Women In Indian Writing : From Difference To Diversity  By Ranu Uniyal
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




Across the Divide, Ranu Uniyal, Yeti Books, Calicut 2006

ISBN : 81-88-330-22-1


Book reviewed by KALA KRISHNAN RAMESH in The Hindu

Suckling Eve, V.G.Thampy translated by Bindu Krishnan, Monsoon Editions, Rs.125.


While Suckling Eve is let down by the quality of translation, Across the Divide shows the definite promise of a sensitive poet.Old-fashioned poetry used to be clear — you could tell between poetic artifice, created for effect, and ineptness; today’s poetry writing is a free-for-all where anything goes.


Years ago, a poem in Chandrabhaga began “Poetry translation is a transmigration”. The transmigration, one would guess, to be of the soul-sense from the body of one language into that of another. A treacherous shift, where the translator needs to be as alert as the poet; if the poet inhabits, even partly, a sort of shamanic-prophetic territory, as sometimes the poet V.G. Thampy appears to do in the collection of poems in question here — awkwardly titled Suckling Eve — then these skins have to be lived in by the translator as well. Bindu Krishnan, the translator of V.G. Thampy’s poetry from its original Malayalam into English, falls way short here. She seems unable to grasp the largeness — and one means this not always in a complimentary way — of Thampy’s wordscape.

Unfamiliar world

Thampy’s world appears alien to the translator — take for example her capitalisation of Woman and Nature, in her introduction to the collection; nothing in the poetry itself, or in Thampy’s foreword, appears to warrant such an idealisation. It is evident that Thampy (from the poetry here and his introductory note), struggles in a far cruder way, in a far less intellectual world: he speaks of the blood stains of “scraping against the age-old question ‘What did your body do to you?’” and he also speaks of his own poetic soul as burnt and scorched.

Even if you have no Malayalam, which I do myself, the reading cannot but give you a feeling that the Malayalam of the poems in this collection must be “better” in their original.

Having said all that, let’s turn to what does come through in the translation. For the most part, one is trying to find the Malayalam equivalents to the sentences here, but there are parts of some poems that stand strong, like sections in “Suckling Eve”, “Smitha, the Name of a River”, and then the intense sense the poems carry — one can blindly sort of feel their effect hindered by the words.

Through the window-frame,A water colour painting An earthen pot, edges broken Among hibiscus bushes Another body of dreams In the dim blue light….

Let’s hope the next time Thampy’s dreams are translated, they find a vessel less cramped, and a more able bridging into the host language’s largesse.

I am not sure what to say about the poems in this collection. Old- fashioned poetry used to be clear — you could tell between poetic artifice, created for effect, and ineptness; today’s poetry writing is a free-for-all where anything, as in the rest of the post-modern world, goes; there are neither distinctions nor conventions. And this makes it difficult to actually fault a poem and say “It does not sound good”, because you would probably just be asked, “To whose ear?” So I am just going to let the typically north-Indian habit of dropping of articles pass as part of the style of a north-Indian NRI poet and I am also going to let pass a number of clumsy constructions and poems that say nothing as a reflection in words of the fragmented, flimsied, passing nature of the world, where anyway, images have predominance over words.

Some work, some don’t

But then, what do we have here? Do we have poems that grab your head-strings, since the heart is outlawed in that past-the-modern world that we have just been talking about? Do they resound, remake themselves into meaningful units for the reader? Do they succeed as words, as units of meaning, as poems? Not many do.

However, some do, and when they do, they do so because they are “real” in a sense that the bad ones cannot seem to be. The poems in which Ranu speaks of herself in this land not hers, of what it means for her to be away from her homeland, searching for meaningful contexts has a charge that strikes through the inadequacies of language and syntax. Amongst these, I liked “Across the Divide”, “Apparition”, “Like You Mamma”.

In “Like You Mama”, Ranu writes:

I wouldn’t want to be like you mama Washing and scrubbing,nursing your swollen hands, chapped limbs. While everyone else walked out Without a second glance.Oh yes, I am sure mama,I wouldn’t want to be like you

There’s hope here. Uniyal’s writing has definite promise: it’s the sort that can be worked on, since it’s the craft rather than anything else which is the problem; she does not have the sophisticated word-tools to represent the complex states of being, the complex ideas that the poems contain and they sound naïve and simplistic. I’m sure her next collection will be firmer, surer and sound well.



The Fiction Of Margaret Drabble and Anita Desai
Publisher: Creative Books, New Delhi, 2000.

ISBN: 81-86318-75-5





Book Summary


This book argues that landscape is a meaningful construct in the writings of Anita Desai and Margaret Drabble. The study traces the evolving relationship between the subjective and the objective worlds inhabited by women. Drabble and Desai continue to explore the predicament of modern twentieth and the twenty first century women situated withing two diverse cultures. An attempt is made to establish the terms of recognition and affiliation which women seem to be striving for . Landscape imagery serves to highlight the intricate nature of their predicament. This book is a comprehensive study of the novels of Margaret Drabble and Anita Desai. Through a close reading of women and ;landscape a new dimension has been added to the feminist criticism.




December Poems by Ranu Uniyal,
Writers Workshop (Kolkata), 2012.
ISBN 978-93-5045-028-4




December Poems 
Book Review by Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

With her first book of poems “Across the Divide”, popularly well responded by the readers, “December Poems” is the second anthological tour the force of Ranu Uniyal, one of the strongest women poetic voices of contemporary writings in Indian English. With 58 poems showcased in this book, she evokes emotions and feelings in readers as the poems deal with everything oft recurring in and around human life. Uniyal tries her best to warm up the readers shivering in the coldness of the time and sizzling at the same time with frozen and impassioned passion for and the zeal to live in the world. To her “December” assumes symbolical significance. Going through her poems I was reminded of Coleridge's thoughts and ideas expressed in following lines about the times of December. It also holds good for the poems of Ranu Uniyal from all perspectives.

“Come, come thou bleak December wind,
And blow the dry leaves from the tree!
Flash, like a Love-thought, thro'me, Death
And take a Life that wearies me.”

The Month of December is the time when the poet does introspection into the months of the year of her life passed by and the months of hope, joy, aspirations, and dreams, to be followed in a renewed year. “December” is to her-

“A time to celebrate and the time to venerate
A tme to sing and the time to pray..”

It is at the same time ‘Looking behind” and “ Marching ahead” “hand in hand with memories that belonged / To a life.”

Most importantly, Ranu Uniyal opines that December is the clebration of innocent love " clogged but could not be silenced". Nevertheless, she further remarks with a question mark -

"We dance and dance until the wee hours in the morning
Well that is what December nights are for?" (Winter Blues)

December is the threshold of the maturity of her soul’s journey. At one time she is happy with the lot she has had, her sadness, of separation, in life behind frustrates her. However, the cherished memories of those she once lived and spent times, rejuvenates her other times.-

“Let us rejoice with seeds of hope our
Memories could not reap and tear failed
To show blessed with the grace and beauty
Of days which hang like lame twitters of you.” (In love)

While there is a pervasive sense of fulfillment in some poems; the melancholy does reflect her tormented self in other ones.

A seasoned poet of feminine sensibility, she is a strong voice with her poetic protest against the patriarchal clutches and domination gripping our society. All aspects of her life, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, philosophical, find a brilliant expression in all her poems. Her helplessness can be felt in the poem " Between Us" where she reveals out :

"Sometimes it is there a throat full of sadness
And the knee-deep silence and then I find
Somewhere,a lustful smiles............... "

Her poems are much more haunting, reflective, and a thoughtful probe into the past which contains some sweet and bitter memories of her life. She recalls “good old nights/ Self –effacing moon in full view ” of those romantic times. She is nostalgic and feeling broken inside for ‘lips have slaughtered all craving for a kiss”. “But this was twelve Decembers ago” (Yesterday no more”).

Ranu Uniyal's poetry is a feminine voice of strong protests against the patriarchal domination and the domestic and marital violence. Empathizing with women in distress, she feels touched and traumatized by the domestic violence against them in their marital coteries. With reference to the mythological episode of Ahalya's emancipation by Lord Rama, Ahalya in herself seeks emancipatory release and freedom. Anything like “shame“ and ' loss“ caused to women, is “mine“, she boldly declares in “Ahalya to Ram“. With a satire on the biased attitude of man to woman, she remarks, carrying “within her a heaviness”:

“Aged with envy and unmindful distrust
He crossed my legs and left me with a curse
Until the gods intervened
And I came back to life.”

The poet’s pangs and angst, frustration and sadness can be felt in her poem “A woman has no dream”. In “Woman to Woman”, dedicated to Kamala Das and Judith Wright, she expresses her feministic concerns about fairer sex “with a sense of despair”-

“Are they all the same the men loved?
The one who promised and walked away
And the one who married
And the one whose seed I held inside
With such unholy patience and longing.”

In spite of all the brutal treatment meted to woman, she prefers to march on with the seed of creation as if “Nothing at all happened”. The modern woman is now strong enough to work shoulder to shoulder with man whether “ at the bus stop” or “ at the post office,” “ in bed or the kitchen”. She is no longer Clytemnestra, Draupadi, Medusa, Ahalaya, Anusuya who had to face the patriarchal blows. Times have now changed for them thanks to her attitude of “kicking her angst afraid.” In “Draupadi” she presents the condition of woman so realistically. However, she proclaims “no stones can destroy me”. Even if faced with myriads of problems and threatened by the storms of times, she doesn't give up her zeal. As a true representative of woman, she believes -

“Life is precious and only love
can take its place on this earth.” (Before the Storms).

In her poetry, streams of feministic consciousness flow with dreams and hope, yearnings and longings. Depicting the realistic picture of the yearning of woman with remarkable lines ” like a lonely woman, anxious for company”, she sarcastically bursts out-

“Often I have tried to hide the secret, it gushes out.
Like a lonely woman, anxious for company
I often see tilting hands as if a mere touch of lust
Is what I am looking for? So foolish are men
And so little they know of man” (I am a game)

So what if she take to task the highhandedness of man, she doesn't retreat and regret to pay tribute to man. Her love and respect for her father is well expressed in some of her poems. “Papa at eighty two” mirrors the pathetic condition of an octogenarian. A man in old age always remains under constant fear, apart from being neglected and seeks refuge in God.“ From a young girl to her father” is a testimony to the fact that to her father is everything. That’s why she gets emotional and says-

“Papa, you have been my one and only comfort."

Most of her poems are the emotional response to her mood swings at different times. Sometimes she seems to be sad at heart, she is ecstatic other moments, for she is a human being.

Apt and befitting usage of myths and mythological, and of course, spiritual and scriptural illustrations , illustrations and characters also help her communicate her thoughts with great sensitivity.Apart from other relevant themes dealt delicately, philosophical and spiritual elements are also apparent in her poems. “Krishna to Kaunteya” reflects her beautiful thoughts on profound essence of life’s philosophy-

“.………It is only they who burn this pride
And become one with me can thus be blessed
With that divine insight and be able to achieve
Death in life and life in death.”

In the final analysis of Ranu Uniyal’s poems, it must be pointed out that “December Poems” is a “sheaf of emotions” spontaneously mustered from time to time in wake of varied different affectionate, sympathetic, empathetic attitudes towards woman, her friends, parents etc. Nevertheless all the negative impulses, ill-treatment of the times, she has unflinching trust in the power of love, principled to offer reverence to the elderly people. She has in her memory all the good things of life she has enjoyed. As for the bad things, she has transformed and refined them into her beautiful thoughts on life. Along the border of constant changes of times, she succeeds in flowing the stream of her life, love, triumphs, ideas, feelings and this is what establishes her as a capable poet with vast and comprehensive experiences, a seasoned soulful poet of contemporary times.

Sadness, sorrow, pains, angst, frustration, unfulfillment and agony are some of the most remarkable themes from a feministic perspective, very poignantly dealt in her poems. However, love, hope, struggles, enthusiasm are the crux of her poetry, that make her a true humanitarian poet and hence her poems are of perennial significance. To understand the seasons of life, diurnal and nocturnal movements of the seasons with beauty, grandeur, forgetting the pinching coldness and scorching sun of the time, Ranu Uniyal's present collection is a better option and greater solution. A must-enjoyable and thought-provoking book recommended for the readers to have poetic warmth in the coldness of contemporary times.



More by :Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar