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Women's Hidden Worlds

H.S. Shiv Prakash

By Vaidehi. Translated from the Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana, Mrinalini Sebastian, Bageshree and Nayana Kashyap
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2006, pp. 227, Rs. 250.00


The speaker of the above lines in the last story of this selection is someone who was forced by circumstances to murder her mother to rescue her from further indignities. It is a secret that she has to keep from both the home and the world so as to live out her life. But speak she must at least to another woman. Like the secrets of love she can share only with another woman in the traditions of love poetry. It is this dimension of women’s speech and life that gets foregrounded in Vaidehi’as short fiction. It is something men cannot guess or have the courage to acknowledge. The fact that it is not easy even for women to face the truth about themselves is also recognized in her stories. The woman who has the nerve to see and tell the truth about herself often becomes a disturbing mirror of another who prefers to shy away from it, a recurrent narrative strategy in her writings. This complex treatment of women’s hidden worlds is what makes Vaidehi a very important writer in Kannada.   Against the background of Kannada fictional world that for the most part depicts the stereotyped clash between the country and the city, like Poorna Chandra Tejaswi, Vaidehi locates the events of her stories in a small town, which becomes the playground of clash of forces of tradition and those of change. Unlike in Tejaswi, her emphasis is more on the slow but sure changes taking place in the hearts of women in a changing milieu. This is what makes her story ‘Gulabi Talkies’ similar to but also different from Tejaswi’s ‘Abachoorina Postapheessu.’   Another feature of her writings is her avoidance of modernistic formalism as well as of facile naivety of pulp fiction. Her fiction is neither ‘writerly’ nor ‘readerly,’ but engaging and, at the same time reader-friendly. It spices the standard literary Kannada with just the right quantity of Kundapur Brahmin Kannada. Unlike some fictional experiments in Kannada, her style does not resort to overdose of incomprehensible regional dialect. Put together, her stories lay bare the shifting soulscape of women. They weave an unusual but familiar tapestry of a variety of voices, scenes, situations and characters, mostly, but not always women. By orchestrating a whole range of tones, comical, serious, flippant, clinical and compassionate, Vaidehi explores her world with a Chekhov-like finesse. The twenty ...

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