Monday, April 3

Watching myself grow

I have been reading all my life now. Comics, novels, thrillers, classics, non-fiction........ anything. I know that this consistent reading has a big stake in what I am today. And yet there have been few times I can remember when while reading I actually found those words 'impacting' me. Imagining, visualizing, dreaming of being like those characters..... these are distinct feelings and you can see them happening. But something actually changing within me, affecting my thought process directly and so visibly! It's probably the first time.

I have been reading Shashi Deshpande's essay collection 'Writings from the margin'. Now for starters, essays are not something I am too keen on reading. No reason per say. I have tried and left essay collections half way most of the times. But this time I read the entire stuff. Not in a chronological order but the entire stuff all the same. And as I read I saw myself being affected by her words, her thoughts, realizing how they said what I felt but was never able to identify them lucidly. They would be lost somewhere halftrack and I never knew how to go back to them. This book showed me how I really felt about those things.

Shashi Deshpande writes in a very simple and from-the-heart language. This collection ranges from her own experiences of creating stories and novels as a writer, the process through which she travels, to elaborating upon why she is a feminist, why English Indian writing cannot be termed marginal, how being called a 'woman writer' annoys her, a biographical sketch of her father that also gives us a glimpse into the strength of her mother……….. Some 15 odd essays on a variety of topics and yet each seems related to the other. There is a definite thread that binds them. Reading each of these, I felt refreshed as you do when some realization dawns upon you.

Probably belonging to similar social and geographical backgrounds the association is easier as the setting is familiar. When she talks of the idol of 'Annapurna devi' given to the bride I could relate to it. A wedding ritual that till now had received no great attention from me suddenly meant so much. How seeing my mother cook even I thoughts of kitchens in a romantic manner as she did too and how growing up it has now acquired a deeper meaning and association with women's life as a whole. When she talks of writing as a woman and reading other women writers and the irritation it causes when they are perceived as 'for-women-only' stuff; I knew that's what was nagging me all these days, only it was her putting them into words. When she says she took up writing in English not out of deliberate choice but because that was the language she knew to write in, inspite of being proficient in her mother tongue and such, I knew what she meant. Because that’s what I feel too. I have asked myself this at times, 'Why do I write in English?' and that’s the same answer I get. It’s a very spontaneous choice. Nothing purposeful or deliberate about it. Also when Deshpande asks how 'top writers' of the century, of India etc can be determined by some body that has access and understanding only of the English literature being produced; I nod in agreement. There are scores of other regional writers who would probably outscore on merit any of those in the lists produced.

All through the book I find her putting my thoughts into words. Thoughts that I knew only in bits and parts to exist in me, and which would have probably stayed dormant for all I know. They were articulated and I could see them as a third person. This conscious realization of something within me, something affecting me, is so beautiful that no words can express it. I can only express my gratitude to Shashi Despande for this wonderful experience!


Shruthi said...

Wow.. sounds like a great collection! I had once listened to a lecture by Shashi Deshpande in the IISc, Bangalore. I loved it... she spoke evocatively of writing. But I haven't read anything of hers. Should try this out!

Manasi said...

Shruthi: This is her second book I read. First was the novel 'Roots and Shadows' which is abt a woman revisiting her ancestral home and discovering a lot of things abt herself. It also talks abt women's sexuality and reading it I really admired how she has depicted those scences in a very simple and natural manner, dwelling upon the potagonists thoughts, so that they do not kinda pounce upon you. This style of hers is really nice for most of the times intimate moments are dicussed so coarsely that even if they are intended to talk of a thought process or self-discovery (as in the novel's case) it is lost upon the reader. Shashi Deshpande's language is very easy flowing and if her oration is similar, i would definitely want to hear her talk. Do read her books. I have heard 'The Long Silence' is one of her best novels. I havent been able to lay my hands on it yet, though of course some day.

Shruthi said...

Wow, it really makes me want to read her... I will surely get my hands on her books. Will get back to you and let you know how I liked them :)

Supremus said...

Now isn't shashi deshpande also the one who wrote "woh lambi raath?" - man that was one boring book!

Why pray was I reading women's literature u ask? good question hehehehe - nonetheless good post here - perhaps I *may* read it..


Supremus said...

sorry, that was "woh lambi khamoshi" - "that long silence" I think.


Manasi said...

Suyog: Now there you go... reading 'women's literature'! This is something that despande talks of in this eassy collection and i think you should be reading it. Are all books written by men 'men's literature' and not to be read by women. So how does stuff writen by women account for 'women's literatur'? Bolo bolo. Patriarchal social system, i suppose. Not your fault. ;)

Nirwa said...


Interesting.. After I handle my Ahuja-Guptas and Khan and Jains and Maheshwaris in Income Tax and costing and financial managment... I'll put this on the "hit list" :P

Err.. Reading list.. I mean.. :)

Nice post! :)


Anonymous said...

hi Manasi,

nice post!
Got me interested in Shashi Deshpande's books. Will try to read her books.


Manasi said...

Nirwa: I am sure reading her would me more interesting than your Maheswaris and Jains. Would look forward to your reaction to er writing.

Vidya: Thanks. I surly hope you like them.

Supremus said...

Ooops! I think I hit the wrong nerve here - heheh - that way Agatha Christie is one of my all time favorite writers... so would that make her women's literature as well. What i meant was I dont know why, I can't read her type of books. One of my all time favorite book "The Namesake" too is written by a woman, Jhumpa Lahiri, and I must say I loved the character of Ashima Ganguly...

Its just that this lady bores me hehe!


Manasi said...

Suyog: Chalta happens :) Sometimes some of the most acclaimed writers can bore you, while the underdogs might evolve into favourites.

bhumesh said...