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Above Gender Statements


Raji Narasimhan

MARTHA KA DESH; KHALI LIFAFA
By Rajee Seth
Penguin Books,, 2010, pp. 204 & 308, Rs. 130.00 and Rs. 190.00.

SHABDKAAYA (WORD BODIED)
A Project of Sunita Jain
Saraswati Vihaar , Noida, 2009, pp. 113, price not stated

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 2 Febuary 2011

To call Rajee Seth a feminist writer would not be wrong. But it would be a half truth. Many stories in these collections are stories about human failings, human problems not centred on manwoman schisms or dichotomies: Wait, Intezaar Hussain, Yatra, My Option for instance. Her aliveness to pain in human relations goes beyond genderbased perceptions to apprehending it as incumbent in life. Stories such as the ones mentioned above are, however, obvious evidences of her transfeminist disposition. The characters in them are men. Even in My Option, where Nilima, the narrators sister, with her very feminineseeming opposition to her husbands crude Indiabashings, is not the initiating force of the story. It is her brother, the narrator, who performs that function. The interesting thing is that Seths transfeminism emerges from her womancentred stories too. And this makes them more challenging, more connected to the basic proposition I make about her writing—that without damage to the feminist cause, her feminist arousals mellow and expand to a philosophic awareness of pain in life, human or non-human. There is no mincing of words, no soft pedaling, in portraying the male atrocities dealt with in the story Not Without Reason (Akaaran to Nahee). It is an open narration of the facesaving devices easily available to Sudhakar for making his wife the scapegoat for his sexual deficiency. The wifes rising sense of rebellion against these machinations of her husband is the parallel strand in the narrative. The parallel snaps, which is the point of climax in the story. The wife decides not to come back from her parents home where she is set to go. She cuts loose, in other words. It seems like a classic, titfortat, combative feminist ending. But read the concluding lines again, and you sense what the author is saying without stating. With absolute clarity Deepali was seeing that like her sudden decision to go, the decision not to come back was also forming in her with swift, sure strides'. Phrases like absolute clarity, swift, sure strides, and actions like Deepalis own seeing of the shaping within her of her sudden decision to go, make for an overall image composed of positives. But it is without the firm, defined borders of the positive phrases. It brings in its wake the question of what next, raises the cloud of uncertainties that surround women taking decisions like Deepalis. And these uncertainties are ...


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