My books are a way of leaving behind a bit of me when I die: Manju Kapur
A Literature enthusiast, former professor at the prestigious Miranda House college of Delhi University and now a published author of seven novels including one that she edited, Manju Kapur has an undying love for stories. Her journey into becoming a writer started very late in her life. Her children were grown up and she felt that she had more time to spare. She started writing her first novel Difficult Daughters, which was published in 1998.
“It was enormously empowering for me to express my views like that in the novels”
WRITING AS AN OUTLET
“My reasons for writing were personal. I’d had my children, I had spent many years in my job, I was in my forties and I just wanted to do something more. I just wanted to leave behind something after I die,” she said in an interview with SheThePeople.TV,
It took her 8 years to publish her first one. These were years in which she learned to write, edit, to accept rejections from agents and publishers, from India and abroad.
Kapur started writing in 1991 and she saw that people around her were writing too. “I thought to myself if they could do it, why can’t I? I taught novels to college students but I taught classics and it was very remote. But people writing around me were not remote and because I followed examples around me it was enormously empowering for me to express my views like that in the novels. Although I did not know that I needed to do that until I started doing it.”
For her, writing was something that she can do from the house but it could take her mentally away from the house.
Difficult Daughters won the Commonwealth Prize for First Novels (Eurasia Section) and was a number one bestseller in India. It portrayed the life of Virmati, a young woman born into a high-minded household, who falls in love with a neighbour, a the Professor who was already married. She brings about the unconventional relationships in her characters with ease and manages to build a strong female character.
FEMINISM IN HER BOOKS
Even her other novels like A Married Woman, Home, The Immigrant, Custody and the latest Brothers have always retained feminist references in the women that these stories had. She has tried making progressive women central to the plot of her books to which she says, “Women are what I know. I know a woman’s life from inside out. I know about the struggles, the compromises and the difficulties. I think women’s lives are interesting in the sense that they are in some ways marginalized and in order for them to realize themselves, they have to fight that much more.”
“For me, it was always expected of me to work but it was also certain that I would work as a teacher. So that when the children and the husband come home, I’ll be home. It was considered as a safe job” says Manju Kapur
SHEDDING TRADITIONAL ROLES
She added, “For a woman to not follow traditional roles and yet not give up families is a traumatic situation. So how do they negotiate the domestic world and the outside world? And book after book I have explored this that whether a woman is Indian or foreigner, this kind of struggle is unremitting.”
Kapur would count herself to that privileged section of the society where she was going out in public spaces and became financially independent in the 70s and 80s. She taught at DU for decades and so being so close to the feminist movement, she has seen it change over a period of time. She talks about this change and what the modern times have brought to the table for women. “There are many more opportunities for women today than when I was young.”
NEW WORLD FOR WOMEN
“For me, it was always expected of me to work but it was also certain that I would work as a teacher. So that when the children and the husband come home, I’ll be home. It was considered as a safe job. That’s what women did back then. They taught and earned very little. But today women are entering the workforce in increasing numbers. The world has certainly become wider today for women than it ever was.”
Kapur’s works have often been compared to the iconic classics writer Jane Austen. When asked about her thoughts on this comparison, she laughs, “Since I do not believe in this comparison.”
“I mean of course it is very flattering. I know Jane Austen inside out and I know that I am no where near her, “ Kapur affirms graciously.
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