Shaping the World Manju Kapur

From the forward to Shaping the World


When I was  asked to edit an anthology what came to mind was   a collection I have long wished to read; narratives by women from the sub-continent  detailing  their writerly selves.   For years I had devoured  accounts  by writers from other  parts of the world  describing  their creative processes but when I  turned to writing, I wanted to  discover experiences closer to home. What did others like me have to say about  their vocation, their craft, the  ways in which they  nurtured it?


For many older writers finding an author community has been  an issue. When we took up our pens, whose example was there before us?  Whose voice did we have echoing in our ears that would validate ours?  We   had the English Literature  we grew up  with, the British school and adventure stories   we consumed, with descriptions, personal appearances, names, foods and places that were  foreign to our context. When it came time to write, this is what we had to work against. Fortunately in the sub-continent today, younger writers are able to start out with more confidence in  their subject matter. There are enough role models around to give legitimacy to almost every local topic under the sun.


As writers, women  frequently have to  struggle to find a public space,  a daunting undertaking  when the publishing arena  is driven by market considerations that are often not favourable to women. Furthermore the conflict between home and a sense of vocation, the  restraints posed by domestic duties sometimes means that it  is years  before a woman comes into her own.


Of the writers in this selection some have been published without difficulty, others have had to strive for recognition.   Financial security  has  usually not been of  prime concern,  but in order to  pursue their art, many of our writers  have  had to  generate other sources of income. This then becomes one more  factor in the endless juggling that comprises a woman writer’s day.   Several have quoted Virginia Woolf, what was true then is true now.  To be a writer, we need a room of our own, and money enough to ensure independence.


I am proud to have been associated with  the  women in this anthology, some of whom I would never have got to know – even by letter – if it hadn’t been for this book.  For a lonely writer, sitting in a garret – [metaphorically speaking] the chance to interact with other  authors is very welcome. Then too it is heartening to  learn that the  difficulties you face while writing are not a mark of your failures, multiple and repeated, but simply a part of the creative practice , that in fact,  failures are not failures at all, but experiments that help you grow.


Manju Kapur

New Delhi

March 2014