Through the lens of a Feminist: The Hindi Sahitya Utsav, Delhi 2017.
It was a pleasure attending the Hindi Sahitya Utsav on the 19th of March. We celebrated the beauty of Hindi Literature, the entire day with very interesting sessions that ranged from discussing languages to transforming nature of love in today’s world. Particularly “Apni Chuni Raahein – kya maksad kya haasil” did catch my attention.
Urvashi Bhutalia, Matreyi Pushpa, Vidya Shah and Piyush Mishra were the panellists of the session that explored their career choices. They spoke about their struggle and the factors that led to their choices; how circumstances played a deciding factor shaping their life the way it is today. According to the only man in the panel, Piyush expressed that his drive to be content was through music, singing, writing poetry and acting. The others claimed that being a woman was just reason enough to have chosen their career paths.
The discussions that followed, were strung with a common thread, Women Empowerment. “Women in the world of Literature” session dealt with the literature written about and by women that had lent a voice to the suppressed during various phases of life, throughout our history. The reality of a woman’s life is defined by and expressed by men. I’m amazed by authors like the Bronte sisters and George Eliot who had expressed themselves from behind the veil of a pseudonym. Not only in English Literature but also in the Indian context, Ismat Chugtai was sharply criticised for showing the society, a mirror. Virginia Woolf wrote, “For most of history, anonymous was a woman”.
Urvashi Bhutalia who owns her publication house “Kali for Woman”, echoed Woolf’s emotions. She has vowed to bring out the women’s voices from the margin of the society to its very centre. She feels that women have been described in too little words in literature, which anyway is written from a man’s perspective. A woman, strong as she is, can find her own voice and express her own views, emotions and respond to the challenges her own way. She is capable and does not require the other gender’s perspective.
Matreyi had given up her passion for writing after she got married. It took her a long time as the mother in her and the wife that she was, finally shook hands with the writer at the age of forty-five. As Woolf rightly said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”, could a wedding take away from a woman, her pride, freedom and autonomy? While both get married and become parents, the mother, however, unwilling she might be is given to accept the responsibility of raising the child. She could write after years after she made sure, she fulfilled her other roles that were made to define her. She got her much needed space to write, after that.
Urvashi continued, “Patriarchy has been established as a synonym for families. The common perception that pervades is that a feminist wrecks a family. Feminism is the most inclusive movement. Women are easily blamed.” Our homes are the microcosm of the society at large, exhibiting patriarchy which isn’t only restricted to men but a section of the women who’ve given in to it. They require being reassured that “feminism” does not break families; ill treatment towards one gender does. Much reassuring is Steinem saying, “A feminist is anyone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
Mrs Poonam Jamwal,is the the Founder and Vice-Chairperson of the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust . This trust has been named after Late Group Captain Randhir Singh, who was a famous poet in the regional language of Dogri. Understanding the consequences of the Dogri language losing its touch in contemporary times, this Trust has been set up to promote arts and literature in the field of Dogri language and supports upcoming artists in several ways. In her speech, she focused on the role of Hindi language and women in society. She also laid emphasis on the sad truth that Hindi, today is losing its identity and being engulfed by the dichotomy of Hinglish vocabulary which has become the ‘latest trend’ among the youth.
Ayushman Jamwal, a journalist working with News18 and the author of a popular book “Chameleon Lights” is inspired by his grandfather Group-Captain Randhir Singh. Randhir Singh’s views were much ahead of his times, claims Ayushman. “He was a man who lived in an orthodox Dogri village but dared to step out of the conventions. The idea of love and family was beyond all the rigid norms of the society for him. He was one of the few men who took pride in having three daughters even when the world around him believed that daughters were nothing more than a burden.” He even recited a verse from his grandfather’s collection which goes as follows:
“Aurat jaat to qaid padi hai har ghar key andar,
Yeh haalat ab nahi rahegi boht dair tak par.
Jis ghar mein veh qaidi banti Hoti vahan parlay,
Jis ghar rehti devi ban kar bas basta veh ghar”
Which can be translated as, “Women have been caged for a long time within their homes, and this situation would not continue any longer. There can only be devastation where she remains shackled. Peace and harmony in a house can be attained only if she gets her due respect”. These lines clearly expressed how much faith he had in a better and empowered future for women.
Saurabh Dwivedi, author at the ‘Lallantop’ website shared about his life that he equally partakes in the responsibilities of the daily chores at home. He proudly accepts that he is the one who cooks the meals at their home because his wife doesn’t enjoy cooking. “My wife’s femininity or my masculinity is not affected if we exchange the roles at home assigned by the society.”
Restrictions in the name of “gender roles” is far from allowing equality and the way it is perceived by the society, in general, makes it worse. The woman neither is bound by her gender to cook at home nor to raise her children. It is a choice she needs to make.
The sad truth that continues even in this century is, “The destiny that society traditionally offers women is marriage. Marriage is the reference by which the single women is defined, whether she is frustrated by, disgusted at, or even indifferent to this institution.” (Beauvoir, The Second Sex). Even the holy scriptures have not accepted this equality. They have also been written by the men and for the men. For instance, the epic Mahabharata has also blamed women for being the cause of all the devastation of the family. Ramayana has also been unforgiving towards a woman who was abducted by a man and abandoned in the end by her own husband. So the woman does not attain equality within the home or even outside her domestic boundaries.
Post by Akriti Rohiwal (Indira Gandhi National Open University, MA Department of English).