Sahitya Akademi winner Volga says that in resurrecting Yashodhara, she wanted to resurrect the intellectual and spiritual history of women. In this conversation with Firstpost, she speaks about what it means to call herself a feminist writer, the future of fiction in regional languages and why re-imagining mythology from different perspectives is important. She matches her husband Llonely Buddha's passion in the search for the universal truth and even encourages him in his quest for spiritual fulfillment, becoming an anchor he can Volga on during his journey towards enlightenment. Gently reconstructing history through her imagination and interpretation of a historical character, Volga is ably assisted by her translator PSV Prasad, who has ensured that the subtlety of Telugu shines through even in a different language. For the author, who received the Sahitya Akademi Award in for her novel Vimukthapublished in English as The Liberation of Sitathis is another interpretation of a woman present in Indian mythology, who has been frequently depicted as a one-dimensional character. In an interview with FirstpostVolga opens up on her ability to create married characters, retelling epics using a modern idiom, and why she refers to herself as a woman writer.
Her highly acclaimed work, The Liberation of Sita has also garnered criticism from certain fronts, mostly threats to not temper with mythology. But Volga has carried on with this inquisitive, thoughtful tradition of Telugu literature, showing Sita and other overlooked female characters from Ramayana in a different light — from their own perspectives, displaying their perceptions about the men in their lives.
Ramayana does not tell us the woes of these women — Ahallya, Surpnakha, Renuka Devi, Urmila, and many more, but Volga does it, picturesquely at that.
I want to see yashodhara as an intellectual, not as the victim of desertion, says volga, about the protagonist of her newest book.
Sita meets some of these women — Surpnakha for instance, and immediately empathises with them, equating her own hardships like trial by fire with tribulations of others. A woman from a demon clan working at the orders of her brother, learns to love herself the way she is.
Surpnakha while being lonely in the tangible world, was content through the true realisation of the self.
This theme of meditation, a spiritual connect women find within themselves after being humiliated and ousted by men in their lives is a common streak throughout the book and words fail to describe how beautifully Volga has depicted all their journeys. Consider Ahalya.
Being fraudulently led by Indra to sleep with her in the guise of her husband, she is labelled as unchaste and ousted by Gautama, despite being innocent, for being violated by a man without her consent. This was because Renuka Devi apparently looked at a man for which she was labelled as unchaste by her husband. Renuka tells Sita that it is totally futile for women to make men the centre of their lives, because she had been deceived by both her husband and son, on a ridiculous pretext, and women remain the subjects of male apathy no matter what.
She talks about her wifehood, motherhood being besmirched by these men who thought they were the flag bearers of dharma. Instead, women must strive to find their own identities, to do something worthwhile with their own lives. Sita too realises this later in her life when her sons wish to leave her to live with their father, Ram. One of the reasons why Volga wrote this book was to make Ramayana relevant in a modern context where women have explicitly started to no longer tolerate intellectual or physical oppression to conform to any mythological impressions of femininity.
She understands that epics like Ramayana have been used by upper castes to subjugate women for several centuries. Moreover, women being the battle grounds for men to wage their wars is a common underpinning in our important mythological stories. Sita was well-educated, and the legend says she could easily lift a bow nobody else could.
However, an epitome of perfectiondaughter of mother earth, still reduced to her role as a wife, spent an eternity in the service of her husband, only to realise that she could never be happy in the mortal world.
By rewriting characters from mythology, like sita and ahalya, i want to give new political meanings to those old narratives, she adds.
As per Volga, all these experiences ultimately helped Sita to liberate herself from whatever she went through in the mortal world. The shackles of Arya Dharma around him remained a barrier in his liberation from these worldly roles that never made him happy.
But while he remained and chose to live a life of a dutiful, noble king, Sita found her deliverance away from these identities. I have realised who I am.
The whole universe belongs to me. I am the daughter of Earth.
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