‘Hang Woman’ is a book of executioners or rather a family of executioners. The Grddha Mullick family has witnessed almost every important event that has shaped the history of the subcontinent. It is a lineage of executioners, dating back to before Christ, in which they take immense pride.
Author KR Meera interacting with the audience during her session on Day 3 of the Chandigarh Lit Fest, 2014.In the present day, however, 22-year old Chetna is the first lady executioner of India and with a family tradition to take over. KR Meera, the author of the Malayalam novel, ‘Aarachaar’, which has been translated into English by J Devika and titled ‘Hang Woman’, was in conversation with critic Deepanjana Pal on day three of the ongoing Chandigarh Literature Festival.
The inspiration to write the book, explains Meera, came from a notebook, left in her custody by her neighbour, an old homemaker, whom she saw as a great cook.
She called me every night, months on end to ask if her book was safe. And then suddenly, it hit me that this lady who I considered just a homemaker and cook, was so passionate about something she had written half a century ago. So, I didn’t want to wait that long to express myself,” smiles Meera, a former journalist and an acclaimed and award-winning Malayalam writer.
The fact, elaborates Meera, that women are wiped from history in various struggles and movements all over the world, inspired her to look into our history, and reconstruct and reclaim their lives.
“For their story is our story. We were entitled to complete citizenship, but were denied it. This documents the life of women in our country and documents it for later generations,” Meera says.
The novel is set within a span of two months, and charts Chetna’s life in many situations. “This story is about Chetna’s financial independence, her relationship with the media, people and the contrasts between expectations,” says Meera, who agrees that writing it was a traumatic experience, for she was living the life of a protagonist in a place (Kolkata), where she has been only twice.
“The last hanging happened in Kolkata in 2004 and so it became the backdrop of the novel, and I made sure each detail was in place, as I watched movies set in Bengal, read road maps and newspapers over the years to get it all in place,” recalls Meera, adding how some parts were tough to translate into English.
“I am a different person after this novel, and have realised how writing is such a tough job, and I feel many writers of our generation have restored the faith of readers and I just wish, that translations keep happening and writers can reach wider audiences and the exchange is complete for everyone,” smiles Meera.