Mannu Bhandari’s writing resonated with a rare honesty: Mrinal Pande

(Mrinal Pande is a journalist and author. The column first appeared in The Indian Express on November 17, 2021)

 

  • Mannu ji passed away quietly, graceful and unassuming to the end. We had said our goodbyes much earlier. She will remain for me a symbol of all that is noble, tenacious and self-sufficient in the unusual people we meet each day — mothers, sisters, daughters, wives. These qualities will make her literary legacy more precious with the passage of time, as academia and publishing cease to straitjacket unusual women writers into a slot, simplistically marked “feminist”. And, as women writers realise the folly of accepting the label because short-term advantages are often the only ones visible to the powerless. I have been reading Mannu Bhandari’s short stories and novels, serialised in popular Hindi magazines, since my teens. But I never felt particularly supportive of the Nai Kahani movement in Hindi despite the many brilliant writers it boasted: Mannu’s husband Rajendra Yadav, Bhisham Sahni, Kamleshwar, Ravindra Kalia. I liked their work but the politicisation of literature into this camp or that never attracted me…

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