Looking back, I feel there was a certain kind of idealism in my teenage years. In that, I jumped directly from the world of a boy wizard to the dark underbelly of Sidney Sheldon’s mystery novels and from that to raspy blondes in popular romantic novels, damsels waiting to be rescued by tall and handsome men (with abs). From heroic characters to downright limpy ones – I devoured it all.
Yet, what I craved for was the in-betweens – a woman stuck in a totalitarian regime where her only job is to procreate, an actress with anxiety so profuse that it almost serves as fodder for all the work she writes, directs and produces (aka Lena Dunham), or a 30-something-year-old television presenter who is stuck between two flawed men with ginormous egos and also a body weight which she is prepared to do absolutely nothing about.
Thanks to Bridget Jones, Emotional Fuckwittage is the best phrase in my vocabulary.
At the reading of Himanjali Sankar’s book Mrs C. Remembers, a book about a middle-aged woman struggling with Alzheimer’s – the audience questions ranged from whether the book was autobiographical to the author’s writing habits, at one time even side-tracked into a conversation about homosexuality and what Sankar felt about it. A woman approached the author and told her that her mother had Alzheimer’s too and she could relate to the story, it gave her the comfort that she was not alone in this experience of watching a loved one suffer and not do anything about it.
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The readers were more than welcoming of this book which was also, in a way, a coming-of-age story of a woman in her 50s – who is trying to let go of her old ways to come to terms with her illness – she doesn’t even mind therapy. As for me, I was overjoyed at the idea of flawed women and bolder themes taking center stage.
Ayesha Datta, a researcher at The Institute of Social Studies Trust brings up the book, Perfect (Flawed) which is set in a world (much like ours) that demands perfection. After the protagonist of the novel is branded flawed by a moral court, she loses all her freedom. She says, “In real life too, women are always expected to tiptoe around rules and norms of the society. This book gave me the confidence to be ‘flawed’ and do whatever is it that I want to do. Because in the end, that’s what matters.”
Author Devika Rangachari speaks about her love of historical novels by the likes of Phillipa Gregory and classics like To Kill A Mockingbird and Gone With The Wind which values the complex entirety of being a woman. She adds, “As a genre, historical fiction has been constantly putting the spotlight on women and girls who would otherwise be relegated to the sidelines. And I am more than excited with the idea of literary fiction finally catching up.”
Sneha Khaund, who works with Bloomsbury, feels that the contradictions of the many experiences of being a woman being expressed in literature is indeed, wonderful and affirming “and feminist in its own way.”
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