Women In Indian Writing : From Difference To Diversity 
Publisher: Prestige Books 2009.
ISBN: 81-7851-049-9

A Labour of Love – Book reviewed by Ambika Ananth in Muse India

Many may feel that there is a kind of commonality of experience and expression in women’s writing, but the dimensions and diversities shown by Ranu Uniyal in her work entitled “Women in Indian writing” defy that. She very deftly unravels the net of words that these writers have spun and presents her perspective, by understanding the ‘writers and analyzing their work.’

Firstly, it takes a thorough reading, then it takes to conjure up an image in the head and then through a catalyst action it takes to change the image into words and present to the readers. Ranu Uniyal, a creative writer, poet and a scholar herself, succeeds in doing so and doing brilliantly.

One can easily identify with her statement that this book is a labour of love. “Over a period of twenty years of reading, writing, teaching and talking, I have come across a wide section of women who have shared and sharpened my understanding of problems related to life and living” – she says in her ‘acknowledgement’ page.

Ranu Uniyal in eight pithy chapters, discusses topics like “Motherhood in contemporary Indian Fiction,” “Writers from the Indian diaspora,” “Study of Widows in Indian Literature” apart from examining the work of contemporary giants of women writing – Anita Desai (Clear Light of the Day), Shashi Deshpande (The Binding Vine), Arundhati Roy (The God of Small things).

Though a humungous task, there are no insipid reiterations anywhere. She traces deftly the finer nuances indelibly inscribed in writings. Usually the attitude would be ‘rather not put hand in the fire,’ but Ranu gives her incisive and erudite comments. Her choice of words is distinctive and fine. She writes: “In her novels Anita Deasi explores the male-female dichotomy by feminizing the male (as in ‘Baumgartner’s Bombay’ or take the example of Mattheo in “Journey to Ithaca,” Arun in “Fasting, Feasting’). Each of these men is trapped in their consciousness and is looking for fulfillment. Incapable of adjusting in their social milieu, they are as constrained and restricted as some of her women. Having said so, I would argue that Desai aspires for ‘a literary ideal’ of ‘ardhanarishwara’ that combines the male and female attributes.”

More people have talent than discipline; that’s why discipline pays better they say, but when talent and discipline go hand in hand a work like this with a global reach and literary importance happens. In her pursuit, Ranu Uniyal’s passion seems to have gotten so sublimated as to awaken a wonderful and insightful understanding. With its vast content and ardour, the book has a palpable pedagogic quality and creative intensity.

In the chapter “Writing a Body that Overflows,” reconstructing Draupadi in contemporary literature, Ranu examines the myth of Draupadi and its socio-cultural and literary implications in the works of Prathibha Ray and Mahasweta Devi. She says that ‘Draupadi is an excellent example of a woman deified and a woman destroyed. In the retelling of the story by the two women writers, Draupadi ‘explodes the myth of a submissive and subservient woman’ and ‘emerges as a strong force, representing the alienation and fragmentation of the age.’

The daring articulations and quietism of women writers’ writing are validated, appreciated and explained – as the case may be, by Ranu Uniyal in this seminal work. Like a series of beacon lights set at different angles, so that they throw light in all the directions, her explication, assessment and critique shed light on all-important aspects of the selected women’s writing.

The book has strong merit to serve as a reference book for students and scholars.


Ref –Muse India