The complex woman–man relationship demands mutual care and compassion, but is often sickened by the patriarchal mindset compelling women to live as mere sexualized and commodified bodies. In the twelve stories in this book, Githanjali explores day-to-day issues in a woman’s life, which are generally not talked about or for which society has only a male perspective. The stories depict how women are labelled, isolated and stigmatized; how they are often made to suffer the trauma of being treated as breasts, a vagina, a womb, and a ‘boxing bag’. Like a deft surgeon, Githanjali identifies and separates the malignancies corroding the sociocultural fabric. For their path-breaking themes, these are the stories of resistance, protest and transformation.
Eleven of the twelve stories in this collection are taken from Githanjali’s latest book of short stories in Telugu, titled Husband Stitch: Strila Laingika Vishada Gadhalu (Husband Stitch: Tragic Stories of Women’s Sexuality).
These stories are not easy to read. The worlds they describe are familiar: the family, the neighbourhood, the clinic, public meeting spaces . . . yet each one of them is a veritable minefield for the women who have to traverse them. Githanjali’s gaze is relentless and determined to foreground our endless capacity, as a society, for cruelty towards women and children. It is almost as if the world is entirely loveless and the universe hostile to female existence as such. Whether husbands, fathers or other men, they appear beset with rage against the women in their lives – as if their very being depends on their capacity and ability to humiliate and possess women. This rage is present, it would seem from these stories, across class, caste and religious divides . . . Yet this is not an entirely hopeless world. There is the possibility of redemption, through care and understanding – embodied in the figure of the activist, the kind teacher or counsellor. There is also the unmarked anticipation of a better world through collective and radical struggles against the existing order, though this world too is not free from the authority of egotistical men.
Githanjali’s prose is brisk and sometimes borders on the graphic in its description of lives and places. Recalling the productive yet rhetorical overreach of protests that women’s groups have organized over the decades against violent acts directed at women, it sometimes veers between the melodramatic and the sentimental. Yet the psychological truth that violent acts convey in all their inchoateness is never obscured.
V. GEETHA, Writer
GITHANJALI is the pen name of Dr Bharathi, MS, who by profession is a Doctor, Sexologist and Psychotherapist. Based in Hyderabad and a member of the Revolutionary Writers Association, Telangana State, Githanjali started writing in Telugu around the age of 13 and won the Sri Sri Memorial Award for poetry. Since 1990, she has been writing with a clear Marxist perspective. Her novel, Aame Adavini Jayinchindi (She Conquered the Forest), was published in 1998 and won the Appajosyula-Vishnubhotla Award. Since then, she has stopped taking awards from private and government literary organizations. Her second novel, concerning caste and gender – Pada Mudralu (Foot Impressions) – is still unpublished.
Her first collection of stories in Telugu is Bachedaani (The Uterus) depicting individual and collective problems of women, including reproductive rights, sexual and health issues, sexual and domestic violence. Her second book, Pehechaan (Identity), which has been translated into Hindi, is a collection of 16 stories concerning issues of Muslim women, such as child marriage and trafficking, teenage pregnancies and polygamy. Her third anthology, Palamuru Valasa Bathuku Chithralu (Stories of Migrant Lives from Palamuru), has stories of sufferings and struggles of people who migrated from Palamuru to Kashmir. Her forthcoming novels focus on rape, manual scavenging and Hindu fascism.
Dr K. SUNEETHA RANI Professor at the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad. Her areas of interest include Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, New Literatures in English, Comparative Studies and Translation Studies. She has extensively published research articles in English and translations in English and Telugu. Her latest books are Influence of English on Indian Women Writers: Voices from the Regional Languages (edited) published by Sage-Stree and Identities and Assertions: Dalit Women’s Narratives published by Primus Books.