My feminism is about giving femininity a wall: Author Sindhu Rajasekaran

Author Sindhu Rajasekaran talks about her new book 'So I Let It Be' revolving around women exploring sexuality, politics and a personal identity. She explores the idea of feminism beyond equality, giving a wall to femininity and a lot more.

  • My feminism is about giving femininity a wall: Author Sindhu Rajasekaran

Sexuality has always remained a sensitive topic for the society. However, things just go a little further down south if the subject is a woman. With the identity associated with the feminine gender, the gender norms are pretty stringent for the women around. Amidst the hue and cry around gay rights and the LGBTQ community, people talking about relationships between two women is comparatively a rare occurrence. Where women are more objectified because of their beauty standards, morality and religion, a different sexual orientation would be considered more of a cardinal sin. Thanks to social conditioning and gender stereotypes. 

However, the tables are turning for the constant battle between the women and the society at large. The change is gradual but is occurring anyway because of women now coming forward and taking a stand. More authors are writing to bring about a mindset change and start a movement. 

In an interaction with Sindhu Rajasekaran for her latest book ‘So I Let It Be’, the author revealed a compelling view on the topic. Her book deals with various short stories revolving around the same issues, also narrating much from her personal experiences. Publishing her first book at the age of 21, she identifies herself as a feminist writer, covering the struggles and the challenges women face in the society.

She also spoke about the vices which dwell inside us and, as we grow up, we come to terms with the same, making peace with these negativities. Most of the characters in her stories revolve around these characteristics and how they come to terms with them. 

Taking us back to where the writing journey started, she said, “I started writing when I was 10. That was only for my family and friends to read. I was a very verbose writer back in time when I published my first book. After I got a masters in writing, I improved the way I wrote. I tried to understand the meaning of the words. Today, I am inspired by ideas like ‘Dhwani’ in the Indian context, which talks about how every word has a tune to it. When you are crafting something, you want to put a lot of meaning to it.” 

Sharing her thoughts on the inspiration behind writing the book, adding a little insight into the stories she covered, Sindhu added, “With this book, I was going through a very feminist phase in my head. In these times, you really think about being a woman in the society. I have talked about different women from different backgrounds in these stories. What I was fascinated with is the power that these women have. Moreover, what I have looked at is self-discovery. None of us is so innocent and nice. All of us have our vices. A lot of my characters in this book transgress, explored the boundaries of sexuality and politics. One even commits a murder. But after all this, how do they come to terms with themselves and move on? A lot of that is being looked at in this book.”

The book has a lot to do with the author’s identity and sexuality. Talking of her childhood, she called herself a tomboy. Her journey has to do a lot with - ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I?’ and ‘Where am I going?’ For many of us indeed, it is a matter of searching for answers to these questions. Only a few end up writing about these experiences. One character in one of the stories in the book is a queer, who doesn’t identify as a woman. Another story is about a homosexual relationship with another woman. In another story, the protagonist herself is a queer. With an unbiased approach, Sindhu has explored different dimensions of women in terms of sexuality and who we are. 

Talking a little about her idea of feminism, the author said, “My feminism is really about giving the women the full potential to achieve whatever they want to and the other thing is to rescue femininity from this world. My feminism is really about giving that femininity a wall. Feminity itself cannot be defined. It is a range, a spectrum of sexualities, that I have really explored in the book. I have explored my sexuality and I have not really understood how to live with myself. It’s also important that you should have the liberty to be who you want to be.”

The first story the book ‘So I Let It Be’ starts off with is called ‘The Sacred Cow’, which was written by the author as a student at Edinburgh, where she pursued creative writing. She expressed that this story was her first attempt at writing short stories and gave her the confidence that she can write them. Elaborating on the same, she mentioned that it is much more difficult to write a short story, creating a small world and putting all these characters in it. 

She added, “The Sacred Cow is about a village child, a girl from Tamil Nadu who is discovering her sexuality. It is about this crossover period for a child who is becoming a woman. It is about that moment.”

When asked about the other stories she loved the most from her own book, she expressed, “I write a lot of these stories while I am traveling. I wrote another story called ‘The Routine’, which is about a computer engineer who stays in Chicago and questions her existence. It’s a lot about the anxiety these engineers have about scoring all the time.”

Talking of another she mentioned, “Another story which I really liked was ‘Saudashi’. It is about a woman from Mumbai, who is married and a mother. She falls in love with another man on a holiday in Paris. It is about whether she will forgive herself or feel bad about what she has done to her marriage after she comes back to Mumbai. That story kind of looks into whether that experience changed her forever or not and if she can go back to being the person that she used to be.” 

The title of the book is actually named after one of the stories, also titled as ‘So I Let It Be’. Calling it the most complicated story in the book, she told that it is about a girl whose father has just passed away. She comes from this broken family where her mother had accused her father of being inappropriate with her. She has to confess the feelings that she has for her father. She has this hatred for him but, at the same time, there is also love. She explained that these were complicated feelings because nothing in the world is black and white and that everything has nuances. 

Talking of the challenges an author faces when writing about such sensitive topics, she said, “One challenge I think any writer would face, and something that I have also faced personally, is rejection. The number of rejections should not bother you. It is important to believe in your work. There are people out there who are looking for different and new content. They will definitely find it. It’s all about looking in the right places. Another challenge I would say a writer has, depends upon the kind of writer you are - a procrastinating or a prolific writer, who is writing all the time? For me, I think it comes in phases. Sometimes I write for months and sometimes I am switched off. That happens with fiction writing mostly because you have all these thoughts and you don’t know how to put them together.”

She added, “Another thing is that women today are writing a lot on these topics but they are not getting the opportunities as much as men are. It is changing but it still has not happened. This book has been published by an author in the UK because I couldn’t get anybody in India to publish it.”

It is indeed a concern not only authors but many women in different spheres face to get any work done. Of course, mindsets are changing and society is evolving with relevant improvements taking place as time advances. However, the change is gradual and slow, as beating social conditioning and patriarchal norms is a task tough to accomplish with a wave of a wand. 

However, with women, such as the author herself, using the power of the pen is a big step indeed. They drive a consciousness around the topics which we as a society have been running away from. Sindhu proved the point that it’s time that we let feminism move beyond the boundaries of equality and also talk about femininity and sexuality, trivializing or glorifying no sexual preferences and respect everyone’s choice. 

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