Feministaa Talks to Meenakshi- “India’s answer to Bridget Jones”

By Shubhda in Starting Up 11/01/2016

 

Smart. Stylish. And Sensational. Welcome to eM’s world!

 

Famously called as ‘India’s answer to Bridget Jones’, the blogger-cum-author has been popular in the writing circles since her advent into the blogosphere with the pseudonym of eM in 2004. A voracious reader and a very explicit writer, Meenakshi was one of the first women writers in India to openly start writing about sex and relationships.

 

In your opinion, what are the few controversial topics that Indian society still can’t engage about?

 

Anyone a majority of Indians idolise is automatically off limits: whether a cricketer, a god or a even a prime minister. Which means if you criticize them, you’re likely to feel a major fall-out from their fan-base, which is large and usually in a mob like that—aggressive. Speculating about sex lives seems to also be out-of-bounds, you never see Indian papers picking up and running with the secret sex lives of politicians or actors as American tabloids do, no matter how juicy the material.

 

You reveal the intricacies of urban lives in your novel. How much of that is inspired from your own life?

 

A lot! It was easier when I was in my twenties and life was one big adventure after another, but now that I’m settling in to my thirties, interesting experiences are harder to come by. (Interesting to write about that is. I still find life one big adventure, but it’s a lot more introspective these days than rum-soaked as it was ten years ago.) So sometimes when I go to parties and I meet new people, I keep an ear out for anything I can write about. Sometimes it’s just one or two lines, “Oh, have you heard from so-and-so?” the new person will ask the host, and the host will say, “Yes, oh my god, can you believe she did that?” and you know there’s something at the bottom of that that you could turn into really good fiction. Or if you’re waiting in line and two people are talking really loudly behind you. Life is full of great stories if you know where to look.

 

Do you think that the culture of strong, independent single women in India is on a rise? If yes, why?

 

Well, it is 2016, and if not now, then when, right? No, but besides that, I think with a combination of the internet, the media’s renewed interest in stories about women’s rights after the December 16 gangrape and just hearing from strong powerful role models across the world has made it easier for the young Indian woman to think, “Okay. I don’t actually have to take this shit.”

 

We still have a long way to go, since patriarchy is so deeply entwined into all the systems: religion, work, home, family, relationships, that it takes a while to get people used to the idea that things can (and should!) change.

 

What are few issues that you would like to write in future?

 

I’ve been blogging, tweeting and writing so much about feminism and gender stuff in the past year or two and I’d love to move some of that to fiction as well. The problem is you can’t be as desperately earnest in fiction as you can in a column, because an earnest book is a terribly boring book, so I’m trying to search for appropriate metaphors. Vice-versa, I’d love to write more about animals and animal rights for papers and so on, moving on from my fiction.

 

You started writing from an early age, what were the hindrances you faced?

 

Being young was both a hindrance and an advantage. On one hand, you had all these older authors (mostly men) patronising you, and talking down to you, and on the other hand, being young meant you got more publicity just because you were this wunderkind in the sea of older authors. That was about twelve years ago, though. Now, I’ve met a writer who started her career at 19, and is way more prolific than I could ever be, and the older authors are being patronised right back, so who knows who’s at an advantage any more?

 

Writing about some of the stuff I wrote about (sex, drinking, dating and so on) was also a bit hard for some of my readers to swallow especially given that I was meant to be representing my generation (not a job I signed up for). There were cries of “what kind of Indian woman are you?” almost daily for a while.

 

Do you actually confess everything in your blog as you feel like or there have been instances that you could not share about? If yes, just a little hint would do.

 

I’m pretty honest about everything that’s happened to me—but now the output on the blog is a little slower, because people are actually paying me to do honest, confessional essays for them—and hey, I’ve got to make a living! I don’t write about other people or their stories unless I a) expressly ask their permission or b) the story involves me and they are just side characters in it.

 

What are the problems that you still face in India, being a single independent woman?

 

I live with someone, so not a single woman anymore, but yes, I know what you mean. All sorts of things: workmen won’t tell me what’s going on, but when I send my partner to ask, they tell him. People who don’t so much as make eye contact with me, will suddenly start talking to him if I take him somewhere. Like, for example, buying a new laptop, which I did recently: even though I’m fairly well-informed about technology and I knew exactly what I wanted, the salesman continued to talk entirely to the man I was with, so in the end I just fed him the questions and listened to the answers. It’s very irritating when people do that. On a deeper level, there’s the safety thing; if you’re travelling home alone at night you have to be your own moral policeman and dress and behave appropriately and so on. I find it hugely exhausting.

 

What is your advice to the budding writers of today?

 

Read a lot. Even the stuff that you think is “boring.” Write all the time, even if it’s just two sentences in your notebook. Oh, and always have a notebook handy. You’ll never remember it tomorrow.

 

What is your advice to the single women of today?

 

Be smart, rely on your gut but also have a few close people to talk to who have your best interests at heart. Work at being the person you want to be, and love will come eventually. Remember, nothing is as sexy as confidence, even if the shy blushing woman is meant to be the feminine ideal, you go out there and you conquer the world.

 

Thanks Meenakshi for being so brutally honest and sharing your precious views with us.

 
 

Shubhda
Shubhda Chaudhary is a Research Scholar, Featured Writer and a Budding Entrepreneur. She loves researching on Middle Eastern Politics, Role of Foreign Journalists and Arab Media. In addition, she is contributing to the research on an upcoming book on Farmer Suicides in Vidarbha.

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