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Updated: October 11, 2013 16:38 IST

Bridging the great divide

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Making a change: Author Kishwar Desai. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
The Hindu
Making a change: Author Kishwar Desai. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Upbringing for men has to be different and we have to stop stereotyping women, says Kishwar Desa

Kishwar Desai has no qualms about expressing her ideology. “I don’t think there is anything wrong in calling myself a feminist, even my husband (economist and politician Lord Meghnad Desai) calls himself one,” she says, adding, “Anyone who believes in equality between men and women is a feminist. And all of us should be feminist in that sense. We all need to fight for equal rights for men and women.”

Kishwar, a former journalist, certainly lives by what she professes. Her award-winning series of novels deals largely with gender issues including rape, female infanticide and surrogacy in India. According to Kishwar, “My books are always based on real situations. I am trying to make a change through my novel. All these books are written with great anger. Each time I pick up these issues, like any other woman in India, I get extremely angry. We are sitting on a time bomb. There is increasing sexual and gender violence and women are becoming more and more marginalised in India. ”

She believes that the gender imbalance in Indian society is a function of several socio-economic factors prevalent in it. “There is a high level of frustration in Indian society and the violence increases because of that.

The problem cannot be solved just by saying that there has to be proper laws. There also needs to be proper implementation of these laws.

Also, some sort of social conditioning has to take place and that is unfortunately not happening. We simply do not have the set-up to deal with the kind of psychological and social messages that need to go out.” She firmly believes that the message can be communicated through portals such as art, cinema, literature and media, “I think it is the duty of all creative people to address these issues,” she says.

However, she bemoans the stereotypes created by popular culture that ends up creating pigeonholing women into distinct categories, “Many of these feel good films make women marginal to the stories. For instance, the good girl gets the man, the bad girl doesn’t. But then again what is a good girl, what is a bad girl. Just because a woman drinks and smokes and has multiple partners, doesn’t mean she is bad.”

Simran Singh, the protagonist of her series, goes about firmly dispelling these notions. She smokes, she drinks, she has multiple partners yet she is also a social worker-cum-amateur detective who relentlessly serves the cause of justice and makes a difference.

And that makes her a heroine material as far as Kishwar is concerned, “I choose a female protagonist who is very different from a normal one, so that by her own character she brings in a certain change.”

Talking about her latest part of the series, Sea of Innocence which has been released recently, she says, “My book deals with rape and sexual violence and my protagonist is trying to solve a gang rape that happens in Goa. It is based on research that I had done of rape cases that have taken place in India and gone unsolved. There are similarities in most rape cases in India.” In addition to her Simran Singh series she has also written a biography titled Darlingji: The True Love Story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt. Talking about it, she says, “My husband wanted to write a book on Nargis and we started writing it together. We then realized that one couldn’t write on Nargis, without writing about Sunil Dutt.

Then my husband got busy so I ended up writing the book myself. It is essentially a story of mobility in India, Hindu-Muslim love and how a family can survive and do well for themselves. I simply loved it.”

She is currently working on another biography, one of the actor Devika Rani which is slotted for release early next year. And though the collaboration with her husband on the book didn’t really happen, Kishwar admits that he is her biggest supporter when it comes to her writing, “He is so positive about everything and his attitude, encouraging. As a writer himself, he understands completely what I am going through and we help each other. We read each other’s work and give feedback. I think the most important thing is that he is a pillar of strength—as a writer and also as a woman, I need that.”

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