The second edition of Women Writers’ Fest, Pune, began with a panel discussion featuring regional Marathi authors. Titled The Changing Paradigms In Regional Language Literature, the panel was moderated by Archana Pai Kulkarni and featured speakers Uma Kulkarni, Leena Sohoni, and Swati Raje. An out and out thought-provoking session, it covered various aspects of not just writing in a regional language, but cultural and regional stigmas which affected them both as women and writers.
Change over the years
Over the years, Marathi literature has seen a lot of visible change, especially in terms of content being put out by women. Uma Kulkarni, who has published more than 50 translated titles, has seen this change over so many decades. She said, “There is a definitive change in Marathi literature, be it in the way writers express or the language itself.” She said women express their feeling more than before in their writing today. And according to her “this change is definitive”.
In most traditional Marathi households, women are still defined by just two duties “chool ani mool” (kitchen and children) but how do women with such strong voice approach this age-old subject, both in their writing and real lives? Moreover, if a woman doesn’t desire to find professional success and is happy being a homemaker, then is she to be judged?
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According to journalist Swati Raje, not every woman desires to embark on a harsh journey to prove her worth. And if she doesn’t, then there is nothing wrong in embracing her homemaker identity. She said, “Who decides whose experience in life is more inspiring in life? Experience is experience, and it’s never less or more. Every human lives his life according to his or her individual experience and situation. What matters is the truth and spirit with which one lives it. And the courage needed to face life as it comes is what every woman definitely needs.”
But it is not easy to take this revolutionary thinking from your words to your personal life. How do they battle the age-old notions that women should prioritise their family’s needs over everything else? Author Leena Sohoni said, “When you do not use your existential rights for too long a time, then you end up losing your right to do so eventually. It becomes like a vestigial organ. Women themselves deny accepting the fact that before being a woman, they are all humans. It is we who have reduced ourselves into constantly fussing over our near and dear ones.”
She said she embraced this attitude for the first years of her life, but then eventually she realised that it is only she who could do her job. Sohoni then conditioned her family into giving her space as a woman writer.
There is a lot of pressure on women writers and many social, political or cultural forces try to influence their writing, as their thoughts and words challenge so many traditional aspects of our society. But as Dr. Kulkarni opines, writers shouldn’t be bothered by all those who try to influence their craft by using physical or psychological force. She asserted, “We are writers. We have a pen in our hand and using it, we should write what we feel.”