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Vijayalakshmi Harish Tells Us How She Reclaimed Her Voice And Her Sense Of Self Too

Vijayalakshmi Harish is always thorough in her research into any topic she takes on, digging up a lot of information and nuance, that shows in her ethical and honest posts, even when the topic is controversial.

Vijayalakshmi is a prolific writer and is one of the most widely read authors on Women’s Web. An idealistic and empathetic writer, and a quietly passionate champion of intersectional feminism, she is very aware of her privilege and refuses to speak over the lived experiences of those less privileged.

Vijayalakshmi is also noted for her thorough research into any topic she takes on, digging up a lot of information and nuance, that shows in her ethical and honest posts, even when the topic is controversial.

She has covered many issues on Women’s Web, writing very sensitively on feminist social issues, books, pop culture from a sharp feminist angle. She has also contributed richly layered short stories and poetry on our site. 

Growing into her own as a writer

Vijayalakshmi started her journey with Women’s Web when she was at a low point in life.  “My sense of self worth was in tatters, and I hardly knew myself. Even though I have always thought of myself as primarily a reader, reading alone was no longer offering me the comfort or support I needed. 

I didn’t think of myself as a “professional” writer – I honestly didn’t believe that I was good enough for my work to appeal to a wider audience (that self-doubt is something I still experience, though I have learned to pay it less attention.)

By that point, Vijayalakshmi was a regular reader on Women’s Web and had won one of the Muse of the Month contests, for a feminist retelling of Red Riding Hood. Writing for Women’s Web then, became a challenge to herself to reclaim her identity and to own her voice.

 “It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, because I noticed that once I started writing, I not only regained my lost sense of self, but also grew as a person. The circumstances of my life didn’t change, but my outlook changed, and that made all the difference. Even though I still struggle with my mental health, I have not yet, and doubt I ever will, hit the low at which I was, and that is because of the magic of writing.”

Vijayalakshmi finds writing incredibly liberating and powerful and made her get to know herself again. Through her journey with Women’s Web, she has also forged many new friendships. “It was through the extended circle of Women’s Web that I met (virtually, for now, and hopefully in person soon!) other brilliant women like Kirthi Jayakumar, Anushree Kulkarni, Anupama Dalmia, Piyusha Vir, Anjali G Sharma, Kasturi Patra, Vijayashanthi Murthy and many others who are all an inspiration to me.

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 The Women’s Web team – Aparna Vedapuri Singh, Sandhya Renukamba, Anju Jayaram and others, have also been encouraging and supportive. I’m thankful to them for all the opportunities they have given me.”

Writing as an escape in difficult times

It was in 2019 when Vijayalakshmi went through a difficult time where she was left alone in the US as her husband who had travelled to India was stuck here due to visa issues. Women’s Web provided her a safe space to keep herself occupied and to express herself during those difficult months.

 “It was a scary experience, but I had a wonderful opportunity given by Women’s Web to keep my spirits up. The theme for International Women’s Day 2019, was “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,” and to mark the occasion, I worked on a series profiling Women Innovators from around the world, not just in STEM, but also in more “human” or “social” fields. It kept me from needlessly fretting over my husband’s visa situation, by giving me something productive to do with my anxious brain. 

Though the series didn’t get as much attention as I’d hoped it would, it was great fun collaborating with Sandhya Renukamba for it, and it remains one of my favourite projects.”

Vijayalakshmi is very open to critical feedback and her journey with us has helped her expand her feminist worldview. “I have greatly expanded my understanding of feminism, and of writing as an art. 

Some of my earlier pieces would have benefitted from a more intersectional approach – for example, a piece that I had written to make the point that we are all “bad feminists,” and therefore judging each other too harshly for choices that are not feminist can be counterproductive, feeds into the Hindutva agenda, even though that wasn’t my intention when writing it. 

I should have made the point differently. It is important for a writer to own their mistakes as much as it is important for them to own their successes, which is why this bit of critical self-awareness belongs here. It is part of my writing journey. 

Her most popular article is where Vijayalakshmi explores caste hierarchies through the gripping tale of Hidimbi, the first Pandava wife. Hidimbi was majorly sidelined in the Mahabharata because she was a rakshasi and did not belong to an upper caste. Despite All She Did For Them, Why Is Hidimbi Not Respected As The 1st Pandava Queen?

Her other popular contributions 

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