The ‘Self’ that is very ‘Public’: A Reading of Assamese Women’s Autobiographical Narration
Assistant Professor, Department of English, Dibrugarh University, Dibrugarh, Assam, India.
Life Writing scholars like Hannah Arendt, Adriana Cavarero and Judith Butler have agreed to the fact that at the heart of any self-narration, is the biographical desire to get ‘exteriority’ or in other words, to hear one’s story being told by another. This position of the narrator, then, is interesting keeping in view the fact that s/he is the object of narration as well. Hence the ‘publicness’ of the personal space is inherent from the very beginning of an autobiographical act. As in the words of Udaya Kumar, “instead of seeing the autobiographical act as a movement from the inner domain to the outer, we may see it as located from the outset in a public, exhibitionary space” (20). This very focus on the exteriority of the utterance help us see the autobiographical act as performance that has been taken into account by Sidonie Smith while reading women’s autobiographical utterances as acts of performance. She suggests in her essay “Performativity, Autobiographical Practice, Resistance” that “a specific recitation of identity involves the inclusion of certain identity contents and the exclusion of others; the incorporation of certain narrative itineraries and intentionalities, the silencing of others; the adoption of certain autobiographical voices, the muting of others” (110).
And since the audience for whom it is targeted themselves are a heterogeneous group soliciting conflicted effects in the autobiographical subject and therefore, “the cultural injunction to be a deep, unified, coherent, autonomous “self” produces necessary failure (and ) in that very failure lies the fascination of autobiographical storytelling as performativity” (110). These interesting insights then prepare us to witness an interplay between the so-called ‘public’ and ‘personal’ identity of the speaking subject and when it comes to women speaking about themselves in the early twentieth century Indian society, the constant negotiation between the ‘individual’ and the ‘collective’ takes an interesting turn. The early twentieth century Indian society can once again be studied as another heterogeneous collectivity where caste, religion, language and geopolitical conditions were crucial factors to determine the way the society was developing during those times. The state of Assam, situated in the north-east of India, during the early twentieth century was under the British rule and many interventions of the colonial encounter could be seen in the way the society was flourishing during the time.
Life-writing, autobiography, women’s writing, narrative, Assam
In all the talk about the social construction of the subject, we have perhaps over- looked the fact that the very being of the self is dependent not just on the existence of the Other-in its singularity, as Levinas would have it, though surely that-but also on the possibility that the normative horizon within which the Other sees and listens and knows and recognizes is also subject to a critical opening. (Butler 23)
Udaya Kumar in the introduction to his recent book Writing the First Person: Literature, History and autobiography in Modern Kerala (2016) brings to the fore one very important question regarding the approach towards the notion of ‘self’ in any study of self-narratives in India. He states that the late emergence of autobiographies in India has often been explained as the consequence of a civilizational absence of ‘the individual’ before the colonial encounter. This very notion of the individual and its late reception in India during the Colonial rule has also been acclaimed by life writing scholars like James Olney and which is why scholars like David Arnold and Stuart Blackburn in their book Telling Lives in India: Biography, Autobiography, and Life History (2004) opined that India can be seen as a country where the ‘individual’ and the ‘collective’ are always inseparably tied up and very often the individual or the ‘personal’ voice is subsumed and muted by the public voice . This study of the autobiographical form and its reception in India, on the other hand, are contested by historians who claim the existence of ‘the individual’ and personal narratives in India prior to the colonial encounter. Keeping in mind this debate on life writing, Udaya Kumar posits some very interesting questions as to how should one proceed in the studies of autobiography in India. He gives us two different approaches- one is to question the relationship between the individual and autobiographical expression and to examine whether personal narratives are to be seen as the ‘necessary discursive choice’ of a pre-existent form of social and political life or is the very capacity of autobiography constitutive of what we recognise as the individual. The other approach, according to him can be to look more closely at the varied nature of autobiographical practice instead of treating the relationship between the individual and autobiography as a casual one. The important question in the second approach is to examine the conditions under which one occupies the position of the subject in relation to self-narration. Or in other words, the task is to take into account the varied conditions under which the act of self-narration has been adopted and the situations in which this very subjective approach to one’s self, which is the object of study, tends to blur the marked distinctions between the ‘personal’ and the ‘public’.
Life Writing scholars like Hannah Arendt, Adriana Cavarero and Judith Butler have agreed to the fact that at the heart of any self-narration, is the biographical desire to get ‘exteriority’ or in other words, to hear one’s story being told by another. This position of the narrator, then, is interesting keeping in view the fact that s/he is the object of narration as well. Hence the ‘publicness’ of the personal space is inherent from the very beginning of an autobiographical act. As in the words of Udaya Kumar, “instead of seeing the autobiographical act as a movement from the inner domain to the outer, we may see it as located from the outset in a public, exhibitionary space” (20). This very focus on the exteriority of the utterance help us see the autobiographical act as performance that has been taken into account by Sidonie Smith while reading women’s autobiographical utterances as acts of performance. She suggests in her essay “Performativity, Autobiographical Practice, Resistance” that “a specific recitation of identity involves the inclusion of certain identity contents and the exclusion of others; the incorporation of certain narrative itineraries and intentionalities, the silencing of others; the adoption of certain autobiographical voices, the muting of others” (110). And since the audience for whom it is targeted themselves are a heterogeneous group soliciting conflicted effects in the autobiographical subject and therefore, “the cultural injunction to be a deep, unified, coherent, autonomous “self” produces necessary failure (and) in that very failure lies the fascination of autobiographical storytelling as performativity” (110).
These interesting insights then prepare us to witness an interplay between the so-called ‘public’ and ‘personal’ identity of the speaking subject and when it comes to women speaking about themselves in the early twentieth century Indian society, the constant negotiation between the ‘individual’ and the ‘collective’ takes an interesting turn. The early twentieth century Indian society can once again be studied as another heterogeneous collectivity where caste, religion, language and geopolitical conditions were crucial factors to determine the way the society was developing during those times. The state of Assam, situated in the north-east of India, during the early twentieth century was under the British rule and many interventions of the colonial encounter could be seen in the way the society was flourishing during the time. The first periodical in the vernacular language, i.e. Assamese was published in 1846 under the patronage of American Baptist Missionaries and the literacy rate till the first half of the twentieth century was very low. The caste system was very orthodox and Hinduism was the major religion followed by Islam and others. In such a time one very vibrant organisation called the Assam Mahila Samiti (Women’s Organization of Assam) came into existence in 1926. The concern over the status of women in a patriarchal society, and the urge to fight for the rights of women was the primary thrust of this organization.
Women were not encouraged to have formal education and marriage and procreation was considered to be the primary duty of women. Similar to that of other Indian languages like Bengali, Marathi etc., Assamese language till the mid twentieth century had a rich set of literature, mostly dominated by men. Many pamphlets and notes in the fashion of the conduct books were written by Assamese men on the duties of women. In such an environment, those women who could go for formal education were considered as examples of ‘bad’ women defying the norms of ‘ideal Indian woman’ posited as counter to the ‘Memsahib’ or the British women. The Assamese periodicals like Assam Bandhu (1885-86), Jonaki (1889-1903) and Banhi (1909-1946) provided a platform for educated Assamese women to express their views on different things and most importantly it was the periodical named Ghar Jeuti (1927- 1932) edited by two Assamese women, Kamalalaya Kakati and Kanaklata Chaliha, that heralded a renaissance in Assam in terms of women’s venture into literature. The early twentieth century, thus, geared the women’s movement in Assam and the educated Assamese women of that time took upon themselves the responsibility of creating awareness in the society about the need of a better position for women. Owing to this social mobilisation, the autobiographical writings of those women who played a crucial role during this period record in the guise of self-narration, the socio-historical developments in the society. The three works selected for the study Tinikuri Dah Basarar Smriti (1971), Eri Aha Dinbor (1976), Adha Lekha Dastabez (1988) are examples of this statement. Despite being autobiographies, these works are not stories of the self, in the western sense of the term; rather, interesting examples of how ‘personal’ stories are read through the ‘public’ purview.
Rajabala Das (1893-1985), the founder principal of the first women’s college in Assam, Handique Girls’ College, established in 1939, choose to write her autobiography Tinikuri Dah Basarar Smriti (Recollections of Seventy Years) in the fashion of a memoir, where instead of a recognition of an ‘individual’ or ‘personal’ self, she uses ‘memory’ as a tool to construct that idea of the self, which is very much ‘public’ in nature. It is Partha Chatterjee, who recognises this mode of smritikatha (tales from memory) as dominant in the practice of autobiography writing by Bengali women in the early nineteenth century, contrary to that of the atmakatha (stories of the self) mode adopted by contemporary Bengali men. In similar fashion, Assamese women too adopted the dominant mode of memoir to talk about their own lives. The first autobiography written in Assamese language, Harakanta Sadar Aminor Atmajibani (Autobiography of Harakanta Barua Sadaramin) written in the 1890s and published later in 1960, has the word atma (self) in the title and records the life of the speaker exploring mostly his professional life as a Sadar Amin under the British. Contrary to this, Tinikuri Doh Bosoror Smriti being the first autobiography written by Assamese women chooses the mode of memoir to project one life lived. This very choice of mode and narrative, then, is suggestive of the way both men and women conceived of their lives in the Assamese society and especially in case of women, the kind of social parlance she had to use while defining herself. Das began her autobiography with a statement that her days were different than the time when she is writing the book. A note of comparison between ‘then’ and ‘now’ pervades all through her autobiography. In fact, the preface to her book states the objective behind writing the book as to record the changing times and the changing status of women in Assam during her life span of seventy years. The narration of the ‘self’ then takes the secondary place, and to record the socio-historical movement of the society and especially the espousal of women’s education in Assam becomes her primary intention. The speaker’s mentioning of her birth, education, personal and professional life are intricately woven together with the developing status of Assamese women in the pre as well as the postcolonial times.
However, it is very interesting to notice that when in the neighbouring province of Bengal, women started writing about their ‘own’ lives, in the sense of an ‘individual’ life lived, a sense of the ‘personal’ was executed through writing, women in Assam did not quite follow that trend. Rashsundari Debi wrote her autobiography Amar Jiban (My Life) almost hundred years before Rajabala Das wrote her autobiography. Whereas Amar Jiban as an autobiography celebrates the idea of ‘self’ as distinct and separate from the collective notion of the same, Tinikuri Doh Bosoror Smriti projects a version of the self that is very much collective in nature. Rashsundari Debi in her autobiography records the realisation of her ‘personal’ identity that comes through her act of learning how to read and write in a time when women, especially a married woman, a mother, would be considered a sinner even when she expresses her desire to be literate. Her secret attempts to read the letters and words and thereby the aspiration to be literate enough to read the sacred Hindu text Chaitanya Bhagavat herself in order to be one with God, is one of the daring acts women of her contemporary society could think of doing. Pervading through Rashsundari’s autobiography is the narration of this realisation of the ‘individual’ identity that otherwise is suppressed by the patriarchal society. Tanika Sarkar says, “...Rasasundari is declaring her emancipation from all the resources that have been emotionally attached to her. Her resistance to her inherited and imposed world lies in her act of writing in more ways than one” (5).
Rajabala Das, despite talking about the similar condition of Assamese women, having her focus on the achievement of education as an act of identity construction, did not chose the discursive or the reflexive as the mode of articulation; rather her narration becomes entirely descriptive or emotional. Her narration gets subsumed by the dominant social framework where she sees herself as one among many other such women who had to struggle hard to receive formal education. To express and to record the private life of a woman during these times was unthinkable because as per the societal norms, the ‘private’ is to be protected from the ‘public’ in order to keep it distinct. The fact that Rajabala Das choose to write about her life is reflective of her desire to talk about a life that is lived, yet at the centre of narration is the social framework through which that life is perceived. However, there might be a reason behind this. Rashsundari Debi wrote Amar Jiban at the age of fifty-nine, in 1868, the year after the death of her husband and added a second part to it in 1897 at the age of eighty-eight. In her otherwise placid life as a wife and mother, this one act of ‘disobedience’ (to use Tanika Sarker’s term) to the familial and social codes by learning how to read and write was the statement through which she could see herself as a person of accomplishment. Rajabala Das, on the other hand, wrote her autobiography late in her life, after establishing herself as a successful woman in the society. Her service to the society as the principal of a premier women’s educational institute in Assam, on one hand, and her active involvement with the women’s movement in Assam gained her a reputation in the society. This very act of writing an autobiography, then, for her, was to look back into a successful life instead of an attempt to understand the unexplored or uninvented private world.
Somewhat different to this consciousness of the ‘personal’ through the ‘public’ is the understanding of Nalinibala Devi (1898-1977) when she in her autobiography Eri Aha Dinbor (The Days Left Behind), talks about the life of a widow in a patriarchal society. Contrary to Rajabala Das’ focus on the public appearance and treatment of women in the Assamese society, Devi begins her narrative with a close description of her childhood and her family life. It was after the death of her husband when she was just twenty-one years old that her life took a different turn. However, this privileging of the ‘personal’ than that of the ‘public’ is seen only in the first part of the book. In the middle and the concluding part of the book she mostly looks at her life through the public realm as she starts narrating the course of the Indian freedom struggle, her father’s active involvement in the struggle, the women’s movement in Assam, her literary career as a poet, and finally her journey to different places of Assam and India in order to attend literary and political meetings. Both the autobiographies of Rajabala Das and Nalinibala Devi are important socio-historical documents that record the growth and development of Assamese women in the colonial times. Their involvement in the Assam Mahila Samiti, the organisational works such as the implementation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1930 (popularly known as the Sarda Act) in Assam, etc. occupies a large narrative space through which their collective identity as women mutes the very private or the individual self. In fact, the way these episodes are narrated in a detached language, emphasising mostly the empowerment of Assamese women, the autobiographical narration takes the form of a public oration.
Hemjyoti Medhi in her essay “‘Great Sensation in Guwahati’: Mini’s Marriage, Assam Mahila Samiti and the Sarda Act in late colonial Assam” points out the emergence of two major threads in the studies of women’s history, writing and mobilization in India. According to her,
the first group eulogizes social reform movements, colonial modernity and nationalist modernization as facilitating ‘improvement’ of women’s condition, often couched in vocabularies such as ‘parda to modernity’. The second group of studies emerging in the 1980s and later shows how a new patriarchy emerged in this colonial idea of the modern and how women internalized offered models in complicacy rather than in contestation. (19)
Such an insight leads us to examine the autobiographies of both Das and Devi as examples of the way the first group of scholars study women’s writing and history in India. Their self-narrations are narratives of the social reform movements in the colonial times, of the way the western notion of modernity has been attached to the women’s question in Assam and yet their autobiographies fail to stand as resistances against the larger patriarchal or social order. Women’s education for both of them is means of emancipation and yet their narratives remain just as descriptions of how women struggled in the society to get a respectable position. A recognition or even a search for a ‘self’ that is realised through the reflexive and discursive mode is absent in their self-narrations. For the first-generation women writers, the first-educated ones of the colonial society, be it in Assam or elsewhere, the act of writing itself was a radical way of constituting their subjectivity and for the next generation writers like Das and Devi writing their own lives could have brought several other ways of exploring the female subjectivity and yet interestingly their narratives remain ‘silent’ about the study and understanding of a very private self. In this sense, self-narration does not actually achieve the narrating of a self, that is the speaker’s own self as it is claimed by Shari Benstock that
Autobiography reveals gaps, and not only gaps in time and space or between the individual and the social, but also a widening divergence between the manner and matter of its discourse. That is, autobiography reveals the impossibility of its own dream: what begins on the presumption of self-knowledge ends in the creation of a fiction that covers over the premises of its construction. (11)
More than an autobiography in the western sense of the term, where the ‘personal’ can be shared in ‘public’, these two autobiographies are typical examples of the way it is conceived in an Indian society. It can be assumed that the exposure to the genre of autobiography in Assam is one of the many influences of the colonial intervention. British annexed Assam partly in 1828 and fully in 1838.The arrival of the American Baptist Missionary in Assam, had a huge impact in the Assamese society as it brought the printing press. Hence, colonial modernity’s influence on the nineteenth and early twentieth century Assamese society can be seen in the writings of that time. The fact that the first Assamese autobiography was written by a person who worked as a sadar-amin under the British justifies the way the native people of Assam were introduced to the idea of modernity espoused by the West. Keeping apart this impact of the written word, on the other hand, it can also be argued that the very idea of writing about oneself, the core of an autobiographical writing, is not a completely colonial import. Rather, the tradition of writing carita (life history) of the Vaishnava saints was prevalent in medieval Assam. Written in the sanchipat (leaves of the Sanchi tree prepared as papers) the manuscript of the Guru-Carita-Katha (a biographical account of Vaishnava saints) that chronicles the Sankardeva Movement in Assam from the fifteenth century till the seventeenth century, is a brilliant example of how the ‘lives’ of the Vaishnava saints in medieval Assam was recorded. Written in Brajawali (an earlier form of the Assamese language), this caritas give an account of the career of twenty-five Vaishnava saints. In fact, there are quite a good number of biographical works called guru-caritas in Assamese prose and verse. These caritas also mirror the medieval Assamese society and its diverse religio-cultural aspects. An impact of this carita tradition as well as the strong influence of the colonial encounter can be seen in the male model of Assamese autobiography written in the early twentieth century. Written mostly in the smritikatha mode, all these autobiographies posited the ‘collective’ status of the self at the centre of their narration, where the public realm becomes the scanner of an image of the self. The deliberation of Assamese men, on their lives and times, definitely provided the model for the Assamese women to follow in their own writings.
If we look at the social structure of Assam during the Ahom rule from 1228-1828, it comes into notice that the process of Hinduisation or Aryanisation of the Mongoloid people in Assam gradually affected the position women used to enjoy in the earlier semi-tribal society. Women’s superior position in a tribal society by virtue of their role in procreation and in agricultural activities was contested by the Hinduised society and gradually the matriarchal system was overthrown. According to Tilottama Mishra, “the final elimination of women from all important positions in the religious and social life of the Assamese Hindus for over five centuries (thirteenth century to the eighteenth century) was effected by the great Assamese Vaishnava Saint, Sri Sankardeva (1449-1568)” (107). Sankardeva was successful in establishing an egalitarian base for Assamese religious and social life, defying the influence of Brahmanical Hinduism and of Tantrism and yet in case of women his attitude was different. He considered women as an evil influence on the male devotees and hence advised them to avoid women’s company. Unlike Bahina Bai (1628-1700) from Maharastra, a female saint who wrote her autobiography Atmacarita in verse which was later published in 1913, we do not see any such strong female figure playing a crucial role in the Vaishnava order. Female saints like Aai Kanaklata and Aai Padmapriya were unable to influence the way women were treated in the Vaishnava faith. In fact, the Vaishnava influence and Bengali Brahmanism that affected the tribal culture of pre-colonial Assam shaped the way women are treated in the nineteenth century Assamese society. The arrival of the British in the nineteenth century and their influence in the Assamese society initiated a whole new debate on the women question. The prominent social reformer Gunabhiram Barua (1837-1894) married a Brahmin widow, after the death of his first wife and he was also the first Assamese to send his daughter Swarnalata to Calcutta for higher education. Thus, under the leadership of people like Gunabhiram Barua, Anadaram Dhekial Phukan (1819-1859) nineteenth century Assamese society initiated the process of reforming the social status of women and a positive environment in favour of women’s rights in different fields had been created. As an outcome of these social reforms, women like Rajabala Das, Nalinibala Devi and many others could carry on their fight for the causes of women in Assam.
In such a scenario, then, it is almost obvious that the lives of these women were bound to be narrated through their ‘public’ engagement. But when it comes to the genre of autobiography, the expectation of discovering a ‘personal’ life as detached and different from the public persona makes one notice how in the autobiographies of these women there is a constant interaction and negotiation between the ‘public’ and the ‘personal’. Both of their autobiographies are replete with episodes of various socio-historical events happening in the public realm and their involvement in these and it is through the reading of these episodes, an image of the speaker’s lives is produced. How then, is the question of the ‘self’ explored and addressed by these speakers in a narrative, which they present as the narration of their ‘own’ lives? To investigate into questions like these, then, it becomes necessary to mark the differences between the very notions of the personal and the public and their appropriation in societies like India. Sudipta Kaviraj in his essay “The Invention of Private Life: A Reading of Sibnath Shastri’s Autobiography” draws two interesting processes through which the dominantly Western idea of a ‘private life’ is accepted in other non-Western societies. He says, “Firstly, the incorporation of these practices requires experimentation with their lives by adventurous individuals. But, secondly, these experiments cannot affect social practice without a discursive accompaniment” (84). The acquiescence to social practice, the conformation to the social codes, then, very much shapes the way even private lives are understood in the nineteenth and early twentieth century Assamese society. Because it was not just women who narrated their lives as understood through the public affairs of life, rather, Assamese men too did not comment on the so-called ‘private’ aspects of life in their autobiographies written during those times. Sexual relationships, personal conflicts, etc. were carefully avoided and only those emotions and issues were narrated which can be shared in the public. Different to this public expression of the self is the autobiographical work of Mamoni Raisom Goswami, a prominent novelist and short story writer of Assam.
Mamoni Raisom Goswami (1942- 2011) wrote the first part of her autobiography Adha Lekha Dastabez (The Half-written Script) in 1970 and as she has written in her preface it is basically autobiographical episodes of her life till 1970 structured like a novel. Centred on one major setback of her life, the death of her husband Madhaben Raysom after one year of conjugal life and her emotional struggle to cope up with the societal norms, the work is written in a very suggestive language, where her resistance to the patriarchal society becomes evident. The constant reference to the motif of ‘death’ as she has witnessed it in her personal life, during her stay at Brindaban and the consequent struggle to live the life of a Brahmin widow made her comment on otherwise ‘selectively omitted’ aspects of life such as desire, sexuality, human greed etc. The orthodox caste Hindu society’s treatment of a widow is replicated in her narrative, where, she as the protagonist narrates her constant struggle to accept the absence of her husband in her life and the society’s constant reminder as to how a Brahmin widow should live. The fact that she has devised the work in the form of a novel provided her ample space to comment on ‘private’ affairs of life. She has in a very detailed manner talked about the people who were affectionate to her and how they were trying to win her heart. Yet at the same time, she maintains a silence regarding her own role in these affairs. The absence of any such hint at personal likings and the acceptance of fictionality as a narrative mode, make one notice that Goswami too adheres to the public image of the self. The confessional mode of autobiography writing has been exercised with a strict censoring of the ‘private’ life. Yet in comparison to Rajabala Das and Nalinibala Devi, she in her autobiography explores the inner world of a woman, by not always restricting to a description of the life lived. Rather, her effort to narrate a woman’s private world as different from the publicly projected world initiates a new trend in the genre of autobiography in Assamese language. The impact of this can be vividly seen in later women’s autobiographical writings where women are seen working on the construction of self through personal episodes of illness, physical accident, rebellion against the state etc. among many other such ‘sites’ of identity-construction.
It is interesting to note that whereas Rajabala Das and Nalinibala Devi through their narratives primarily talked about the emancipation of Assamese women since the late nineteenth till the later decades of the twentieth century projecting their own lives as examples of that discourse, Mamoni Raisom Goswami initiated a completely different approach to autobiography writing by relegating the public space to some extent. Although their intimate ‘personal’ lives were hardly examined outside the ‘public’ space, a change in the general attitude towards female subjectivity can be seen towards the last decade of the twentieth century. The growing number of female writers and their deliberation through poetry, fiction and other forms of non-fictional writing such as travel writing in the last three decades of the twentieth century provided opportunities and occasions to the female mind to conceive of their own lives as distinct and unique from the public view. It is interesting to note that in their narratives the ‘I’ persona is very often blurred and adopts the narrating voice of ‘we’ or ‘us’ or even a third person narrative voice of ‘them’ (mostly suggesting the communities of women). For example, Rajabala Das devotes one small chapter to the description of her conjugal life where she comments on the treatment of women in Guwahati (which is in the lower part of Assam) comparing it with her maternal place Dibrugarh (situated at the upper side of Assam). She narrates the way she was first welcomed at her husband’s home after marriage,
The bride and the groom were brought home from the station by a car. My elder sister-in-law welcomed us at the gate of the house. I was wearing a pair of sandals. Phukan told me to leave the pair of sandals at the gate and I thought perhaps Guwahati is more orthodox than Dibrugarh in these issues. Later my assumption proved to be true. The ladies of Dr. Das’ (Devi’s husband) family never went out of the house. They did not go to anyone’s house and strictly observed the rituals. (52)
Deviations of this kind are suggestive of the way even the very personal is presented through a censorship. In this sense, then, does autobiography inevitably talk about the speaking individual? Or is the choice of the subject rather dependent upon the collective way of understanding the individual? Acceptance of the western model of autobiography, in societies like India, thus, bewilders us about the very notion of autobiography as the story of self. When the ‘personal’ is understood as inextricably linked to the ‘public’, or rather, the very understanding of one’s self accepts the conditionality of being understood through the ‘other’s eye’ (in our case, the society at large), autobiography as a genre needs to be studied outside the western theories.
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