Teaching Literature on Female Friendship in the #MeToo Era

Published in Dawn’s Prism on February 18, 2019


My reason for designing an undergraduate literature course titled Female Friendship in World Literature was initially more personal than strictly literary: I have been shaped, in big ways and small, by the friendship of women in different moments of my life. On the emotional landscape of my personality, my female friendships have always loomed large, teaching me in ways both joyous and occasionally painful some of the most worthwhile lessons that I needed to learn in order to live in this world and in my own skin: how to love and care for another person while also honoring my own self, how to accept kindness and to offer it in turn, how to build a relationship that has enough room for both my own jagged edges as well as the other person’s.  Because I believe that literature should be studied for its ability to lay bare the complexities of life, I wanted to design a course that would look at this important aspect of my (and, I suspected, every other woman’s) life: literature that explored, in all their contradictions and complexities, women’s friendships with one another. 

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The Right Amount Of Hope

Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Of course when Dickens said it, he meant to describe England and France during the French Revolution, whereas I am using this oft-used quote to describe a different, if similarly harsh period. Adolescence. Adults look back over this time of their lives with a mixture of amusement and nostalgia, a sense of “Boy, was life a piece of cake back then”. Their minds have successfully skirted over the paralyzing doubt and insecurity, the worry that your quest for self-identity will be ever-unfulfilled and that nagging suspicion that the world is going to swallow you whole. Instead they remember the parties, the laughter and staying up late and worrying about exams or how popular you are.

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On Books – And What They Mean To Me

They say a song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place or even a person. Being an avid music fan myself, I can completely testify to that statement. But for me, it’s not just music. Books also hold sharp and distinguished memories for me. I remember not only the circumstances surrounding me obtaining and then reading a certain book, but, if it’s one of those excellent books you can’t stop thinking about afterwards, I also remember the whirlwind of emotions I experienced while reading them.

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Memories Of Nana

When I think of nana, almost invariably, a kaleidoscope of images rushes through my mind. Among them is of nana sitting at the sofa in the TV Lounge, reading a newspaper with glasses perched on his nose, or looking up expectantly to see who has arrived. Another one is of nana, sitting on the same sofa, observing everybody as different activities took place over the years. Whether it was one-dish parties or Maria Baji’s Nikkah or Chand Raat when he would watch us make packets of sweets, I can still remember how his eyes would twinkle with laughter and a smile would play upon his face as he watched over us all.

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On Top of The World

I have many, varying memories of the chhat at my house, the rooftop. Back when “my” house was still “nani ka ghar”, the chhat used to be our hideaway, the place where my cousins and I would escape to, when we wanted to have a bit of an adventure or just felt rebellious. Because, of course, us being the little kids and the chhat’s low walls, the place was strictly off-limits to us, which made it all the more fascinating.

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