"I don't like to call myself a feminist writer. I say I'm a feminist, but I don't write to propagate an ism"- Shashi Deshpande
The words of Shashi Deshpande stresses her inclination to the ideas of Judith Butler, who boldly stated that feminism, reasserts the difference between male and female genders. Deshpande's realistic view as a true feminist on the condition of middle class Indian women is well expressed in her novel That Long Silence, which won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1990.
That Long Silence, is not an imaginary story. It is a story that happens in every middle class and educated Indian woman"s life. Yes, the Indian women in this era are born at a time when there is much awareness about her rights, liberty to express her ideas, freedom to enjoy finance and the chance to stand for a cause. Still… the silence continues!
The protagonist Jaya is an educated middle class woman who lives with her husband Mohan and their kids Rahul and Rati. She is the typical Indian middle class woman in the present century who is confined between her realizations and the restrictions. Her father brought up Jaya as an "individual", who has the rights in the society as well as family irrespective of gender. Yet, this upbringing still looks strange in front a society that hesitates to accept the woman as an individual.
Immediately after her graduation Jaya gets married and steps into her role as a dutiful wife, affectionate mother, "carefully being" dutiful to her in-laws…. to Aa, Ajji, kaka and her relatives. Her husband Mohan also plays his role as a dutiful Indian husband and never looks up to consider any imperfections in the life. As time goes Jaya"s dutiful behaviour to Mohan and his family becomes a routine.
According to the author Indian husbands take in for granted their wives emotions, likes and dislikes to be same like them and here author reciprocates the emotions in vivid detail. The husband never realizes where he lacks and the agony behind his wife"s destined roles.
Jaya ponders throughout the novel for her role clarity, her life or is she living for someone else! She searches her identity as an individual and where her emotions are getting subdued! She, a failed writer and who had been forced to change her name as "Suhasini" to get submissive in marriage gets haunted by memories of the past. Mohan leaves home due to his failure in career and to avoid the situation of "two bullocks yoked together." By the end of the novel Jaya gets back to her destined role, being present to the happiness of the family and ready to subdue her emotions.
As a middle class and educated Indian woman, as you reads through, you may intend to question your own identity. I recommend this book to anyone with endemic imbalance in a marriage. Relate to it as your own expression of frustrations!