Family in Selected Novels of Shashi Deshpande

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Shashi Deshpande’s intense fascination with human relationships and the family is reiterated by the fact that almost every novel explores in a compassionate manner the complexities that concern every individual living within families, within relationships. Her fictional world begins and ends with families, the minutiae which she delivers into her narrative allowing the reader an opportunity to contemplate on the family, an institution so core to our lives that it is often taken for granted. This taken-for-grantedness – often unquestioning and unconditional – towards the family, appears to be problematised by Deshpande whose creative engagement with it exhibits how families do operate, especially in the context of the Indian urban middle class. Reading Shashi Deshpande’s A Matter of Time for the first time a few years ago, I felt the urge to read Deshpande’s other novels and the affair took off with such intensity that I was tempted to read all her novels that were available and her short story volumes besides the fiction written for children. Within this time I was also supposed to decide on a topic for my doctoral degree, and for me what could have been a better topic than Shashi Deshpande’s treatment of family in her fiction! Given my fascination with her passionate treatment of the family which I found reflected in almost all her novels, and also the fact that I could actually visualise and recognise the familial drama being enacted both in the novels and in and around me, it seemed only natural that I should embark on my chosen topic. Significantly, it was around this time that I felt, after having read secondary works on the novelist that her intense involvement with the family novel after novel has for some reason escaped larger critical focus and this was also one of the driving factors that motivated me to take up the study of family as my research topic. And thus, Deshpande’s fictional world became a living world around me – my family, all my relationships, I felt, were only varied versions of what Deshpande has so skilfully delineated in her novels.
Supervisor: Liza Das