Pune, September 11, 2018: “There is a definitive change in Marathi literature, be it in the way writers express or the language itself,” said Sahitya Akademy awardee Dr. Uma Kulkarni, a renowned name in the world of literature with 56 translations of Kannada classics to her credit.

Dr. Kulkarni said women authors are expressing their feelings and thoughts much more than before in their writing and that in itself is a definitive change. The author, who recently launched her autobiography, said the change in a woman’s status in society can be faster when that change begins within the walls of her own home. “My husband has no issues with getting me my morning tea or breakfast but when my mother visited us in our earlier years together, she would be shocked at the sight and prod me to go take over from him, she recalled. She was speaking on a panel on the changing paradigms of Marathi literature.

The second edition of the SheThePeople Women Writers’ Fest Pune was curated by author Sudha Menon and supported by ex-editor New Woman, Archana Pai Kulkarni at Kala Kollective recently.

Women from various walks of life, listened with rapt attention as women authors, talked about their journeys and making inroads into largely male dominated subjects such as horror, suspense, love, lust and dark stories.

Said author Tanushree Podder, “Everyone thinks women won’t be able to do justice to the challenge of writing noir. The mindsets have to change for further acceptance.”

A session on ‘Women Writing on love and lust’ had authors Sudha Menon, Swati Shome and Kiran Manral talk about the taboo surrounding women who venture into this space with their writing while RJ Shurbhra read out excerpts from women writing in this genre. Author Sudha Menon’s soon to be launched Feisty At Fifty, a humorous look at her life as a woman on the wrong side of fifty talks about, among other things, her waning sex life and her attempts to revive it. “I have the manuscript of an unfinished novel sitting in my bookshelf because I was devastated when my father got upset with the opening page of the book which had a rape scene. It was almost a decade ago but I still can’t manage to pick up that manuscript and finish it because he was not comfortable with me writing this.” Menon said.

Manral said she finds it strange that some readers and even acquaintances commented on the sex scenes in her book that runs into hundreds of pages. “I am a 47 year-old woman who is married and has given birth. When is it then looked at differently when I write about sex? My child was not born from immaculate conception. Sex is an integral part of a relationship and we have to stop expecting women to gloss over it,” she said.

Shome’s book, Lets Talk About Guys, Girls and Sex is almost a ready reckoner on everything about sex said she was inspired to write it after she experienced the silence around discussing sex and how difficult Indian parents find it to talk about birds and bees with their children.

Popular city radio jockeys RJ Shonali, RJ Smita and MJ Tia, early entrants into the then nascent FM radio space spoke about the great sense of responsibility they feel when they connect with their fans and listeners on a daily basis. The trio, who between them have lakhs of followers on social media platforms, said they strive to use their position of influence to bring about positive change. For instance, RJ Shonali recently used her show to raise funds to buy cycles for school-going children in rural Maharashtra. She also ran a campaign urging people to desist from vandalising public property during strikes and bandhs.

Award-winning actor, writer and director Vibhawari Deshpande who participated in a session on ‘Writing through the gender lens’ said that her gender always influenced the topics she chose to write and the roles she picked to portray on screen and stage. “I find that when I write, the character of the women in my stories are strong women. Maybe it is because I grew up with strong women around me or maybe because that is how want women to be.”

A session on ‘Getting your first draft done’ had author Pervin Saket discussing the craft of writing and the dos and don’t of the process of writing with aspiring writers in the audience.

Story tellers Seema Gaurav and Kakoli Bagchi enthralled the audience with their women-centric stories while a trio of stand up comedians- Niki Ray, Aayushi Jagad and Sweta Mantrii brought the house down with their acts.

The fest also featured a riveting session where Neha and Vishal Pipariya, founders of popular indie bookstores Pagdandi and Ramesh and Rasika Rathiwadekar of Akshardhara book gallery spoke about their initiatives to revive the reading habit and make bookstores multi-dimensional cultural hubs.

The carefully curated panel discussion brought together over two dozen authors and writers including Leena Sohoni, Swati Raje, Sucharita Dutta Asane, Yamini Pustake Bhalerao, Lalitha Suhasini and Anjali Shetty

Says Shaili Chopra, Founder of SheThePeople.Tv, “We need to celebrate writing across genres, way beyond literature. We have women ahead in screenwriting, short stories, business and entrepreneurship, fiction, environment, some fantastic columnists and more. As part our effort to do more with writers across India, this is a first of a kind festival that promises to ignite rising minds.”

Says Sudha Menon, “I have been in this city for close to 25 years and I am continually amazed and delighted at the talent here. Curating this event has been further reiteration of my belief that creativity is in abundance in Pune. For instance, I discovered a growing tribe of women who are defining themselves as stand up comics, radio jockeys and story tellers here. I also met up with terrific regional language authors and also writers who have translated some of the biggest English language writers into Marathi. I am glad I am able to bring all of this terrific female talent to a platform that showcases and celebrates women’s talent and creativity.”

Says Ideas Editor, SheThePeople.tv, Kiran Manral, “The festival aims at not just discussing issues relevant to women which often get put on the backburner at other platforms, but also to create a nurturing, symbiotic, democratic space, where women writers and readers can interact and bond over conversations and informal interactions.”