Based on the novel Seva Sadan written by Premchand, what does it mean to to be a woman in India?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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An interesting dynamic that arises from seeing how Premchand addresses the condition of women in India could merely exist in the translations of the novel's title in different langues.  Consider that the title of Premchand's work in Urdu is Bazaar-e-Husn or "Market of Beauty."  This is referring to the idea of how women are viewed in the field of human trafficking and the flesh trade.  It is this that helps to highilght the condition of so many women in India.  The Urdu title of the work brings out a condition of women that shows them to be locked into predicaments that deny their voice and subjugate their humanity.  This could certainly be seen as one element of what it means to be a woman in India.  Another element that arises from this would be how the novel's title appears in Hindi, which is Seva Sadan, or "The House of Service."  In this conception, women are shown to be able to form solidarity with one another, providing social services to sustain one another through the difficulty of being a woman.  The Hindi title speaks to a condition of being a woman where there exists strength in assistance, where community lives in the definition of being a woman.  The Urdu vision of a woman could be seen as the traditionalist notion of women where silence exists, while the Hindi version is the more progressive, more unifying.  While it might be stretching it to say that this was Premchand's sole intention, the reality is that his novel seen in different translation lights helps to bring out the multi- layered condition of what it means to be a woman in India.


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