Tuesday 25 October 2016

Knickers In A Twist

The buzz was that it made rea­ders gasp when it came out in 2006 in the puja issue of Desh
By Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay Translated By Arunava Sinha
Penguin India | Pages: 272 | Rs. 399

The title novella came out in 2006 in the puja issue of Desh, the Bengali literary magazine. The buzz was that it made rea­ders gasp—especially the patriarchy that formed the core of the Bengali literati. The 31-year-old Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay had reintroduced hardcore sexuality to Bengali literature. Given Bengali sensibilities, there was every cha­nce that the novella would be branded a gimmick and, for a while, it was. But now, Bengalis are making and watching films like Obhishopto Nightie (Cursed Nightie), and the form Bandyopadhyay introduced is largely accepted. English rea­ders had no access to the stories till Arunava Sinha translated Panty and Hypnosis.


Where English is concerned, erotica and sex-starved women are less rare. How­ever, Bandyopadhyay’s stories have a manic energy, knickers with leopard spots and all. Illona Kuhu Mitra, for exa­mple, the lush heroine of the first story, is never described, except through her lon­gings for sex. Kuhu, her middle name, is the shrill scream of the koel in early spr­ing, a scream described by classical Ind­ian poets as a call for mating. Kuhu dre­ams, but isn’t sure what a dream is, or what reality is made of. Like Bandyopadhyay, she is a journalist, can’t bear working during the day and prefers to work at night when no one is about, driving back in early morning, on the edge of danger. Megh, a musician, comes into her life in between her musings about the past and the present and her trysts with hypnotherapy. But is what happens bet­ween him and her real, or part of a dream?

Panty, too, flits between dream and rea­lity—with the discovery of a pair of leopard spot-printed panties in an otherwise deserted apartment. The nameless heroine is taking refuge there before an unnamed surgery. Her thoughts weave between physicality and the starving  pavement-dwellers on the street below.


Kolkata, not Calcutta, is the world these women inhabit, interspersed with conversations with maids and brief encounters with irate relatives or ex-husbands in clubs—the stuff that comprises bourgeois Bengali household lives. The mundane offset by flashes of intensity, the internal burning that expresses itself in outbreaks of sex like flash fires or buildings on fire. Both stories have outbreaks of arson in multi-storeyed buildings—the Stephen Court conflagration in one and the destruction of a six-storey building and the death of a child in the other.

The novellas breathe no longings of the Fifty Shades of Grey type and Bandyo­padhyay does not venture into Anais Nin territory either. Her world is hard and down to earth, it has no space for mincing uses of four-letter anatomical slangs. Sinha’s translation captures this. Of the two stories, Panty is the more complica­ted, since it flits back and forth between different states of consciousness. In its final stages, the chapter numbering also jumps like an insane digital clock with no apparent logic of sequence.

Further Echoes From Babasaheb Mystic Mamoon
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
Bastar’s adivasis are battered by vigilantism, dispossessed by the state’s landgrab and failed by the justice system
MAGAZINE October 20, 2016
Railways only served the ends of imperial loot and barefaced racism
MAGAZINE October 20, 2016
In his debut novel Ajith Pillai pitches mordant irony into the theatre of satire.
MAGAZINE October 13, 2016
A remarkable odyssey, at first in search of a cure for cancer and then, increasingly, in search of understanding.
MAGAZINE October 13, 2016
This analysis of the Republican nominee is more than all his bluster
MAGAZINE October 13, 2016

More than a decade after India first started the procurement process, it has finally inked an €8bn agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault. The original deal was to buy 126 Rafales to replace the accident-prone Russian MiG-21s. Ultimately, the government offered to buy only 36 ready-to-fly planes.

POLL STARTED ON: Sep 26, 2016
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 31st Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. This is the first Olympics being held in South America and is going on even as a majority Brazilians are unhappy with their rulers. Here’s a quiz on some random Olympic facts and related trivia.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Aug 11, 2016