Being Bookworms at the Cover Revealing of Antara Banerjee’s "To Be A Woman"
Antara Banerjee's "To Be A Woman"....Cover Reveal in Kolkata......
A cover report by Dr. Amit Shankar Saha
The cover revealing of Antara Banerjee’s second book titled "To Be A Woman" took place in the banquet
hall of One Way Cafe on a rather chilly afternoon of 20th December, 2015. Antara Banerjee’s first
book was The Goddess in Flesh published in 2014 for which she was promptly labelled as a
feminist writer. The writer embraced the label and the title of her second book elicit the same. But that
may be a tame look at the issue for Antara has gone into the serious and complicated subject of
transgender and transvestite in this book. The cover revealed by an esteemed array of guests, which
professor Dr. Suman Kumar Mukherjee and Vice President of Academy of Fine Arts, Dr. Anjali
Sengupta, in itself showed what the writer has explored in her book. The cover photograph was shot by
Antara Banerjee herself, being a qualified photographer too. The programme was moderated by the very
talented Sufia Khatoon, who started the programme with her poem,
"To be a woman,
My wish, my desire, my pride...."
which stated in a few lines the essence of the story.
The Chief Guest Sri Raj Johri commended Antara for the wonderful job done in shooting the image for
medically but rarely emotionally. He went on to delineate the existence of transgenders and transvestites
in history and mythology citing the examples of the Greek Achilles, examples from the Mahabharata,
talking about how men played the roles of women characters during Shakespeare’s time and how
Devika Rani became the first woman to successfully essay a female part in Indian movies and even
revealed how during his school days he had to play the part of Bharat Mata. His own experience taught
him how it feels to transcend the boundaries of gender and he hoped that the book will cut new
A major part of the afternoon was devoted to the interaction between Dr. Suman Mukherjee and Antara Banerjee.
Dr. Mukherjee started by saying that when there is perfect conception then a girl is born and
only when there is an imperfect conception then a boy is born and yet often religions and society sees
paradoxically the woman as an aberration. In this regard he questioned the author on which aspect of
woman she was looking at. Antara replied that to be a human being will be ideal but men and women
do not have same social standing and added that she is not negating men but rather trying to put into
perspective that men and women complement each other.
This led to the question of transgenders, which is often used as a blanket term to indicate the rainbow that gender is generally defined now-a-days. On being asked about their status in the West, Antara replied that even though Western laws provide them legal rights they still do not find social acceptability to a greater extent and that is why the LGBT movement is gaining momentum worldwide.
Dr. Mukherjee directed the conversation towards the political aspect and Antara quickly recalled how
recently the bill introduced by Shashi Tharoor in the parliament was ridiculed due to lack of awareness
about the issue in some of the parliamentarians themselves. Antara pointed out that often we find
ourselves out of place among transgenders which made Dr. Mukherjee wonder whether the men are
afraid of their female form being exposed or their maleness slighted. Antara said that there exists some
chauvinism when this aberration is encountered.
Sri Johri objected to the the usage of the word “aberration” because experiencing sexuality differently is just nature’s and society’s creativity at work and those who have aversion for it fear to come to terms with their imagination. Soon the audience too warmed up to the conversation and started participating. The talk veered from Tagore’s Chitrangada and Rituparno Ghosh to the economic factor which determines social acceptability of transgenders.
Antara said that for her the ideal feminine form is Durga, the mother goddess, and Dr. Mukherjee said
that “only when the celestial light refracts we get a rainbow.” He wanted to know how the transgenders
think, emote and analyse. Antara spoke about the cravings of a woman when someone with a man’s
body has a woman’s psyche. Sri Johri interjected and highlighted that there is also the men part of
transgenders, which also needs to be studied. He floated the term “trans-empowerment” as that can be a
way forward in order to make gender difference acceptable and not seen as some inadequacy by
society. The discussion ended with Dr. Mukherjee congratulating the author and looking forward to the
launch of the book.
The high tea that followed provided opportunity for interaction amongst the author, the panelists and the audience. It was an afternoon well spent amidst some invigorating conversation, a dazzling cover reveal and some cud to chew on when the mind tends to ruminate.I wish Antara Banerjee all success in her endeavours.
Bio: Dr. Amit Shankar Saha is a scholar, critic, poet and writer. He has a PhD in English from Calcutta
University. His research articles have appeared in anthologies and journals both in India and abroad,
prominently in the journals of Purdue University (USA), Drew University (USA), Bordeaux University
(France), BHU (India), etc. He was a guest lecturer in the distance education center of Madras
University and is currently pursuing postdoctoral research. He is also the co-founder and coordinator of
Rhythm Divine Poets group. He has won a number of creative writing competitions too.
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