The Wise Woman and Other Stories: The Best of Mannu Bhandari
Mannu Bhandari’s genius lies not in elevating women to heroines or superior beings; rather, she forces us to acknowledge that flawed, confused, and self-centered women are as worthy of agency and respect. She wrote among literary giants who were mostly men, but carved a singular space for herself with her unflinching gaze at the hypocrisy of a society that claims to venerate women yet balks at giving them the keys to their shackles. These 18 stories are representative of her wonderful insights into the inner life of women – her characters span the spectrum from rural to urban, illiterate to educated, homemakers to career professionals. Through all the stories runs a vein of gentle mockery – the inimitable Mannu Bhandari style.
Born in Madhya Pradesh in 1931, Mannu Bhandari had her early education in Ajmer, graduated from Calcutta University and then went on to obtain an M.A. in Hindi language and literature from Banaras Hindu University. She initially worked as a lecturer in Hindi in Calcutta, and subsequently taught Hindi literature at Miranda House College, in the University of Delhi. A prolific writer of short stories, novels, novellas, and plays, Mannu Bhandari has been honoured with several awards for her outstanding literary achievements in Hindi. She is considered one of the pioneers of the ‘Nayi Kahani’ Movement, a Hindi literary movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her work has been translated into many Indian and foreign languages. Some of her stories have been adapted into films as well as for the stage. The Hindi movie Rajnigandha, based on her short story ‘Yehi Sach Hai’ won the Filmfare Best Film Award in 1974.
Vidya Pradhan is a writer based in Palo Alto, California. She has written several children’s books, features, and a memoir. This is her first translation and she looks forward to bringing more classic Indian literature in Hindi to English readers.