Sex sells. No doubt. But writing on sex and sexuality is not easy, especially when one has to clarify innumerable times that she is not selling porn but erotica. "The difference between erotica and porn is the line that separates sex from sensuality. It is extremely unfortunate erotica is considered same as porn," says Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, writer of Sita's Curse which in her own words is India's first feminist erotica. "It has been the greatest challenge – to resurrect an age-old Indian cultural tradition, while also trying to adapt the genre to the changing mind and body of a modern Indian protagonist," she says.
Sita's Curse looks at love, longing, sex, sexuality and sin through the eyes of a 40-year-old, protagonist Mrs Meera Patel. She lives in a congested housing society, somewhere in the midst of congested Mumbai. The book traces Meera's metamorphosis from a naïve girl from a small town in Gujarat, married off at 17 to a man she's never met in Mumbai, to a woman who's fearless in seeking the fulfilment of her desires, both emotional and physical.
Kundu says she carved the 'hero,' of her book from her personal experience of seeing a particular Gujarati housewife daily on her way to work. "Sometimes hanging clothes on a flimsy plastic wire, feeding green chilies to a bright green parrot in a cheap wrought iron cage or running her hands casually over her full breasts, the delicious circle of her navel abundantly inviting, as the Meera of my imagination soon transformed into a daily obsession - a slow fire, as I started conjecturing about her day-to-day life," she adds.
While reading the story, Meera's character sometimes seems to be craving only for sex but delve more into her character and you will come to realise the emotional void faced by the woman. Despite Meera getting attracted to almost every male in the novel and ultimately having sex with strangers, the reader can't help but sympathise with her, with her lonelyness and hunger. The novel in a subtle way also questions the lack of sex education in India, and how it affects teenagers and their growth process by bringing a hint of incest in the story. "Incest is a human experience and emotion that somehow is always portrayed as an evil side of human nature and that is why like all other emotional experiences we try and box it, labeling it as unsafe," Kundu says.
The writer also says that she has met many Meeras in her life, and thanks to them she feels much liberated. "The involvement of a writer with anything they write is poignant, penetrative and personal. I found erotic writing extremely liberating and today thanks to Sita's Curse, I take pride in being a sensualist. I am stripped off all my boundaries. I stand as naked as her. Being able to look herself in the eye – unafraid and unabashed," she says.
A sad end
The novel reaches its culmination on July 26, 2005 in a climax that is both agonisingly adult and yet addictively adventurous. I imagined her every single moment. The way she seemed trapped, soulless, sad, sabotaged by the simple irony of her own life. Till the floods of July 26, 2005 of which I was also a victim, taking three days to reach home, battling a serious viral infection I contracted, being hospitalised... When I resumed work, she was no more. Sita's Curse is my tribute to that memory. To a life unsung. A woman with the most melancholic eyes - like the colour of rain. This is her story," says Kundu.