On the second day of Sahitya Aaj Tak 2019, eminent erotica writers in India, Amrita Narayanan and Madhuri Banerjee discussed about the misconceptions and differences between erotica and pornography.
On November 2, 2019 the second day of Sahitya Aaj Tak, the renowned Indian erotica writers, Amrita Narayanan and Madhuri Banerjee discussed about their books during the session, Writing Erotica in India, being held in Delhi. Amrita Narayanan, who is a clinical psychologist by profession and a writer by passion has authored books such as Parrots of Desire and A Pleasant Kind of Heavy, besides researching the history of erotica in India, while Madhur Banerjee, billed as Carrie Bradshaw of the country has authored acclaimed book, Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas, in addition to Screen Writing Hate Story 2.
Throwing light on the other literature material that deserves to be as acclaimed as Kamasutra, Amrita Narayanan cited Tamil Sangam and added: “These books convey the feelings of the people involved. While Kamasutra doesn’t involve any emotions and it is all about the steps, but Tamil Sangam talk about the feelings and the emotions of the people involved.”
To the question, why she writes erotica, Madhuri Banerjee has this to say: “I talk about relationships, my first book was about a woman who was a virgin and decided that the only way to be accepted by the society was to lose her virginity. She said that people don’t talk about sexuality in India. My book came out in 2010, and all I wanted to do with the book was to create a dialogue about sexuality, but no one spoke about it. It is never about sexuality or writing erotica, for me, it has always been about relationship.”
Amrita Narayanan’s take for the same question was this: “The modern Indian readers need companionship on their erotic journey. Desires are something that we are very alone in. Conservatism is something that makes us feel things are against us, but books make you feel like there is something for you. Books can open you up to your own feeling. That is why I started writing.”
While elaborating on the misconceptions about erotica and pornography, Amrita Narayanan said: “The main thing is that erotica and pornography are put in the same category, erotica is subjective, you care about people, about their feelings. Pornography is only about the person watching it. It keeps you in your shell, erotica is a long lens which gives a greater perspective.” She further explained that in erotica, the word eros is a combination of lust and affection. “If you are driven more towards lust, what you come out with is, Pornography but if you are driven more towards the affection, you get erotica.”
Has Erotica liberated Indians or have Indians been evolved when it came to Erotica, Madhuri Banerjee’s reaction was this: “I think over time the internet has opened so much stuff for us, OTT is an uncensored platform, you have all the information out there. But, if you are choosing to be conservative, you will always be. If you have labels and boxes for yourself you will always be like that. There is information that is out there that will help you evolve and grow but, that is only if you are willing to do that.”
Amrita added saying, “Books don’t liberate people, people liberate themselves. But books can surely help.” She spoke about an incident as well, “There are certain periods in Indian history, where Indians tried to promote the nation as the land of yoga, but not as the land of Kamasutra. People have actually come up to me and told me that I have spoilt the Indian culture after reading my book, A Pleasant Kind of Heavy. There was an Island of resistance to that.”
While pointing out as to how news affected her writing, Amrita Narayanan said that she would stop watching news when she is engrossed in writing. In fact, she wrote A Pleasant Kind of Heavy, when the Nirbhaya Rape Case was making headlines. “This step I took apparently the news will not contaminate my mind and hints of it will find place in the book. “Growing up in the 80s in India, rape and harassment was the only thing that I grew up reading. A magazine even published an article on ways to save yourself while travelling. The news made me feel like my body was under attack and at that moment no human can be sexual. Shedding out the news was a way of protecting myself. That is when I could start to imagine and start to fantasise.”
For Madhuri, her take is different. “It is up to you how much you take in or not take in from the news. During the Mumbai attacks, I was in deep grief so I could not write for a long time. It can also be inspiring at times. But I don’t shut myself out in any way while I am writing,” she pointed out.
On the point as to why had Erotica lagged since indpendence in our country, Amrita Narayanans’ view was that India wanted to promote itself as a hardworking nation post independence. “As you all know, hard work and sexuality will not go hand in hand. Therefore, we abandoned this part of our cultural heritage after the Independence of our country.
“When the English came to India first, they thought of us as primitive native beings and we maintained that. We needed to maintain the middle-class work ethic of the people of India because we needed that image to promote the country,” Amrita Narayanan asserted.
During the concluding part of the discussion, Madhuri Banerjee capitulated the debate by saying that Erotica writing should be a part of our education system. “We are teaching biology but we are not teaching sexuality. They should teach how to be ok with your body. We should be talking about this in our schools. Everything in India is about abstinence. Kids are going to find about it on the internet, parents and teachers should be talking to kids in school. Children should be able to write erotica and express their feeling about sexuality,” Madhuri Banerjee signed off.