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Swetha Vishwanathan writes beautifully, exploring the conflicts that socially approved gender roles create for men and women.
Every month, we choose 3 exceptional contributors to feature as Author of the month. Swetha Viswanathan is among the 3 authors of the month in September 2017. You can see her writing on Women’s Web here and on her own blog. Besides feminist themes, she has also written about Yoga, menstrual health and relationships in contemporary India.
Authors are often asked this question, but everyone has their own reasons, very personal to them. So, why do you write?
I began writing from a very young age. I remember getting my first poem published in a national newspaper at the age of eight. I think writing came naturally to me early on, and with the support and encouragement from my family and institutions, I have managed to continue my writing pursuits.
I recall stumbling upon Maya Angelou’s quote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” and it struck a chord with me. Having experienced myriad emotions while traversing the trials and tribulations of life, I took solace in words. I made my emotions, beliefs, experiences, and stories come alive with words.
Someday, I hope to publish a full-fledged novel that resonates with millions of people. And that hope keeps me going.
What do you enjoy reading? Does any of it help your writing?
I primarily read fiction. Anything with a gripping plot manages to keep me hooked. Thanks to my sister and husband being voracious readers, I never run out of new books to read, or new genres to explore. My favourite authors are Murakami and Archer.
My childhood was speckled with Penguin classics. During my teenage years, I read authors from the west like Grisham, Ludlum, Brown etc. Only recently, I’ve begun to enjoy the works of Indian and Asian authors. I’ve found a new liking for retelling of Indian mythology, having read the words of Tripathi, Pattanaik, and Chitra Banerjee.
I don’t particularly see reading as a way to improve my writing. I pick up a book for two reasons:
One – I’m curious and I see it as a way of understanding the big world and its many people and ways of life,
Two – It’s a great way to spend time with myself
When it comes to writing on/for/about women, what questions and issues drive you the most?
It was only during my undergraduate years, I understood the difference between sex and gender. I was appalled at how, in the name of gender, the society has defined roles, positions, and norms for women.
Socially defined gender roles take the center-stage in my writing on/for/about women. I use my writing as a means to question long-established beliefs and practices. I hope my writings help readers adopt a new lens while examining their relevance in today’s world and guide them towards making an independent decision on whether or not they want to live by it.
Do you a consider yourself a feminist? Why/Why not?
Let me tell you a little story on how I discovered feminism and the feminist in me. I come from a family of 4 – my parents and my sister. My father broke all signs of patriarchy. He is a feminist himself, although he’s not a big fan of labels. My mother too is a strong, independent woman. My sister and I were brought up with all the freedom in the world, to become independent thinkers and decision-makers. My boyfriends were extremely respectful and accepting of my choices. In essence, I was blessed to have experienced no signs of discrimination for being a woman.
And suddenly, as I entered the world of adulthood, I began hearing stories – of discrimination, harassment, and abuse. It shattered my idea of this world being beautiful. I could not believe that there were women out there subjected to evils, and men and women out there propagating it.
In the rude shock, I became a hyper-sensitive feminist. A seemingly balanced statement could spark off a sexist twist in my head. I had endless discussions and heated arguments on women, gender, sex, sexuality, freedom, individuality etc. Over time, as I read more, interacted more, and introspected more, I have evolved to become a feminist with a balanced point of view. I now fight not for gender-equality, but more for gender-equity. We can’t deny the fact that men and women are different. I’d be happy in a world where we celebrate the differences.
Name 3 other writers or bloggers on Women’s Web whose writing you enjoy reading.
I enjoy reading the posts from Tanvi Sinha, Anupama Dalmia, and Kalpana Mannivannan. While I admire Tanvi for her insights into societal beliefs, I admire Anupama and Kalpana for their balancing act with kids.