The World Book Fair in Delhi is breaking its all-time record with more than 25% hike in footfall this year. What makes the fair special is its focus on women’s writing. This year’s theme, Manushi, is all about celebrating women authors from around the country, across generations.
With books by women authors like Ismat Chugtai, Avvaiyaar, Mahasweta Devi, Anita Desai, Sarojini Naidu and the likes adorning the shelves, NBT is trying to create conversations about women authors in Indian literature. In this regard, a panel discussion on the topic of “The Idea of Nationalism in Women Writing in India” was conducted at the World Book Fair, yesterday.
Three eminent panellists; professors and literary experts on the topic, joined the conversation with Dr Simi Malhotra. The panellists expressed their views and perspectives about women’s role in the Indian nationalist movement. They delved into the topic of how women were subjugated during the rise of nationalism in India. All the three panellists agreed to the way women were expected to live in the wake of nationalism.
The then ‘modern’ woman was expected to be educated, well read and well aware of the happenings around the world and yet, confined to the four walls of a house. The point resonated with the audience as well, as they agreed with head nods.
The panellists also shared their opinion on today’s women writing in different genres and shifting from the nationalistic theme. They agreed that there is a decline in the number of pieces being written on nationalism. One panellist pointed out that women shouldn’t bear the burden of writing their history entirely as there is hardly any literature which tells us our history from women’s perspective. The panellist said the men should write women’s history as well so as to make up for the undocumented another half of the national history.
Feminism was a recurring topic during the discussion. Relating feminism and nationalism, Prof. Meenakshi Bharat, Professor, Delhi University said, “If you write about nationalism, you are a feminist and if you are a feminist, you can write about nationalism.”
Rabindranath Tagore was referred to at multiple occasions by all the panellists. On being asked about a woman author whose reference can be given in the same vein as Tagore, the panellists did not have a name to go to. Prof. Meenakshi Bharat, said, “It is the new writers one has to take notice of such as Neelam Saran Gour. I find that novel absolutely fantastic, Speaking of 62. She talks about an important event in context of what India is becoming today. She skirts all these women’s issues by taking the eyes of a child, a male child. The gender question, she is throwing out the window”. She added that we definitely need more women authors in India.