BLF2020 | A Literary Decade: Out of Print – Jahnavi Barua, Raza Naeem, Rheea Mukherjee, Samhita Arni, Tanuj Solanki, Vasudhendra and Zui Kumar-Reddy with Indira Chandrasekhar

The session consisted of writers and editors for the literary magazine ‘Out of Print’. These panelists included Raza Naeem, Rheea Mukherjee, Samhita Arni, Tanuj Solanki, Vasudhendra, and Zui Kumar-Reddy. The panelists joined in to celebrate the release of the book published by Out of Print which consists of numerous short stories from around the country.

What role did Out of Print play in your literary journey?

This was the question posed by Indira Chandrasekhar, the moderator, and the founding editor, to the panelists. Raza Naeem, a translator, shared his experience with this literary magazine which started about 4 years ago. He spoke about his journey as an Urdu translator and how Out of Print nurtured his passion and interest in translating. Chandrasekhar even described him as a bridge between them and the 20th century Urdu literature.

Next, Rheea Mukherjee, a writer, took us through her journey as a diasporic writer who moved to the US and moved back here. She spoke about the connections she built, other magazines she engaged with, and the people she met thanks to Out of Print. Her talk was followed by Vasudhendra, a writer who too shared his experience with Out of Print as a Kannada writer who got his works translated and published in their literary magazine. He briefly spoke about Kannada literature and then about the quality of translation and editing work that was done.

Zui Kumar-Reddy, a writer, told the audience about her thoughts on the kind of works that Out of Print publishes, which she deemed to be like a library of ideas. She admired the concise nature of the short stories they publish. She also spoke about how it helped her grow as a writer. Tanuj, a writer, was up next. He revealed how in 2010 he was flirting with the idea of writing and stumbled upon Out of Print. After three rejections, he finally got published for the first time which was the start of his journey with this magazine. He spoke very affectionately about how much this platform helped him grow as a writer and the special place it holds in his journey of writing.

Samhita Arin, an editor, came next to share her journey with Out of Print which she experienced from the very beginning of its birth. She spoke about the community of writers that she had joined and her experience in editing so many inspiring works. After this, a few  editors of this magazine joined the session virtually, which included Vandana Devi, Mira Brunner, Leela Levitt, and Ram Sadasiv. They shared their joy about the release of the anthology ‘A Literary Decade’. The session was wrapped up with a very interactive question-answer round which nudged Chandrasekhar to talk about the start of this magazine, the process of curation, the voice it gave to the marginalized communities, and so much more.

About the Author: Immersed in the process of unlearning and relearning different values and ideas, Nanditha Murali chooses writing as her medium to approach the world. She is currently pursuing her English (Honours) degree at Christ University, Bangalore. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Women in Contemporary Literature

Poet, Novelist Anjana Basu sat down with Historian, Creative Writer Ambai and Scientist, Fiction Writer Indira Chandrasekhar to discuss ‘Women in Contemporary Literature’. When Anjana wondered if the depiction of women in literature had changed in the recent times, Ambai clarified, “To say that the depiction has changed would mean that the earlier writers did not think about it. However, that is not correct. From Bhakti to erotica, women writers have written about everything even in earlier times.”

Indira on the other hand believes that the portrayal is changing because women’s voices have grown stronger in the recent times. She also explains how the struggles that a woman used to go through to enter the world of literature as a writer has become less dramatic now. Male writers dominated the literary scene during the 20th and the 21st century. The reason for such dominance was probably because the critics were mostly male. Now with a lot of female reviewers and critics, the scene is changing.

There was an accusation against women writers that they wrote mostly about domestic issues while men wrote about the societal issues. Indira says the conditions that prevail amongst the lives around the women writers compel them to write about the domestic issues. Ambai does not agree that women do not write about the world outside. She quotes example of a woman writer who wrote about her experiences of studying medicine and another where a writer talks about a younger cousin who is in love with a married elder cousin. Women have started exploring various relationships – their relationship with men, their relationship with their body etc, say the authors.

When asked about her story where a woman speaks to a spider, Ambai says that in ancient literature women always spoke to inhuman things. She adds that she too talks to the utensils in her house especially a Dosa tava which is troublesome if not spoken to.

Anjana explains how in recent times women superheroes have been created out of mythology. She quotes the example of Shakti who hunts demons. Indira welcomes the idea of a mythological superhero but also impresses upon the fact that every woman is a super hero of her own sorts. Indira also expresses her pleasure that the upcoming literature on women from mythology is an indication of how women have taken ownership of the narrative. She might not agree with some of the interpretations, nevertheless they are welcome changes.

Anjana questions how in the earlier days, queens were always the heroines of the stories. Ambai again says it is not true. Stories have been written about the common woman too. Unfortunately, those writers are not read by new age readers.

Ambai touches upon how a specific kind of language was used to talk about men and women in literature in the earlier days. She explains how a man is compared to a mountain and a woman to a creeper and her mouth to some fruit. If it is a man’s heart, it would rise and fall like the waves of the sea, but if it were a woman’s it would be like a boiling pot of water. Such choice of language is changing in the recent times according to Ambai.

When Indira talks about her story of a financially independent widow, she says she was worried if she was right to assume that a widow would be financially independent. She says she went on about researching to find if there ever existed such women in history and did find one in the 19th century. Ambai explains how her grandmother was a financially independent widow. Ambai also talks about how her mother was instrumental in getting her admitted to a college in Chennai and how she told her that all her dreams would come true. Such heroines have always been around us and we take them for granted, concludes Ambai.