Contents: Women as the ‘displaced’: The context of South Asia (Issue 44)
By Suranjana Choudhury and Nabanita Sengupta
All these articles, included in this volume of Café Dissensus bring out the amorphous and multi-layered nature of displacement. Just as its causes are numerous, so are the ways in which each community or each individual engages with it. South Asia being one of the largest community of migrants and IDPs, gives rise to multiple discourses in terms of displacement. Through these essays here, we have tried to bring to our readers as many different perspectives on the agenda of displacement of South Asian women as we could.
By Amarinder Gill
I write the story of a lady from my extended family who was abducted, sexually violated but learnt the art of survival. Let us call her Jaspal Kaur, wife of Major Jasdev Singh. She was my father’s chachi and her Muslim identity is an open secret. I know her as a devout Sikh who reads the Japji Sahib and Rehraas Sahib every day, along with the Sukhmani Sahib.
By Binayak Dutta
While tales of violence and perceptions of security became the core concerns guiding displacement of the minorities from Sylhet, it is important to understand that the idea of violence itself in historical studies has undergone a transformation. Violence today is not understood as only an external act of physical harm and violation. It is to be understood in more subtle terms as encompassing both psychological and perceived acts of violence and violation.
By Debasri Basu
Jamila Hashimi/Hashmi’s Urdu story, “Banwaas”, translated twice into English as “Banished” and “Exile”, shows an abducted Bibi, a Muslim, remaining with her Sikh abductor Gurpal even after learning about soldiers from Pakistan visiting a nearby village to seek out abducted women. We get a glimpse of the fundamental anxieties of women through the incessant questions that crop up in her mind, when she receives news of this recovery mission.
By Paromita Sengupta
Volga’s imagination of a defiant Renuka, who is rooted to her personal choices and beliefs, is inspirational. However, there are in real life many Ayeshas/Veeros who have lived displacement, who have tried to fight back but had to ultimately succumb. Ayesha’s jumping to death may be read poetically as her route to freedom.
By Sudeshna Chakravorty
Even after the crisis moments of actual war or riots are over, while male survivors are welcomed back with open arms, without any questions being asked about the number of rapes or murders to his name, women exposed to sexual violence find it very hard to be rehabilitated. But among the majority of Shantis and the Sakinas, there also exist the Puros; and it is their story that needs to be highlighted more, in academics, government documents as well as popular culture.
By Anindita Ghoshal
The female members of elite or middle refugee families, who settled in Calcutta and its suburbs, had experienced a life qualitatively inferior to that of East Bengal. The houses and colonies, which the refugees built, not only reflected needs of a middle class population desperate for property and some semblance of security, but also indicated a reorganization of space.
By Rajashree Bargohain and Rohini Mokashi-Punekar
Writers from Northeast India are faced with the challenge of negotiating with both forms of unspeakability while producing testimonial accounts of the trauma undergone by women of the region. Yet, a third layer of silence is added to the experiences of these women by the underrepresentation of such traumatic stories from the Northeast. Scholarly and literary engagements with Partition have largely limited themselves to the experiences on the western frontier and the Bengal region to some extent.
By Sashi Teibor Laloo
My grandmother’s tale is just a drop in the ocean of displacement narratives and still I ponder at the fate of many who stayed back and persisted with life, dwelling in adjustment and sacrifice. In my conversations with the older people in these borderlands, they generally agree to a similar point that during the Partition, which gradually continued till the 1950s, the people in the border regions felt that the Government of undivided Assam neglected them as orphans.
“[A]ll because I was an Afghan woman”: Reading the Life Story of Zarghuna Kargar in Dear Zari: Hidden Stories from Women in Afghanistan
By Dolikajyoti Sharma
It is in the context of this phase in the political history of Afghanistan that Zarghuna Kargar revisits her life in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, through the subsequent withdrawal of the Soviets, the rise to power of the mujahideen and the ensuing civil war, to life as a refugee first in Pakistan and, later, in England.
By Joanna Antoniak
Using fictional female characters, Nadeem Aslam highlights that the South Asian women living in the exile in the United Kingdom often find themselves exiled to the margin of the society before they even have a chance to assimilate with the host culture which, combined with trauma caused by their exile, forces them into personal exile.
By Rima Bhattacharya
America provides Panna with an opportunity to not only reconstruct her identity but also to perform new socio-cultural roles. It also opens for her new possibilities to develop life-long friendships with other migrants inhabiting New York. The American metropolis decolonizes Panna and inserts her into a space, where interracial erotic encounters are possible, quite unlike in India.
By Saumya B Verma
While I grapple with my own realities and memory-making in the new city, I identify with both Shai and Yasmin but only in parts. I continue my encounters with the city in both the domestic and professional realms – doing rapid rounds of groceries, cooking copious amounts of food, cleaning and washing, watching neighbours shovel their driveways and on other sunny days visiting film festivals, attending courses at the university, volunteering in the community, reading new authors, making new friends!
Dis-placing the Heteropatriarchal Gaze: The Female Body, Love, and Desire in Mohanraj’s ‘Bodies in Motion’
By Kaustav Bakshi
This article focuses on a Sri Lankan expatriate novel, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s Bodies in Motion (2005), a family saga that moves between Sri Lanka and the United States, spanning a timeline of six decades. Told in twenty interconnected short stories, the intense dramatic saga of the Kandiahs and the Vallipurams is built on a series of family secrets that unravels myths of purity, happiness, romantic coupling, parent-child relationship, and sexual desire.
By Debamitra Kar
The woman’s sense of home is a family-oriented concept in which her individual identity is deeply compromised to establish herself as a mother or care-giver. Her unpaid labour, mostly translated as love, is the pre-requisite to maintain her seeming position of importance in the household. The metanarrative of patriarchy is internalised, which leads them to unknowingly use the words ‘normal’, ‘adjustment’, ‘security’, ‘belonging’.
By Vineeth Mathoor
The Rosie episode reminds that life was not easy for a Dalit woman in colonial Travancore in 1930s as well. While the numerous waves of socio-religious reform movements and the spread of communist movements are celebrated even today as factors responsible for Kerala’s modernization and success in various level of life in independent India, what exactly these movements ensured regarding questions of spatial freedom, recognition, and displacement in the region remain unanswered.
By Subhajit Sengupta
The #metoo campaign saw women across the world taking down powerful men and calling them out for what was for long being accepted as 'men’s privilege’. But the real change will happen when this phenomenon trickles down to the downtrodden. Thus the only hope that one is left with is that the ‘trickle down theory’ will not be as laggard socially as it has been economically.
By Mahuya Paul
When I first moved to Bangalore almost two decades ago, I loved the essence of the garden city – warm people, cool weather, and very metro. For some reason, I did not feel left out as you do when you visit a new city, alone. And I say this because when I visited Delhi the first time, I wanted to run away from the place because it was so hostile. I just assumed that the rest of the metros would be equally unwelcome. But Bangalore was a pleasant surprise!
By Lapdiang Syiem
Having spent three and a half years of my life training at the National School of Drama in New Delhi, I struggled to make sense of what the theatre meant to me. I did not grow up in an environment of any performance tradition as such. I come from an oral tradition of myths and legends that have nothing in common with the two Indian epics: the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Contents: The importance of being a Flâneur today (Issue 43)