Our concern in putting together this anthology was to showcase precisely what concerns women writers. As it emerges, the world with all its frailties and inconsistencies, as also its elusiveness and subtlety is of interest to women writers. I think a collection such as this will force the reader to rethink what constitutes ‘women’s writings’.
I think it is an expression we have all been using loosely for far too long,” says Rakhshanda Jalil, on her new anthology, Women’s Writings from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh: The Worlds of Bangla and Urdu.
Jalil elaborates on the challenges she encountered while selecting the stories for the volume. “I have edited anthologies in the past, pegged on different topics such as women, gender or communalism, etc. The challenge is to find voices reflecting the central concern that are representative and yet not stereotyped,” adding how we’ve set ourselves a fairly wide canvas – South Asian Women’s Writings.
“As the selection shows, those writings cover a range of issues – poverty, gender-based segregation, sexual violence, female foeticide and the skewered sex ratio, among others.”
The Delhi-based writer, translator and literary historian Jalil collaborated with Debjani Sengupta, Associate Professor in the Department of English, at Delhi’s Indraprastha College for Women.
Sengupta, in a conversation with The Morning Standard enlists her personal favourites from the book. “The most engaging and significant pieces in the Bangla section are the ones by Kalyani Thakur, Anita Agnihotri and Sunanda Bhattacharya.
Thakur is a wonderful Dalit feminist writer who is gaining recognition outside Bengal, while Agnihotri has done a brilliant contribution to the theme of agrarian distress in contemporary India in the book. Bhattacharya’s piece is set on the Gujarat riots. She has lived in Gujarat and had experienced many of fallouts of that event. Her story wonderfully captures the trauma of the riots just as it establishes our common humanity.”
R Chandra Sekhar, publisher, academic, Bloomsbury India, talks about his decision of bringing this particular book pertaining to the languages of Bangla and Urdu. “Rakhshanda Jalil and Debjani Sengupta had previously translated works from Urdu and Bangla. When the project to bring together two languages was conceived, we felt that it will be ideal platform to raise issues of language, identity, nationhood and aspects of feminism and women’s writings in the subcontinent,” he says.
Women’s Writings from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh: The Worlds of Bangla and Urdu by Rakhshanda Jalil and Debjani Sengupta (editors).
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Price: Rs 599