When Diverse Women’s Voices From India, Pakistan, & Bangladesh Bridge The Gap Between Cultures

Posted: January 24, 2020

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Rakshanda Jalil and Debjani Sengupta bring us a rich collection of stories by women writers, from the three countries of the subcontinent that were once one, rooted in the reality of its women.

We live in a world today where personal experiences are often shared on social media or via blogging, fact often being more gripping than fiction. And often, fiction ultimately draws inspiration from real life.

One such book is Women’s Writings from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (The Worlds of Bangla and Urdu), an anthology comprising 9 works of poetry and 12 short stories.

This collection of contemporary women’s writing has something for everyone. While some of these stories/ poetry make you smile, some reach the very core of your soul, and draw out emotions that make us question the choices and decisions by human beings, and some focus on issues of equality, rights, and justice.

Bridging literature over languages

The editors, Debjani Sengupta and Rakhshanda Jalil, realised the importance of including writing translated from Bangla and Urdu to bridge the gap of language in order to shine light on aspects of feminism and identity.

They say, “Have our internecine fratricides overshadowed our relationships in the linguistic spheres as well? This is a question that no one can clearly answer at this juncture, but given this shared world in the subcontinent that we inhabit, we thought the time was ripe to create a volume that would physically bring the two languages together.”

The book opens up to this thought from the editors highlighting the creation of this anthology.

Diverse voices

The voices and stories of these diverse authors spanning time and culture have been woven beautifully into this volume. Sara Shagufta and Manju Bala, through their poetry, translated from Urdu and Bangla respectively, highlight the effects of patriarchy and the caste system. Writings by Fahmida Riaz, Zahida Zaidi, Susata Roy, as well as the other poetry bring one’s imagination to the forefront, creating a glorious space for one’s subjective interpretation.

As the section of short stories begins, the very first one called ‘Man’ by Zakia Mashhadi hits you like a boulder. It starts as quite a simple story set in a village. However, you soon realise that it aims to depict the grave reality of what women, irrespective of race and ethnicity, have to hear and wake up to almost everyday and some who unfortunately endure the consequences of such environments. Contrasting the dangers of wild animals to man, it mirrors the current scenario of our own country. Another story by Selina Hossain called ‘The Forestland’ details the condition of Pahari women in the hills, which talks of women’s rights as it truly means, stating “Our freedom rests on the freedom of our men as well. So all of us have to fight together to achieve self-rule.”

Aniqa Naz in ‘Roll of the Dice’ makes a poignant statement through her story, that when people are experiencing extreme fear, that’s all they remember – the fear. Drawing on a story based on a violent crime, she gives an account from the perpetrator’s perspective giving us an insight into how he views the world, women and relationships.

Stories crafted by Maitri Roy Malik, Sunanda Bhattacharya, Kalyani Thakur and the other writers are an absolute delight. Their stories are so rich with detail that it makes you paint a vivid picture in your mind about the scenarios they describe.

No matter how different the stories may be, given the symbolic language, geographical aspects and cultural variations, there is a beautiful link between all these writings – knowing that no matter where we all are from and what language we may speak, we all feel the same emotions. And perhaps it’s the depth and expanse of these emotions that makes us connect to such stories. Respecting and celebrating each other’s stories is what truly makes women the powerful life force they are.

A note on the editors

Rakhshanda Jalil is a Delhi-based writer, translator and literary historian, with over 25 books published, and over 50 academic papers. She runs an organization called Hindustani Awaaz devoted to the popularization of Hindi – Urdu literature and culture. Debjani Sengupta is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi, and has had her translations from Bangla published in Essential Tagore and the Oxford Anthology of Bengali Literature, Volume 2.

Want a copy of this book?

If you would like to pick up a copy of Women’S Writings From India, Pakistan And Bangladesh: The Worlds Of Bangla And Urdu by Rakshanda Jalil and Debjani Sengupta, use our affiliate links at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.

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Image source: YouTube, book cover Amazon

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