India is a land where the majority of people speak and understand Hindi. It is a language that most of us use when it comes to connecting with people in our personal space. Although most of us are comfortable in speaking Hindi, we don’t prefer the language to read or argue about social issues. Which is ironic because debates on social issues involve people from every sect, even those who do not know any language other than Hindi. If we don’t read and argue in Hindi also, how will any social struggle be inclusive and approachable to all the members of this multi-faceted society? But there are a significant number of authors who not only speak and write in Hindi but use it as a means of their own empowerment and of society. On this Hindi Divas, we bring to you a list of ground-breaking feminist authors who used the common language, Hindi, to raise their voice against the common issues eroding lives of all women. These authors made a room of their own in the ambit of Hindi Literature which was formerly dominated by male-authors. Their distinct writing style, defiant themes and brilliant use of words will make you fall in love with the language even more.
Widely known as ‘Modern Meera’, Verma was a freedom fighter, educationist and Hindi poet from India. She was the only woman poet of the Chhayvad literary movement that marked the beginning of Romanticism in Hindi Literature. She wrote many poems and short stories which had women’s life, animals, nature, pain and longing for an unknown beloved as prominent themes. Some of her famous poems are Nihaar (1930), Rashmi (1932), Niraja (1934), and Sandhya geet (1936) which were published together in a poetry collection named Yama. She also wrote prose works that addressed many issues of women’s lives in India. Some of her famous prose works have been compiled together in a book Shrinkhla ki kariyan i.e. “Chains of Subjugation”. One of her famous prose work is Mere Bachpan Ke Din, a personal memoir, where she talks about child marriage and other issues a woman has to face. Atit ke Chalchitra, another collection of short stories that narrate stories of women with whom she interacted as a Principal. Moreover, she was also an essayist and her essay, Hindu Stri Ka Patnitva (The Wifehood of Hindu Women) compared marriage to slavery.
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A defiant and path-breaking novelist known for her bold words and voice, Krishna Sobti was the grand dame of Hindi literature. The Jananpith Awardee created audacious and empowering women characters and traced their journeys from a space of oppression to self-proclamation. Sobti openly criticised traditional norms that subjugated women, talked about Indo-Pakistan partition and was one of the few writers who explored female sexuality through her writings. Mitro Marjani, a novel by Sobti, narrates the story of a married woman, Mitro, who explores her own sexuality when her husband couldn’t make her sexually satisfied. In this novel, Sobti portrays female sexuality in the most explicit and honest description. She was even targeted for showing profanity in her books, but undeterred Sobti continued to challenge the norms. Her novel Surajmukhi Andhere Ke traces the trauma a woman goes through who has been brutally raped in her childhood. Her book Zindaginama won her the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1990. Daar Se Bichhudi is another book exploring a woman’s life and the struggles she has to face since her birth.
Another very prominent author of Hindi literature is Manu Bhandari. She was a dialogue writer and story writer with a significant contribution in Hindi Literature. Her works traced the journey of a woman in India in a discriminatory society, its cultural and moral values. Her work Ek Kamjor Ladki ki Kahani records the story of a young girl with brave thoughts who cannot put them into actions because of the imposed restrictions on her by parents and socio-cultural values. In Aapka Banti she talks about the struggles that a divorced woman has to face in India. Moreover, Trishanku is a story about a young girl Tanu who is trying to make sense of the discriminatory social, cultural and moral values amidst which she is being brought up.
Guara Pant aka Shivani
Gaura Pant, who was also known as Shivani, was a storyteller whose stories were replete with a woman’s journey to reclaim her individuality and life in a traditionally male-dominated society. She portrays through her works how a woman is suppressed in a male-dominated society, even though she might be pedestalled as a goddess or Sati. Even after several reforms in society, a woman’s position never really changed is what Shivani argues through her works. One of her famous works is Chaudah Phere which is a story of a woman named Ahilya who protests against her father’s decision to get her married to an egotistic and chauvinistic man against her wish. The story is a vehement criticism of the idea that men have the power to preside over a woman’s life and make decisions for her. Moreover, in Rativilap she narrates the pain and oppression that a widow has to bear in India’s discriminating and misogynist society.
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Usha Priyamvada is one of the most famous contemporary woman writers of Hindi Literature. She is a novelist and storyteller and has been awarded Padmabhushan for her works. Her works are a brilliant representation of middle-class life in the modern world, its anxiety, boredom, depression and loneliness. Her stories also talk about modern woman and how her life is often compared and contrasted with old and the new tradition. With the change in time, issues that women face in her life has also increased and this is what Priyamvada captures in her works where she talks women living alone in hostels, travelling to abroad, working women and many more. Pachpan Khambhe Laal Deewaarein is a story about a modern working woman living in a hostel. Being the only earning member of the family, she sacrifices her desires and life for her family’s welfare. But when she realises that she is not being valued by her members, she succumbs to a life of loneliness enclosed in the paanch khambe and laaldewarein of her hostel.
Some of her best works include Zindagi Aur Gulab Ke Fool, Ek Koi Dusra, and many more.
Among the contemporary women writers writing in Hindi, Mrinal Pandey has a special space. She is the daughter of the Hindi author Shivani. Besides an author, she is also a journalist and an Indian television personality. She was the chief editor of Hindi daily Hindustan until 2019. She has a prolific career as an author writing both in Hindi and English. One of her works is Devi, a catalogue of strong female voices that defy the male-dominated society. In the book, she writes that empowered women around her, including her mother, aunt, activists and prostitutes are an incarnation of goddesses. Another widely read story is Girls, published first in Hindi and then translated in English. It is a story of a girl living in Indian society who has to go through multiple discriminations and subjugation within her family, starting from male-child-preference to pedestalling women as goddesses but still treating them as the lower beings.
Mridula Garg is a contemporary woman author writing both in Hindi and English language. She writes short stories and novels of themes that are bold and Langauge that is gripping and lyrical. Uske Hisse Ki Dhoop is a prominent work of Garg that explores the idea of freedom in love. Other works by her include Anitya, Main Aur Main, Chitcobra and Kathgulab among others.
This list doesn’t end here. There are many more women authors who are using Hindi to not only express their own thoughts without any inhibition but also spark thought and conversation in a language that is spoken by all.
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