BHUBANESWAR: Women are reflection of the society in which they live and their identities are shaped by the social environs, said Anuja Chandramouli.
Chairing a session on ‘The Many Faces of Women’ at the Odisha Literary Festival, the young author said women do not have a fixed identity. “They change in order to adapt to a situation but men do not like the unpredictability, claiming that women are irrational, without reason and often emotional,” said Anuja, who has recently come out with her third book ‘Shakti’. She further said though new paths are opening up for women, one thing that has remained the same despite passing of ages is the guilt which springs from a woman’s tendency to indict herself for crimes and lapses, both real and imaginary. “Men, on the other hand, return with a ‘not guilty’ verdict even if their behaviour is truly reprehensible,” Anuja added.
Adding to the point, Fiction and Poetry Editor at ‘The Caravan’ Chandrahas Choudhary said things have not changed much for women in the society. He cited an example of a class that he had taken in a Bhubaneswar-based university. “The classroom had boys and girls sitting separately. There was no shared space in the university’s classroom despite the concept of co-education being present in the society for a long time,” he said.
Speaking about women in literature, author of ‘The Cosmopolitans’, a novel about the life and times of a middle-aged art aficionado, Anjum Hasan said to be a woman and a writer is to constantly worry about being pigeon-holed. “The pigeon-holing happens even if you write about characters and issues that are specific to your gender,” she said and added that as a fiction writer, she is interested in characters irrespective of their gender. She further added that representation of women in Indian literature today has never been better. “In popular fiction today, a woman decides her own destiny and this itself sounds very liberating,” Hasan said.
Shiney Antony, on the other hand, recollected one of her experiences when questioned about the many faces of men in the society.
The four opined that writers need to do away with the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and refresh old identities.