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A debut as a writer of erotica is a dangerous one. But Aranyani says this is a book she had to write. In fact, her mission was to create a secure and welcoming creative space for women wanting to write erotica.
"The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. " Aranyani quotes Anais Nin to explain why she chose to write erotica. But is she worried about how the world will see her post the book? "I am terrified, " she admits with a laugh that tells you that she is not intimidated by her own fears. By the end of this year her book Tamil Summer and Other Erotic Tales will be out, a compilation of stories which heave with words like languid, thighs, sweat, and juices.
Aranyani, 37, is still working on her prose but the seeds of the stories were sown many years ago when she was a teenager. "I remember how oppressive it was for women to engage with issues relating to sex and sexuality. Your voice had to be held in always when I was growing up in Chennai. I decided to just let go, find this sexual voice, " says Aranyani. However, she did choose to write under a pseudonym as putting her own name to it didn't seem a safe option.
The sneak peak publisher Aleph offers of her writing on its website shows a story that is very everyday - it lies in the torpour-inducing massage by the domestic help, in the banal act of squeezing papaya juice in the kitchen, the unselfconscious disarray of the sari in the summer heat. And it features only women.
The blurb introduces Aranyani as a bold new voice in Indian English fiction but she herself is very much aware that erotica is an ancient art in India, and that women poets of the South like Andal, Muddupalani and Akka Mahadevi have been there and done that centuries ago, effortlessly and unabashedly toggling between spiritualism and sexuality in their writings. But these women, points out Aranyani, came from the more exotic sections of society.
"Conventions encourage women to be what women 'should be' which often translates as subtle, non-explicit and patient - waiting for the man to approach her and willing to tough out her desires rather than to express them and risk being accused of profanity. To defy these social forces has been difficult, even impossible for a long time. Historically the arts have served as a kind of shelter for women who wanted to express their unique erotic voice, " says Aranyani.
What has changed in recent decades she believes is that the world of "microcommunications" - advertising and social interactions - has allocated women their sexual place very strongly, leaving very little wriggle room for imagination or individualism.
The other two new voices waiting to be heard in this genre are Shruti and Meenu, lesbian feminists and connoisseurs of erotica who are putting together the Westland/Tranquebar anthology of queer erotica. There are dollops of humour in their approach to their work though they too are working behind a veil of anonymity.
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