Extra-marital affairs and the new Indian!

New Delhi: Going by what India is reading and writing of late, the country seems to be undergoing a mass change in its attitude to morality. Latest books, including controversial translations from yester-years, have proved that the common man is more understanding of what goes on in a marriage and is perhaps more tolerant of transgressions.

Take Farrukh Dhondy`s "Adultery and Other Stories" (HarperCollins), the newest entrant in literature to explore relationships in an out-of-marriage context. These stories about `love, lust, friendship, betrayal and the ways of the heart` take on the seventh commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. Of course, the word `adultery` is gaining new nuances and carries all kinds of meanings in modern-day

In Shinie Antony`s recently released novel "When Mira Went Forth and Multiplied" (Rupa), the erring partners are delightfully caricatured. Far from being the stereotypical mistress, Mira is your average, neighbourhood psycho whose heart is in the right place.

The Other Woman, it would appear today, is an ordinary woman just like any other. While Priti Aisola`s "See Paris For Me" (Penguin) has a sensible woman who sees exactly how her love will create mayhem in too many lives and prefers to hold back, Sujata Parashar`s "In Pursuit of Infidelity" (Rupa) presents a young self-obsessed woman in love with a man other than her husband and who wants to have her cake and eat it too.

According to Karthika V K, publisher and chief editor of Harper Collins India, "Fiction is becoming more adventurous and experimental and nothing is out of bounds any more?"

Kapish Mehra, publisher of Rupa Publications, says that there have been far greater books on adultery in the recent past.

"There has been a greater acceptance of such writing by society, possibly on account of a more matured audience and the desire of the reader to experiment with varied styles, genres of writing," Mehra told reporters.

In Jahnavi Barua`s "Rebirth" (Penguin), Kaberi is forced to rethink marital strategies after her husband refuses to give up his office fling. Devayani in Shashi Deshpande`s "In the Country of Deceit" (Penguin) decides to end the affair, feeling as she does the entire burden of guilt in the relationship. Anita Nair`s Meera in "Lessons in Forgetting" (Harper Collins) takes her husband`s straying in her stride and eventually finds solace in another man.

"Extramarital affairs have existed in Indian literature for ages, but yes, there is more written about them these days. Westland is even bringing out a book by the well- known couples counsellor, Dr Vijay Nagaswami, called `3`s a Crowd: Surviving Infidelity`," says Prita Maitra, managing editor of Westland Ltd.

The two recent Bengali translations – Buddhadeva Bose`s "It Rained All Night" and Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay`s "There was no one at the bus-stop", both Penguin products - are sensitive studies on the subject of less than legal loving.

Sara Joseph`s "Othappu" (faltering), translated from Malayalam and published by OUP, tells the story of a nun who sheds her habit for the love of a man. Then there is "The Other Woman", an anthology brought out by Harper Collins, which includes stories by Mahasveta Devi, Amrita Pritam and MT Vasudevan Nair among others.

Rahul Srivastava, director of marketing and sales at Simon & Schuster India (S&SI) says that of late Indian writers are becoming bold in terms of what they are writing and
inhibition has gone away.

"There are stories on relationship, marriages etc and extra-marital affairs are sometimes a part of such stories but its not that primarily people are setting out to write about extra-marital affairs," he says, adding "once S&SI begins to publish, it will be "open to these taboo subjects like other publishers."

Agreed, adultery is as old as the hills, but interpretations are new and now manifold. In most of these books, affairs rarely culminate in marriage - the ultimate traditional destination of man-woman relationships. Indeed the new trend is to tell it like it is and not judge.


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