“Feminism is a work and struggle of great women and men. Today, we are seeing the change happening in society. Part of this change comes through writings. Feminism has recognised the need for heroes and heroines and Filomena is one of them,” said renowned novelist Shashi Deshpande here on Wednesday, speaking on writer Maria Auroa Couto’s new book Filomena’s Journeys .

Earlier, Ms. Deshpande released the book in the presence of journalist Sunil Sethi, art critic Ranjit Hoskote and Ms. Couto.

In an insightful tribute to Ms. Couto’s two books — Goa: A Daughter’s Story , published a decade ago, and Filomena’s Journeys , released on Wednesday — Ms. Deshpande lauded the scholarship, research and integrity latent in the second book.

Ms. Deshpande recalled with nostalgia her association with Ms. Couto and described the book release ceremony as a “special and emotional moment”.

She described the book as “very powerful writing of integrity and scrupulous honesty and a wonderful mingling of personal history into a larger [one] and a picture of the society and times”.

Stating that it was very difficult to write about people so close to oneself, Ms. Deshpande said Ms. Couto had shown tremendous courage in writing about her mother.

“Fiction writing allows us to wear a mask when we deal with life; it does not link directly to me. In writing such family memoirs, there is absolutely no such chance of a mask,” said Ms. Deshpande and went on to add, “I can see her identity. The power of the writer is reflected in her creation. She has shown that to us.”

Ms. Deshpande hailed diverse aspects manifested in Ms. Couto’s writing, such as deep research and involvement, objectivity, and a tone of questioning and analysing. Ms. Couto’s discovery came through her writing, she added. While the story depicted the tiny struggle of an individual woman, it brought out the larger struggle of all women of the era, said Ms. Deshpande. Comparing the two books of Ms. Couto, Mr. Sethi remarked that while Goa: A Daughter’s Story delved into some important themes belonging to Goa’s layered history, a history of Inquisition, Goans and their special relationships with their lands and their long linguistic journey towards self-determination, interlinked with personal stories, Filomena’s Journey was a “history cum memoir”.

Ms. Couto said Filomena’s Journeys had been more challenging than any of her previous books as it dealt with very personal family issues. She denied, however, that it was a sequel to her previous book.

Ms. Couto said the books — “primarily stories about turbulent times” — were written after her friends in Dharvad told her, 25 years ago, to write about her parents, “very fascinating personalities that needed to be explored”. “The extraordinary strength of my mother was that she was a woman who brought us up in extreme optimism, brought us up with a faith in life, who never made us feel deprived and remained the family’s strength in the best and worst of times,” said Ms. Couto.

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