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Feminist Rani by Shaili Chopra and Meghna Pant: Review

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Book: Feminist Rani

Author: Shaili Chopra, Meghna Pant

Publisher: Penguin


Pages: 197; Price: Rs 299

Because we are prone to stereotypes, some readers may expect juicy tales of male bashing and bra burning when they pick up Feminist Rani. And it’s precisely THIS kind of reader that the book aims to reach and educate. The collection holds stories that emerge after interviews with several names across spectrums of life.

There stories are well-researched, deep-probing and thought-provoking. The conversations elucidate real incidents and experiences that surprise and shock, that vilify and horrify, that sadden and bring hope. But more importantly they force you to look within and question your own sense and understanding of the word ‘feminism’ and urge you to find your personal stand.

At first I found myself wanting to use the word ‘humanism’ instead of ‘feminism’, but Rana Ayyub’s view on why we should use feminism resonated with me, as I hope it will resonate with men and women alike, so we are not afraid of the F word. We should all, regardless of gender, class or race, be proud and loud feminists and not shy and quiet ones. That the book features only two men sharing their stories had me a bit surprised – I thought a lot more men were out there who are vocal about being feminists and would proudly want to be heard.

The style of story-telling reveals a deep sense of involvement from writers Shaili Chopra and Meghna Pant, who do seven interviews each. It is a reflection of their skills as immersive listeners, which is a crucial trait for the telling of such tales. The writing reveals not just the words that each person says, but also the subtle and not-so-subtle moods and inflections, which paints a vivid and vibrant picture. The backstories and origins of each interviewee set the tone for their lives and the changes that they grow from and the metamorphoses that shape their worlds.

The stories of Deepa Malik and Gul Panang left me inspired – their tenacity to try new things, learn new skills, and achieve new milestones. It’s a not-so-quiet reminder that no matter what you have accomplished there’s always something more beyond your reach that you should strive towards. The sense of growth and expansion that comes from each goal will only help fuel you along to the next big thing.

The harsh realities of the lives of Aarefa Johari and Shree Gauri Sawant had a profound impact on me and motivated me to reflect on many such unpleasant truths that still exist in our ‘modern’ India. It made me a little sad, but also made me want to fight harder for the things that I can do within my environment to challenge sexist inequalities and injustices. We may, as feminist men and women, not have the same battles, but we certainly are united in the same war.

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