Vaidehi is the pen name of Janaki Srinivasa Murthy. She was born in
1945 in Kundapur, Udupi Taluk, in coastal Karnatake. After doing her B-Com in
Kundapur, Vaidehi married K L Srinivasa Murthy and went to live in Shimoga.
They later moved to Udupi and then to Manipal, where they now live. Vaidehi has
two daughters, Nayana Kashyap and Pallavi Rao. Short story writer, poet,
dramatist, biographer and translator, Vaidehi is the recipient of several states
Sahitya Akademi awards as well as the prestigious Anupama Prize, the M K
Indira Prize and the Attimabbe Award.
As a noted Kannada writer Vaidehi is hailed by Critics and readers alike
for her evocative portrayal of the inner world of women. She writes with deep
compassion and understanding about women, who live amidst sorrows and
poverty but somehow find the strength to go on living. She focuses on the
ordinariness of their lives, writing about the midwife turned gatekeeper at the
town’s new cinema, the half-crazed woman who thinks she is pregnant, the
compulsions of an honest but poor man’s wife, or the upheaval caused when a
girl confesses to her neighbour that she wants to be a prostitute.
The stories, which are full of wry humour and acute social description,
celebrate the joyous fact that A wave once created only grows bigger and bigger;
it can never recede. In this collection of twenty stories, the translators capture the
subtle nuances of Vaidehi’s stories and their multiple ambiguities, bringing her to
a wider readership. Among her well known short stories are Gylabi Talkies, Page
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from the Interior, Abha Akku, Saugandhi talking to Herself!, Ghost and The
Inner Life”. In all these stories, Vaidehi has portrayed the grim realities of women
suffering at the hands of indifferent men.
One of the main missions of Vaidehi, among the most compelling Kannada
women writers of our times is the retrieval of the woman's voice from the
past. The women characters, Vaidehi portrays are freer emotionally than earlier.
Alegalalli Antaranga is a compilation of Vaidehi's short stories written over
the last three decades. In the 80-odd short stories, spread into six collections,
Vaidehi steers clear of jingoistic feminist positions, but presents the
perspective of a woman as it affected her, from the politics of everyday life.
Therefore, the stories mostly capture the woman's real world, her real
experiences, and the various aspects of self-fashioning, without taking overt,
Vaidehi is one of the most unusual voices we have in Kannada today, who
also opened up a new worldview with a refreshingly new spoken language. Even
in being strongly rooted — in a specific geographical location with a distinct
language dialect — Vaidehi's stories achieve a pan-Indian sweep.
From women being passive narrators of stories, women now tell stories that
emerge from their lived life experiences and memories. As Vaidehi herself puts it,
there was a clear demarcation between the outside world; with its loud,
authoritative voices (the Chavadi and beyond), and the inside world;
MUHAMMAD AZAM, LECTURER, SHAHEEN ACADEMY, G-6/1-3, ISLAMABAD PH#03335418018 2
entrenched in its poignant, disquieting silences (the kitchen, the backyard and
a little more).
Most of Vaidehi's narratives are invariably set against the backdrop of these
two distinct worlds — the outer realm with its imposing voice and the inner
realm shut into a silence. The tension in negotiating these two worlds, often
perceived as infringement, seen as protest by the patriarchal order, make for the
plot of most Vaidehi's stories. Vaidehi's women are almost always a product of
their situation, hence their negotiations are unstated.
CRITICAL SUMMARY OF “AKKU”
Akku from her collection Antarangada Putagalu is one of Vaidehi's most
haunting story. It is the story of Akku, a zany middle-aged woman, who takes on
the world in her state of madness. Akku's good-for-nothing husband suddenly
disappears, and Akku goes around imagining she's pregnant. Vaidehi's akku, the
"dark double" gives a hearing to her simmering anxiety and rage.
Akku, appears as strong case of insurrection, in her not being normal. There
hangs an air of uneasy silence with Ajjaya's iron fist controlling the breath of
every occupant of the house, but nobody can put a stop to akku living life entirely
on her terms — a man's prerogative. The vigilant Akku and her indomitable spirit
refuse to be suppressed by the heartless wounds inflicted on her. So much so, in
her version of the world around her, the distinction between Akku as a
conscience-keeper and a tattletale is blurred; the distinction between truth and
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In Vaidehi’s Telegu Story “Akku/Elder Sister”, the protagonist, addressed as
“elder sister”, is portrayed as the only person capable of defying society, of
standing up for her rights, and of making transparent the double standards of
male morality –but to what avail? In the English translation, the richness of the
dialect Vaidehi uses is, unfortunately, completely lost. The story ends with her
finally getting yet another of her regular disciplining beating. This infliction of
physical violence on a woman who, although a keen observer of her
surroundings, is obviously mentally deranged, cannot be read as a record of
women’s indomitability in the face of society’s repressiveness:-
“Ayyayyoh! Vasu is killing me! Appayya! He is beating me. He is killing my
baby, Appayya! You ask this fellow why he was sitting and waiting on
Thammannaya’s verandah day-before-yesterday, Appayya - -!”He hit her on her
screaming mouth. No one stopped him. No one intervened either to say no’ or
pull her away from him. Every minute the size of those gathered around was
growing. It appeared as though they stood there wishing the scene to go on
forever. There was a matching momentum to the screaming and the thrashing.
When Bhanu-chikki with her arms on her hips observed, “If it is not craziness,
what else is it? This one can make a fool of anyone . . . ,” her voice seemed to
be edged with tears. “If I had been beaten up like this I would have just died.
Isn’t this why they say crazy people are very strong!’ said another woman’s
Docility that is regarded as a high virtue for the woman gets cleverly turned into a
vice, an inability to attract the opposite sex. Much that Sougandhi desires to
scream from rooftops that she wouldn't even mind being raped — contrary to
what the world thinks of her — she is trapped; in a devious traditional society that
has a suit-yourself attitude to modernity.
Resistance in Vaidehi's stories is at once subtle and powerful. Subtle because it
doesn't gratify in celebratory feminist positions, powerful because it attacks the
basic construct of a traditional society, even as she recognizes that modernity is
MUHAMMAD AZAM, LECTURER, SHAHEEN ACADEMY, G-6/1-3, ISLAMABAD PH#03335418018 4
not complete in itself. Vaidehi is clearly a product of her times: the seventies with
its "second wave" of feminism. Therefore one finds in her works the smell of
jasmines, tinkling anklets, dark kitchens as well as a movement into thresholds
marked "strictly for men". There is an awakening of desire and an awareness of
sexuality. If multiple ambiguities exist, even that is true.
Exhausted, leaving Akku there, “All of you — clear out!” Vasuchikkappayya
ordered. Soon after that he himself came out, shut the door quickly and bolted
it. Fear of Akku rushing to the door immediately to bang on it and demand her
freedom were belied. Our desire to secretly unbolt the door when no one was
looking also lost its warmth. Akku remained inside, waving her ‘tuwaal’
through the small window and shouting, “That Thammannayya’s wife is
waiting for you - go, look, run, run fast! Shameless man! Come and hit me,
let me see...!” _
Vasuchikkappayya clamped his hand over Akku’s mouth and dragged her into
the kitchen closeby that was used for cooking on special occasions. Pulling out a
stick of firewood from the pile there he brought it own repeatedly on Akku’s
back, like beating a garment on the washing stone.
Akku remained inside, waving her ‘tuwaal’ through the small window and
shouting, “That Thammannayya’s wife is waiting for you - go, look, run, run
fast! Shameless man! Come and hit me,
let me see...!” _
The side effects of allopathic drugs make people think of alternative-Indian
systems of medicine. Similarly, the havoc of fertilisers are taking farmers back to
Vrikshayurveda in essence is vanaspathika jeevana vignana — the science of
growing trees. It is a discipline said to have been well-established even before
sixth Century A.D. Surapala's 60-page Sanskrit manuscript was procured from a
library in England and got translated, first into English and then into Hindi and
Marathi. The present work is a Kannada translation.
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