Amrita Narayanan and Madhuri Banerjee attended the day 2 of Sahitya AajTak and spoke about what is writing erotica in India like. They also spoke about the basic differences between erotica and porn as well about their books during the session, 'Writing Erotica in India,' being held in New Delhi. Madhuri Banerjee, who is also known as the Carrie Bradshaw of India has written the acclaimed book, Losing my Virginity and other dumb ideas. She also screen wrote Hate Story 2.
Amrita Narayanan who is a clinical psychologist has written Parrots of desire and A Pleasant Kind of Heavy. She has also researched the history of erotica in India.
Other eroticas that deserve kamasutra fame
While speaking about other literature material that deserves to be as famous as Kamasutra, Narayanan mentioned Tamil Sangam. She said, "These books convey the feelings of the people involved. Kamasutra doesn't involve any emotions. It is all about the steps. But these other books talk about the feelings and the emotions of the people involved."
Madhuri Banerjee explained why she writes erotica. "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, said, "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."
Misconceptions about erotica and porn
Amrita 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?
Madhuri said, "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."
How does news affect your writing?
Amrita said, she stopped watching the news while she was writing, A Pleasant Kind of Heavy, which was during the Nirbhaya rape case. This step was taken so that the news does not contaminate her mind and hints of it show 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 fantasize."
For Madhuri things are different. She said, "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."
Why has erotica lagged since independence?
Amrita said, "India wanted to promote itself as a hardworking country after Independence. And hard work and sexuality don't go together. We abandoned this part of the cultural heritage after Independence. 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."
Madhuri ended 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."