Thursday, February 21, 2013

Her Story, Our Story and On the Swing: Short Stories and a Novella

Her Story, Our Story and On the Swing: Short Stories and a Novella
Vibhavari Shirurkar  Translated from the Marathi by Yashodhara Deshpande Maitra
demy octavo pb 230pp ISBN 978-81-85604-94-7 Rs 275 Jan 2008

‘The writer of indecent, obscene works such as Kalyanche Nishwas [Her Story, Our Story, a collection of short stories, 1933] and especially Hindolyavar [On the Swing, a novella, 1934] must be killed.’
This was the extreme reaction that greeted these two books when they were published in the 1930s. In the short stories, Vibhavari Shirurkar (the pseudonym of Malatibai Bedekar), had bravely written on the complex yearnings of young girls, touching upon their sexuality and their tentative steps to an inchoate self-hood, and in the novella, of an abandoned wife’s courage in forming a new relationship. This outraged middle class respectability. When the yet undiscovered author’s effigy was burnt on the streets of Pune, the pseudonym used protected her.   
In the 1976 edition of Kalyanche Nishwas (Popular Prakashan), the author wrote a note on the public reaction to these two works when first published, which has also been included in this volume. She declared that her portrayal of young working women being financially exploited by their fathers, of their being drawn towards devious men despite themselves, or their severe stress as widows or abandoned wives, was a diluted version; the reality was much worse.
These two pieces, translated into English from the original Marathi for the first time, and accompanied by a critical note, written in 1933, by the sociologist and Marathi encyclopaedist S. V. Ketkar, are like a slice of social history. Together they speak about women who loved and lost, despaired, doubted the choices they made, yet made them nevertheless.

Malatibai Bedekar, who used the pen name Vibhavari Shirurkar, was born Balutai Anant Khare in 1905. She graduated from Karve University (now SNDT) at seventeen and later undertook research on 'Alankarshastra', an aspect of Sanskrit aesthetics. She was married to the distinguished writer and film director Vishram Bedekar. Yashodhara Deshpande Maitra taught natural sciences at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. She lives in Webster, NY, USA.

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