Shashi Deshpande : The Confident Voice

Posted: July 29, 2006 in Literature

“I don’t like to call myself a feminist writer. I say I’m a feminist, but I don’t write to propagate an ism,” stresses Shashi Deshpande – Sahitya Akademi award winner in 1990 for her novel ‘That Long Silence’ – “Basically, mine is a quest for the human self within the woman,” she adds.

“I feel I came through only because I had faith in myself. The desire to say something was so strong. That was hard, when my whole life was considered unimportant, my work was considered unimportant, even writing by women was considered unimportant,” explains Bangalore-based Deshpande. “Many women are silenced by lack of time. If I admire anything in myself, it’s only that I kept on. It’s easy to give up,” she adds.

In the context of contemporary Indian writing in English, Deshpande is one of the most understated yet confident voices, who explores individual and universal predicaments through the female psyche. Her novels include ‘Roots and Shadows’ (1983), ‘The Dark Holds No Terrors’ (1980), ‘That Long Silence’ (1988), ‘The Binding Vine’ (1993), ‘A Matter of Time’ (1996), and ‘Small Remedies’ (2000). That’s in addition to two short crime novels – ‘If I Die Today’ (1982) and ‘Come Up and Be Dead’ (1983) – and six volumes of short stories. Besides this, Deshpande has also written books for children.

Shashi Deshpande is well-known in literary circles for depicting the quotidian life of the average Indian. What has earned her respect is her uncompromising stance as an Indian writer who writes in English, but steadfastly resists the malaise that seems to have afflicted the current crop of Indian writers. She refuses to embellish and package her writing to portray India as an exotic land, full of magic and mysticism – a formula that has succeeded in gaining international readership for other authors. I have personally admired Deshpande for choosing to tell stories about ordinary people playing out the scripts of their lives, quite unseeing perhaps, of the grand scheme into which their mundane actions fit. What I find remarkable is the way she makes us question our everyday existence and helps us see, through the evolution of well-etched characters, the frailties and possibilities of human life.

Copyright ©2007 Arun Chullikkal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


  1. Sunalini K.K says:

    I’m a research scholar working with Shashi Deshpande’s novels.I’m deeply moved by her realistic portrayal of Indian women .Though the novelist doesn’t agree that she is a feminist writer we find her women as strong feminists.ex Savitri Bai of Small Remidies who prooves that a woman is free to go according to her will .Madam, u always said in ur interviews that the roles of daughter,mother,wife,are imp ,then why Savitri Bai rejected all those ties? Is it not denying womwnhood ?

  2. Depitcting a free wowan with no ties, does not mean she denies the womenhood. Literature is just a mirror to the world, and she is truthful to that. We cant just place good face always. If so we have to think Russians are all sinners, poor and sick reading the works of Desteovsky. Another example i can show from Pande is Indu in Roots and Shadows.

  3. tony says:

    i like saritha the heroine of ur dark holds no terrors bez she is the model of all indian women

  4. Job K. Thomas says:

    Shashi Deshpande comes across to the readers of her novels as a humanist feminist. Her protagonists aren’t women who would run away from home or escape the responsibilities of family life. They would rather assert their individuality and break the silence within the family sphere. That’s why Deshpande is known as a humanist feminist.

  5. steffi says:

    I liked Deshpande’s Of Kitchens and Goddesses because she depicted the indian women in such a way as any other writers portrayed.We can see the agony and anger for the level given to women in houses.She vividly brought out the feelings and emotions of those women and grieves for the rights given to them.

  6. p.arunaprash says:

    I feel that Shashi Despande’s understanding of feminism is powered by her pragmatic sensibility. Thats why her women do not run away from ho or escape the responsibilities of family life as against extremistic feminists. They just break silence and feel fearless to darkness.

  7. Brodit says:

    People like Shashi Deshpande are very few who can show leadership in the best possible manner with the objective of empowering women status in the society. Indra Nooyi is one another example in the corporate world.

  8. Dr.C. Anna Latha Devi says:

    Reading Deshpande’s novels is like viewing contemporary life. The woes of women in childhood,adolescence, and womanhood are portrayed dexterously by the novelist. The assertion of women at the is really heartening

    • maria philomi says:

      I am research scholar doing my research on shashi deshpadade’s topic is women’s quest for self identity.but i try to prove that the self identity of deshpande is more of spiritual intelligence rather than mere psychological one.i am very much interested to meet her.could you please help to have a meeting with the celebrity?

  9. Shebs says:

    Hi, thnk u ….
    I need a summary of ‘of kitchens and goddess’

  10. Dr Shamenaz says:

    I have done my research on the novels of Shashi Deshpande and I found that she is the writer who explores the inner conflicts of Indian women. In her novels, she has tried to depict the trauma of women caught between tradition and modernity.

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