What has made the difference

Stree, Kolkata's latest book is a translation of Vinodinee Neelkanth's writings, The Road Less Travelled. Included with the translations which are by Jagadeep Parikh, Rohini Patel, Ranjana Pendharkar, Sohan Nilkanth, Shailaja Kalelkar Parikh and Rita Kothari is a biographical sketch Aparna Basu and Shailaja Kalelkar Parikh.

"Presenting the life and work of Vinodineeben Neelkanth (1907-1987), this book offers a portrait of a woman who played many roles with distinction: as a social activist, a champion of women’s rights, in the struggle for independence and as a journalist who wrote the column ‘Ghargharni Jyoti’ in the daily Gujarat Samachar that made her famous among both women and men. Born into a family that championed social reform and education––her mother, Vidyagauri, and her aunt Shardaben had become graduates in 1901––she made bold and unconventional choices all her life. In 1929, aged twenty-one, she won the prestigious Barbour scholarship at the University of Michigan and gained a Masters degree in sociology and child psychology in 1930. On her return to Ahmedabad, she became the principal of the Municipal High School, earning a living which was unusual for a woman of her privileged background. Later she was to make an unconventional marriage that led to much public criticism and initial ostracism. She also became a writer. Most of her journalistic writings aimed at encouraging women to speak up for themselves and take control of their lives. Insofar as she strove to give women a sense of identity, she may be regarded as one of the precursors of feminist literature of Gujarat.

The book traces the social milieu in which she grew up and lived, capturing the immense political and social changes that were coming about by a rapid state of modernization and urbanization in the early twentieth century. The translation, for the first time, of her works into English, reveals her critical public gaze on many an institution and practice that had long been held sacred and inviolate. Divided into two parts, Part I offers the Biographical Sketch, while Part II presents selections from her writings as a journalist, her essays, short stories and an extract from a novel."

In our Gender and Sociology Sections, Paperback, 336 pages. Rs 375. ISBN 9788185604718

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