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SAROJ PATHAK (1929–1989)

Saroj Pathak was a writer in Marathi, predominantly of short stories. Born in 1929 to a conservative Bhatia family, she married Ramanlal Pathak, a Brahmin, writer and communist, against her parent’s wishes. She had trouble completing her education, partly because of a morbid fear of examinations, but she eventually took her Master’s degree in Gujarati. She worked for All India Radio and for the Soviet Embassy.

Both she and her husband seem to have suffered from manic-depressive syndrome; Ramanlal once had so debilitating an episode that he was unable to leave the house for some years; Saroj supported him and her daughter during that time. For the last 19 years of her life she lived alone, working as a teacher, seeing her husband on weekends. Tragically, she died on the day she was due to retire; it may have been that she took her own life in a fit of severe depression at the thought of quitting. The action of her stories takes place as much or more in the characters’ heads as it does in the ‘real’ world of the story. For one who wrote most often of women caught in awkward or loveless marriages, Saroj’s own marriage seems to have been unusually successful, with both partners sharing childcare and house chores, and trusting and confiding in each other to a rare degree. Her writing style is oblique and vertiginous, creating a sort of metaphysical dialogue both inside and outside the character’s mind.
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