A Malayali Woman in Delhi : Lakshmi N Menon in Politics

[Below are some translated excerpts from G Kumara Pillai’s biography of Lakshmi N Menon, and the obituary published by the Mathrubhumi newspaper at her death in 1994. These excerpts through much light on the induction of women into politics during the Nehruvian era. Kumara Pillai’s account projects her as a paragon of virtue in public life, endowed with all the qualities valued in Gandhian politics — simplicity, honesty, diligence, efficiency, humility, forthrightness. More importantly, it reveals the manner in which women who were not active in political parties, but pursued politics otherwise – as champions of women’s rights – could be inducted into politics in the Nehruvian era, unlike later times.

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Mahila Samajams Must Belong to Ordinary People: G Vasumathi

Translated by J Devika

[This essay which appeared in 1960, is an echo from the 1930s, The voice may well be that of the woman shaped by the Malayali ‘Renaissance’ — that of the Navoddhana Mahila, so prized by the Kerala Model enthusiasts later, for being the moderniser of family life. The Navoddhana Mahila was one who identified herself as an active domestic subject, the bearer of the new values of her modernised community, such as modesty, thrift, efficiency, and committed to the duties of the modern wife and the mother. ]

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Some Obstacles in the Way of Equality Between the Sexes: Kochattil Kalyanikkutty Amma

[This is an earlier version of my translation of the article that appeared in my book Her-Self, Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]

Kochattil Kalyanikutty Amma (1908-1997), also known as Mrs. C. Kuttan Nair, was born at Thrissur. She graduated in science subjects from Queen Mary’s College, Madras, and had a long career as a teacher, which proved quite turbulent, especially towards the end. She was prominent as a contributor to magazines, and known for her keen interest in women’s education, active participation in the All-India Women’s Conferences and support for contraception. Her travelogue, ‘The Europe I Saw’, written in the 1930s, was widely read. In 1991, she published her autobiography titled Pathikayum Vazhiyoratte Manideepangalum (The Traveler and the Wayside Lamps), which won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi’s award for best autobiography in 1993. Continue reading “Some Obstacles in the Way of Equality Between the Sexes: Kochattil Kalyanikkutty Amma”

An Organization of Our Own: Kumari Saraswathi on Women Organizing

Translated by J Devika

[From the style it seems that this was probably written by K Saraswathi Amma, and ‘Kumari Saraswathi’ was probably one of her pseudonyms. In this amazing essay, the authors offers a feminist analysis of women’s mass organizations of political parties. It is impossible to disagree with the opening parts of the argument, just as it probably impossible to agree with the last, concluding argument. The latter marks the difference between the first generation of feminists and the present one.] Continue reading “An Organization of Our Own: Kumari Saraswathi on Women Organizing”

Come Back! : Lalitambika Antharjanam

[These are excerpts from my translation of her story included in the volume On the Far Side of Memory, New Delhi, OUP, 2018. Lalitambika’s distrust of the repression of the body despite her great admiration for Gandhi was palpable, and this story illustrates it well.] Continue reading “Come Back! : Lalitambika Antharjanam”

Prasadam: Lalitambika Antharjanam

[This is an excerpt from my translation of her story included in the volume On the Far Side of Memory, New Delhi, OUP, 2018. It is a sharp critique of the reformism among Malayala brahmins, and of Reformer-Man who saw women as mere passive objects of his reformism] Continue reading “Prasadam: Lalitambika Antharjanam”

Realism: Lalitambika Antharjanam

[This is an early version of my translation of this story included in the volume titled On the Far Side of Memory, New Delhi: OUP, 2018]

[This brilliant take-down of  the hypocrisies of men who advanced progressive realism in Malayalam literature of the 1940s, brought Lalitambika many enemies and the equivalent of ‘trolling’ those days, in a ‘reaction-story’ by none other than Takazhi Sivasankara Pillai, who accused her of sexual frigidity] Continue reading “Realism: Lalitambika Antharjanam”

Womanliness: Parvati Nenminimangalam

Translated by J Devika

[ Parvati Nenminimangalam (-  1947) was born in Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur district. She became active in the Nambutiri (Malayala Brahmin) reformist work after her marriage, and soon rose to be one of the most outspoken and radical female voices within it. She was one of the chief organisers of Ghoshabahishkaranam (breach of seclusion) actions of the Antarjanams (Malayala Brahmin women), which were of vital importance in their challenge to traditional restrictions. Continue reading “Womanliness: Parvati Nenminimangalam”