Monday, January 03, 2011

Interview with a reader: Jaded Sixteen

JRB: Describe the hate mail you receive in response to your writing.

Jaded Sixteen: Most of the critique I get is focused on my gender and 'nationality'; specifically to not conforming to expected standards. Other bloggers in the Indian Blogosphere think I get these awesome haters because I'm noticed 'internationally' on Womanist Musings and SexGenderBody. I'm not too sure about that, because I have another anonymous blog too, and that gets trolled along similar lines. As long as dusty ladies speak up in a manner threatening to the world pecking order, we're going to be despised, I think.

JRB: What is "dusty?"

JS: 'Dusty' is a neologism I came up with a while ago. I saw this ridiculous fairness-cream ad on TV and they said something along the lines of 'dusky' skin. Only, I kept on hearing it as 'dusty'. Plus, we Indian people ALL squat in the mud, (if I'm to go by the most sticky and determined stereotypes about us). So I figured all the dust has to stick somewhere, no?

JRB: "Fairness cream" isn't a reference to social justice?

JS: Oh crap. I forgot you're not dusty. So you probably don't know about fairness creams. Okay, this should help. And this too.

HA! Fairness cream as 'social justice', that metaphor is genius. Can I borrow it sometime?

JRB: I hope you will. To prepare for our interview, I chose Emily Bronte, instead of bullfrogs and plutonium, as a subject for discussion. I have read the first three chapters of Wuthering Heights; you submitted this poem for consideration. What makes Bronte significant for you?

JS: Colonial texts have always fascinated me, even as a child I've loved the whole canon of lady writing, from Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Emily Dickinson. What interests me is these ladies were writing against the 'male' canon and form of literature, and 'colonising' their own spaces, so to speak. More often than not, the protagonist or the author gives a rationalisation of the Empire that was doing the literal colonising Out There. So within each plot, there is another war to occupy, possess, punish spaces and sometimes even people. Jane Eyre or Villette is a good example of this trope, where the protagonists -- Jane and Lucy -- are introduced in male-dominated spaces and standards, and both manage to subvert the practice as well as colonise the 'space' -- both literal and metaphorical. George Eliot's protagonists somehow can't 'colonise' their spaces, but the narrative remains firmly imperial, so the Mary Evans writing the novel still in a way has 'possessed' space, so to speak. I'm not saying these lady writers are to be condemned for such space-politics, but rather we acknowledge that to become these famous authors or to birth one of the earliest feminist heroines, they too had to step over and oppress others, namely the Third World Woman (Maggie from Mill On The Floss or Bertha from Jane Eyre).

Now, Emily Bronte -- whose text is imperial too -- she does more than just 'occupy' spaces. I read Wuthering Heights as a novel with a single protagonist, which is Catherine-Heathcliff or Heathcliff-Catherine. They occupy, embody, imprint over, and dislocate each other's spaces continuously in the narrative; sometimes they destroy each other, each other's 'spaces' and each other's voices in this zeal to occupy and carve things as one's own, reducing the Self and the Other to bones by the end. Call it silly but I find it reassuring to see that not everyone Out There was successful or even bent on colonising. Moving away from the text, the character we know as Emily Bronte is supposed to have been a recluse, she 'waches' (her word for watching) people, shapes, consonants but cannot claim anything as her own -- and the Glass Essay does a fabulous job bringing her alive. Again, a voice from the canon questioning colonialism, the 'right' to occupy spaces? I can't not fall in love with her.


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