When a woman writes
The Women Writers’ Fest was marked by valuable insights by Bengaluru’s well-known women authors, storytellers and illustrators
The Women Writers’ Fest was a relief from the usual “manels” (only men as panellists). Organised by SheThePeople.TV, the event had writers from various fields speak about their journey as writers and the many aspects of literature, from storytelling to illustrations.
Below are some of the highlights
Women writing mythology: Does gender influence the narrative?
Does mythology do justice to women’s experiences? This has been a contentious question, which Arshia Sattar, Anuja Chandramouli and Sowmya Aji discussed at a session, moderated by Mani Rao. Speaking about her work, Lost Loves, Arshia said: “You cannot claim to know The Ramayana if you ignore Ram. As a feminist, I had to confront my conclusions about Ram. To my surprise, as I was writing Lost Loves, Ram came across as a man caught in multiple traps.” She added there are various versions of The Ramayana, but Valmiki’s epic does not always portray Ram as a God. “His text is open enough for different interpretations,” she said and added that there are several narratives of the Epic in which Ram is portrayed through Sita’s eyes.
Anuja Chandramouli added, “I don’t like every discussion to boil down to gender. When I write, I don’t want to think about gender at all. Having said that when I write about a character like Shakti, I try to box her in and define her, but she defies any attempt to do that. She does have masculine attributes as well, which is true of me too.”
Does blogging, social media really pay?
Micro-blogging sites such as Twitter may have overshadowed blogs to a certain extent, but blogs continue to be popular. Moderated by Dhanya Rajendran, the panel included popular bloggers Nandita Iyer, Monika Manchanda, Vidya Sury and Charukesi Ramadurai.
Nandita said: “You need to treat your blog as a personal magazine. You need to be regular about it. Eventually your persistence will pay off. And stick to quality over quantity.”
Monika added: “The other key is honesty. I see a lot of people jumping into blogging and expecting to make money out of it from day one. The whole approach to blogging has to come from within. You have to be passionate about it.” Charukesi said: “In the earlier days of blogging we used to write what we thought was important for us, but that has changed now.” Vidya added: “Do what you do best. Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Finding that funny bone
Jane D’Souza, Rachna Singh and Itisha Peerbhoy discussed how to be funny, when to be funny, and as Itisha put it, “what is unfunny about being funny.” Rachna, author of the well-received Dating, Diapers and Denial and Band, Bajaa, Boys, said she uses the SOB technique, but quickly warned, “It’s not what you think. S is for simple. I keep it simple. O is one, two, three. I give myself three options, out of which two are ridiculous. And B is benign violation, which is to make fun of somebody, to be sarcastic, but not offend anyone.”
Jane, the author of the best-seller Happily Never After, added, “Humour is about taking the downs in life and looking at the funny side. ” Itisha, read out an excerpt from her hilarious Half Love, Half Arranged.
“I have been asked ‘Do women have a sense of humour?’, said Jane, bringing the discussion into a sharper focus, and asked the predominantly women audience, “Do you have a sense of humour?” to which everyone raised their hands in agreement. Rachna added: “Men take more pot shots at humour” and Itisha concluded: “Men don’t like their territory being stepped upon.” The trio agreed that women need to stop being apologetic for having a sense of humour, which is not considered a “feminine trait”.
Graphic novel: Pure pop or literature redefined?
We got to know the opinions of both graphic artists/illustrators and writers at the “Is the graphic novel pure pop or literature redefined”, moderated by Rahul Bidappa. The panellists were Milan Vohra, Devaki Neogi, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, Aditi Dilip, and Shweta Taneja. The discussion was around how art work and writing come together to make a compelling graphic novel.
Igniting young minds
The session on children’s writing and storytelling, moderated by Sudeshna Shome, transported us to a time of listening to stories by our grandparents. Even though those days are sadly over , Bengaluru has some of the finest children’s writers and storytellers like Priya Muthukumar, Vidya Mani, Aparna Athreya and Mala Kumar. Vidya’s insight, “To be a person means you have a story to tell,” caught the attention of the audience immediately. Aparna added: “Stories bring people together. We are hard-wired for stories. When human beings gather together, storytelling just happens!”
“Stories are all about making an emotional connect,” said Priya, “Only the context changes. But stories retain their power.” As for the question if children still read, Mala said: “Sometimes children hear about books from a peer.” Vidya said: “You cannot keep a good book from a child or a child from a good book.”
The eternal short story
Who can forget the evergreen short stories by O’Henry and Oscar Wilde? Even though the common refrain by publishers is that short stories don’t sell, short story writers have a different story to tell. Shinie Antony, Jahnavi Barua, Rheea Mukherjee and Gita Aravamudan discussed the techniques of short story writing at a session, moderated by Amruta Dongray. Shinie said: “A story dictates its own length.” Jahnavi added: “The ending is critical. It doesn’t have to be a typical closed ending. A good short story is the hardest thing to write. It is like a miniature painting in which every detail is important and must evoke the same emotion as a novel.”
Shinie said that ideas for most of her short stories come when she leasts expects it, taking a life of their own. To this Jahnavi contented: “Before writing, I have to think about the story and characters fully through.” Gita added that the difference between fiction and non-fiction writing is “that characters come fully formed in non-fiction, while that is not the case with fiction.” Rheaa spoke of her disagreement of italicising Indian words like idli and dosa, to which Jahnavi agreed and said: “English is an Indian tongue. If I am expected to know lasagne and google it why can’t we do the same for Indian words?”
The Fest concluded with an interview by Rupali Mehra with Priyanka Pathak-Narain on her book Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev,which Baba Ramdev got an injunction against. She traces Baba Ramdev’s rise to fame using journalistic enquiry rather than opinion.
image and post courtesy: The Hindu