Most of my favourite authors are women and the list is quite long, starting from Enid Blyton who is an indelible part of my childhood to Sharanya Manivannan who has unfurled a whole new canvas of textures and unconventional thought processes. All the years in between have been filled with the words of Jane Austen, Kamala Das, Judi Picoult, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Helen Simonson, Nilanjana Roy, Judith Michaels, Elizabeth Adler, Jill Mansell, Agatha Christie, Nora Roberts and so many more. But this post is about three strong voices which have been a part of my reading life over the past 6 months. They are K R Meera, Chatura Rao and Sharanya Manivannan.
K R Meera – K R Meera is an author best known for the book Aarachar (Hangwoman), a fictionalized account of the life of a girl who carries on her family tradition and becomes a hangwoman, in fact the first woman executioner in India. Set in Kolkata, this work won the author the prestigious Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award. Meera writes in Malayalam and most of her works have been translated into English. Recently I happened to read her ‘Gospel of Judas’, a slim volume which belies the depth of the story it holds. Meera’s central protagonists are mainly women, who display immense fortitude, have strong relationships with the men in their lives and embody a steely womanliness, which goes unfeted and unrecognized. The author mercilessly shines a light on the grim realities of life and the reader is pulled into the vortex of her story. Although Meera is a native of Kerala and writes in Malayalam, her stories are set in locations across India, be it the congested alleys of Kolkata or the narrow streets of Vrindavan. Her words are powerful yet her style of writing is subtle, and before you know it the story has you in its grip. Meera has published five collections of short stories and has also established her presence in the world of novels and children’s books. Here’s a link to a beautiful story by the author – Yellow is the Colour of Longing
Chatura Rao – If K R Meera’s world is full of harsh shadows, my next favourite Chatura Rao writes with a touch of lightness. Finding oneself is a theme that surfaces prominently in Chatura’s books. She creates delightful pictures with her words, which leaves an imprint of longing and wistfulness in the heart. Starting out as a journalist, Chatura was drawn to the world of children and became an author of numerous children’s books. Her first novel for adults was ‘Meanwhile Upriver’, a tale set in the chaotic colourful city of Benaras. This book has firmly found a place on my list of favourites. Chatura’s books are also about women who are out of sync with themselves, yet come into their own over the course of the story and redraw their opinion of themselves and their place in the world.Her second novel for adults is, A Blueprint for Love, which is set in a more urban milieu and deals with contemporary issues.
Sharanya Manivannan – Sharanya writes poetry, fiction and children’s books. Her debut collection of short stories is The High Priestess Never Marries which is a glorious tribute to the individuality of women. Sharanya’s prose is like an intoxicant which takes you to magical realms and introduces you to Women who are the personification of Shakti. They are clothed in their uniqueness even while having to live within the parameters set by society. They are wives, mistresses, mothers and paramours. It feels as if she has picked bits and pieces from women we know- the sass of a sister, the vulnerability of a cousin, the sensuousness of a friend, the ferocity of a mother- and mixed them all up in a cauldron which churned out her characters, all of who seem to have familiar shadows. There’s a restlessness which dances on her words, a search for acceptance without having to shatter and conform. Sharanya’s world is not as dark as Meera’s nor as light as Chatura’s, but it will suck you in and make you dance to the reverberations of the universe she creates. Sharanya Manivannan’s tales are very aptly described in the words of one of her characters, “ – stylish as cinema, sexy as smoke, unforgettable as trauma.”