Goddess in Exile is an Indian fiction by eminent South Asian Feminist Sarojini Sahoo.
It’s really a paradox that in the midst of all the glow of growing civilization and refinement, at the societal front we encounter familial instability, domestic disorder and witness man degrading himself to the level of a beast. Home breaks, children become orphans as a result of the absence of marital harmony, mutual respect and adaptability. Newspapers and electronic media are agog with ghastly reports of bride-burning, rape and murder and female-foeticide where the weaker sex is the constant victim. A woman is described as ‘an angel of the house’ but is everywhere a ‘slave’, a victim of male chauvinism and his possessiveness over her, as if she is a commodity to be enjoyed and discarded at his sweet will and pleasure. No sensible person will deny that she is primarily a human being with normal human feelings and sensibilities; the feminine needs to be integrated with the masculine for a world of bliss and harmony. The writings of Sahoo are a faithful portrait of the deplorable distress and victimization of the woman, a psycho-social reading of her sufferings and torture. For her, a woman is a respectable individual of God’s creation with her free will and choice, her own freedom and fascination, her passion and sexuality. She is never a person to be subjugated and suppressed. A free expression of her sense and sensuality is the basic tenet of a healthy atmosphere, any transgression of the basic norms and needs leads to deadlock.
The novel raises a number of pertinent questions; the issues discussed are really perplexing. Is a woman an individual with her own will and freedom of choice? Is the ‘second sex’ destined to be used and exploited? Can she maintain a separate and independent existence without any social taboos, scandals and character assassination? Can she not sever her marital relationship in the wake of discord and disharmony? Can she unlock her heart freely? All such questions have varied answers depending on space and time and also attitudes and mindsets of people. Thinking minds and feeling hearts have dwelt upon them assiduously. However, Sahoo envisages a world order celebrating equality of both the sexes, despite the biological differences between the two which she considers quite natural and marginal. She boldly affirms that a woman is free to express her sexuality with no ambiguity and inhibition. There should be no gender bias, no discrimination, she advocates. For her, she is a beautiful creation of God with equal potentialities like her male counterpart, an integral part of the whole. Her sufferings and torture are unwarranted and unfortunate. She cannot ordinarily carve out a separate identity extricating herself from the soul-killing society. Can she make her life meaningful, and the world livable by embracing her will and choice?
The woman represents ‘Shakti’, the dynamic source of energy and creation, but in the present scenario, she is engulfed by sorrow and depression. The protagonist is a sad replica of the divine feminine, in perpetual depression. The title bears testimony to it. In addition to the rich content, the novel adopts a new technique of narration, truly innovative. The plot unfolds through the game of questions-and-answers making a brilliant exposition of Indian myths, puranas and legends; various allusions to the East and the West are illuminating. Sahoo’s range of mythology, history and culture is superb and provides an interesting study of the feminine psyche.
Title: Goddess in Exile
Author: Sarojini Sahoo
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Causes Sarojini Sahoo Supports
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