Hindi Writers' Workshop
Scissors to cut with, a needle
and thread to sew my lips with. If I write my subconscious, the
earth will be covered with paper.
The enormous pressure exerted by cultural
censorship on women's sub-conscious makes the conflict between public
and private unbearable. Anamika said that in her 15 years of writing
experience as a poet and essayist, she had imposed a kind of "spiritual
dieting'" on herself. She spoke eloquently of the "needle-and-thread"
syndrome in women's lives, keeping their lips properly sealed, observing
a stern "aesthetics of silence". For middle class women like her,
this aesthetics has been particularly oppressive. What are we so
ashamed of and why? Who are we hiding from? she asked. Family honour,
the compulsion to be a good daughter, a good wife and a good mother
locked her into the "good girl syndrome". She tried to find role
models in early women's writing and turned to women in her own family.
She discovered that they all wrote furiously, but the values of
forbearance and patience, of restraint and refinement had paralysed
My aunts, buas, chachis, masis, wrote
letters that they never posted. One of them wrote directly to
god, but they remained in a half-way house, between private and
public. The feminine mystique created around this was really detrimental
to my writing. I felt I was caught in a plot not of my makingl
was acculturated to believe that it is only the second-rate, the
underclass, who "speak" the very young, the aged, prostitutes,
witches and slave girls.
Even now, she says, she cannot write directly
about religion, politics or personal relationships, and the fear
of hurting others by exposing oppression remains. . . .
Ritu Menon, Hindi