Women writers in Hindi Literature
carved out their own spaces in order to address issues such as marriage, divorce, sexuality, and women`s education, that is, issues that directly affect women`s lives. Although male writers such as Munshi Premchand
, Jainendra Kumar, Rajender Singh Bedi, and Bhisham Sahni attempted to deal with problems that women face in Indian society, they accorded women spaces that were conceived according to their own social visions. Hence, what was ascribed to women were spaces designated from a male viewpoint. In course of time, women writers in Hindi Literature when confronted with such problems, interrogated in their writings the cultural traditions and the modern uses of patriarchal power in independent India. Many of these women have challenged the power structures that assign them sub-ordinate positions even while keeping some of the traditions intact. They discuss their frustrations and humiliations stemming from social problems that affect their daily lives.
Thus there are women writers like Rajni Pannikar, Krishna Sobti etc who address the issue of the subjugation of women in society. Krishna Sobti also opposes the traditional moral values imposed on women. In most of her novels, Shivani opens up numerous windows on the lives of women. She asserts that the tradition-bound, male-dominated system leaves no space for women`s individuality. Shivani contends that a woman may be treated as a goddess or as a `Sati
,` but actually her position is no more than that of a servant. Her novels reveal that even in the contemporary milieu, women`s situation is no different from the repressive conditions of the nineteenth century that had urged the need for social reforms. In Chaudah Phere, Shivani, through the colonel, his wife, and their daughter Ahilya, exposes the social system. She puts forward the view that in the male-dominated Indian society, a man assumes the rights to behave with a woman in whichever way he likes. Despite Ahilya`s protests, her father the colonel forces her to marry the man he chooses as her husband. The colonel himself has an affair with Malika Sarkar, depriving his wife of all her rights in the house. In Rativilap, Shivani portrays the difficulties of a widow. In spite of being educated, Mayapuri`s Shobha, finds herself caught in a web of difficulties. Helpless and trapped, she silently suffers when her poverty, class, and caste prevent her from marrying her lover, Satish, who brings the governor`s daughter home as his bride.
Like Mayapuri`s Shobha, the protagonist in Usha Priyamvada`s Pachpan Khambe Lal Diwaren is prevented from marrying the man she loves because it is socially unacceptable. Burdened by poverty and her family`s financial crisis, she takes up a job as the warden of a hostel and becomes a prisoner in the building with red walls and 55 pillars.
A number of stories written by women foreground the problems pertaining to marriage. The Indian social system allows little choice to women in the matter of selecting their husbands. For the most part, parents make decisions about matrimony and, in accordance with the Shastras, gift the girl to the groom`s family through a ritual called kanyaadan (giving of the bride), accompanied by a dowry that serves as a reimbursment to her husband`s family. Unfortunately, the practice of giving dowry has resulted in the commoditization of women and encourages, at the same time, mismatched marriages because of poverty. While rich men claim an untold price for their sons, the poor are forced to sell their daughters to men because of economic helplessness. Rajni Pannikar speaks out against this situation in her novels. Because of her family`s inability to give dowry, the heroine of Do Ladkiyan remains unmarried. On the night of her wedding, the vows cannot be taken because the prospective groom and his father angrily disrupt the ceremony upon realizing that no dowry will be provided. Helpless, she takes up a job to solve her family`s financial difficulties. In the meantime, she meets the wealthy Mr. Kanaudia, who wants to make her his private secretary. In exchange, he offers her a car, a bungalow, and other facilities. She accepts his terms only to later realize his sexual intentions toward her. Kanaudia views her as no more than a female body for his sexual exploits. Pannikar`s attempt is to enlighten us about the regressive aspects of a rigid and tradition-bound system.
The problems of arranged marriage is manifested in Shivani`s Kainja, whose heroine, Nandi Tiwari, is not allowed to marry the man she chooses, because her father has been told that her horoscope does not predict a happy married future.
The problem of dowry compounded by widowhood is considered in Mrinal Pandey`s short story "Hum Safar." Through the thoughts of a young widow, Nirmala, traveling in a train compartment, Pandey illuminates the bitter truth about the ways in which her widowhood denies her whatever little she has left to savor. Nirmala recalls that after her husband`s death, her colored Saris and blouses, her silver anklets and nose ring, all had slowly found their way into her sister-in-law`s boxes. Thus through the story Pandey tries to challenge the existent social structure which affects and moulds a widow`s world. To confront the violence committed on women in their daily lives, Pandey introduces a language of violence expressed in Nirmala`s outrageous beating of her son. What is expressed in this action is that a quiet and non-violent, passive attitude that society expects from a "virtuous" woman is insufficient to confront the violence inflicted on women through male-dominated structures.
Stories written by women largely reveal women`s desires to have the choice to shape their lives, especially marriage, something that existing social institutions do not grant. Although Mannu Bhandari sees marriage as a necessity, she recommends the choice of divorce in an unsuccessful marriage. At the same time, however, she highlights the social problems attached to the status of being a divorced woman in Ap Ka Band (1971).
Most of the stories of Pannikar, Shivani, Mannu Bhandari, and Mrinal Pandey strongly convey the necessity for women`s education for achieving social and economic equality. For this reason, their protagonists are often educated women. The heroine of Do Ladkiyan is professionally sound because of her education. Similarly, Kainja`s Nandi Tiwari fights the system by obtaining a medical degree, which enables her to become a successful doctor. Her education provides her a self-confidence and economic stability that enable her to face the repressive society.
Thus women writers in Hindi Literature have proved extremely progressive in their questioning of the social structures which confined. The stories written by these women introduce old issues, but with new emphases and new orientations.