‘ “We are natural allies,” he said one day while lustily savouring Chachu’s samosas at the canteen. “The Himalayas and Buddhism have forever united our destinies. Our hearts are the same – even the carbs in the samosas of the plains and the momos of the mountains.” ‘
Shalini Singh is an educator based at New Delhi. Born into an über-conservative rural community, and exposed to a liberal urban education, she balances two contradictory social dynamics, as also between work and family with two college-going kids.
Though she writes extensively on professional issues, this is her first work of fiction.
- How would you define the shift from a rural community to an urban setting for a woman?
In a rural setting, the woman has a comfortable security web around her. Community support is very strong. Expectations from the woman are conservative and sacrosanct. But she loses a lot of her individuality and freedom in the process. The shift to an urban setting reverses the situation. Change is unsettling and in this case, it is very palpable.
- Do you feel that your understanding of feminism is different than the kids of this generation? If so, how?
Of course. My understanding of feminism is not only based on experience (having seen a very conservative environment) but also my subsequent growth as a writer reading about its theory and development elsewhere in the world. I would say that Indians are still on the Second wave i.e. sexual liberation. Meanwhile, the West is seeing an explosive Third wave which seeks to totally demolish the gender barrier. This is unnerving for even the women in the West.
- How do you think the misinterpretation of the term changed over-time?
As I discuss in my book, Feminism has changed meanings from Freedom to Work (First wave), to Freedom of Sex (Second wave) to Freedom from Gender (Third wave i.e. current). Actually this is not a “change” but an evolution. After all, the aim is to remove all differences between man and woman, which ends at merger of physical appearances and lifestyles.
- How do you think society plays a role in a little girl’s life to be entirely dependent on a man? The idea of them being protected by a man, or wooed by a man, constantly in need of that attention.
There are stereotypes in every society. Even the West seems to always cajole the woman in their literature, films and serials. As regards India, we – as a society and mainstream literature and media – train our girls to aspire for being an Item girl (Desire me) or a Cinderella (Woo me) or a Daddy’s girl (protect me). We ask them to be obsessed with appearances, be slaves to hormones, and to always see themselves as victims. Not many break this barrier.
- How do you balance two different dynamics- coming from a rural conservative community and being exposed to an urban one, in your life?
I read. I explain. I insist. I adjust. I drive change. And finally, I write.
- Why do you think feminism is often incorporated with chauvinism?
All societies have remained male dominated primarily due to the need for physical strength to survive and women having no control over pregnancy. But today when both men and women do the same work and the latter has control over pregnancy, any male trying to impose those primitive values results in misogyny and male chauvinism. Since feminism aims to correct this, the link is irrefutable.
- Any advice for the women out there struggling for their equal rights?
Get an ego, become financially independent, and everything else will fall into place. I have dealt with the issue in my book and would recommend every woman and man to read it. It is a street level dialogue between two opposing characters – a chauvinist male who views women as sex objects and a liberal woman who reforms him through logic.
- How do you think the book will take a stand in correcting the misunderstood notion of feminism?
Since liberals and conservatives do not see eye to eye, there is no discussion on the subject. Consequently, all literature or media is skewed one way or the other. Malana Cream , the book, brings together two characters in a common journey and let’s them represent their views. Talking resolves a lot of conflict, whether it is countries, cultures, or view points.
‘ “Nirvana, sublime joy, moksha,” she remarked as we watched the young boys under tutelage. “Each of us, irrespective of anything, finally wants that in life – whether it is through escaping like them or diving in head on, like us.” ‘
Buy “Malana Cream” here.