Literature of desire
The exotic interiors of the bar/restaurant Shiro at hotel Samrat were rendered a shade more exotic when Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s new book, Sita’s Curse was launched there recently to a packed house. The critically acclaimed feminist erotica published by Hachette has already got a great number of readers hooked on to it.
“Sita’s Curse is a book written by a young, fearless and charming lady who says it like it is,” remarked Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal, the stage diva best known for her performances in The Vagina Monologues. The book narrates the story of 40-year-old Meera Patel and looks at love, longing, sex, sexuality and sin through her eyes. Her metamorphosis from a naïve small town girl from Gujarat to a fearless woman who unabashedly seeks the fulfillment of her desires, both emotional and physical, is expressed through an explosively sexual saga. At one point, the plot introduces a character of a self-proclaimed god man who “assists” women in conceiving and the author revealed that, “during my time as a reporter I met many such women who were forced by their husbands and mothers-in-law to go to such babas. After the book was published, a lot of women from all classes confirmed my observation, personally coming up to me to tell me their stories.”
Actor Adil Hussain of English Vinglish fame read out excerpts from the book along with the author. During the course of the conversation that followed, the author revealed her source of inspiration to be a middle-aged woman from a chawl in Mumbai. “When I was in Mumbai, I used to pass her chawl everyday on my way to work. I used to look for her, she used to be invariably standing in her balcony staring into nothingness. She was beautiful in a subtle and classic way. The most attractive thing about her was her eyes and the expression they carried,” she reminisced.
The panelists’ discussion with the author went on to traverse many aspects of desire and female sexuality. The objectification of women in Indian popular culture, the changing definition of marriage within an urban context and the very idiom of desire in our daily lives and literature were a few other popular strands touched upon during the course of the evening.
Questions were welcomed from the audience. The relevance of the role of women as described in the Vedas in today’s age was a topic that provoked a number of questions, one of which raised the issue of sex being such a taboo in our country despite its heritage of Kama Sutra and the architecture at Khajuraho. A discussion also followed about why feminist erotica as a genre has taken so long to develop in India. “We sell everything through sex, and yet we can’t sit down and talk about it with our children,” Mahabanoo Kotwal pointed out, stressing the importance of sex education.
On being asked by a member of the audience about her experience while writing the many erotic sequences in the book, Kundu responded, “The story has been born out of my observations throughout my time as a reporter of the people I encountered. As writers, we try to live vicariously through our characters and derive inspiration from what we have lived ourselves.”
Hussain, on his part, said of women in general that, “women are indeed higher beings since they are the givers and sustainers of life while men just have a limited job in the process.” He went on to state his own example, elaborating that simply on his own, he would be unable even to feed his infant child since he lacks the required body parts. Sreemoyee, on her part, emphasised that women are still perceived in India the way they were perceived in the early ages. “Till date, even after the career I have had, the question ‘why are you not married yet’ remains unavoidable for me,” she rued.