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Gendered Home In The Short Stories Of Shashi Deshpande

3461 words - 14 pages

Home is a geographical space -- a site where we live but it is also ‘an ideal and an imaginary that is imbued with feelings’1 .Somerville(1992) has picked out seven key aspects of being at home: shelter, hearth,(emotional and physical well-being),heart(loving and caring relations), privacy, roots(source of identity and meaning, fullness),abode and paradise(ideal home as distinct from everyday life)2.Down the ages, we have associated ‘home’ as a haven, far away from the hostility and surveillance of the outside world. It is in the privacy of home that an individual gives expression to his ideas. The domestic items from curtains and furniture to books and records all contribute to the development of an individual. In all its details, a home is thus crucial to how an individual establishes his world.
Significantly, if a house establishes one’s world, then, it is still very much a man’s world. Marion young (1997) brings in Luce Irigaray’s ideas to explore the gendering of home:
‘‘…man can build and dwell in the world in patriarchal culture [Irigaray suggests] only on the basis of materiality and nurturance of women. In the idea of ‘Home’, man projects onto woman the nostalgic longing for the lost wholeness of the original mother. To fix and keep hold of his identity man makes a house, puts things in it and confines there his woman who reflects his identity to him. The price she pays for supporting this subjectivity, however, is dereliction, having no self of her own.”3
In the process, the subjectivity of males gets emphasized while everything that a woman does within the confinement of a home bolsters the male idea of ‘home’. Young emphasizes four important attributes of home that should be available to all people: “safety; individuation, whereby each individual has place for the basic activities of life, privacy; and preservation.”4 Unfortunately, what a home promises to a male member of society, is denied to a woman. Inside a home, a woman is not safe, not an individual, and her privacy is denied in most cases. This differential treatment is undoubtedly has its roots in gendering of home which is crucial in lived experiences and imaginaries of home. The gendered nature of home has been a major theme in the short stories of Indian women writers. Their writings are evocative of the frustrated lives of women inside the patriarchal home and also about how women go about resisting it. In this article, the short stories of Shashi Deshpande (b.1938) would come under close scrutiny as they explore the ‘silent’ but simultaneously creative and fulfilling lives of Indian women belonging to different ages and socio-economic conditions. These stories are about how, for these women, home is often not a haven: it is not a space in which they can claim privacy and autonomy.
Home promises an individual a space where he can relax and be confident...

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