Monday, May 26, 2008

( The sculpture of ARDHANARISHWAR at Khajuraho Temple,India)


There is a misconception among Indian feminists that in ancient days , the women were observing their fundamental rights including the right over their own body and mind ।The mythical characters like Kunti,Madri,Mandodari,Draupadi are often referred for their polygamist activities .But are they truly adopted polygamy for their own will ? Vyasa’s Mahabharata tells us about the strange traditions of ‘niyoga’ in which a woman was allowed to have sexual meetings for bearing of offsprings. This custom was allowed because in Hindu beliefs a son is the most needed for a man. He could not go to heaven unless he would have a progeny .That is why Ambika and Ambalika were forced to have intercourse with their brother in law Vyas .Pandu, the husband of Kunti was a strange psychic person.He was an impotant and his sexual frustration made him to marry two wives Kunti and Madri and perhaps this sexual frustration revealed by the story of Pandu later killing the two deer engaged in coitus – an action that was condemned for all. To raise offspringshe forced his two wives to have offsprings from different gods .
In Mahabharat neither any of female characters had chosen her lifemate by their own will. Satyavati did not choose Shantanu as a husband, nor did her daughters-in-law, Ambika and Ambalika. Gandhari was forced into marrying Dhritarashtra. Madri again did not become Pandu’s wife on her own choice. Draupadi was won through a contest of skill and might – she did not personally pick out and chose Arjuna in her svayamvara. Uttara was offered to Arjuna as a wife, but he accepted her as his daughter-in-law, more on moral grounds than any other, a choice which could very well have been against Uttara’s desire, though the epic contains no echoes of her feelings against the choice. That is five generations of daughters-in-law coming to the Bharata family as queens.
On the other hands, despite of having a wife like Draupadi, the other heroes like Arjuna and Bhima got married Subhadra,Chitrangada,Hidimba but they never enjoyed the position of an official wife .
Kunti was forced to begot her three children from different sperm donor gods, but never any day she could claim Karna , to whom she begot from the sun god Surya with her own wish , before her marriage .It is told , though Draupadi had five husbands , but still she had infatuations towards Lord Krishna and and karma , the so called illegitimate brothers of Pandavas. But never any day she could express her love to those persons.
All these myths show us how patriarchal our great epic Mahabharata is.In Ramayana, where woman sensibilities were categorically denied, we found the sad controversial saga of Ahalya .She was the wife of the great sage Goutam. Enamoured by her astounding beauty, Indra, lord of the gods, disguised himself as Gautama and approached Ahalya. During the middle of her sexual meeting , Ahalya could recognize the disguised Indra due to his sexual behaviour at the meetings , but Ahalya did not want to disturb her sexual bliss and played along and granted him sexual favours for which later she was punished and cursed her to become a stone .

Never our epics any time had shown any sympathy about the sexual rights of women and always they are used for bearing of offspring, but it is a strange irony that masculine sexuality was not always used by them to raise children. Till then the masculine sexuality has been enjoying freedom over female sexuality. When a male writer writes about his sexual desire, passions or describes how many women he had craved, the topic does not bring into question of his moral integrity because male writers are not only sanctioned to talk about sexuality When Salman Rushdie enjoyed his fifth love , nobody points out on his morality, but when Kamala Das became Kamala Surraiyah , the Indian society took it as very social offence ..
Let us again return to our mythological values. Kunti was suffered a lot for her illegitimate son Karna, but .no one blamed so far the sperm donor god Surya for this happenings .Draupadi was insulted in the court of Kauravas , for having five husbands at a time .No body blamed Pandavas for marrying a woman jointly .They were even praised for obeying mother’s words , which were spoken inadvertently .Sex has different impact with gender variation. But in India, anything related to gender and sexuality in general is regarded as a forbidden topic. I have never read till now any comparison between male and female sexuality in Indian languages .The penis is well suited for this role; projecting free from the body, but vagina is itself an inner part of the body constitutes a hidden mystic concern always for boys as well as for girls also. A girl is considered as a minor until she has her first menstruation), but once she has it, she becomes an adult These appropriation of social values are not prevailing with a boy Still after his puberty ,he is considered as a minor and there is no firm rule or criteria when a boy should be considered as an adult. It is not shameful for a male to look at the body of a female with sensuous eyes; on the contrary, it is the female who bears the shame when a male looks at her. If a young male expresses his sensual pleasure to his peers in such a situation, they would share his pleasure. But if a girl expresses pleasure at seeing a male's physical features, her girl friends would criticize her for being shameless. When a teen couple are found in a love affairs and if a society has to condemn it, then the boy always gets excuse for his adolescence mind and the girl is blamed for trapping the boy. Thus the love plays a different role for masculine and feminine world .Once Simone wrote : “Man's love is of man's life a thing apart, 'This woman's whole existence”.Sex is more related to emotion in case of female where in masculine case it does not always related to any psychological bondage . but this bondage in love is more important for women than it is for men, because men grow up with a sense of identity that exceeds the boundaries of family life and burst out with the recognition of the vast world outside, the taste or freedom, and the exploration of sexuality. Whereas women are raised within the confinement of their homes and from their child hood it is taught to them that they have to be physically appealing in order to attract men, and finding a man to build a family around is their main mission in a woman’s life.
I am not arguing against any love between two sexes .Unlike to Simone , I always feel that women are ‘other’ than male with their biological , social and psychological differences. They have complete different sensibilities and different emotional spheres But, my point is this patriarchal society always tries to reject women’s sensibility towards love The patriarchal concept of love between a man and woman actually means, how it is politicized, how it is socially and culturally manipulated with masculine view which is constructed by the idea how to love a man, and how to care for him not only by our instinct, but by the socially expected gender roles. A woman may totally love a man, and refuse to cook for him, but it would not be acceptable behaviour for a 'woman in love' according to our cultural codes. Social needs to sustain families on specifically prescribed gender roles also instruct us on how to love a man. There is a hidden code to exploit women in the whole cultural and social scheme of romantic love, mostly because the concept of romantic love has been authored by men, and is based on men's fractured understanding of women as primarily sexual objects. The patriarchal concept always denies the individuality of a woman as a human being.
For me love is a total submission from two sides irrespective of any gender role .In this context, I want to again bring Simone as my example . The sex relation between Sartre and Simone was cool enough (see Simone’s letter to Algren) , and they had developed a relationship between Sartre,Simone and Sartre’s student Olga Kosakiewicz .Simone had her own bisexual relations and so as Sartre has many heterosexual relations and nobody showed their hostility with these relationship.Despite her relationship with Sartre , she had a love affair with American novelist Nelson Algren ,Still they both maintained there relationship till Sartre’s death .Marxism was not a matter of faith or trust for Simone , it was a compulsion made by Sartre only.Without related to ‘root’ of the theory in her heart,we found Simone was moving in the communes or in the Arab Lands with Sartre ,the ‘last Sartre’ brought a more confusion to the readers . On Monday. 19th July '48, Simone wrote to Algren. in her letter:
“If I could give up my life with Sartre I would be a dirty creature a treacherous and selfish woman... it is not by lack of love that I don't stay with you...Sartre needs me. In fact, he is very lonely, very tormented inside himself and I am his only true friend, I could not desert is not possible to love more than I love you, flesh and heart and soul, but Sartre needs me.”
.Like anger, fear, hatred, humour, love is also an emotion. This emotion, however, is different from other emotions because material elements like marriage, childbirth, divorce, dating, etc., build up upon this emotion to give a person's life a definite direction and shape. Love is the only emotion that channels itself into paving a path for our life. It is an integral complementarity of men and women, rather than the superiority of men over women or women over men. It is the sharing ness of emotions and of life. I think that it's more important to be a complete human being than a writer, or a feminist or any other label one may be known by but I also realize the reciprocal nature of living and writing. I believe that living gives you material (pleasure, pain, angst, loneliness, joy and what not) for writing while writing helps you interpret your existence in a meaningful way. I live, I write, I grow and live some more and write some more and hopefully grow some more )...That's my theory!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Painting of forceful disrobing of Indian mythical character Draupadi

by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)
Source : Wikipedia

It is risky for a woman to deal

with Female Sexuality in India

“You are known for pushing the envelope, openly discussing female sexuality in your stories and novels in a way that hadn't been done before . Isn't that risky?”

This was the last question of Linda Lowen, the
well-known feminist media person of America, to me in her interview for “The New York Times” owned portal

In India most of the female writers either quit writing or make them more adjustable to male dominated values, after their marriage। You find shyness in their voice while relating the truth and exposing their innerself।Even their weaknesses or love relations are also not expressed clearly in fear of social scandal of their character। A typical womanish shyness prevents them to write their actual feelings towards sex and love।This is not only due to any restriction imposed by their family, but many times we find that an idea of being a good girl pursues them to hide their own feelings and experience

In “The Second Sex”, Simone also discusses three particular inauthentic attitudes of women in which they hide their freedom in: "The Narcissist," "The Woman in Love," and "The Mystic." In all three of these attitudes, women deny the original thrust of their freedom by submerging it into the object; in the case of the first, the object is herself, the second, her beloved and the third, the absolute or God.The patriarchy society also tries to incorporates multiple myths of woman in her mind (such as the myth of the mother, the virgin, the motherland, nature, etc.) and attempts to trap woman into an impossible ideal by denying the individuality and situation of all different kinds of women.
In India the ‘chastity’ means a lot for a woman and it is always demanded that a female should keep her ‘chastity’ pure and perfect. (It is another issue that nobody asks a man for the purity and perfection of his chastity). In case of poetry, one can hide herself with mystic metaphor or myth, but in fiction, one has to open herself completely. So, it is difficult for a woman to write any fictions sincerely hiding her experiences and reactions.

Kuntala Kumari Sabat (1900-1938) was remembered in Oriya Literature for mystic strain and reformative zeal in her romantic poetry . Before marriage she developed an extra marital affairs with a fatherly person Dr.Kailash Chandra Rao and after her marriage to Krushna Prasad Das alias Brahmachari, she shifted to Delhi .Her pre or post marital life were not so peaceful and her life was dangling between love, sex , oppression and harassment by male dominated mentality of feudal India .But we never find any sexual agony or her own saga .of life in her poems rather than a coated version of mysticism in the form of Sufi ideology

In the June 1998 issue of Harper's Magazine Francine Prose wrote an essay "Scent of a Woman's Ink: Are Women Writers Really Inferior?” She expressed her agony for neglecting female writers by insisting that despite the sales success of middlebrow "women's fiction" -- as epitomized by Oprah Winfrey's hugely successful television book club -- women writers of "serious literary fiction" can't get no respect. Not, at least, from "the more cerebral book-review pages and the literary prizes."
Prose has revived the debate by asking whether women writers are really more prone to "diminutive fictions, which take place mostly in interiors, about little families with little problems," and are they really more inclined toward a soft, self-absorbed emotionality or not . Actually, Prose maintains, male writers do all of that, just as women produce works that are "fiercely unsentimental, sharply observed, immensely ambitious and inclusive."
In reviewing my anthology of short stories once Jatindra Kumar Nayak , an Oriya critic wrote : (my) stories are as “a labyrinth.of the emotional lives of woman” Readers -- and especially critics -- are the ones who persist in seeing a fiction as inevitably colored by its author's gender, and the male critics always think that the domestic issues, love -- are of less consequence then the depth of thought produced by male writers? In short, it is a big question now , who will determine the difference in importance between a woman's inner or outer life and a man's? The answer, until recently at least, has been men.
Uma Parmeswaran once wrote an article on Kamala Mrakandeya at Sawnet , where she described that Salman Rushdie in his novels Shame and The Satanic Verses raised the issues of race riots in Britain .But before 20 years of Rushdie , Kamala Markendeya talked not only about the violence of racism but also about other diasporic realities - educational degrees that are not given accreditation, the resistance of immigrants to the expectations of the »host« culture, chasms of communication between generations, cultural values and needless cultural baggage. But the male dominated literary criticism placed Rushdie as a pioneer of diasporic struggle.
In India, a female writer is always considered as an inferior writer in comparison to male .(In any office or educational centers where male and female employees work together, you can easily notice a male subordinate never makes any ‘wish’ or ‘good morning ‘ to his female superior boss) The traditional readers have tendency to find out the hidden love affairs that have been hiding beyond a fiction of a woman writer. Till now , their mind is not prepare to accept a woman as a thinker or as a philosopher , whereas in Vedic period there were female philosophers like Madalsa,Gargi and Maitryi.
There were some interesting happenings with my story writings.Gambhiri Ghara (The Dark Abode), the most controversial novel of mine was first written in a story form and it was written for a special issue of an Oriya periodicals. Before the publication of the short story it was rejected and I was asked to submit another story in place of The Dark Abode.While inquiring the reason of the rejection of my story, I was told that the editor would talk to my husband.This comment of the chief editor made me irritated and I asked the chief editor whether my husband has an authority over my writer self ?The patriarchy idea of the chief editor made me to transform the short story to a novel.
Once I was also insulted and forced to beg apology for writing the story Jalhad (The Butcher) by the staff council of my college। It was about the rape story where the victim was an infant, the girl child of a working woman. .It was also a story of harassment faced by a working woman from the masculine sphere around her .The story was also about the imbalanced situation of a working woman who finds herself dangling between home and working place ,But the story was asserted as an obscene one and a petition was moved to remove me from my service of lectureship from the college .

And at last my answer to Linda was:

:”Yes, it is risky for a woman writer to deal with these themes in an Eastern country, and for that I face much criticism। But still I believe someone has to bear this risk to accurately portray women's feelings - the intricate mental agony and complexity which a man can never feel - and these must be discussed through our fiction।”