Violence on the Page: Symposium: How do Indian writers address the intersection of diversity and violence?
December 1, 2012 Leave a comment
We know that gender and sexual violence in India transcends boundaries of religion, caste, class and age. How have Indian writers addressed this multiplicity of complexities?
I think my previous answer would do for this question also.
The intersection of gender, caste, religion and class in literary works is one of the most significant aspects of Tamil literature over the years. Religion per se has a limited canvass in most works. But caste and gender are key axes upon which the literary depiction of social relations revolves. One is aware of the way Bama’s Karukku deals with caste, religion and gender. In the works of Hepzibah Jesudasan one finds a faithful, de-romanticised portrayal of the nadar community’s struggle for social upliftment. In Azhagiya Nayaki Ammal’s Kavalai on the other hand we find an internal critique of the same community. Most of Tamil Selvi’s works deal with women as labourers – farm workers to Tiruppur Bunyan factory workers.
Even though this discussion has to be done with each text in context, it can surely be claimed that Tamil literature is not just sensitive but aware of the implications of the nexus of caste, religion, class and gender matrix.
This is a very large question and I am not sure how best to answer this. I think there have been some writers, mostly women as I have already said, who have been extremely brave and have used their imaginations to question all that is wrong with a patriarchal culture. Each has done it in her own way and one cannot really generalize. But those who have done so have been unflinching, meticulous in their attention to detail. The anthologies edited by Susie Tharu and K.Lalita “Women Writing in India” (OUP) volumes 1 and 2 trace the various trajectories of resistance and how women writers have responded to that.
Gender and sexual violence anywhere transcends demographic boundaries. I’ve addressed part of this question in the previous one. At present, politicized writing is very popular in India. Nuance is less visible, and perhaps less viable from a perspective of finding takers. But addressing multiplicity is all about nuance – if it is complex, it is therefore also delicate. Ambai (C.S. Lakshmi) does this beautifully. As a reader I admire most the writers who seem to write or have written at a distance from the urgencies of their contemporary moment, even when addressing those same urgencies, like Kamala Markandaya and Susan Visvanathan. The long view, which is Janus view, including past and future, isn’t taken enough.