When a woman becomes a mother, she does “not change overnight into a nobler, more compassionate person”. She still remains the same — as impatient, ill-tempered, biased — as she was until she became a mother, novelist Shashi Deshpande said here on Friday.

Delivering the inaugural address during a seminar on images of women in Indian writing in English organised by Besant Women's College, Ms. Deshpande said it was a liberating experience for her to come to this understanding while she was writing an article. She said that even for women writers, questioning the image of a woman as a mother was difficult and it was “very guilt-inducing” to question it, because it was not just society but nature which had given women the ability to nurture.

However, during the course of writing the essay she realised that a woman is “a person first and a mother after that”. The person does not change overnight into a more compassionate person. “It was liberating to understand this, do away with the glorification of motherhood,” Ms. Deshpande said.

The “turmoil” she faced because of what she was expected to be, what she was, and how she saw women portrayed, all contributed to her desire to write. Above all, she said that she was “annoyed by stereotypes” in much of what she read. Even the depiction of women by Tagore, who was generally more “sensitive” to women, disappointed her. She said that the image of the mother, especially as feeding other people had annoyed her.

Even U.R. Ananthamurthy's depiction of women in Samskara disturbed her, she said.

It was in the 18th century when women began to write in large numbers that the “mould of stereotypes was broken,” Ms. Deshpande said. “Women knew what they were, and wrote about themselves.”

Delivering the keynote address, Susie Tharu, Professor at the English and Foreign Languages University, spoke about how images were formed.

Using an art exhibition as a tool, she explained how the creators of the exhibition Pushpamala N. and Clare Arni attempted to show people how images could be created from existing images and how they could be given different meanings.