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a woman her identity and place in the household. She can never quite rid herself and discover her relationship with the external world without all this baggage, as a comment in this story says it all: "If all this clutter had not filled up your mind then perhaps you too might have seen the apple fall; the steam gathering at the kettle·s spout; might have discovered new continents; written a poem sitting upon Mount Kailasam. Might have painted upon the walls of caves. Might have flown. Might have made a world without wars, prisons, gallows, chemical warfare." Ambai's "A Kitchen in the Corner of the House" marks a turning point in your reading experience with Inner Line. We are supposed to shake our heads over Indian womanhood consigned to the kitchen, living a half-life in the shadows. What an insult to women everywhere who are happy not to be in an office leading a half-life in the shadows. The point is they must have the choice. C. S. Lakshmi (b. 1944) is a Tamil feminist writer and independent researcher in women's studies from India. She writes under the pseudonym Ambai (Tamil: ). Personal life Lakshmi was born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in 1944. She grew up in Mumbai and Bangalore. She obtained her M.A in Bangalore and her Ph.D from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her dissertation was on American policy towards refugees fleeing Hungary due to the failed revolution of 1956. After completing her education, she worked as a school teacher and college lecturer in Tamil Nadu. She is married to Vishnu Mathur, a film maker and lives in Mumbai. Writing career In 1962, Lakshmi published her first wo rk Nandimalai Charalilae (lit. At Nandi Hills) - written when she was still a teenager. Her first serious work of fiction was the Tamil novel Andhi Maalai (lit.Twilight) which came out in 1966. It received the "Kalaimagal Narayanaswamy Aiyar" Prize. She received critical acclaim with the short story Siragukal muriyum (lit. Wings will be broken) (1967) published in the literary magazine Kanaiyazhi. This story was later published in book form as a part of short story collection under the same name in 1976. The same year she was awarded a two year fellowship to study the work of Tamil women writers. The research work was published as The Face behind the mask (Advent Books) in 1984. In 1988, her second Tamil short story collection titled Veetin mulaiyil oru camaiyalarai (lit. A kitchen in the corner of the house) was published. This established her reputation as a major short story writer. Her work is characterized by her feminism, an eye for detail, and a sense of irony. Some of her works - A Purple Sea (1992) and In A Forest, A Deer (2006) - have been translated English by Lakshmi Holmström. In 2006, she (along with Lakshmi Holmström) won the Vodafone Crossword Book Award (in the Indian language fiction translation category) for In a Forest, A Deer. For her contributions to Tamil literature, she received the 2008 Iyal Virudhu (Lifetime Achievement Award) awarded by the Canada based Tamil Literary Garden. Academic career Lakshmi has been an independent researcher in the field of women's studies for over thirty years. She uses the pen name Ambai for publishing Tamil fiction and her real name (as Dr. C. S. Lakshmi) for publishing her research work and other articles in newspapers like The Hindu and The Times of India and in journals like Economic and Political Weekly. In 1992, she was a visiting fellow in the University of Chicago's Institute for Culture and Consciousness. She was instrumental in the establishment of Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) by persuading the University to acquire Roja Muthaiah Chettiar's collection of books and other published material. She has been a research Officer in the Indian Council of Historical Research and a college lecturer in New Delhi. In the 1990s, she worked in two research projects - Illustrated Social History of Women in Tamil Nadu sponsored by the Ford Foundation and An Idiom of Silence: An Oral History and Pictoral Study sponsored by the Homi J. Bhabha fellowship. The resulting research has been published as two volumes of the Seven seas & seven mountains series. The first volume,The Singer and the Song (2000), is a collection of interviews with women musicians and the second volume, Mirrors and Gestures (2003), is a collection of interviews with women dancers. In 1988, Lakshmi founded SPARROW (Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women) a non-governmental organization (NGO) for documenting and archiving the work of female writers and artists. SPARROW has published a number of books on women artists and writers. As of 2009, she continues to be the organisation's Director and a member of its board of trustees. She is a current member of the University of Michigan's Global Feminisms Project. She considers herself as a "feminist who has lived without compromise".
It¶s called µA Kitchen in the Corner of the House¶ and describes the experiences of a young South Indian girl, Minakshi, who marries a man from Rajashthan and comes into his joint family household to be surprised by several regressive practices in place there. There is a very clear opposition between North and South India here. I should add that India is patriarchal even in the South, with a few, mi nor exceptions. In general, however, it is sai d that the North is more sexist, more ³traditional´, more repressive than the South. This is, of course, a generalisation.
chemical warfare. the steam gathering at the kettle¶s spout. It is almost inconceivable to ask. Might have made a world without wars. prisons. in a rare moment of bonding with her Rajasthani mother-in-law. gallows. Minakshi¶s thoughts are as follows: Had there not been those three hundred chapattis to cook every day. in the rainy season the rice has to be watched and the dal might be full of insects. then I want to know whether these labels are ³true´. gallows. written a poem while sitting upon Mount Kailasam. if they don¶t come it will be a worry If all this clutter had not filled up the drawers of your mind Perhaps you too might have seen the apple fall. the pacifist. prisons. who is ill. oil. various wars and holocausts. we have Minakshi. The basic idea here is something I can agree with: if woman were not silenced and allowed to exist and act in only domestic spaces. I want to know why woman continues to be constructed as the more noble sex. she too would have been part of the dominant histories we study. nor those fourteen children who once kicked in your womb If your thoughts had not been confined to mutton pulao. chemical warfare. Are we so noble as to not engage in war when we could profit from them? . Why is it that we think woman is incapable of large -scale destruction? Is it merely because she has been suppressed and motherly all along? Do we like the mother-figure that much? My question is this: if woman had been a greater (/more visible/more documented/etc) part of science. at the end of the story. the caregiver. once a fortnight the drainage area in the kitchen must be spread with lime. Might have painted upon the walls of caves. might have discovered new continents. politics. milk.´ But this is what I want to question. Also not a new idea: the idea that woman ³[m]ight have made a world without wars. puri-alu. this is an impossible question to ask. ecological disasters«? In some sense. gross violations of human rights that continue today. ghee If you had not had these constant cares: once every four days the wick to the stove has to be pulled up. of the production of knowledge ² would we really have averted the creation and use of the atom bomb. philosophy ² in short. Might have flown. sugar. when the fruit is ripe it will be time for sherbet.In this context. And if that¶s too ea sy. masala. dhania powder. Our understanding of woman through the ages is a major part of our know ledge of the world. This is not a new idea. whenever kerosene is available it has to be bought and stored. old clothes can be bartered for new pots and pans. salt. juice and jam. if one¶s periods come it will be a worry. ³What if this never happened?´ But I¶ve asked it anyway. pickles must be made in the mango season.
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