Author: Mahasweta Devi
Translator(s)/ Editors(s): Sunandini Banerjee
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170462916
‘We’ll take refuge, seek out shelter. Accept their tender ministrations. Gratefully use their donations to our cause. But when it suits us we’ll turn bhadralok and through this sudden windfall of respectability, we’ll ask “you married her?”
‘Prostitutes. Whores. Kept women. And who are they, who visit them? Who enter their rooms? Young men, from homes like yours and mine. But they are innocent, isn’t that so? All the sin left behind to keep these women company?’
Spoken in the first person, these reminiscences of a woman whose mother was rescued from a house of ill-repute construct a history not often documented. A history that runs parallel to the official narrative of India’s modernism and nationalism: that of women outcast because they are ‘fallen’.
Starting from the late nineteenth century, the voice of Bedanabala bears witness to the experiences of many women who find themselves outside the safety of domestic walls and thereafter make their lives in the only ways open to them in a society where women did not work except as domestic servants entertaining men, developing liaisons, intertwining their dreams and passions with the destiny of a country struggling for independence and questioning oppressive time-worn social custom.
Bedanabala, written in 1996, seeks to empathize with a segment of society condemned even by other women as beyond the bounds of decency and social acceptance.