Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crossing the threshold

Sarah Joseph's Othappu has just won this year's Crossword Award for translation. An appreciation of her work...

The in-betweenness of doors often defines the lives of women; like doors they hinge precariously between freedom and unfreedom. A writer like Sarah Joseph is also aware that there are open doors and closed doors. Margalitha in Othappu: The Scent of the Other Side, this year's Crossword Award winning novel for translation, chooses to walk out from the cloth-scheme of things into the wider world, managing to open the door of the convent and walk down the steps like the wind that never returns: At dawn, when the chapel bell rang in the convent, Margalitha took off her veil and under-veil. It did not bring on a storm, a pestilence or an earthquake. She stood looking at the clothes of holiness strewn on the floor, but felt nothing. After all, what did clothes add up to? Did a vocation lie in the cloth? Margalitha stepped out of the cloth-scheme of things. With a deep sigh, she managed to open the door and walk out into the wider world.

Freedom and choice, the most basic factors of human condition have tormented writers and philosophers at all times. They understand that total freedom and absolute choice are ideal wishes. Structural and ideological circumstances limit the freedom of choice. This is more so in the case of women. Those women who are conscious of it forge resistance. And those who risk their lives in this cause are called feminists. Sarah Joseph is a feminist. She says, “I am proud that I am born a woman. I feel fortunate to be living in an age that hearkens to the promising voice of women. As I am not a ‘male writer', I have no compulsions to reproduce the values of the ruling class. The culture of the dominant class is against women, just as it is against those low of caste [….] My duty is to write fearlessly about the world of women — women, who are denied self-determining rights over their own bodies by the oppressive gender regime.”

Full report here Hindu

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