Sathyavathi’s stories explore the lives of a vast swathe of women – middle-class women yearning for economic independence, space and identity; women affected by migration, whether from rural areas to cities or from a metropolis to some dream world in the USA; young women fleeing from rural agricultural crises to become housemaids, wage labourers and construction workers in towns and, at the same time, tempted by the glitz of cell phones, beauty aids, scooter rides, expensive clothes and food in upmarket restaurants. Often, women from these several categories populate one story and the reader gets a glimpse of the commonality of women’s condition across race, class and caste. Mirroring the effects of globalization and cataclysmic changes in moral values and social behaviour – leading to devaluation of women – Sathyavathi brings the reader face to face with daily lived experiences in a narrative that is neither rhetorical nor verbose.
Sathyavathi’s stories are powerful, deeply sensitive and widely varied in their themes, most of her writings concern women – women’s lives and living, their dreams and disappointments, their losses and achievements. There is a constant search of truth in the present moment in her stories. Sathyavathi is anxious but not pessimistic, and uses a variety of techniques, sometimes satire, sometimes allegory, apart from direct storytelling, to aspire for a better world. Sathyavathi’s powerful pen deserves serious recognition in India and abroad.
NABANEETA DEV SEN, Writer and academic
Sathyavathi’s stories depict the social and psychological oppression of Indian women and reveal the hidden agenda of patriarchy to force women to submit themselves to its ideology . . . ignoring issues of their freedom, health and choice. Sathyavathi’s stories diagnose the symptoms of this incurable disease. She observes and empathizes with the struggles and complexities of the less privileged just as a close friend would.
M.M. VINODINI, Writer, critic, activist and academic
Over the years, women writers have delivered more than a ‘placebo’ effect with their words, even if they haven’t eradicated all the societal ills that plague women.
P. SATHYAVATHI became well known with her prize-winning story ‘Glasu Pagilindi’ in 1977. Illalakagaane (Quest for Identity), a volume of stories, won her the Chaso award and established her as a leading feminist writer in Telugu. Later, she received the Rangavalli award and Telugu University award, among many other prestigious awards. With four novels, five anthologies of short stories and a volume of essays to her credit, she ran a regular column on the early women writers in Bhumika. She has translated into Telugu, to much acclaim, Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, Ismat Chugtai’s stories, A. Revathi’s The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story and Y.B. Satyanarayana’s My Father Baliah; and is now translating Paula Richman’s Many Ramayanas into Telugu. After retiring as an English lecturer she now lives in Vijayawada. She is presently co-editing an anthology of contemporary Telugu women writers’ stories translated into English and to be published by the Sahitya Akademi.