“Desire is what raises us above animal instinct”
In Eating Wasps, author Anita Nair sends out the message that women need to preserve their identity
Anita Nair, 52, doesn’t like to limit herself to being called a feminist writer. Interested in women’s issues and delving into their condition, it’s all of humanity that fills her with concerns and not just women, and she prefers to be called a writer of the human condition. Author of novels such as Ladies Coupé, The Better Man and Alphabet Soup for Lovers, her other
books include Malabar Mind, a collection of poems and Goodnight and God Bless: On Life, a collection of essays. Her latest
Eating Wasps is a piece of fiction highlighting the intensity and consequences of desire.
What inspired you to write the book?
Eating Wasps is both a conceit and a metaphor referring to facing mind-defying challenges. For some time now, I have been thinking of writing once again about the lives of women. It has been 17 years since Ladies Coupé was published. If that book was about women finding their identity, I thought this would be about women preserving their identity despite the challenges they face every day— patriarchy, misogyny, the male gaze or even the all-pervasive fingers of technology. If there is one message I have, it is that nothing is insurmountable. The challenges women have to face are extraordinary and yet we have it in us to overcome them. We do that in our individual ways and there is no right or wrong way of doing it. But we must to retain a sense of who we are. That is what the book is all about.
Is Eating Wasps different from your previous books?
One of the premises I have always been interested in is exploring the gender equation. With this book, I have laid its base and in that sense, it is perhaps my bravest book. I knew what this book was going to do to me emotionally as I set about writing it. And because of the nature of the plot, the crafting had to be that much more delicate as poetic to balance the heft of the story.
How do you create your characters and craft the story?
While I am working on a character, I slip into their skin. So, it allows me to be a woman or a man with equal ease. There is a great deal of work involved in subjugating and burying who I am as a person before I can become the character, responding to situations as the character would and not
I as a person would. No two people are alike but sometimes stereotypes pop up when dealing with the same cultural ethos, age group or economic background. I need to be careful to not succumb to caricaturing and instead draw characters with a distinctive but definite hand.
What are your views on gender inequality?
If there is one thing I am certain about, it is—women are in no way inferior to men and so no god or human law has the right to make a woman feel she is insignificant. Women are different from men. That’s a biological fact but it doesn’t make a woman incapable, inept or lesser than men.
What’s the cost women have to pay to live lives on their own terms?
In an urban landscape, perhaps women have a greater chance of living a life as they see fit. However, in small towns and rural India, when a woman chooses to live life on her terms, she lays herself open for speculation and criticism. In a tightly knit society like ours, with traditional conditioning of thought and action, this may lead to a woman being treated with disrespect, ostracised even. It can wear any woman out, even the strongest of them. Hence more often than not women choose to compromise so that they don’t have to live their lives on the periphery or watching over their shoulder at every step they take. It requires great fortitude and courage to live life on one’s own terms even for men. So, for a woman it is a hundred-fold.
Is desire an intrinsic part of a person’s being?
Desire is what raises us above animal instinct. Everything else is an appetite. Hence it is fundamental to our humanness. How could that be wrong and how can a woman be denied the right to desire? It is what will shape her identity. However, the very thought that a woman can feel desire and may choose to fulfil it, is something patriarchal norms will resist. So, a woman has to first acknowledge her right to desire and its fulfillment.
Publisher Context Pages 260 Price `599