Sara Aboobacker, Kannada writer, passes away

Updated - January 10, 2023 10:13 pm IST

Published - January 10, 2023 03:38 pm IST - Mangaluru/Bengaluru

Sara Aboobacker, at the 2013 edition of The Hindu Lit For Life held at Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Hall in Chennai.

Sara Aboobacker, at the 2013 edition of The Hindu Lit For Life held at Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Hall in Chennai. | Photo Credit: S.S. KUMAR

Sara Aboobacker, eminent Kannada writer, passed away at a private hospital in Mangaluru on Tuesday, January 10. She was 87.

Born in Kasaragod district of Kerala on June 30, 1936, she was a pioneering Muslim woman writer in Kannada. In her works, she delineated the lives of women, Muslim women in particular, in a nuanced manner. She was among the first girls in her community in Kasaragod to complete schooling.

Ms. Aboobacker shot to fame with her first novel Chandragiri Teeradalli in 1981, which has also been translated into many languages, including English as Breaking Ties. The story of young Nadira’s struggles in a stifling and patriarchal setup, it was initially serialised in Lankesh Patrike edited by P. Lankesh and later brought out as a novel. This has also been adapted into a play.

Kannada writer Sara Aboobacker at the women’s conference held at  Bheemanakone in Sagar taluk on February 4, 2007.

Kannada writer Sara Aboobacker at the women’s conference held at Bheemanakone in Sagar taluk on February 4, 2007. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Chandragiri Teeradalli and many of her later books were consistently critical of patriarchy and customs that hindered a woman’s freedom. Among her other important works are Sahana, Vajragalu, and Panjara. She was known for her straightforward and realistic style of narration that documented the lives of women around her as she saw them, particularly in coastal Karnataka and Kerala. She also translated from Malayalam into Kannada.

She had received several awards and recognitions, including the Kannada Sahitya Academy award, Nadoja award, and Rajyotsava award.

Critic and her translator Vanamala Viswanatha said that in Ms. Aboobacker’s death, “the pioneering voice of a true ‘critical insider’ has fallen silent”. Recalling how as a first-generation educated woman from the Muslim community of Kasaragod Ms. Aboobacker imbibed a rebellious spirit from her lived experience in the community and her reading, she said, “The feminist strain in her self-representation of Muslim life in her very first work of fiction Chandragiri Teeradalli made waves in the Kannada world.”

Ashadevi, critic, said that Ms. Aboobacker’s life is, among other things, a great example of how a homemaker can slowly turn into a social activist who always stood for justice and never minced words. “Emancipation is not what someone has to give a woman, but it is what the woman evolves into,” she said, about Ms. Aboobacker and her characters.

“She was a rebel in a true sense,” said writer and advocate Banu Mushtaq. At a time when Muslim writers in Kannada were in a dilemma on questions of representation, she “went ahead and wrote as she saw things, even if it meant earning the wrath of fundamentalists.”

The last rites of the author were performed at the graveyard of the Zeenat Baksh Masjid in Bunder area of Mangaluru around 8 p.m. with three of her four sons in attendance.

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