3 questions with Aranyani, author of Erotic Literature
The writer explains how writing about the erotic is writing about life in a candid chat
1. As you write under a pen name, is this your first piece of writing? And why erotic stories?
This is my first published work. However, since childhood,I’ve written, mostly journal writing for myself. The idea to write erotic stories came
spontaneously. It allowed me to reclaim a space inside myself that has been crowded with stories of violence against women and hopelessness about men’s ability to connect deeply with women other than as objects whether pleasurable or simply functional. So often erotica is restricted to the briefest of moments in the bedroom when in fact, it is everywhere where there is life: in trees, flowers, fruit, and human moments of various kinds. Writing about the erotic is writing about life.
2. In your short stories, women find their sensuality in cooking (Stolen), waxing (Tamil Summer) and like. The crux of sensual experience is quite unusual...
The kitchen and cooking as the sensual backdrop to the story, Stolen, serves two
purposes. First, I was trying to highlight the kitchen as a sensual location. The lushness of fruits, the colours of vegetables, the quiet power of seeds and spices evoke the human body and psyche in very primal and sensual ways, yet this is often overlooked because the kitchen is assigned to women (and domestic workers) as a workplace with the chore of productive output, meal after meal, day after day.
A second point is that historically, Indian women were thought to be ‘safe’, that is, safe from thinking about sex, while engaged in kitchen tasks. In fact, encouraging women to become very involved in the kitchen is one of the ideas to ensure female monogamy proposed by the ancient patriarchal Indian lawmaker Manu. Waxing in Tamil Summer is also an act of subversion. Classically, we associate waxing —women’s hair removal — with reinforcement of confining gender roles and hence the status-quo. However, in Tamil Summer, the experience of waxing helps Rasika transcend her confinement. What she goes on to do afterwards is hardly what one would conventionally call “womanly”.
3. Khushwant Singh compared your writing to the Kamasutra. Your comments.
One can’t help being flattered and I appreciate the link of past and present and being part of history rather than a standalone writer. In terms of actual content, only one parallel occurs to me. I made it a point to go into graphic detail about a woman’s experience of sexual excitement to the extent of elaborating upon the physical and emotional mechanics of these in various situations. In terms of writing style, the Kamasutra is a dry text! I like to hope my writing style is a little juicer. Finally, I think the Kamasutra, though it gave importance to woman’s pleasure, was mostly in the service of increasing man’s pleasure. I believe in the importance of woman’s pleasure in its own right.
A Pleasant Kind of Heavy and Other Erotic Stories, Aranyani, Aleph Book Company, Rs 295. Available at leading bookstores