Indian Women Writers in English Literature

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      Gender plays an important role in the life of a human being. In a country like India, the role of a man and women is being defined clearly, and most of the time people are naturally taught to follow a strict code of behavior that differs depending on sexes. Thus men and women are forced to experience life only from their point of view as men or women. Art is said to be a reflection of life.

Today, the works of Kamla Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, Anita Desai, Geetha Hariharan, Shashi Deshpande, Kiran Desai and Manju Kapur and many more have left an indelible imprint on the readers of Indian fiction in English.
Indian English Writers

      Gender plays an important role in the life of a human being. In a country like India, the role of a man and women is being defined clearly, and most of the time people are naturally taught to follow a strict code of behavior that differs depending on sexes. Thus men and women are forced to experience life only from their point of view as men or women. Art is said to be a reflection of life.

      When the life of a man is being reflected in his work of art, a Woman's experiences and suffering can be brought out in words accurately only by a women. Men who write from female perspectives bring forth life only from a man s view. In patriarchal societies, men define strict roles and rules for women in their works of art. Women represent almost half of the total population of our country. No schemes whether in the field of economic development and social development can be successful unless women play their constructive role in such programs.

      In spite of the social imbalances existing in the society, there has been considerable improvement in their social status. The status of women in India has seen many ups and downs. In the Vedic period, they were worshipped as goddess. During the Muslim age and British regime, they were looked down upon as slaves of slaves. Since independence, the wave goes in favor of women. Today the fact cannot be denied regarding the progress of women in social legislation, in the field of education health and economy. One can witness women is almost all spheres of life.

Early Women Writings

      Abithana Chintamani, the first encyclopedia on Tamil literature states that the Awaiyar was the little of more than one female poet who was active during different periods of Tamil literature. Among them Awaiyar I lived during the Sangam period ie during the 1st and 2nd century; and had cordial relation with Tamil chieftains Paari and Athiyaman. She wrote 59 poems in the purananuru. Awaiyar 2nd lived during the period of Kambar and ottakuttar during the reign of Chola dynasty in the 13th century. She wrote many of the poems that remain very popular even now and are inculcated in school textbooks in Tamil Nadu. Her quote "Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Uiagalavu" has been translated as "What you have learned is a mere handful; What you haven't learned is the size of the world" and exhibited at NASA. It is to be noted that the term Awaiyar means respected old women or grandmother even though her real name is not known. Novels by women writers before independence include Raj Lakshmi Debi s The Hindu Wife, or The Enchanted Fruit (1876) and Krupabai Sathianandhan Kamala, A Story of Hindu Life (1894) and Saguna, A Story of Native Christian Life (1895). Ghoshal translation of the Bengali novel, An Unfinished Song (1913) and The Fatal Garland (1915). Tales of Bengal (1922) The Cage of Gold (1923) and The Garden Creeper (1931) are Bengali novels by Santa and Sita Chatterjee which were later translated in to English.

Women Fiction Writers

      Today fiction by women writers contributes a major segment of the contemporary Indian writing in English. It provides insights, a wealth of understanding, reservoirs of meaning and a basis of discussion. The world is being seen in a new dimension through the eyes of women fiction writers. The confrontation between the east and the west, the strange love hate relationships cultural alienation and loss of identity faced by expatriates and immigrants are some of the aspects that are presented with a deep insight by writers like Kamala Markandeya, Ruth Prawar Jhabvala, Anita Desai and Nayantara Sahgal. Kamala Markandeyas the Nowhere Man explores the evil and ugly nature of racial prejudice. The novel is an angry protest against the global problem of racial hatred. In the novel, Srinivas with his wife Vasanta, migrates to England where he sets up a home.

      In spite of his best efforts to adopt the country of his choice as his own, he is treated as an alien. Another celebrated and prolific living novelist who has thrashed with the theme of alienation in a systematic way is Anitha Desai. She was born on 24th June in 1937 of a German mother and a Bengali father, a business man. She began to write short stories at the tender age of 9. As a novelist, Desai made her debut in 1963. Cry the peacock (1963) Voices in the city (1965) Bye-Bye Blackbird (1971), The peacock Garden (1974), Where shall we go this Summer (1975) Fire on the Mountain (1977), Games at Twilight and other stories (1978), Clear light of day (1980), Village by the sea (1982), In Custody (1984) Baumgartners Bombay (1989). Journey to Ithaca (1996) Fasting Feasting (1999), Diamond Dust (2000) are her works through which she expressed her world. Writing to her is an intellectual exercise.

      In her first novel Cry the peacock she portrays the tale of a young sensitive girl named Maya who longs for love, care and understanding. The gap between the wife Maya and her husband Gautama is the central theme of the novel.

      Baumgartner's Bombay; the tenth novel of Anita Desai is considered as the darkest novel. In this novel the author pursues the solitary life of Hugo Baumgartner as the flees of Nazi Germany who tries to find a home in a politically torn India struggling to carry on after British rule. As the author of Baumgartners Bombay was born of a German mother, the congenial aesthetic environment at home contributed a great ideal to fertilize her creativei magination and her grass root level experiences helped in consolidating the maturity of her vision. Among the Indian novelists Cornelia Sorabji, Iqbalunnisa Hussain, R. P. Jhabvala, Anitha Desai, Rama Mehta, Shashi Deshpande, Shobba De, Kamala Das, Mahasweta devi and Arundhathi Roy are primarily concerned in their novels with the psychological crises in the lives of Indian women who are subjected to physical and psychological torture in a male dominated society. (Sree 21) In the novels of these women writers the inner mind of the Indian women is being studied from their outlook perspective.

      These writers dive deep in to the inner mind of the women and bring to light the issues faced by a women in a male dominated society governed by rigid traditions and restrictions. Women Play Writers Drama, a challenging literacy creation, is cleverly handled by women writers like Manjula Padmanabhan, Dina Mehta and Mahasweta Devi. Manjula Padmanabhans pioneering play Harvest is a futuristic play about the sale of body parts and exploitative relationships between developed and developing countries. It won the first price in Onassis International Cultural Competition. Dina Mehta s play Brides are not for Burning bring out the post-colonial issues related to the existence of women in the country. The play was highly acclaimed that it won an International award from the B. B. C. Mahasweta Devi, the playwright belonging to Bengal deals with social issues throughout her works. Most of her themes center around the untouchable deprived of their basic rights. Aajir and Water are her notable plays that deals with oppression and inhumanity. Feminist theater is the process of women s awareness and empowerment. The contribution of women playwrights have always something distinct to offer to the audience.

Women as Poets

      Toru Dutt and Sarojini Naidu are the pioneers of Indian poetry in English. The Quest for identifying loneliness and alienation are the major themes of their poetry. In the poems of modern Indian poets such as Monika Varma, Kamala Das, Suniti Namjoshi, Roshea Alkazi, Gauri Deshpande, Mamta Kalia search for identity and struggle for new identity finds a prominent place. Other themes such as social discrimination male oppression, self-realization and consequent evolution of consciousness are the other themes in their writings.

      The prevalence of differences in the literary works of men and women is a topic for much further research. However, the success of women writings is highly acclaimed that it has won international recognition breaking the barriers of Gender, Race and Region. The imbalance between women writing in poetry prose and Drama still exists. Indian women novelist are progressing leaps and bounds. But poetry and drama still await to be treated with the profound and rich dynamic dimension from a women's perspective.

Contribution of Women Writer in Indian English Literature

       The first major women writer is Kamala Markandaya who is an immigrant writer, her ten novels present remarkable range of characters from poor peasant women in Nectar in Sieve, through the urban poor of A Handful of Rice to the higher class in The Golden honey comb. The conflict between tradition and modernity, East and West runs through all of her novels. She also throws light on how the development is amounting to a kind of neo-colonialism and racial prejudice, of which she has first-hand experience, against, Indian emigrants in Britain. The next major woman writer is Nayantara Sahagal. Her novels reveal a close acquaintance with the political elite, major political and national events which form the background to each her eight novels.

      Her novels present the life of the richest sections of Indian society, their hypocrisy and shallow values. At the same time she is concerned with the Indian heritage and its value for the educated Indian. A Time to Happy articulates the problem of identity faced by the English-educated elite and exploration of the fate of women within domestic sphere. Her later novels Rich Like us, Plans for Departure, and Mistaken Identity depict the slow erosion of values among both civil servants and people at large.

      Another important woman novelist is Anita Desai, if Shahagal depicts political circumstance, Kamala Markandaya Social circumstance, Anita Desai concentrates on the psychology of her women characters. She believes writing is a process of discovering truth, the truth is nineteenth of the iceberg that lies submerged beneath the one tenth visible oration we call reality. She says her novels are no reflection of Indian Society, politics or characters. Anita Desai depicts a confidently the plight of educated upper-middle class women. Desai's westernised, educated women protagonists seem to have the luxury of freedom of choice but deeper analysis reveals them to be frustrated and emotionally dependent.

      Her characters range from daughter, young wife, middle aged wife, mother, to grandmother. All these women tend too be fragile introverts. Most of her novels reveal the breakdown of relationships material or familial. In later novels In Custody and Baumgartner's Bombay, Anita Desai has switched over to male centered plots. Anita Desai's novels are experimentations in the latest narrative techniques. Her novels are marvelous presentation of the fever and fretfulness of the stream of consciousness of her principal characters. Anita Desai has found it necessary to explore the inner as well as the out climate and to disperse the narration in the flow of several sensibilities. The Cry the Peacock consists almost entirely of Maya's interior monologue. It is a brilliant impressionistic novel. For the stream of consciousness technique Anita Desai indebted to the pioneering attempts of Proust, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce.

      Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is another woman writer whether she is an Indian writer or not is an interesting problem. But in an interview she herself has said that she should not be considered as Indian writer, but one of the European writers who have written about India. She has written many short stories and about twelve novels. The important theme of her work is reactions of the westernised protagonist and their conventional Indian families to the subject of arranged marriage and romantic love.

      The major women writers who have started writing after 1980s are Shashi Depshapande, Gita Hiraharan, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai. When their counterpart novelists after 1980s assert that they have a right to rewrite national history, these women writers also claim that they have their own say about what constitutes the nation. Shashi Deshapande is a leading writer dealing with situation of women in urban, middle class in her The Dark Holds No Terror, Roots and Shadow, That Long Silence and Small Remedies. The Binding Vine depicts fears, hopes and uncertainties of an urban middle class consciousness. Here she has recorded the unrecorded and translation acts as a metaphor to signify the gaps.

      She employs a kind of stream of consciousness technique. Her characters and situation are presented in a realistic mode. Gita Hariharan is another important woman writer who does show interest in experimentation, her A Thousand Faces of Nights and The Ghosts of Vasu Master are concerned with rewriting folktales and children stories. She insists the necessity of reconstruction from the dismantled parts of various ideas, beliefs and models because those are our inheritance. Traditions, beliefs and folklore should not be considered as mean, irrelevant, outdated and closed. But indeed they are tested truths, relevant, useful, vibrant and open source for writing about present needs.

      Arundathi Roy is another important woman writer, who employs post modern and post colonial devices like magic realism, allegory and goes back to history, myths and traditions. She focuses on the identity crisis and records the unrecorded. In her Man Booker Prize winning novel The God of small Things, places her heroine, in the context of traditional Hindu narratives. Her divorcee heroine struggles hard against the fate laid out by convention. This novel provides a powerful imaginative statement of the way people can find themselves trapped outside' their own history. She also records the dislocations between the 'Small God' of individual lives and the 'Big God' of the nation.

      Some of the common themes run through most the novels of these women writers are the discrimination against the daughter, the silence of women, no recognition of their talent, conflict between modernity and tradition, East and West and the lack of communication between the sexes. A number of women novelists have made their debut in the nineties. Their first novels are quite effective in revealing the true state of Indian society when it comes to the treatment of women. All these writers were born after independence and English does not have any colonial associations for them. Their work is marked by an impressive feel for the language and authentic presentation of contemporary India, with all its regional variations. Generally they write about the urban middle class the stratum of society they belong and know best.

      Traditionally, the work of Indian Women Writers has been undervalued due to patriarchal assumptions about the superior worth of male experience. The factors contributing to this prejudice is the fact that most of these women writers have observed no domestic space. The Indian women's perceptions of their aspirations and expectations are within the framework of Indian social and moral commitments. Indian Women Writers in English are victims of a second prejudice vis-a-vis their regional counterpart's.

      Proficiency in English is available only to writers of the intelligent, affluent and educated classes. Writer's works are often therefore, belong to high social strata and cut off from the reality of Indian life. As, Chaman Nahal writes about feminism in India: "Both the awareness of woman's position in society as one of disadvantage or in generality compared with that of man and also a desire to remove those is advantages."

      The majority of novels written by Indian women writers depict the psychological sufferings of the frustrated homemakers. This subject matter is often considered superficial compared to the depiction of the replaced and oppressed lives of women. Indian writing in English is now gaining ground rapidly. In the realm of fiction, it has heralded a new era and has earned many laurels both at home and abroad. Indian women writers have started questioning the prominent old patriarchal domination.

      They are no longer puppets in the hands of man. They have shown their worth in the field of literature both qualitatively and quantitatively and are showing it even today without any hurdle. Today, the works of Kamla Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, Anita Desai, Geetha Hariharan, Shashi Deshpande, Kiran Desai and Manju Kapur and many more have left an indelible imprint on the readers of Indian fiction in English. A major development in modern Indian fiction is the growth of a feminist or women centred approach, that seeks to project and interpret experience, from the point of a feminine consciousness and sensibility.

      Many Indian women novelists have explored female subjectivity in order to establish an identity. The theme is from childhood to womanhood-developed society respecting women in general. Santha Rama Rau's' Remember for the House, (1956), Ruth Prawar Jhabvala"s first novel 'To whom she will', 1955 and her later novel 'Heat and Dust' (1975), Kamla Markandya's 'Two Virgins' (1994), Rama Mehta's 'Inside the Haveli' (1977), and Gaeta Hariharan 'The Thousand Faces of Night' (1992). Are some of the leading women writers writing in Indian English literature? The image of women in fiction has undergone a change during the last four decades.

      Women writers have moved away From traditional portrayals of enduring self-sacrificing women, towards conflicts, female characters searching for identity; no longer characterized and defined simply in terms of their victim status. A major preoccupation in recent Indian women's writing has been a delineation of inner life and subtle interpersonal relationships.

      In a culture where individualism and protest have often remained alien ideas and marital bliss and the woman's role at home is a central focus. It is interesting to note the emergence of not just an essential Indian sensibility but an expression of cultural displacement. Women's presentation is more assertive, more liberated in their view and more articulate in their expression than the woman of the past is.

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