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Why do women write?
Telugu Writers' Workshop

Why did these women begin to write? What was the cause, the power, the urge that drove them to first pick up their pens? This question swept the women back to the early days of their writing. They didn't begin writing in the hope of gaining fame or recognition. Unlike male writers who claim that a flower emits its fragrance as a bud, the women did not begin to write when they were six or seven years old. Nor did they write because they came from learned or scholarly families, encouraged by doting fathers or uncles; or to transform society and bring about a revolution. These are the reasons that men give.

For women, the common cause was loneliness and alienation. They had no one to share their thoughts or feelings with. Some women were the first to be educated in their families, and entered a new world with countless visions and hopes. Some had struggled with family and community to achieve this education. All of them found the burden of the restrictions placed on them, at home and outside, unbearable. Was the emotional turmoil and mental confusion they suffered as a result of these restrictions natural, they wondered. Without any clear sense of how to fight these restrictions, unable to conceal the rebellious thoughts that churned in their minds, many women claimed they picked up the pen as an instrument, a weapon of survival.

Abburi Chaya Devi says:


I come from an orthodox family. My father was a great disciplinarian. He never displayed affection or love. My mother was caught up in ritual purity and orthodoxy. She would wear her 'madi' [trans tk] clothes early in the morning and wouldn't touch anyone afterwards. She would vent all the anger she felt towards my father on us. When I was in the twelfth class I became friendly with a boy. My mother was furious and confined me to the house. There was no one to share these experiences with or seek advice from. Laughter was prohibited in our house. 'Why should girls laugh?" they said. I wrote a story, 'Sleep' about a girl who goes to her mother in her sleep and says, 'Mother, I feel like laughing. The laughter is bubbling up, what shall I do?' Even if I laughed in college someone would come and tell my parents that I was laughing at my teacher's jokes. I had to drape my sari to cover both shoulders. The college principal had put up a notice that girls should cover both shoulders with their saris. I wanted to rebel against all this. I chose the story as my weapon. My first story, published in the Nizam College magazine, was about my father. About his rules. He even decided what clothes I should wear. The story was called, 'My Father is a Dictator'. Afraid that he might read the story I ended it on a conciliatory note, saying that our fathers and our husbands only wanted what was good for us, after all, and that our joy lies in fulfilling their desires. That was out of fear of my father's anger.
. . . I would write letters to [my father], but could never stand before him and speak freely. Writing was the only means I had to reach out. The only thing I could do freely. Writing became my weapon.

. . .

Silalolitha, a poet whose name is Lakshmi, was married at eleven and sent to her husband's home at fourteen, with no idea of what marriage or marital sex meant. She had no work. Life seemed meaningless. No friends, no one to whom she could open her heart. Confined to the house she would get books from the library and devour them. She read the best Telugu literature during that period. That reading raised many questions—about herself and her life. Trapped by these doubts, denied the possibility of discussion, she decided to write and establish a channel of communication for herself. She wrote stories to her penfriends. There was hell to pay at home for those letters. Finally she broke out of her marriage, resumed her studies and took to writing seriously. She always wrote under a pen name because she was filled with a revulsion for her own. She censored herself while writing, couldn't write as freely as she wanted to in the early days. She started with love poetry, then moved to stories that focussed on the suffering of women around her.

VOLGA, Telugu