Shashi Deshpande’s name is synonymous with Indian writing in English. Everyone you know has read her. Deshpande’s novels, with their assertive and modern themes, are as urgent today as when they were first published. Yet, little is known about her. She is famously reticent.
In Listen to Me, Deshpande opens up about her life and work. She writes about being a writer and a feminist, and the shaping of these selves. She draws us into her world: growing up in Dharwad as Kannada littérateur Shriranga’s daughter, moving to Bombay as a student, figuring out her identity as a newly married woman, and negotiating the unfamiliar world of Indian publishing — and always, always her love of reading. As she talks about influences, detractors and challenges, the genesis of her own work shines through.
This book is not a fight to claim a piece of public memory, and definitely not an act of self-aggrandisement. It is an acute observation of an eventful era in Indian literature and history, and a micro-history of Deshpande’s own engagement with it, through her certain and uncertain recollections. With its chiselled prose and honest self-knowledge, it revitalises that most delicate of endeavours: the writerly memoir.