‘We need to look inwards, empathize with struggles of women’

Mala Mahesh’s debut novel Padma that discusses the infertility and the stigma attached to it launched

May 28, 2022 09:37 pm | Updated 09:37 pm IST - CHENNAI

Carnatic singer Aruna Sairam and filmmaker Rajiv Menon launching ‘Padma’, the debut novel of Mala Mahesh, right, in Chennai on Saturday.

Carnatic singer Aruna Sairam and filmmaker Rajiv Menon launching ‘Padma’, the debut novel of Mala Mahesh, right, in Chennai on Saturday. | Photo Credit: B. VELANKANNI RAJ

The stories told by her grandmother had a profound impact on Mala Mahesh, author, as she set out to write her first literary fiction novel. 

“A compassionate storyteller, my grandmother told me about an ancestor who had endured humiliation and harassment for not being able to have children. We spoke in length about how it was unfair to blame her for something that was not in her control and this gave me the idea for my book,” said Ms. Mala at the launch of her book Padma on Saturday here.

Padma chronicles lives of two women — Padma from Kerala in 1900 and Naina from the present day Mumbai — as it explores the taboo surrounding infertility. The book, Ms. Mahesh describes, follows them as they negotiate their feminine identities and struggles against patriarchy.

“When I was writing the book, I had to examine the pain and isolation that women like Padma and Naina faced,” she said.

Speaking about the early responses to the book, Ms. Mahesh said she was pleased to see it spark conversations about infertility, womanhood, and familial pressures. “We need to look inwards, and also empathize with the struggles of women,” she added. 

Filmmaker Rajiv Menon and renowned carnatic vocalist Aruna Sairam launched the book. 

“It takes a woman to know a woman, and Ms. Mala has perfectly encompassed this in her book,” said Ms. Aruna Sairam, lauding the portrayal of women in the book.

Mr. Menon said the story of Padma would resonate with many and had the potential of being adapted into a film. 

Singer Uthra Unnikrishnan performed as a part of the book launch. 

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