In their concluding remarks Sachchidananda and Sinha state, "The equality clause in the constitution has made little or no impact on the social and economic life of women in India." One can go further and say that equality clause has made "little or no impact on the social and economic life" both of women and men in India. In a country like India where, for thousands of years an extreme kind of social stratification has been existing in the form of varnāśrama dharma and caste system and where inequality has been institutionalized in a hierarchical manner, the concepts of individual equality and freedom are new and are being offered from above. In the land of 'homo hierarchicus' it will take several generations to develop egalitarianism. (Louis Dumont, 1970 and Richard Lannoy, 1971) In fact, the idealist thinkers of modern India and the well-meaning elites have solemnized their wishful goals of liberty and equality in the constitution for which a real consensus among the people is still wanting. Therefore if there is a definite lack of political will in implementation of the legal provisions, it can be understood; and if the people, by and large, refer back to their tradition for their rights instead of the con­stitution, they cannot be blamed. In reality there are two points of reference in India at present - one the traditional varnāśrama dharma with its various ramifications and the second the modern parliament and the state legislative assemblies. And in their relationship there is no proper coherence.

It is against this background that we have to consider the cultural activities in general and novel-writing in particular. There were women novel-writers in Hindi even before Independence (1947), such as Ushā Devī Mitrā, Kanchanlatā Sabbarvāl and others, but a real beginning was made by Krishna Sobatī with her Dār se bichurī (1958). And this trend was fol­lowed up by Shanti Joshī, Ushā Priyamvadā and several others in the 1960s paving the way for a smooth development of almost a movement of novel-writing by women in Hindi. After Premchand's Sevā Sadan (1929), a sound foundation was laid in this branch of literature in Hindi. By the end of 1960s the period of social, public and rural /regional novels reached a saturation point and exhausted its force and a definite turn to the individual, personal/private and urban areas was becoming predominant. It is at this stage of literacy history of novel-writing in Hindi that women entered the area in a large number. From 1971 onwards we find numerous women publishing their short-stories and novels capturing the attention of the readers. However, very rarely and very few of them have taken a feminist stand of the western type in their novels, though short-stories are more vocal on this point. Of course, during this period some more women's associations have sprung up championing the cause of women's equality and liberation, (Mānushī Sahelī, Sevā etc.) and a better atmosphere prevails to radicalise feminists demands, but the women writers of hundreds of novels have not shown the zeal of even social feminists who have been working for eradicating social evils and injustices. Most of these women writers have dealt with such social problems as background settings far their stories of love and love-relationships with men knaves and husbands. That is why I prefer to call their feminism as romantic feminism. The problems of sexual adjustments, love-affairs, conjugal love, pre-marital and extra-marital love relationships, divorce and male chauvinism, and children in broken families etc. are their preferred plot-motives'. Except a very few novelists, such as Mannu Bhandāri, Krishnā Agnihotrī, Krishnā Sobati, Mridulā. Garg and Manjul Bhagat who have written some novels on political and economic problems of the women, the rest have addressed themselves to the problem of romantic love and the problems connected to men-women relationship.

These novels written by women in Hindi have not concerned themselves with the problem of women's liberty either, or even equality in social, economic and political spheres. None of the female characters in these novels seems to have job-problems or suffer from unequal payment etc. They wish that they should be allowed to seek their partners and have a say in their marital matters so that they can develop good relationship with their husbands. But there is no real protest, much less rebellion, against the parental authority even in this matter. The tone of their novels is, at the most, melancholic, not even really tragic as there is no heroic attempt to do something to change their circumstances in their favour. Hardly any female character shows some courage to put her foot down and take a decision and act to fulfill her wish. Even if some female characters have shown some courage here and there to go against the wishes of the parents or male-dominated society, their rebellion ends up in tearful submission. Whatever slight fire seems to burn in the beginning, gets extinguished by their own tears towards the end of the story.

The problem of dowry persists to plague the lives of young girls and their parents, but dowry-murder as a plot-motif has not been dramatised in these novels. The western methods of contracting marriages, such as dating and courtship etc. have been depicted as causing only problems. The insistence on girls' virginity is still demanded by the prospective husbands and their parents. The several novels, under consideration here, describe discriminatory treatment meted out to girls in the family by their parents while their brothers get all the preferential considerations. They are systematically trained to be submissive, sweet, and gentle in manners; self-negation being the main virtue. Some female characters have been shown daring to go against the will of their parents to be able to marry their lovers. Mostly the male characters have been presented as cowards, who back out and leave their girl-friends for a handsome dowry or on account of the displeasure of their parents. And yet it is expected from a woman to take her place which is in her husband's shadow. "She can imagine avoiding dependency only by creating new dependencies", (Spacks, 1972) such as that of motherhood etc. In Indian society freedom of men is also circumscribed and his aptitudes are regulated by the family. According to Spratt, a Hindu male tends to be mother-fixated. As such he is not able to love any other woman fully except his mother. For that reason his love is more a love-play of sexual gratification than any real and deep emotional involvement. Therefore there is nothing surprising if he forsakes his girl-friend at the slightest protest from his parents. Neither the boy has been trained to take independent decisions nor the girl so they do not feel so strongly as to stick to them as committed individuals. Therefore the Indian heroism lies more in martyrdom than in the efforts of achieving the goals. The boy sticks to the family tradition and its fame and the heroism of the girl depends more on defiance rather than accomplishment. She neither has the necessary support from her boy-friend nor is helped by the people in the neighborhood. Mrināl Pandey's Rajanī is typical of this category as she is not able to obtain even a railway booking for her journey, but in her defiant mood she wants to quarrel with every one. In. her challenging mood Dīpti Khandelvāl´s Smitā is prepared to behave like Sitā (the faithful wife of the epic hero Rāma) if her husband would also behave like Rama. But she fails to undo her husband's infidelity by proclamations, and all that she achieves is her divorce from her husband only to surrender to another man as her husband hoping to develop love for him afterwards. Here in this connection Sita of Agnigarbhā, a novel written by a male writer, Amritlāl Nāgar in 1983, rises to a higher stature than Khandelval´s Smita, who sacrifices her motherhood, leaves her husband to be able to fight against the male tyranny. The title of the novel is also very suggestive as it points out to the burning fire in the stomach of a woman. But Vīnā Arora, a woman writer, presents her female characters in two of her recent novels (1982) compromising and cooperating with their married lovers so that they do not lose their social respectability while carrying on their affairs with them. The female narrator in Rājī Seth's novel Tatsam is depicted to be quite aware of the fact that' "Indians glorify pain and seem to enjoy it," and "do not let go any chance of martyrdom",nevertheless the heroine Vasudhā does not feel inspired to come out of her melancholy. So much so that she expects that from two of her Lovers one should decide whom she should go to. Passivity, indecision, self-suffering and melancholy seem to be the main characteristics of most of the women characters depicted in these novels. At the best they are found to be blaming and complaining against their truant and tyrannical lovers and husbands.

Although these novels have been written by women, they cannot be placed in the category of protest literature nor can they be classed as 'women's literature' in the western sense of the term. In fact, there is nothing comparable to the German 'Frauen Literatur' nor are these women writers willing to be called as women novelists. The women novelists of Hindi consider themselves as writers, pure and simple. Most of them do not even like to be called as feminists or socialists even if they are influenced by both the movements. Of course, they say that they have some special position in the society and also a progressive stand-point which is reflected in their novels, but their writings should not be considered as a literary campaign of propaganda for this or that ideology or for some reform movement. There are no plot-motives in these novels which depict women participating in demonstrations for better wages or against male and female discrimination at work nor do they want to deny their biological role of motherhood nor do they ask for money for household work. However, they feel that they should also be allowed certain amount of freedom from family and social restrictions for their proper development to be a good and responsible citizens. Although there are some radical feminists and feminist groups which are taking up the matter to the streets with loud slogans, most of the Hindi novelists do not agree with them — neither with their methods nor ideology. There is hardly much in these novels which could warrant them to be called feministic. But all these women writers call themselves progressive, and, forward-looking as they are, they have put their characters in conflicting situations where female suffers both on account of traditional society and selfish and irresponsible behavior of men. In all these cases we find female point of view in the narration of the stories and that can be considered as a sufficient ground to call these novels of romantic feminism, an imaginary world of harmonious human relationship and love. Women have to pass through this phase of romantic world of love and meet their disappointments to reach the stage of social feminism and subsequently to radical feminism. However mild and defused women's attack on the society and male tyranny these novels might present, they have to be taken seriously, because their writings form the most popular body of creative literature in Hindi for the last two decades and more.

I have the good fortune of knowing most of the women novelists personally. In 1977, I approached most of these writers with a big questionnaire and discussed with them various social, economic, political and sexual problems. I asked them about their personal attitudes and ideas and also about various aspects of their creative writing. Most of these writers are well settled in life and have families and children. They combine household duties of looking after their husbands and their children with their jobs outside home. In my interviews I found that most to them were not interested in discussing questions on sex and related problems. On asking about the extent of freedom they would allow to their young daughters, they told me that they would do all to see that their daughters do not 'mess up' their lives with boys. This statement means that they would not allow their daughters to indulge in premarital sexual relationship, which will spoil their good chances of marriage in a decent family. And when I asked them how do they think that the Indian women would be able to develop autonomous Indian women would be able to develop autonomous individual personality, some of them told me bluntly that it would not happen by sleeping with men and sexual adventures. Some of them asked me in return whether the western woman has attained her sanity and authenticity of woman hood who has started enjoying her emancipation? The; asked me further whether premarital sexual distortions and marital infidelity have helped the western woman t( develop herself into a better human being? They don't seen to have much respect for the western woman who in her self indulgence has started catering more to her primitive drive; and urges to very little social advantage. Making such remarks about the permissive society of the West, they told me that they would like to save their children, particularly girls, from the ruination which is inbuilt in permissiveness And when I asked them about male domination in the family and inequality that prevails in India, they agreed; but they added that much of the unhealthy tension that exists it some families could be reduced by properly demarcating the area of action and mutual help and service. Besides it is not always male domination that bothers us because in human relationship where two persons are involved there shall always be one who would be dominated; but perhaps it is the need of that individual. As it has been so far that the woman wanted to have strong arms around her to protect her physically, now it can be an emotional need of getting dissolved in the embrace of a loving man. They told me clearly that they do not see anything wrong in submitting themselves to a man who loves and feels responsible to the maintenance of their relationship. Anyway, one lady told me, "I may be enjoying total freedom and equality in my family, may be, it is I who is dominating, but I will not let my husband mend his jacket or put the broken button on his shirt." Another lady fold me that freedom from duties and responsibilities makes one to suffer domination of the other; and if one assumes  more responsibilities he  or she wields greater power and authority and dominates the other. "We women have now assumed more responsibilities than ever before, household, childcaring, shopping and doing jobs outside, we don't feel dominated, we feel tired and overworked. Men cannot dominate us, they often do a lot of bragging and tall-talking which they need for their male image. It does not hurt me. We women also have our flipperies." The general impression that I got from my discussions was that if both the partners play their game fairly according to the rules, domi­nation here, domination there, does not matter. What matters is the sense of respect for the other and mutual service in the family.

To all these women novelists of Hindi and some other women writers in India I wish to express a deep sense of my gratitude for all enlightenment and a vast fund of knowledge which they gave me with grace and affection. Not only for the mental food, but also for the delicious lunches and dinners that they so generously gave me. I feel obliged to them. I can tell you frankly that perhaps no male writer in India would have put up with me for over five hours' interrogation as these kind ladies did. However, I am painfully aware of my failure of not fulfilling their expectations which I had aroused in them during my interviews. I was supposed to bring out a detailed analytical study of their novels. Now after ten years' of time, what I am doing in this monograph, will certainly not satisfy them. I know, this short report on their work, that too, on very few of their works, will not please them, nor does it match their literary performance of high artistic quality, social value and political relevance. I must confess, however, that I admire and adore some of them for their beautiful, at times brilliant pieces of writing. For full ten years, at least, they have held me as their captive and I can assure everyone that I enjoyed to be their prisoner. The readers would pardon me, I hope, if I called myself a literary critic, but it should not surprise anyone if I said that my wife, Heidemarie, did a better job as a critic of my criticism than I did of the novels. Now, therefore, if I dedicate this small book to her, I will not have to fear her further censure and, perhaps, the women novelists would accept me with less qualm.

After publishing my books Regionalism in Hindi Novels in 1974 and Hindi LiteratureTrends and Traits in 1975, I decided to go into the next trend of Hindi literature, i.e., the female fiction which had started to make its presence felt by 1975. In one way, therefore, if some consider this book as an appendix to my survey of Hindi Literature-Trends and Traits, it would not be very unreasonable.

 

Notes and References

1.               Lipowsky, Angeles J. Almenas, The Position of Indian Woman in the Light of Legal
      Reform,
Wiesbaden, 1975, p. 3.

2.               Ibid., pp. 112-113.

3.               Sachchidananda and Sinha, Women's Rights: Myth & Reality, Jaipur, 1984, p. 4.

4.               Ibid, p. 6.

5.               Lipowsky, p. 200.

6.               Manusmrti, IX, 3-4:

7.               "Pita raksati kaumare bharta raksati yauvane, raksanti sthavire putra na bhajestri
       svatantratam. Kaleadata pita vacyo vacyascanupayanpatih, rnrte bhartari putrastu
       vacyo maturaksita."

8.               Sachchidananda and Sinha, Ibid., p. 87.

9.               Manusmrti, IX,

10.         Cited from Altekar, A.S., The Position of Women in Hindu Civilization, Delhi, 1962
       (3rd ed.) pp. 323-327.

11.   Jha, Akhileshwar, Modernization and the Hindu Socio-Cul-ture, Delhi, 1978,
       pp. 72-73.

12.   Quoted by Smt. Chitnis, S.A.—Review of the Progress made in India towards
       achivement of the objectives of the international women's decade, Tata Institute of
       Social Sciences, Bombay (undated) p. 9.

13.   Sachchidananda and Sinha, Ibid., 4.

14.   Papanek & Minauit (Eds.), Separate WorldsStudies of Pur­dah in South Asia,
      
Delhi 1982, p. 238.

15.   Ibid, 237.

16.   Ibid, 241.

17.   Ibid, 241.