In 1981, my first Odia short stories collection ‘Sukhar Muhan Muhin’ (‘Facing Happiness’) was published. Neither I had prepared its manuscript nor was it known to me. Veteran publisher Sahadev Pradhan, the proprietor of Friend’s Publishers anthologized it with my short stories published in an Odia literary magazine ‘The Jhankar’. Publisher inaugurated and presented this book to me in the reception party of my marriage with Jagadish. The writers who were witnessing that event marked the inaugurated book an all time historical one by signing their autographs on it. It is needless to say that by that time Jagadish made him established as an iconic figure in Odia fiction writing and also made me celebrated among his readers as a legendary female character Goutami in his fictions.
At the middle of Jagadish’s novel ‘Knishka- Kanishka’, its main female character Goutami turned to a stone sculpture. This was symbolic representation of my mental status in just post marital period. Marriage was a major set back for me. I found myself in totally different socio cultural back ground and the alienated environment of coal fields area also made me more exiled. The image of Jagadish in my pre marital life was no more and I encountered a husband Jagadish, who was very much different from his lover’s image. Sexual affinity seemed to me more a marital rape and slowly I grew a temporary frigidity and infertility in me. I tried to paint my experiences, observations from life in my Odia stories like ’Nija Gahirare Nije’, 'Dura Pahadara Chhabi’ and ‘Bipanna Samayara Chinha Bada Byaktigata’ etc. These stories have been anthologized in my collection ‘Nija Gahirare Nije’.
Marriage brought two different realizations for us. When jagadish, a known bohemian and nihilistic person turned to an optimistic one, I turned in to more a nihilistic. The changes in me, I think, drew me more towards feminism. My story ‘Dura Pahada ra Chhabi’ was on my end of fascination in conjugal affinity, “Bipanna Samayara Chinha Bada Byaktigata’ was on her developed frigidity and ’Nija Gahirare Nije’ was representing a will to escape from these marital hegemonies. I think, Sanjay- Goutami’s wedding turned me more a feminist.
But feminism, or distinctively Western feminism that time didn’t like the idea of mother hood and I wanted to be a mother. I was under treatment of Dr. Sukumar Mitra, a famous gynecologist of that time in Odisha and delivered our first child in 1985. These consequences and the want of motherhood made me to think and accept feminism differently from western perspective. While Jagadish was busy with painting Goutami’s transformation to stone in Kanishka- Kanishka’, I wrote my stories on new ideas of feminism which are totally separated from Western radical views in my different stories, and were anthologized in the book ‘Amruta Pratiksha Re’, (later it was published in English as ‘Waiting for Manna’). Jagadish was awarded by Odisha Sahitya Akademy for his novel in 1990, where i got this award in 1993 for my above mentioned book.
After my marriage with Jagadish, my in laws expected that I would change my surname according to Jagadish. But at that time I was some how known to Odia readers and I was able to create an identity of myself as a bold and serious female writer. My first anthology of short stories had also been published, It seemed to me that changing my surname might be a denial status to my writings which I had been produced before my marriage. It seemed to me change in surname certainly be the change in identity. I denied changing my surname and thankful to Jagadish that at that time he stood beside me and supported my reason for not to change my surname.
One of Jagadish’ elder brothers asked me: What is the identity of a woman more than her husband’s identity?
One very eminent poet and another a female editor of female oriented magazine also asked me to change my surname as they thought that would be beneficial for my kids’ marriage in future.
I kept my daughter’s name without any surname attached to any caste or religion.
I think to be in love with any one and to change one’s identity for love is not same thing. If it would be then why any husband can never think to change his surname according to his wife? Is it expected that a woman should only show her love through obligation socially?
Recently I found a survey carried out by Facebook in May found that more women are changing their name on marriage: some 65% of married women in their 20s and 30s still do, and 80% of women in their 60s. (See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/changing-your-last-name_n_3287883.html)
Is it not about 'embracing feminism' or the female mass still subjugated with patriarchal milieu as suggested by Simone de Beauvoir in her book ‘The Second Sex’ in last century?