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Monday, December 06, 2021

Mannu Bhandari turned the eye inwards, to the complex layers of man-woman relationships, nuances of family system

While her gaze was that of a woman, and she gave us strong heroines, her literary oeuvre was not restricted to the feminist spectrum alone.

By: Editorial |
Updated: November 17, 2021 10:14:17 am
Her work highlighted the larger shifts of Indian society in the daily humdrum of life.

At a time when her seniors at the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) had left a legacy which spoke about the rights of the working class, writer Mannu Bhandari was busy shaping the “Nayi Kahaani” movement in Hindi literature. Bhandari turned the eye inwards, to the complex layers of man-woman relationships, and the nuances of the Indian family system. While her gaze was that of a woman, and she gave us strong heroines, her literary oeuvre was not restricted to the feminist spectrum alone. Her work highlighted the larger shifts of Indian society in the daily humdrum of life. Along with contemporaries like Krishna Sobti, and husband Rajendra Yadav, she ensured that new themes and unexplored perspectives found a footing in the Hindi literary spectrum.

Born to freedom fighter Sukhsampat Rai, she was exposed to literature from an early age. Her own life reflected the upheavals that a newly independent India was facing. Bhandari was urban, educated and had a career of her own, independent of her much celebrated husband. She wrote about this new nation, in which there was a new middle class, which featured working women who made their own decisions and also had economic freedom. Her novel Aapka Bunty, a first of its kind, dealt with an adult theme like divorce through the eyes of a child. A story like ‘Yahi Sach hai’, later adapted into the hit film Rajnigandha (1974), spoke about a woman’s conflict as she was caught between two lovers. The layered details of relationships between men and women, and also the changing dynamics of contemporary Indian marriage in the ’60s and ’70s found their way into her work.

Bhandari, who passed away on Monday, had been unwell for some time. Her peers, students, and readers remember as kind, gentle and approachable. While she was a doyenne of the Hindi literary world, she took her fame and her contribution to the world of Hindi literature with a big pinch of salt.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on November 17, 2021 under the title ‘The intimate storyteller’.

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