20th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Manchester, July 2008; my paper on MANJU KAPUR’S “A MARRIED WOMAN” and the Babri Masjid issue

The 20th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies (ECMSAS) was held at the University of Manchester, 8-11 July 2008. It was a mammoth event, with over 30 panels covering multiple aspects of modern South Asian politics, history, sociology, arts, literature, popular culture and more. I participated in the very successful and stimulating Panel 13 (History and the South Asian Novel written in English, capably organised by Nicole Weickgennant), with a paper on Manju Kapur’s "A Married Woman" and the Babri Masjid issue. Other papers featured Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry, V.S. Naipaul, Amitav Ghosh, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan, and Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan). The conference site is at:
Manchester, with its superb Victorian town hall recalling buildings in Bombay and its wonderful ‘Curry Mile’ replete with Indian restaurants, was a most appropriate setting for this conference, and I am most grateful to all those who made my participation possible.
The photos below – some featuring Rajeshwar Mittapalli, Letizia Alterno and myself –
highlight, variously: the University of Manchester’s distinguished Victorian buildings; conference time at the Humanities Building concourse; and the conference dinner. 


My own contribution took the form of a (well-received) paper entitled:

"To build or to destroy": History and the individual in Manju Kapur’s "A Married Woman"

The paper is available online at my Yatra site:



The theme of South Asian individuals being caught up in and having their lives reshaped by major collective historical events (such as Independence and Partition) has been a constant in postcolonial Indian Writing in English, in such key works as Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines or Manju Kapur’s own Difficult Daughters. In A Married Woman (2002), the second of her three novels and the only one so far to incorporate public concerns into a contemporary setting, Kapur focuses on, among other themes, the Hindu-Muslim conflict as crystallised around the Ayodhya/Babri Masjid issue. This novel has attracted attention for its frank depiction of a love affair between two women, but less attention has been paid to the historical and political context in which that relationship develops. Kapur boldly returns to the Ramayana’s sense of a beginning by initiating the transgressive relationship in Ayodhya, in the wake of an anti-communalist rally, and by making one of the pair the Hindu widow of a secularist Muslim. The tale that thus unfolds powerfully explores how, in a still-traditionalist India entering the age of globalisation, evolving personal relations on the microsocial level are shaped by wider historical forces, yet can in their turn reshape that same history in an adumbration, potentially utopian even if partial and temporary, of new and more diverse forms of human relationship.


Dr Rajeshwar Mittapalli’s paper from the conference:

‘Subaltern Subjectivity and Resistance: Dalit Social History in Postcolonial Indian Fiction in English’,

is on-line at the SavifaDok site maintained by the University of Heidelberg, Germany:





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