What if Kunti from the Mahabharata or Yami, sister of Yama, moved from the sidelines to centre stage? On Women’s Day, writers and artistes talk of women characters whose perspectives are seldom shared.
Chitra Ganesh, Artist
The character I would like to know more about would be Yami, the river goddess of Yamuna. She is the twin sister of Yama, the deity of death. We are familiar with Ganga’s story, the river from which Yamuna stems, and Yami is often depicted as her darker twin. I would love to hear history from her perspective , especially given how vital and fraught the river is today.
Ashok Banker, Author
I’ve just returned from scripting the Disney adaptation of my Mahabharata series and there is only one strong and courageous lady who comes to mind — Shikhandi. She was the only warrior capable of confronting and defeating the mighty Bhishma. Also, she was a transgender. People with biases against LGBT individuals should read the puranas and ask how many Shikandis capable of greatness are suppressed by discriminatory laws and obsolete attitudes.
Jeet Thayil, Author
I’m interested in the character of Lolita, because we’ve only seen her through the eyes of Humbert Humbert in Nobokov’s novel. However, as a person, Anna Snitkina, the wife of Fyodor Dostoyevsky intrigues me. She wrote two biographical memoirs on him after his death, with the help of letters that he wrote to her, his friends and family. We don’t know much about her, apart from that. It would be interesting to know her story, and how much of her personal inputs and fabrication went into those memoirs.
Nalini Malani, Artist
Cassandra from Greek mythology is my favourite heroine, though if I wanted somebody’s story to be told, it would be Kunti from the Mahabharata without a doubt. Blessed with an unusual boon, even Kunti’s husband, who was impotent, supported her. She could conceive children by the gods, and that’s something which is unlikely to be accepted even today. Also, she brought up children who were so different from each other; besides Karna, there were Bhim and Arjun. She was in a difficult situation, but that’s what puts her in a special position.
Anju Modi, Fashion Designer
I relate to strong women characters such as Draupadi from the Mahabharata and Meera, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. Draupadi was born out of fire and was fierce and strong. She was also a good archer and was well-versed in several subjects. She fought for her self-respect and emerged victorious. Meanwhile, Meera is an example of loyalty and devotion. These characteristics are relevant even today. I believe we should not be dainty darlings but be strong enough to protect
Sooni Taraporevala, Screenwriter, Photographer and Filmmaker
I love Cruella de Vil from101 Dalmatians as a character; she’s so delightfully evil. But somebody I’d like to know better would be Apu’s mother Sarbajaya from Satyajit Ray’s The Apu Trilogy (played in the movie by Karuna Banerjee). You only see her as a loving and caring mother, but you don’t get to know her; you don’t know about her dreams and desires. It would be interesting to see her as an individual and not just as Apu’s mother.
Kalki Koechlin, Actor
AS opposed to a character from a book or a film, I’d like to talk about a real person, a woman from our history who is nearly forgotten. Margaret Elizabeth Noble was a prolific Scottish-Irish writer in the late 19th century, also known for her work with the churches of Britain. At the age of 35, she met Swami Vivekananda and became a disciple. She moved to India and dedicated her life to bringing about social reforms in the country, especially in Kolkata, as Sister Nivedita. She opened a girls’ school there and also nursed the plague epidemic patients. She fought against her own country for the freedom of India.