Today in New Delhi, India
Apr 19, 2019-Friday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Satire should bring out follies of higher education, says professor R Raj Rao

He is all set to release his fourth novel, a satirical comment on higher education in India

pune Updated: Apr 14, 2019 16:55 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
Professor R Raj Rao is all set to release his fourth novel, a satirical comment on higher education in India.(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)

Professor R Raj Rao is all set to release his fourth novel, a satirical comment on higher education in India. Madam, Give me my Sex, is a work of fiction set in a university known as the Oxford of the East in Pune. Rao has been a professor of English for 29 years and spent ten years teaching the subject in the Department of English, Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU).

“Thirty years of teaching is a long time and if I don’t write my observation and experience, then it would have been waste of literary material. It was a novel waiting to be written,” Rao said, adding that the novel is a work of imaginary literature and not an autobiography.

Political events such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid, 9/11, Godhra, the Bombay attacks, and re-criminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code form the backdrop of the book. Rao’s novel both entertains and informs as it highlights a university system that has allowed the pursuit of knowledge to be stifled by politics, reservation and managerial follies. The title of the novel is also suggestive of sexual harassment at workplace as well as linguistic aspect that is set to be intriguing and deliberate.

Rao said, “Institution of higher education is much more vulnerable dealing with women in their 20s when it comes to the aspect of the title. Higher education is in shambles and is an unfortunate thing in developing countries. It is not given the importance it deserves, but is seen as dispensable. India still has a conventional kind of education, where skill-based education is given more importance, but even if employability is an aspect, they should also look at literature and other subjects with importance for where will one generate ideas.”

“I have taken several risks in my career, but the reason I could get away is probably because I write in English and this is a work of art, and pure fiction and I am not naming any people,” said Rao when asked about taking risky subjects to write about.

His earlier novels were more related to homosexual love and Rao clarifies that his novels, The Boyfriend, Hostel Room 131 and Lady Lolita’s Lover were part of trilogy and full-fledged novels. “I have moved slightly away, but sex and love are part of my aesthetics,” said Rao.

“I want readers to take the book seriously for satire can be used as a way of exposing human follies, so you want people to see how foolish we have been,” he said.

The premise

In a university known as the Oxford of the East, situated in India’s cultural capital, Poona, all is not well in the English Department. The department is headed by Professor Tiwari, who has ambitions to make it one of the best departments in the country, but factors beyond his control thwart him. Principal among these is the state’s reservation policy which ties his hands. The department faces gender and sexuality issues, with the director of the women’s studies centre accusing Professor Tiwari of patriarchy and misogyny, and a gay professor becoming a victim of homophobia.

First Published: Apr 14, 2019 16:55 IST