Those nude photos were not a threat to values

When I started writing in the Seventies, very few women writers were in the field and at that time, my theme and topics on sexual politics made the social gurus of the time more worried than e

Published: 21st May 2010 07:40 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 04:40 PM   |  A+A-

When I started writing in the Seventies, very few women writers were in the field and at that time, my theme and topics on sexual politics made the social gurus of the time more worried than ever. That was when the cult of domesticity for women started to break down and I raised questions about piety, purity, submissiveness, and the definition of true womanhood through my stories. At that time, I found myself alone, but now, approximately 35 years later, I can see a powerful trend showing published evidence in Oriya literature. In 2004, young writers began "Dehabadi Galpa," a movement based on sexuality-based short stories. Saroj Bal, editor of Galpa Patrika, made a collection of short stories where the authors dared to admit their works had themes of sexuality. The writers included myself, Ashish Gadnayak, Saroj Bal, Sadanada Tripathy, Paresh Patnaik, Satyapriya Mahalik, Chintamani Sahu, Paramita Satpathy, Ajay Swain, Pabitra Panigrahi, Nibaran Jena, and Prakash Mohapatra. However, sexuality or erotica had been introduced in Oriya literature before this movement.For example, the kavya of Ritiyuga in the eighteenth century had deep associations with 'Shringar Rasa,' which dealt with sexuality in erotic forms. In the post-colonial period, eroticism in fiction was first introduced by Surendra Mohanty. In the Sixties, the literary magazine Uan Neo Lu included stories by Annada Prasad Ray, which were labelled vulgar and obscene. Also in the Sixties, Krushna Chandra Behera's story Bedi created controversy and he had to resign from the editorship of Jhankar. In the late Eighties, my story Rape caused controversy as it dealt with the sexuality of a female and justified it with patriarchal sexual politics. In the Nineties, some stories created a controversy for making sexuality a common factor of life. Pratibha Ray's Shapya, Jagadish Mohanty's Nian, Yashidhara Mishra's Rekha Chitra, and Ashish Gdnaik's Bhata are examples of such stories. Another source of longlasting controversy in Oriya literature was the nude photos of Saroj Bal, the avantgarde Oriya writer. I am still astonished why the media, as well as the critics, considered these photographs a serious threat to our values. It is not as if masculine nudity was not displayed before, but I think it is masculine nudity in context with Eastern or Oriental culture that worried our male-dominated social gurus.In Orissa, as well as throughout India, most people mingle sexuality with passion and physical co-adherence and to some extent, perversion, with a hidden concept of sin in their puritan minds. But the term 'sexuality' has a wider aspect. It involves not only passion and perversion, but also biological or physiological sex, gender, gender identity, gender roles, and sexual orientation.Sexuality, other than sexual politics, occupies a space in Oriya fiction that is neither quite masculine nor quite feminine, although it is clearly created as a feminine role and desires to be in the masculine role. Currently, we find a remarkable number of women authors writing very bold stories describing this 'in-betweenness' as being one of the primary characteristics of their themes and styles. They include Paramita Satpathy Tripathy, Mamatamayee Choudhury and Biyot Prajna Tripathy.Unlike fiction, Oriya poetry supports this sexual discourse. In the Eighties, Brahmotri Mohanty and Mamata Dash somehow started to speak about sexuality in their poems in ambiguous language. Aparna Mohanty's poems represent a blurring of the distinction between man and monster, between nature and science, and of gender categories themselves. Aparna's poems recognise and celebrate the presence of pure womanhood and feminine attributes in the construction of being in existence in a woman's heart. Other than Aparna, Binapani Panda and Runu Mohanty have also contributed to make Oriya poems rich with sexual domination.It is interesting that mostly women writers are coming forward in riding the wave of popular interest in women's liberation, identifying taboos as a socially conditioned belief system, masquerading as nature. It is a very sensible and risky notion to demonstrate the truth of life exceeding the body and its passion. Though this segment is limited to few, it could make it as a mainstream wave, though the major puritan mob will always oppose it.

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