ravi Varma defined what an ideal Indian woman was.

He contributed immensely to the pool of imagery,” she said. She later showed photograph of a circus woman, two ladies caught in a theft case and the portrait of Our Lady of Velankanni.

She then questioned the audience if these Indian women fit in the frame work of the ideal Indian woman in their mind.

She also pointed out that every day, when one grooms one self in front of the mirror, she tries to re-create the images the society has set for her. It is basically the composition of images around the person, she said and added that we live in a world totally saturated with images.

Two technical sessions, “Indian women novelists and the construction of women’s identity” and “Indian men writing in English and women’s issues,” were held. On Saturday, sessions on “The subaltern woman in Indian novels” and “Representing woman in India-Politics, society and writing” will be held. 

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