Beyond the ‘Feminine’ and the ‘Feminist’: An Analysis of Chandrika Balan’s Short-storie

Chandrika Balan (born 1954) is an award-winning writer from Kerala who writes in Malayalam as
well as in English. Also known as Chandramati in the Malayalam literary circles, she is one of the
leading women-writers of India in the post-1990 period. In the realm of contemporary Indian shortfiction,
she holds a position of her own, having more than ten books of short-stories to her credit.
She also translates her own stories into English. Her stories portray wide ranging experiences of
being a woman in the present times without taking any partisan or singular stance. As a writer or an
individual, she strongly rejects the qualifier feminist for her. Her writings however evince an intense
awareness of the gendered reality in Kerala and elsewhere and raise pertinent questions regarding it.
This paper studies her two self-translated stories, The Story of a Poem and The Optical Illusion to
illustrate how these stories offer a rich site for negotiating the gender issues related to the modern
educated women in the patriarchal domains of lower middle-class society in Kerala. It also proposes
that Balan complicates the convenient categories of gendered identity of women such as the
feminine and the feminist to disentangle the women’s experience in her writings.


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