Those Unspoken Words
Mahasweta Sengupta
SPEECH AND SILENCE: LITERARY JOURNEYS BY GUJARATI WOMEN by Rita Kothari Zubaan, Delhi, 2007, 151 pp., 195
June 2007, volume 31, No 6

There are occasions when you feel a kind of bliss when you read a book that is able to deal with things that are dear to your heart. Here is such a publication: an anthology that collects writing by Gujarati women over a century. Rita Kothari has done an excellent job of selecting and translating texts that speak not only about the usual constraints that these women live in, but also the subtle and serious gaps of silence that speak more of the ‘truths’ about life. It takes some time to realize that silence most probably is the most articulate forms of speech – it leaves the options of interpretation open to the listener. Silences speak more than all the cacophony of words in a system where women remain under the control of men, of social norms and certainly, also of conventions. The book contains eighteen stories; beginning with ‘Entries from Vanamala’s Diary: An Account of A Tragic Decline’ by Leelavati Munshi writing in the early twentieth century, to ‘The Transience of Things’ by Vinodini Neelkanth writing towards the end of the century.

It covers a wide range of texts, of various kinds of writing trying to make sense of the reality they lived in. There is an excellent ‘Introduction’ to the book written by Rita Kothari and it would be worthwhile to start the discussion from here.

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