The session ‘Lives of Girls & Women’ witnessed an interesting conversation between the author of the book ‘Rulebreakers’ – Preeti Shenoy and the author of the book ‘Nine chambered heart’ – Janice Pariat and was moderated by Kiran Manral. These two books and their plots, characters and narratives were discussed in a simple yet explicit detail. Kiran remarked that these two books were extremely lovely but brought out entirely different styles of writing.

Kiran opened the discussion by asking both the authors if they as female writers felt the need to focus on the feminine experience and write through the feminine gaze in their writing. Preeti responded by saying that people have never looked at books differently based on the gender of narration or considered her books as feminine literature. She went on to say that out of the 11 books she has written, some are also written from the male point of view. She said that people have never not taken her books seriously because of them being told from the feminine point of view and that all her female protagonists were strong.

Janice said that it’s really important for her to realize that many types of feminine experiences exist in the first place, to have and be had. She says that every writer has their own trajectory travelled through which they write what they write. She says that each of us has different ghosts inside us and these ghosts constantly tussle and that she writes about the ghosts which are at the surface.

Kiran then asked Preeti what she essentially wanted to say through her protagonist Veda who gets married early in her life and her journey. Preeti started off by stating statistics regarding the legal and average age for marriage in India and mentioned that the current average age for women to get married in India is 25. She then spoke of statistics from a poll she held in her Instagram account where she asked her female followers if they would marry a person their parents suggested who ticked all their boxes and a high percentage of them responded positively. In the next poll, she asked them how many women who were married at an early age were now unhappy and 65% of them said that they were unhappy. She said that all she wanted Indian women to have was that one thing just for themselves apart from their husband and the kids, which would stay with them forever. It could be gardening, writing or anything else. She spoke of how there is power in financial independence.

Kiran then asked Janice the reason behind the kind of narrative in her book where the protagonist is only described through the gaze of the men who were in love with her. Janice started off by comparing her book to a galaxy where there’s sun which is the protagonist who is viewed in the eyes of all the planets which form are the other characters. She says that she chose this structure of narrative because it is the closest to life and went on to explain how we always can only view people through tiny slivers and moments but never know someone in their entirety. Many had even asked her if the protagonist of her book was a silent victim to all the male gaze and while she agreed that it could be one interpretation, she thought that silence is the most powerful narrative. As she said that, she revealed how she considered her narrative more of a whirlpool than a galaxy. She said that the book’s narrative talks about being able to exist between multiple perspectives.

Janice then spoke about how women have always had to create a room of one’s own in their mind to get away from the world. When Preeti was asked about what she would do if she were in Veda’s place and asked to marry early, she spoke of how women mostly never speak their mind and said that if she were in Veda’s place she would speak her mind and talk to her parents directly. The stage was opened to an enthusiastic audience for further questions.

About the Author: Bhargavi Komanduri is a final year student at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad. She has profound admiration for writing, reading, theatre, dance, movies, chocolates and chai. Being a seeker of good art in all shapes, and forms; Bhargavi also strives to be on the creators’ side of creation. Her journey has just begun as she unleashes her poems and thoughts every week. Find her foray into this new found creative spirit, on Medium, here – She currently writes for Bookstalkist.