Kalpakam and Other Stories
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avitri Ammal’s stories are about women like herself living in upper-caste households in Madras in the early part of the twentieth century. Published first in Tamil in 1958, the stories capture with subtlety and directness, the textures of the privileged albeit cloistered lives of these women, which simmered with hope and talent and were haunted at the same time by disappointments and a lack of opportunities. A sense of helpness pervades many of the stories, as the women struggle to articulate desires thwarted by custom and social constraints. There are women in the stories who, unable to bear an untenable situation, end their lives, and other who courageously question, fight and overcome the injustices being foistered upon them. Writing at a time upper-caste women were not very visible in the public sphere, their lives confined by marriage, motherhood, widowhood or indigence, Savitri Ammal’s characters voice their love, fear, shame or guilt in a variety of circumstances with startling candour and poignancy.
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