About the Book
It was a lime when girls were as desired as sons. A time when girls beat boys in games and races. A time when there Was no gender divide. And so also in these stories it is the women who are stronger, wiser, faster, sharper, and certainly far more beautiful than their men. It is they who think out of the box. who .ire imaginative and creative and full of wise ideas.
From tales of ghostly possession to magic mantras, from kings and queens full of passion to village youth bursting with sexual. irdour these timeless folktales are full of the joy of being alive, of sensual enjoyment and pleasure. While Kudrat (God is imagined and is being feminine) and Deva conspire and wreak havoc on their people, the dance of life continues with naked young maidens swimming in the streams or being courted by dark handsome vouths amidst much laughter and teasing. The forests are full of birds and beasts and fish, and life for the tribals is for the most part simple and innocent, truth and right ,always prevail and defeat the forces of darkness be it a scheming stepmother. a murderous wife or lover or a cruel and lustful king.
About the Author
Marija Sres was born in 1943 in Bratonci, Slovenia. She came to Gujarat, India, in 1971 as a religious sister to work with rural women. In 1976, she took a degree in Gujarati literature, one of the very few foreign women to do so. For the last thirty years, she has worked with the womenfolk of the Dungri Garasiya adivasis, in Sabarkantha district, north Gujarat. Her experiences have found form in her writings, for which she has been acclaimed both in Gujarat and in her native Slovenia.
This in brief is the outline; let me now give you the broader picture.
"I grew up in Tito's socialist Yugoslavia (Marija once wrote), and so I had a strong sense of women's equality and professional independence before coming here. The world of the Dungri Garasiya adivasi I was about to enter was as different from mine, as day was from night. It was a feudal, patriarchal world. A world where women are still looked down upon as illiterate, treated as cheap labour and are sexually exploited, where women consider themselves of little worth, their existence being one of sheer survival.
"I used to describe my work as 'walking with them', a deceptively simple term with complex undertones. It means I was available to them, I accompanied them at their pace - in their homes, in the fields, during meetings, by the bus-stop, to the taluka or panchayat offices, singly or in groups. I listened to them and recorded their stories - oh, how many stories! Some of them I put into my first book, Girasma ek Dungri (To Survive and to Prevail), and I was astonished at how well it was received."
It was this book which fell into the hands of Manubhai Pancholi 'Darshak', the great Gujarati writer, who exclaimed with wonder, 'We are Gandhi's disciples and we. have .worked with tribals and outcastes. But we did not write about them. We did not consider them worthy to be part of creative literature. But this foreign ben considered them her equals, and for the first time brought them into Gujarati literature. You, Marijaben, have done what none of us dared to do." Thus began a close friendship between Darshak and Marijaben, which ended only with Darshak's death a few years ago. Another contemporary writer, Raghubir Chaudhury, ended his review of Girasma ek Dungri, with the words, "Thank you, Marijaben, for what you have written."
Marija's first book, Girasma ek Dungri was awarded the second prize for short stories in 1994 by the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi. It has since been translated into English, Slovene (Tam kjer kesude cveto), Spanish and Marathi. In 2005 the Gujarat Sahitya Parishad, to celebrate its centenary, chose it as one of the "hundred most significant books in Gujarati literature", and brought it out in a special edition. The year 2006, saw six of her stories filmed for television, and broadcast on Doordarshan, the national channel, in its programme, Indian Classics.
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