Mamta Bhatnagar (born 1 March 1962) is a Univeirsity teacher and fiction writer. She has written a number of research paper on various topics relating to literature and social sciences.  She has participated in (i) International Symposium on Marriage in Shakespeare, held on 15 Jan 2007, organized by Dr. Sarup Singh Chair, Dept. of English, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra & (ii) State Level Seminar on domestic violence at Arya Girls College, Ambala Cantt. sponsored by National Commission for Women, New Delhi, held on March 12, 2007.

Contact : Flat No. B-24, M. M. University Campus, Mullana (Ambala)
Phone : 93156-45151, email :


“Tradition, Transition and Modernity:
The Changing Image of Women in Manju Kapoor’s Novels”
(An Abstract)

Ms. Mamta Bhatnagar, Lecturer, Deptt.of Humanities, M.M.University, Mullana (Ambala) Mobile:09354833773
Dr. Nitin Bhatnagar, Prof, Deptt. of Humanities, M.M.University, Mullana (Ambala) Mobile:09315645151
Dr. Kumkum Bhardwaj, Asstt. Prof., Deptt. Of Humanities, ITS Engineering College, Greater Noida Mobile:09811229579

Manju Kapur has joined the growing number of women writers from India, like Shashi Deshpande, Arundhati Roy, Githa Hariharan, Mridula Garg, Anita Nair or Shobha Dé, on whom the image of the suffering but stoic woman eventually breaking traditional boundaries has had a significant impact. They invigorated the English language to suit representations and narration of what they felt about their women and their lives in postmodern India. In a culture where individualism and protest have often remained alien ideas, and marital bliss and the woman's role at home is a central focus, these modern-day women authors are now expressing themselves freely and boldly and on a variety of themes-without adopting feminist postures.
Manju Kapoor’s phenomenal work acquires a significant new meaning when read in the point of view of crisscross dogmas of cultural critical thinking. Using guiding principles provided by major thinkers, our paper attempts to locate Kapoor’s work in the changed exemplar of cultural encounters. This provides a valid introduction to the feminist perspective on family life, using concepts of conjugal roles, dual-burdens, equal opportunities, and various social policies as evidence to support the feminist viewpoint.
Our study is aimed at a scrutiny of the writings of Manju Kapoor to examine her handling of the changing image of woman in the modern and the post modern era. Tradition, transition and modernity are the stages through which the woman in Kapoor’s novels is passing. Woman in her novels seems to be a personification of a ‘new’ woman who has been trying to throw off the burden of inhibitions she has carried for ages. We note a remarkable change and more confidence in her walking, talking, working and almost everything.
This remarkable changing image of women to support the feminist viewpoint runs as an undercurrent in all the three novels of Manju Kapoor: ‘Difficult Daughters’, ‘A Married Woman’ and ‘Home’. A detailed study of her novels reveals that Mrs. Kapoor’s women are the women of ultramodern era who want their individual worth realized. ‘Difficult Daughters’ (1998) recounts the story of a young woman called Virmati, her desire to study, her rejection of an arranged marriage, her entanglement with her married neighbour the ‘Professor’, whose second wife she becomes, and her subsequent challenging and difficult life-choices and their ambivalent outcomes. Manju Kapur's second novel, ‘A Married Woman’ (2002) explores the life of Astha from her young adulthood through her early middle years. In the process she marries, discovers the joys of intimacy with her husband, grows distant from him, struggles to become a painter, becomes a social activist, falls in love with a woman, and finds herself — sort of, more or less, almost. Kapoor's third novel ‘Home’ (2006) too unwaveringly spotlights the women in the tale. It basically has three female characters-Sona, her sister Rupa and Sona’s daughter Nisha-who claim their voice in their own ways. The story that had started with the tale of Sona and Rupa finally finds its calling in Nisha who spends her childhood, scarred by incestuous abuse, at Auntie Rupa’s home. But it is her later pursuits in life - studying English Literature in an university, falling in love with a low-caste boy, forcefully standing up to her conservative family, despairing at being jilted by the lover, her courage in struggling with the meanness of life, her attempts at finding her place in an uninformed society that refuses to recognize the promise of her merits, her petty jealousies, unarticulated complaints and simmering frustrations that inevitably accompanies a life riddled with disappointments — that become central to the concern of the readers.
These novels furnish examples of a whole range of attitudes towards the imposition of tradition. However, Mrs. Kapoor seems aware of the fact that the women of India have indeed achieved their success in sixty years of Independence; but if there is to be a true female independence, too much remains to be done. The conflict for autonomy and separate identity remains an unfinished combat. When she expresses some aspirations as man do, she is labeled as feminist. Though rebellion demands determination and a will to stand by the causes of rebellion at any cost, the heroines in the novels of Manju Kapoor have often come up to paying the prize of their rebellion.

Virmati, in ‘Difficult Daughters’ grows up from a naïve girl to a woman matured by suffering. Her married life turns out to be a disaster. She wilts under the implacable and hostile gaze of Ganga, her husband's first wife and loses all sense of identity. Of course, the core of the book remains Virmati's conflicts in a convention-ridden society. We find that Astha, in ‘A Married Woman’, feels morally responsible and emotionally attached to her husband and children. She prioritises her family over the family which Pipee suggests: a union of two women. Against all social norms, the friendship between the two women develops into a fully intimate same-sex relationship, but finally it breaks up and Astha- confused and semi-repentant- returns emotionally to her marriage to Hemanta, stricken down with jaundice and having to bear her relatives' reproaches: "This is what happens when you leave your home.” In ‘Home’, Nisha is no exception. She creates her own business but her creativity is tolerable as long as she is unmarried. After marriage, her husband and his family does not allow her to continue the work. Whatever she seems to be in the beginning seems deceptive in the end. She finds herself nothing but a marginalized woman seeking ordinary social levels and emotions.

This is the irony of Manju Kapoor’s women. There comes a transitional phase in their life and they tend to become different from a traditional woman and want to break out into new paths. However, the change is more of theoretical in nature. When it comes to reality after boldness to themselves they lack courage and resume to patriarchal hegemony. What happens to Virmati, Astha and Nisha is no doubt the most representative destiny of the Indian woman even if educated. We all know about women’s emancipation today but the day following yesterday things might have changed, but how much really? Even today, thousands of girls sit within the four walls of their houses and wonder why they do not have the right to chose their own lives, decide for themselves whether they want to be homemakers or more. Marriage is still the reason for their birth.

With these considerations as a background, my paper is an attempt to study the changing image of women moving away from traditional portrayals of enduring, self-sacrificing women toward self-assured, assertive and ambitious women making society aware of their demands, and in providing a medium for self-expression in the works of Manju Kapoor.