Books » Social sciences

PURI, JYOTI 1999, Woman, Body, Desire in Post-colonial India, Routledge,New York
Isn’t it curious how constructs that provoke criticism can also evoke visceral sentimentality? On August 15, 1997, India celebrated 50 years of independence and sovereignty. Listening to an excerpt of Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech, the first prime minister of independent India, on the public radio channel in Boston, I was taken aback by the depth of emotions that this historic nationalist narrative triggered in me. But, on second thought, why would not Nehru’s account of the awakening of the independent Indian nation while the world slept bring a lump into my throat? After all, I am part of the generation of middle-class women who came of age amid tensions of postcolonial Indian nationalism and whose bodies and identities are infused with its contradictions. Inasmuch as these experiences of middle-class womanhood over the last three decades have inspired this book, its roots are widespread and deeply personal. I grew up in a Punjabi family in the suburbs of what was then called Bombay, where I attended an ethnically diverse convent school as a day scholar, and later college as a young woman. When I think of myself and my schoolmates then, what I am struck by is how alongside our ethnic differences and the influence of Christianity, our quotidian experiences of girlhood and womanhood were marked by the complexities of nationalism. These complexities were perhaps most pronounced in the putative notions of tradition and modernity. Although I will later argue that notions of tradition and modernity provide inadequate analytical tools for understanding how bodies, desire, and womanhood are shaped and regulated, I believe that these notions constituted the parameters of middle-class womanhood in our lives.
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Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences Pragativadi, Daily Odia News Paper KIIT University