Monday, August 26, 2013


This article has been brought forward from the blog OWN ESSENCE

Author: Sarojini Sahoo

                                                   Journey of a Story-1

In 1989, I wrote a short story ‘Rape’. Actually this was written to read in a workshop arranged by 'Bharat Bhavan', Bhopal. The condition was, a Hindi version of the story should be read on a seminar and the participant would discuss on it. So, I wrote the story and Jagadish translated it into Hindi, which later published in Samakaleen Bharatiya Sahitya, a journal of Sahitya Akademy.

At Bharat Bhavan workshop, the story was highly appreciated and one of Marathi participants translated it into Marathi and it was also published in a Marathi journal. So, before it got published in Odia, it was already translated into Hindi and Marathi, And when it got published in Katha, an Odia fiction oriented magazine, it created an unexpected storm. Some Odia writers and readers blamed me with an allegation to promote obscenity. The controversy has still been remembered.

This story was translated into English and was anthologized in Harper Collins Book of Oriya Short Stories. Later it was translated into Assamese, Telugu and Malayalam. In 2005, when I was in a literary tour to Bangladesh, ‘Pratham Alo’, an established daily of Bangladesh, published Bangla translation of that story in its page to introduce and welcome me to their country.

Other Hindi and Bengali translations of this story by Dinesh Kumar Mali and Arita Bhoumik Adhikary have been anthologized in my Hindi and Bengali short stories collection Rape Tatha Anya Kahaniyan and Dukha Apramita respectively.

After 16 years of debut of this story, a young writer of Odisha once phoned me in a midnight in drunken state and rebuked me with vulgar slang and obscene words. He asked me which sexual urge made me to write this story.

In 2012, it was translated into Spanish and was anthologized in a short story collection. I am yet to get complimentary copy, but have read its reviews from different international journals.

And now, in 2013, I received a complimentary copy of SHAKTI, a French translation anthology of short stories written by 12 Indian women writers, starting from Ashapurna Devi of Bengali to Urmila Pawar of Marathi. I feel glad to see that Jean Claude Walter has translated my story ‘Rape’ as ‘Le Viol’ there. The book is edited by N. Kamala and Clarie Barthez and it has been published by Goyal Publishers and Distributors Pvt Ltd, Delhi.

                           Journey of a Story-2

I wrote a story in Odia titled 'Dukha Apramita’ which was published in ‘Jhankar’, a reputed magazine of Odisha.

The story was included in my Odia anthology Dukha Apramit published by Vidyapuri, Cuttack.

Ipsita Sarangi, a very sensitive poetess of Odia translated it into English and was anthologized in my second English short stories collection Waiting for Manna.

Dr. Gopa Nayak translated it for Muse India under the title ‘Misery Knows No Bound’ and was published in its 22nd issue:

Maithili version of that story was first published in e journal Videha and later was published in print magazine ‘The Sadeha’. Gajendra Thakur was its translator.!msg/videha/gMwd1dKL2ho/q8C1Edk73QIJ

This story was translated into Bengali first by Mahbub Anindo and was anthologized in Aloklata, published by Bangla Prakash, Dhaka in 2009. Later it was also published in his blog at

Dinesh Kumar Mali translated it into Hindi and published it in his blog ‘Sarojini Sahoo Ki Shreshtha Kahaniyan’

Arita Bhowmick translated it for second time and was anthologized in my Bengali short stories collection Dukha Aparimita, published by Anupam Prakashani, Dhaka.

Hindi translation of this story by Dinesh Kumar Mali was included in my Hindi short stories collection Rape Tatha Anya Kahaniyan, published by Rajpal & Sons.


Chicheng Hsu, a famous contemporary Chinese poet, writer and translator translated it into Chineses and was published in Jume 22 issue of ‘Square’, the literary supplement Weekly of Keng Shen Daily News.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

‘Goddess in Exile’

Goddess in Exile
Author: Sarojini Sahoo
Genre: Novel
Language: English
Price:225 INR
ISBN:  978-81-7273-727-6
E-35/103, Jawahar Park
Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-110 092

Dr. Sarojini Sahoo. A distinguished bilingual South Asian feminist writer, a columnist in National newspapers and  a renowned blogger, who has been enlisted among 25 Exceptional Women of India by Kindle English magazine of Kolkata and has been conferred with the Odisha Sahitya Academy Award. Her novel Goddess in Exile raises a number of pertinent questions; the issues discussed are really perplexing.  Is a woman an individual with her own will and freedom of choice? Is the ‘second sex’ destined to be used and exploited? Can she maintain a separate and independent existence without any social taboos, scandals and character assassination? Can she not sever her marital relationship in the wake of discord and disharmony? Can she unlock her heart freely? All such questions have varied answers depending on space and time and also attitudes and mindsets of people. Thinking minds and feeling hearts have dwelt upon them assiduously. However, Dr. Sahoo envisages a world order celebrating equality of both the sexes, despite the biological differences between the two which she considers quite natural and marginal. She boldly affirms that a woman is free to express her sexuality with no ambiguity and inhibition. There should be no gender bias, no discrimination, she advocates. For her, she is a beautiful creation of God with equal potentialities like her male counterpart, an integral part of the whole. Her sufferings and torture are unwarranted and unfortunate. She cannot ordinarily carve out a separate identity extricating herself from the soul-killing society. Can she make her life meaningful, and the world livable by embracing her will and choice?

(From Publisher’s note)

< Excerpts from  GODDESS IN EXILE> 

Harsha, the protagonist of the novel, married to a male chauvinist 
doctor who is thoroughly addicted to alcohol, to whom she deserts and 
comes back to her parents, determined never to go back. During her 
stay in Delhi, she develops an association with a visiting professor 
in Philosophy named Alberto whom she meets at the Car Festival in 
Puri. Alberto is a Portuguese and has immense respect and interest for 
Indian philosophy, her ancient history and heritage. But did they 

Below, a realization of Harsha, excerpted from my forthcoming novel 
Goddess in Exile. 

Now I have to return along the road 
that I have trodden for the last one year. 
Some familiar trees 
some houses known 
know not whether they are still there at the particular places? 
Walked along together for one year 
In order to get over the fatigue of walking 
I unlocked my grief stricken heart 
And you simply nodded like the fairytale Prince. 

Because you were there by my side 
I did not look at the yellow birds on the road 
Nor did I care to glance at the rainbow 
Nor did I look at the tiny mud-coated bodies of small children 
Nor did I see the sprouting or withering of flower petals 
But you simply nodded your head like the fairytale Prince. 
Never did you tell your sorrow 

What kind of journey is this? 
How long one can walk together 
With a traveller like you ? 
Your ego devoured you each time and takes you out, 
Every time you get depressed and take rebirth 
before you said something. 
Ego is the sandals of your feet 
the dress of your body 
the glasses of your eyes 
your wrist watch 
and the powder of your face. 

So many days we walked together 
I narrated my sorrow and you simply nodded 
You were so hard beneath a simple ‘yes’ 
Had I known earlier, I would have enjoyed 
the yellow birds on the boughs 
the rainbow in the sky, the muddied small children. 

After making an insurance of tremendous faith and hope 
when I knew 
that your pocket contains the plan of a future town. 
With the addresses of the motels and the brothels 
I know that your new town is ahead 
And you will be lost in the crowd, but you will carry 
With you my sorrowful story that I narrated during our walk together. 


Harsha and Alberto. Eventually, they are drawn to each other and tied 
in the bond of love. Harsha is glad for the revival of a new life, a 
fresh urge to live with the foreigner friend and lover. The woman for 
whom all the doors were apparently closed from all quarters finds the 
new found love reinvigorating and life-sustaining. She unhesitatingly 
accompanies Alberto to Rishikesh and they are lost in the amazing 
beauty and splendour of nature : 

When the dark clouds shrouded all around 
Give signals of downpour of torrential rain 
A gush of cold wind, 
With the drops of rain, drip, drop, drop; 
The dry earth gets wet 
The spiralling warm smell of the soil stirs the mind 
and maddens the heart 
Where would she hide herself? 
Where are the walls and the protecting roof? 
Where is that loving lap of promises? 
Leaving the deep dense forest 
Can she lie in mother’s lap protected? 
Should she hide herself? 
Can she avoid the smell pungent of the soil? 
The fall of incessant rains 
No, no fear for hailstorm nor lightning 
No mind to go back leaving the deep dense forest 
She could know as if a drop of rain 
Flowed down her undergarments secretly, 
moved towards the pair of tender flowers 
Without the notice of anybody and with the touches 
When eyes were closing in happiness 
the rain held her in close clasps. 
While enjoying the affection of rain 
All through the body she understood 
nothing is there in her control. 
Being exhausted she would know 
the down pour of rain on the body 
Her mortal coil submerged under water 
The rain all through her veins and arteries 
She had nothing to do 
And she could do nothing. 

(Note for readers: It is for Harsha a fulfilment and consummation. But 
Alberto claiming himself to be a Buddhist and believing in abstinence 
does not take this physical relationship normally.) 


Harsha was thrilled recapitulating the afternoon experience. She had bared out her body on Alberto’s bed exhausted after love-making. She didn’t know how all these things happened. Harsha had displayed her showcase of sorrows, which she had never done earlier before anybody. All the suppressed agonies were let loose from a closed cell after a long time. Have some tears rolled on along with the sorrows? Why did Alberto lift her up to his chest? The long standing stillness of their bodies suddenly broke and both of them unconsciously merged with each other.

She felt sleepy at the tender touch of Alberto. She began to melt down at a moment she knew not.

She stretched herself bare like the fodder to be eaten
Lord had leaned upon her with passionate hunger
A wild fire ran through all her veins
To be extinguished by the hope of the Lord
Showed He the ‘Biswarupa’ the mystery of creation
The original source of energy, all the worldly essences of science
The Lord bowed down with folded hands
Saw the apple in the garden of Eden, setting aside the creepers and bushes
Licked the first softness with the tongue of Basuki
To the last drop of the pot of nectar on the lips
Satan also changed at the moment
What was apparently a sin, I thought
Now turned into a merit (Punya).

Harsha lay on the bed contented like an enkindled soul. Alberto also lay supine on the bed. It was difficult to delve deep into the recesses of his mind. As though he had given everything and become penniless. Harsha was afraid to touch him. Both of them were speechless. Nothing to speak, neither a thing of joy nor sorrow.

As though she experienced it for the first time: an overflowing warmth in her body. Her life had attained a fulfilment at the very first union, uncanny though. Of course, Alberto lay beside her lifeless. Setting his legs aside slowly, Harsha got up from the bed. But Alberto continued in the same posture. She was eager to softly move her hand on Alberto’s body, and read his feelings. She wanted to know the feelings of Alberto. This unimpressive man also appeared to her as the most handsome; she called: ‘Alberto.’

Alberto got up and sat leaning against the cot. An indefinable void in his look. As if he had been internally torn to pieces and had been totally drained out of his energy. Somewhere was there an agony: it was clearly perceptible in his eyes. Harsha hesitated to speak anything. Alberto smiled but it did not naturally go with the depression writ large on his face.

Are you all right, Alberto? Are you not unhappy? She wanted to put a lot of such questions, but was afraid to do so. It is quite natural for a woman to be upset at such an incident. She had to brood over with a sense of guilt, her existence would have been shattered to pieces. Harsha would have felt as if she had lost everything, but it was other way round. Was Alberto unhappy because his abstinence was gone? Has this Buddhist been battered both in heart and soul by his sense of sin stemming out of his transgression? Is the man who firmly believed in abstinence unhappy for treading on the path of instinct? No, it was not the time to raise such questions. It is better to leave him alone: ‘Let me go, Alberto’, said Harsha. He uttered in a half awakened state: ‘Bye’. He did not come even to see her off. Harsha came out of the place with a tremendous sense of distress and pain.

Harsha felt as if a sage had broken down in grief for moral degradation. Whatever happened was not at all predestined but only an accident. A dormant desire as though had been waiting for a chance to be quenched. Both of them had entered an enchanting world, having been under the magical spell for a moment. Alberto had forgotten about ‘Nirvana’ (Salvation), Harsha also forgot her frigidity, her agony.


Alberto told Harsha,”I am not impotent, but I make love with parsimony.” 
He confessed: “: I was a small child at that time, four to five years 
old. A terrible incident happened with me. There was a man, half mad, 
near our house, crazy you may call him. He abducted me from the road 
and closed me in his house. He harassed me sexually for someday in his 
closed house. One day, taking advantage of his unmindfulness, I ran 
away from that place straight towards --------. I was seriously 
wounded by his torture. It took many days for the wound to be healed. 
Of course, I have par dined that man since long for his crime. But I 
cannot easily trust anybody. After that incident I always look with 
suspicion. I think, the same fear of childhood is still lying dormant 
me and it is frightening me timely or untimely.” 
Alberto suddenly raised a wonderful question. Your conjugal life was 
not at all happy. You were sexually tortured by that man during your 
stay with him. Have you now got a pleasant experience from life, by 
forgetting that painful past? Perhaps I am not able to put it 
correctly but I feel you are not unhappy as before. 

How can she explain Alberto? Every thing cannot be explained by argument. 

Someone went on giving blows with a crowbar 
The water lay hidden beneath the rock surface 
Completely drenched with sweat, the shivering body of the man 
Yet no spring of water gushed out 
The rock remains untouched/ unaffected 
Despite the severe blows again and again 
The nostrils swell with each blow 
Strong were the muscles 
The panting man in search of water 
Returned in vain again and again. 
The rock remained untouched and unperturbed for long 
Enjoined by the blows of the crowbar, terribly wounded 
Endured each blow silently, but 
Now what happened with the blow of the crowbar 
As if the rock shivered 
With some shiver, the body had a quiver, 
The first drop of rain 
The first sight of the sea 
The kiss of an adolescent cheek 
Or the imagination of the imminent death 
A titillation in the body 
With some invisible touch 
A thrill all over his body 
With terrible longings 
A cascade may fall at any moment 
Look here, look here 
The rock was undulating, tear me to pieces 
Release me from the bondage of the earth 
With the twinkle of an eye, the digging crow bar 
Itself melted into water 
It fell on to the rock surface 
The murmuring, gurgling round all around 
With the changing of ‘Purnamidam’ mantra 
In no time submerged under water 
The untouched unaffected rock. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Interventionist/Constitutive Potentials in Sarojini Sahoo’s Waiting for Manna

By Sangeeta Singh

     “It is easy to flow with the current, it makes no demands, and it costs no effort… But who fight the current and struggle it, know what the demands are and what it costs to meet them” (Dalmia interview 1979: 13)

       Sarojini Sahoo is a distinguished bilingual South Asian feminist writer, well known for her frankness. She is a prime figure and trendsetter of feminism in contemporary Indian literature. Sarojini Sahoo has emerged as a writer crusading for the cause of feminism through various experimentations in fiction. Her stories and novels have become ‘no-holds-barred’ exploration into the ‘feminist self’ of a ‘female soul’. This paper attempts to explore the interventionist potentials in the four short stories from the anthology Waiting for Manna by Sarojini Sahoo. The focus of this paper is to discuss how far Sarojini Sahoo has been successful in creating an alternative construct of woman’s identity in terms of her sexuality. This paper addresses to foreground conscious subversion of traditional notions of womanhood, in particular her sexuality. The paper also explores the narratives as a means to articulate counter cultural spaces for women.
Sarojini  Sahoo’s writing is marked   with a female consciousness, her body and her experience as a woman. Her stories and novels depict a feminine sensibility. She argues that women cannot deny their body, their sexual differentiation and as a consequence should consider it a source rather than a limitation and a disadvantaged destiny. In her blog ‘Sense & Sensuality’ she writes “Let us emphasize our femininity rather than impose the so-called stereotyped feministic attitude of the second wave”. As an Indian feminist, many of Sarojini Sahoo’s writings deal candidly with female sexuality, the emotional lives of women, and the intricate fabric of human relationships. She delineates explicitly about the interior experiences of women and how their ‘burgeoning sexuality’ is seen as a threat to traditional patriarchal societies. This anthology is avant garde fiction in the Indian context as it raises questions about issues that have never been discussed so far in any Indian discourse. Sahoo accepts feminism as an integral part of femaleness separate from the masculine world. Writing with a heightened awareness of women’s bodies, she has developed an appropriate style that exploits openness, fragmentation, and nonlinearity. Sahoo, however contents that while the woman’s identity is certainly constitutionally different from that of man; men and women still share a basic human equality. Thus, the harmful asymmetric sex /gender "Othering" arises accidentally and ‘passively’ from natural, unavoidable intersubjectivity. Hence it is quite evident that at ontological level there is differentiation of gender but it does not imply gender discrimination.
Her feminism prioritizes the sexual politics of a woman over other issues. She identifies women's sexual liberation as the real motive behind the women's movement.  In South Asian Outlook, an e-magazine published from Canada, Menka Walia writes: “Sahoo typically evolves her stories around Indian women and sexuality, which is something not commonly written about, but is rather discouraged in a traditionalist society.” Sarojini’s novels and short stories treat women as sexual beings and probe culturally sensitive topics such as rape, motherhood and marriage from a female perspective. Waiting for Manna consists of ten short stories out of which six stories are related to female world. The protagonist’s refusal to be completely absorbed into the cultural system within which she finds herself placed is the cut off point in all the stories. For this paper I have chosen four of her stories which include ‘Waiting for Manna’, ‘Threshold’, ‘Few Pages from Vacant lots’ and ‘Rape’.
The first story ‘Waiting for Manna’ is about a childless woman Paramita who is obsessed about having a baby and is under a constant fear and a sense of insecurity. And when she has a baby she questions the futility of becoming a mother at the cost of woman’s identity. Since she is admitted to a hospital for few days before delivery, she gets a chance to interact and observe people from close quarters.
      I don’t need any thing, neither children, nor family. Jayanti began to sob as she rose to speak. I am so far without a child, what if I don’t have one now? How long shall I live? Because of lack of this, I will have to tolerate so much. Mama lashes with her words at whomever she wants my husband rages whenever he feels. And simply because I am one’s daughter, and other’s wife.
 These lines are an emotional out burst of Jayanti who like Paramita is in the same nursing home. She has been unable to bear any children even after twelve years of her marriage. Her identity crisis is juxtaposed with another woman who is now old and has a grown up son. The irony in the life of this woman is that both her son and her husband; for whom she must have undergone the similar waiting and pain as Paramita is going through now; are totally indifferent towards her and treat her as a liability that they have to toe. And yet, she is self effacing.  Children who were once central to parent’s existence get engrossed in their own life and forget about their parents; who brought them up so lovingly. “This valorization of motherhood has its own built in paradoxes; the mother’s quasi divine status is associated with her capacity for voluntary self sacrifice.”(Chakaravarty Radha: Feminism and Contemporary Women Writers Rethinking Subjectivity p. 34). Once Paramita gets her baby, she wonders about motherhood, its rewards and finally confronts her disenchantment with motherhood.
Hema who too is waiting for “manna”, the pleasure of motherhood has chosen an exile of insecurity and suspicion for herself. Paramita is able to see through Hema’s veneer of ‘incessant chatter”. She knows that Hema too has lost herself in the quest of having a child. Waiting for Manna is a story which provokes the reader to think that is motherhood the only criteria for happiness in a woman’s life? A woman’s identity is tethered to a pre condition of her ability to bear children, particularly a male child (in India). “In India, women’s self-worth and value is usually dependent on their reproductive functions.”(Gandhi and Shah 1991: p. 138). The society puts a lot of pressure on woman to bear a male child that in the process she forgets her identity and is constantly plagued by all, in this regard. It is engrained into her mind that her happiness is incomplete without a child. A woman is made to forget that she had lived a complete life even when she was not a mother.

   You have forgotten that life of some previous birth.
   Now you are a prisoner among moments
And yet timeless.
Before your eyes only your shadow.
No world is before you.
Yet sweat drips from the body in the sweltering heat
And in the bosom –a devastating thirst.
You have torn all pages from the calendar,
Like falling flowers, in the sun of timelessness. (WFM p. 16)

Paramita goes through the transition of a woman to a mother and she realizes that how the society has different set of moral laws and customs, values and validities for a mother. “She had so far been hiding her breast thinking them as the most secret part of her body. Who took away all her shyness? Strange were the feelings and experiences in the world, where all obscenities were decent” (WFM  p. 26).  While it seems perfectly sane to discuss “breast cancer” or “breastfeeding” without rousing a controversy, a woman is not allowed to talk about her breasts in other contexts. For a writer, it is completely natural to want to express every experience and how is one supposed to categorize these needs and inhibit oneself? Sarojini Sahoo is very candid about describing the natural process of womanhood which is generally not talked about. She questions the futility of becoming a mother at the cost of woman’s happiness and identity. The attainment of motherhood is termed futile by Paramita if it amounts to a non identity. The desperation of Jayanti to become a mother is obvious.  Paramita desires to bless Jayanti with motherhood so that Jayanti herself realizes her lost self in a quest to have a baby.  
 A woman can think of herself as an individual only when she has either attained some level of security , be it emotional or economic , or when she has no strings attached; which means when she has nothing to loose. And at this juncture Jayanti belongs to neither of the two categories. ‘Waiting for Manna’ depicts a link between a private sorrows and a collective social trauma that women bereft of motherhood undergo. The metaphor of woman as idealized traditionally passive is evoked deliberately in the stories, to be dismantled by deconstructing the patriarchal metanarrative. In  her blog Sense & Sensuality  Sarojini Sahoo writes about  Waiting for Manna as a story which discusses ‘the queries after a lifetime of wondering, whether to have children, wondering if the sacrifices are worth it, wondering if life is full to bursting enough already -- how does our generation of women decide to have children?’

      “Threshold” is the story of Ipsita, a girl who runs away from her home to elope with her boyfriend and her anxiety and desperation to forget her parents. Even though she consciously violates the intellectual paradigms of the patriarchal world her perspective is shadowed by her ambivalent relationship. Privileging of stability has led to women to spend their lives in obedient compliance with the traditional patriarchal set up. A woman survives with humiliation and forbearance as her constant companions in order to nurture and sustain the patriarchal construct of womanhood. It is considered sinful for a woman to desire anything for herself. And Ipsita has crossed that ‘threshold’ not with a sense of freedom but with a predominant sense of guilt. Sahoo has tried to recover and explore the aspects of social relations that have been suppressed, unarticulated, or denied within male dominant view points. Her narratives simultaneously lament the patrachial framework of ‘womanhood’ and at the same time attempt to celebrate feminine selfhood and freedom.  Her narratives are partially constituted by their location within the web of social relations that make up any society. Sarojini is a progressive writer who doesn’t sever her ties from the society. For Sarojini the idea of freedom is thus paradoxically combined with a strong emphasis on responsibility towards oneself and others. She thus suggests alternative forms of liberty, beyond current notions of individualism. One feature that predominates all stories is that all protagonists feel that autonomy of freedom at an individual level has dangerous overtures for the society. And a sense of social and ethical responsibility is a must to evoke the maximum potential of freedom on a more pervasive scale. They all feel a need for connectedness. But stories also highlight the fact that all forms of connectedness are not the same while some bonds are constricting and need to be challenged or discarded, others especially those forged through choice and commitment are represented as transforming and empowering. As in the story “Few Pages from Vacant Lots” Deepa chooses to establish a new relation breaking away from her family.   
In “Rape” she tells the story of a female fantasy. A naïve woman dreams about being sexually crossed by the doctor and confesses it to her husband. And he is quick to retort back, while being wide awake, in his full senses that he too would like to make love to somebody other than his wife. From then on an innocent relationship between husband and wife changes; the change actually is subtle but a simple dream affects their marital status. The story dwells on consequences of being truthful to her husband. The husband goes on nagging his wife and cannot accept the sexuality of his wife.  Women have no independent identities they are not independent human beings. And they are not given the liberty to express talk or even think about their sexuality. Men also like to think of women as an extension of themselves. When women violate these standards this is a direct blow to the man’s sense of identity.  The writer asks a question whether a woman has no right to her sexual desires even if in her dream. She denies patriarchal limits of sexual expression for a woman through her narrative and interrogates previous constructs of ‘womanhood’ and her focus is on an emergence of self. Rape is a conscious subversive narrative. It is subversive in terms of a woman being vocal about her sexuality.
Through her use of narrative Sarojini Sahoo tries to create an identity, she constructs a collective history and effectuates a cultural critique and offers an alternative epistemology. However, the writer herself seems to be implicated in the system which she sets to critique. She has used her narrative as a means of re imagining woman’s own process of identification through revising and subverting the givens of the society. Making a dent in the so called Indian code of righteousness; Sarojini Sahoo’s writings are trying to validate their counter desertion of the patriarchal code of dharma in an attempt to assert the selfhood of women. Sarojini Sahoo has tried to re construct a woman’s sexuality in her stories where she gives a free expression to what a woman as an individual wants. In the narratives of Sarojini Sahoo there is a telescoping of the inner crisis of the protagonist in response to the realities outside: an effective dynamics through which the inner layers of the protagonist are laid bare. Through the double frame of reference, one alluding to a public world in a state of suspicion and conflict, and the other to private agony of a woman’s struggle with her own split subjectivity, Sarojini questions the hierarchical model of patriarchial discourse which privileges public history over personal story.  Sahoo seeks to expose the hypocrisy latent in the dominant discourses of maternity and marriage. The target of transformation is the reader, rather than any fictional character. These stories seek to unsettle perceived hierarchies and force a rethinking of accepted social frameworks. Sarojini deals with the social issues but she is basically a writer of individual values. A reader can see there is always a conflict between social values and individual values in her stories. In the expression of self there is a tension between individualistic urges and societal expectations. And her protagonists live in a nebulous borderland in search of coherence.
‘Self hood is about freedom, choice, rights, equality, rationality and control of one’s self.’ These stories articulate counter cultural spaces for women. In other words they do invert traditional notions of womanhood. Her protagonists are poised between submission and resistance, passivity and action. The very instability of this subject contains within it the possibility of initiating a change. These narratives do have an interventionist potential. However, total revolutionary and constitutive transformation is a distant dream, only piece meal changes in the society can be co-opted in the society and that too very gradually. I think Waiting for Manna is a step further in this direction.


                                                                        Works Cited
Primary sources
Sahoo, Sarojini  : Waiting for Manna. Indian AGE Communication Vadodra 2008.

Secondary Sources
Chakarvarty,  Radha.  Feminism and Contemporary Women Writers:  Rethinking Subjectivity.         
    Routledge : New Delhi 2008.
Dalmia, Yashodhara. 1979. ‘‘An Interview with Anita Desai.’’ The Times of India, 29 April.
Gandhi , Nandita and Nandita Shah. 1991. The Issues at Stake : Theory and Practice in the Contemporary 
     Women’s Movement in India. New Delhi : Kali for Women and The book Review Literary Trust.

(The author of this article is an Assistant Proffessor at Himachal Pradesh University and she lives in Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh. She can be reached at sangeetachauhan9(AT)

 (Published in January 2012 issue of International Journal on Multicultural Literature, ISSN 2231-6248)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bandh Kamra

Title: Badh Kamra

Written By : Sarojini Sahoo

Publisher: Rajpal & Sons

Genre: Novel

Language: Hindi

Price : INR 150/-

Format : Paperback

ISBN : 978 81 7028 954 8

Online Seller:

राष्ट्र की ‘संज्ञा’ को परिभाषित करता एक उपन्यास

(‘राष्ट्र समूह वाचक नहीं, बल्कि व्यक्ति वाचक’)

‘बंद कमरा’ उपन्यास में राष्ट्र की ‘संज्ञा’ को भी परिभाषित किया गया है,व्यक्ति और राष्ट्र के बीच उत्पन्न हुए द्वन्द-प्रसंगों का भी उल्लेख किया गया है। इस उपन्यास में राष्ट्र को परिभाषित करते हुए लेखिका पाठकों के सम्मुख कुछ सवालों के जरिये हकीकत को उकेरती है ,इराक के ऊपर अमेरिका का आक्रमण किसकी इच्छा से हुआ था जार्ज बुश या अमेरिका की ? गर्बाचोव न होते तो पेरेस्त्रोइका संभव हो पाती क्या रूस में ? इन बातों से यह जाहिर होता है राष्ट्र नामक किसी भी चीज का कोई अस्तित्व नहीं है। शासक से राष्ट्र कभी बड़ा नहीं हो पाता है। शासक के मूड़ और मर्जी से परिचालित होता है एक विशाल लोकतान्त्रिक संस्था, जिसमे करोड़ों लोगों की आस्था टिकी हुई होती है, इसलिए राष्ट्र और व्यक्ति के संघर्ष हमेशा व्यक्ति व्यक्ति के निजी संघर्ष से उत्पन्न होते हैं।“


एक लम्बे अरसे से डॉ. सरोजिनी साहू ओड़िया साहित्य में अपनी सृजनशीलता के लिए पाठकों में चर्चा का विषय रही हैं। सप्रतिभ भाषा-शैली, कथ्य-संप्रेषण और नवीन चेतना-स्तर के कारण वह अपने समसामायिक साहित्यकारों में एक अलग पहचान रखती है। आपका ओडिया उपन्यास ‘गंभीरी घर’ (हिंदी में ‘बंद कमरा ‘) ओडिशा की प्रसिद्ध ‘गल्प-पत्रिका’ के पूजा-अंक में प्रकाशित होते ही ओडिया -पाठकों में चर्चा का एक जबरदस्त विषय बना । पहले की तरह डॉ.सरोजिनी की हर रचनाओं की तरह यह उपन्यास भी आकर्षण का केन्द्र बना। भले ही, कुछ पाठकों में लेखिका के व्यक्तव्य की स्मार्टनेस नागवार गुजरी, मगर अनेक पाठकों ने न केवल इसे सहर्ष स्वीकार किया,बल्कि इस उपन्यास को पढ़कर भावाभिभूत भी हुए .

लेखिका की कहानियों और उपन्यासों में ऎसी ही जादुई विलक्षणता है, जो पाठकों को बरबस अपनी ओर आकर्षित करती है। कुछ पाठकों ने उपन्यासकार को उसका खुद एक पात्र समझने की गलती की , मगर यह सार्वभौमिक सत्य है, किसी उपन्यास की सफलता इस बात पर निर्भर करती है जहां पाठकों ने उसके अन्दर किन्हीं छिपी हुई सत्य-संवेदनाओं को अपने भीतर अनुभव किया हो।

क्या यह उपन्यास वास्तव में केवल प्रेम पर आधारित उपन्यास है ? क्या लेखिका हिंदु प्रेमिका और मुस्लिम प्रेमी के बारे में अपनी बात रखना चाहती है या भारतीय नारी और पाकिस्तानी पुरुष का अंतरजाल के माध्यम से विकसित हुई यह प्रेम-कहानी को दर्शाना चाहती है ?

कुछ ओडिया पाठक इसे यौन-स्वतंत्रता से संबंधित उपन्यास मानते हैं, जबकि इन सारी चीजों से ऊपर उठकर ‘गंभीरी घर’ का कथ्य और कथानक की व्यापकता और ज्यादा विशाल हो जाती है। इस उपन्यास में व्यक्ति की निसंगता, विशेष रूप से भारतीय नारी की आधुनिक जीवन -धारा में अकेलेपन और रिक्तता की बातें दर्शाई गई है। इस उपन्यास में राष्ट्र की ‘संज्ञा’ को भी परिभाषित किया गया है,व्यक्ति और राष्ट्र के बीच उत्पन्न हुए द्वन्द-प्रसंगों का भी उल्लेख किया गया है। उपन्यास की मुख्य नायिका कूकी के एक ओर है पतिऔर दूसरी तरफ प्रेमी; पति अनिकेत और प्रेमी शफीक। पति की दुनिया में घर-गृहस्थी मानो संवेदनहीन और पत्थर बन चुकी हो, और प्रेमी शफीक की काल्पनिक दुनिया का कहना ही क्या ! शफीक को देखा तक नहीं कूकी ने, स्पर्श करना तो बहुत दूर की बात। शायद इसलिए शफीक के लिए उसके हृदय में उसको पाने की व्याकुलता स्वाभाविक है। परंतु उसकी पहुँच से परे है शफीक का आकाश।बाहर से प्रेम प्रदर्शन नहीं करने वाला दंभी अनिकेत कूकी को प्यार नहीं करता था, ऐसी बात नहीं थी। सभी के सामने कूकी को अपने शरीर के प्रति लापरवाही बरतने से नाराज होकर कूकी पर हाथ उठाने के पीछे भी कहीं न कहीं उसकी प्रेम की भावना छिपी हुई थी। इसी तरह वह कूकी की तबीयत खराब हो जाने पर रात रात जगकर उसकी सेवा करता था । इन दो परस्पर विरोधी पुरुष-व्यक्तित्वों को लेखिका ने अनिकेत के माध्यम से बहुत ही निपुणता से वर्णन किया है। उपन्यास के अंत में अनिकेत की विदेश-यात्रा के समय पाठक देखेंगे, अनिकेत और कूकी में घनिष्ठ प्रेम है।

जबकि बावन स्त्रियों के साथ संभोग किया हुआ, घर में दो बीवियां रखने वाला शफीक विकृत मानसिकता वाला होते हुए भी एक सफल चित्रकार है। मेरा यह मानना है जैसे लेखिका शफीक के अंदर पिकासो को ढूंढ रही हो। पिकासो ने कई स्त्रियों के साथ संबंध बनाए थे। उनके प्रेम और उनकी कामुकता के प्रति आसक्ति भरे खोजी दृष्टिकोण ने उसे विश्व प्रसिद्ध चित्रकार बना दिया था। ये सारी बातें शफीक के अंदर पाई जाती है। परंतु शफीक प्रेमी स्वभाव का है, इसलिए लेखिका ने कूकी का उसके प्रति प्रेम भाव को कई सुन्दर प्रेम कविताओं के पद्यांशों के जरिए दर्शाया है। जहां अनिकेत का आगमन होता है वहाँ भाषा गद्य का रूप ले लेती है। पद्य और गद्य शैली में लिखा गया यह उपन्यास मानवीय हृदय के माधुर्य और तिक्तता को एक साथ प्रकट करता है।

क्या यही है भारतीय नारी की नियति ? हमारी समाज-व्यवस्था, हमारी जीवनचर्या, हमारे संस्कार नारी को अलग कर देते हैं । आधुनिकता, शिक्षा-दीक्षा, संविधान सम्मत समस्त अधिकार होते हुए भी एक नारी अपने प्रेमी और पति से दोनो से विच्छिन्न होकर रह जाती है। वह कैदी है, वह खुद ही अपने को कैद कर लेती है संवेदनशील मातृत्व की सलाखों के पीछे घर नामक चारदीवारी के अंदर। इस विच्छिन्नता बोध को प्रतीक है ‘गंभीरी घर’।

ट्रेजेडी उपन्यास होते हुए भी प्रेम के प्रति आस्थाबोध पाठकों को नजर आएगा। प्रेम के प्रति लेखिका का दृष्टिकोण प्रचलित धारणाओं से उठकर स्वतंत्र रूप में है। पति अनिकेत के प्रेम और प्रेमी शफीक के प्रेम में जो अंतर है, उसे लेखिका ने बड़े से सूक्ष्म ढंग से प्रस्तुत किया है। अनिकेत के प्रेम में है प्रज्ञा और शफीक के प्रेम में आवेग और रोमांच का बाहुल्य ।

एक स्त्री का निश्चल प्यार पाकर एक पर्वटेड कामुक आदमी क्रमशः परफेक्टशन की ओर अग्रसर होता है। स्वयं को यौनता से पृथक करते हुए प्रेम पथ पर बढता जाता है। उसे नारी का शरीर और आकर्षित नहीं करता है। रूखसाना उसके लिए देवी है, इसलिए कूकी के भीतर वह रूखसाना को देखता है।

कट्टरपंथ , धार्मिक-बंधन, देश, राजनैतिक, भौगोलिक सीमाओं से ऊपर है रूखसाना की स्थिति। इसलिए शफीक कहता है, मेरा कोई अपना देश नहीं है, कलाकार के लिए कोई एक विशेष देश नहीं होता है। उसके पास होते हैं केवल प्रेम के नैसर्गिक संबंध।

इस उपन्यास में कूकी का मनोवैज्ञानिक विश्लेषण कर लेखिका ने अपने सक्षम लेखन का परिचय दिया है। कुमारी-साधना, ओशों की सम्भोग से समाधि वाली साधना, रागानुराग भक्ति-मार्ग में कूकी विश्वास नहीं रखती थी। वह कहती थी, “शफीक, नहीं, मैं ओशो के दिखाए मार्ग में तुम्हें सहयोग नहीं कर पाऊँगी। मैं अति साधारण औरत हूँ। मेरी आशा और आकांक्षाएं सभी साधारण सी है। मैंअपने प्रेमी से केवल प्रेम की उम्मीद करती हूँ। जीवन जीने की खुराक चाहती हूँ। मुझे किसी भी साधना से क्या लेना-देना ? मुझे मोक्ष प्राप्ति की कोई इच्छा नहीं है। मैं ‘नेरात्मा’बनकर बैठी रहूंगी और तुम व्याकुल शबर की तरह मेरे पास भागे दौड़े आओगे।”

पिकासो के ‘ला कुक्कू मेगनिफिक’ तस्वीर के जरिए लेखिका ने कूकी के अपराध-बोध को दिखाया है। ‘ला कुक्कू मेगनिफिक’ का मतलब होता है, जिस पति की पत्नी अन्य पुरूषों के साथ प्रेम करती है। वह तस्वीर बहुत ही गजब खूबसूरत थी। उस तस्वीर में एक नंगी औरत पहिए वाली गाड़ी में टांगों को उठाकर एक के ऊपर दूसरे को रखकर सोई हुई है। टांगों के भीतर से उसके यौनांग साफ़ दिखाई पड़ता है। एक नग्न पुरुष उस पहिए वाली गाड़ी को खींच रहा है। छुपकर कुछ नंगे लोग उस दृश्य को देख रहे हैं और उस तस्वीर के बायी ओर एक फ्रॉक पहने लड़की हाथ में चाबुक लिए खड़ी है। अपराध-बोध की सुंदर व्याख्या लेखिका और पिकासो की जुगलबंदी इस उपन्यास को एक विशिष्ट दर्जा प्रदान करती है।

इस उपन्यास में राष्ट्र को परिभाषित करते हुए लेखिका पाठकों के सम्मुख कुछ सवालों के जरिये हकीकत को उकेरती है ,इराक के ऊपर अमेरिका का आक्रमण किसकी इच्छा से हुआ था जार्ज बुश या अमेरिका की ? गर्बाचोव न होते तो पेरेस्त्रोइका संभव हो पाती क्या रूस में ? इन बातों से यह जाहिर होता है राष्ट्र नामक किसी भी चीज का कोई अस्तित्व नहीं है। शासक से राष्ट्र कभी बड़ा नहीं हो पाता है। शासक के मूड़ और मर्जी से परिचालित होता है एक विशाल लोकतान्त्रिक संस्था, जिसमे करोड़ों लोगों की आस्था टिकी हुई होती है, इसलिए राष्ट्र और व्यक्ति के संघर्ष हमेशा व्यक्ति व्यक्ति के निजी संघर्ष से उत्पन्न होते हैं। लंदन बम ब्लास्ट में शफीक के गिरफ्तार होने के पीछे आतंकवाद कोई कारण नहीं है, वह तो किसी भी धर्म में विश्वास नहीं रखता था, वह तो इस बात को मानता था कि उसका कोई देश नहीं है, वह कट्टरपंथियों का विरोध भी करता था। वह गिरफ्तार हुआ तो केवल एक छोटे से कारण की वजह से। तबुस्सम और मिल्टरी ऑफिसर के आपसी वैमनस्य और मतभेद से। इस नितांत व्यक्तिगत घटना को एक अंतराष्ट्रीय रूप देकर उसे गिरफ्तार किया गया था।

लेखिका ने इस उपन्यास में आतंकवाद के मलभूत कारणों को जानने की कोशिश की है। अफगानिस्तान से रूसी सैनिकों को हटाने के लिए अमेरिका ने पाकिस्तान में आतंकवादियों का प्रशिक्षण प्रदान किया था। इस्लाम की सुरक्षा के नाम पर ,जेहाद के नाम पर, विश्व के हर प्रांत से मुसलमानों को एकत्रित कर गोरिल्ला युद्ध का प्रशिक्षण दिया था, अस्त्र-शस्त्र बांटे थे। वहीं से शुरू होता है आतंकवाद का बीजारोपण। रूसी सैनिकों ने अफगानिस्तान से हट जाने के बाद अमेरिका भी वहां से हट गया था, क्योंकि वह अप्रत्क्षतः अपने मकसद में सफल हो गया था । वहां से हटते समय छोड़ गया था अस्त्र-शस्त्रों की भरमार खेंपें और उनके ट्रेनिंग कैंप। रह गए थे सिर्फ तालिबानी और जेहादी। उन्होंने कुवैत जैसे भोलेभाले देश को एनजीओ के माध्यम से मुफ्त शिक्षा का प्रलोभन दिखाकर कई कौमी मदरसे खोलें । जहाँ छोटे-छोटे बच्चे धीरे-धीरे मानवीय बंबों और आत्मघाती दस्तों में बदल गए।इस तरह इस उपन्यास में घरेलू आतंकवाद से वैश्विक आतंकवाद के संभावित कारणों का अच्छे ठंग से ताना बना बुना गया है ।

लेखिका ने इसलिए लिखा है,“पूछो, पूछो , अमेरिका को पूछो, अफगानिस्तान से रूस को हटाने के लिए जो हथियार तैयार किए थे, और हृदयहीन रोबोट बनाए थे, अब वे कहाँ जाएंगे ? कहाँ गाडेंगे इतने हथियार ? कैसे भूलेंगे तालिम के वे दिन ? गोला, बारूद, हथियारतो हमेशा खून मांगता है। मांगता है जीवन।”

इसलिए आतंकवाद जितना धर्म आश्रित नहीं होता है, उससे ज्यादा रष्ट्र आश्रित होता है। संभवत अमेरिका का शीत-युद्ध राजनीति लादेन का सृष्टा है। इसलिए लेखिका के उस उपन्यास में अन्तरंग प्रेम के साथ साथ कई बारीक दार्शनिक पहलूओं का जिक्र हैं।

( ‘रेप तथा अन्य कहानियां’ (2011 ) के बाद राजपाल एंड साँस ने सरोजिनी साहू के चर्चित उपन्यास ‘( अंग्रेजी : ‘The Dark Abode/ ओडिया ‘गंभीरी घर’) ’ का हिंदी अनुवाद बंद कमरा‘ शीर्षक से प्रकाशित किया है.यह उपन्यास पहले से ही मलयालम में ‘इरुंडा कुदरमा’ तथा बंगला में’ मिथ्या गेरोस्थाली’ शीर्षक से केरल तथा बंगला देश से प्रकाशित हो चुकी है. इस उपन्यास का ऑनलाइन क्रय हेतु राजपाल एंड साँस पर जाएँ )

बंगला देश की प्रख्यात लेखिका सेलिना होसेन ने बंगला पत्रिका में इस उपन्यास की समीक्षा की थी, जिसका अंग्रेजी अनुवाद आप इस लिंक से पढ़ सकते हैं.

“Different aspects of the crisis of a woman’s life has been described in this novel. The woman fights with herself. This inner conflict is of a family, of a society, of the time. The love of the heroine for her husband, her illicit love for another with promises to wait for him, all these tell us that the name of this novel is ‘The Dark Abode’. The woman is there to drag on this false housewifery. The area which is marked exclusively as belonging to her, the housewife under the patriarchal system, is too easily intruded by many relationships, many attachments. The lady, by using technology and analyzing human behaviour, understands that that area is not exclusively hers. There dwells many maladjustments, many falsehoods.”

अनुवादक : दिनेश कुमार माली