Journal article Open Access

No Woman's Land: Women, Nation and Dystopia in Manjula Padmanabhan's Escape

Basundhara Chakraborty

Manjula Padmanabhan has been one of the most potent literary voices in contemporary India. An artist, cartoonist, playwright, short story writer, journalist, children’s author, novelist, she has always pursued us to rethink what it means to be a woman in modern nation state and to interrogate women’s relationship with technology and state power. My paper will do a textual analysis of one such work by her – Escape (2008), her first attempt at writing fiction for adults. The novel is a dark dystopian fable which introduces the reader to a post-apocalyptic scenario in which women have been almost completely eradicated by the phallogocentric state apparatus and human beings are substituted for a new, genetically-engineered, race. The protagonist Meiji is the only survivor of the near-complete femicide and the novel documents Meiji’s and her uncle Youngest’s quest to escape the tyranny of the state machinery. The paper will examine the feminist dystopia as Padmanabhan’s veiled critique of the subordinated status of women in India, where fifty million girls went ‘missing’ from population according to the UN report. According to the 2011 census, India’s current child sex-ratio is 914 females per 1000 males, which is the lowest since the 1961 census. Setting her novel in this setting, Padmanabhan has presented a protest against the marginal status of women in modern India.

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