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Battle of the sexes

Harem of writers

Is the woman writer a second-rate one? Is her language and style distinctly meyli (feminine)? Does being a woman give her an edge in sensitivity, perception and expression? These were some of the questions thrown up by a rather lively session titled Narir Lekha Aar Dekha at the Google Dome, with Suchitra Bhattacharya, Bani Basu and Nasreen Jahan in conversation with Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay.

Bhattacharya rued the existence of “a harem called mohila upanyasik (women novelist).” Recalling how Sunil Gangopadhyay had mistaken her writing for that of a man who had adopted a feminine pen name, she dismissed the idea that gender made any difference in thoughts and writing styles.

Basu pointed out that what we perceive as masculine and feminine are norms imposed on us by the society. For Nasreen Jahan from Bangladesh, gender discrimination never came in the way of her friendships with men and so writing without inhibition came naturally to her.

Stand up, lady

The second afternoon of KLM saw various characters from contemporary Hindi literature come alive as the Delhi-based author Gillian Wright and Amitabha Bagchi, the author of The Householder, came together to discuss one of the most prominent Hindi authors of the post-Independence era, Srilal Sukla, with cop-turned-author M.K. Singh as the moderator,

Commenting on how India continues to be a male-dominated society, Wright, who has translated Sukla’s Raag Darbari, felt that “the moment women start standing up for themselves, the scenario will change”. Bagchi observed how Sukla had a “unique talent” of bringing out “the hypocrisy” of society in the “guise of laughter”.

The session titled Srilal Sukla Ki Smaran Mein concluded with Wright and Bagchi reading out passages from Raag Darbari and The Householder.