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Re-creation or Re-vision? ─ The Changing Face of Indian Women’s Writing

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

–Nora Ephron

In the 20th century, several Indian women writers distinguished themselves in English writing. During that time, women’s writings were considered as a powerful medium of modernism and feminist statements. Most of their writings expressed their condition of being frustrated housewives. They also cherished womanhood in all its silent grace. Their works were deeply rooted in the spirit of the Indian culture and its traditional values.

Today, most of these female novelists are known for their strong views which are deeply reflected in their novels. Basically, the novels are a sign of protest and the outburst of women, a sign of restrictions imposed on them. The last two decades have witnessed phenomenal success in feminist writings of the Indian English literature. Currently, these women writers are financially independent who have been able to receive formal western education. Their novels consist of the issues revolving around the lives and predicament of women, the issues which have been in existence for a long time and still exist in the society at present. These books are thoroughly enjoyed by the masses, and the publishers make easy money out of them. The publishers feel that the literary realm can actually survive when such kinds of issues are raised through writings. However, on the other hand, the commercial aspect of these novels also plays an important role.

These writings describe the whole world of women with an unrestricted approach. Their write-ups give a glimpse of the unexplored female psyche, which has no accessibility. Their novels reflect the idea that women have started to realize that she is not helpless and dependent, but strong enough to bring out a change. The women of modern era think on different lines and that is exactly what is depicted in the novels of the Indian women authors today. Indian women writers explore the feminine subjectivity and sometimes even the trajectory from childhood to womanhood. Through their novels, they spread the message of what actually feminism is, which is indeed broad a concept. These women writers put forth the idea that feminism means putting an end to all the sufferings of woman to ensure equality between men and women.

Besides strong comments about feminism, these books act as a celebration of womanhood. They celebrate the qualities of a woman and her role in the society. These works not only address the issues of women in general, but also glorify the women protagonists who with their immense mental strength not only find a way out of the mess, but also stand as a support system to the men in their lives.

The female characters from epics and history like Sita, Draupadi and many others are recreated in the contemporary works, wherein their splendor and qualities are celebrated. These women characters which lacked the acknowledgment they deserved in the past are now being recognized in a new light. The sacrifices and pains that they underwent for the greater good are being identified and glorified now by the contemporary women novelists. In today’s writings, these women are portrayed as the demi-goddesses as they were in the past, but now they are portrayed as mortal women prone to flaws like the men and like any other mortal being.

The readers get personally acquainted with the characters and get inspired in one way or the other. Sometimes, the readers even acquire lessons to find a way out of their problems. This new way of reproducing events from mythology and history, mixed with personal views leads youth of this generation into a completely new sphere which wasn’t ventured into. For example Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel ‘The Palace of Illusions’ focuses on the life of Draupadi whose character in the Mahabharata (a novel where all the praise and greatness is reserved for men) is portrayed only as an accessory that brought about the Kurukshetra war. However, Banerjee’s Draupadi is a fierce princess, dominating queen and a commanding figure. She represents every modern woman today with a fire in her heart, a sort of yearning to achieve glory and recognition in the society. Similarly, Kavita Kane’s book ‘Sita’s Sister’ focuses on Urmila, Lakshmana’s wife who is hardly recognized in the original work.

These modern perspectives of epics and historical tales provide people with a personal touch of the author, which is exactly what is needed in this contemporary society. These characters are the embodiment of principles, qualities and attitudes that young women of this age possess and must possess. These women characters also personify the freedom of spirit that is prevalent in the women of modern world. The post-colonial women writers have succeeded in bringing out the potential of womanhood be it as a daughter, wife or a mother.

Indian women novelists have given a new dimension to Indian literature. Women novelists have incorporated the recurring female experiences in their writings, which have affected the cultural and language patterns of Indian literature. As quoted above, these women are ready to put forward their problems and emotions to bring about a change in the way women are viewed by the predominant male society in India. Hopefully, the readers of the current generation will also get a glimpse of equality of sexes through the present women writings, so that the fight that has been started years ago doesn’t become futile.

Picture Courtesy– gurgaonmoms.com



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