Ishita Mandrekar

Telling Tales
Guilt and Shame in the Oral Narratives of the Bhavins of Goa
30th April @ 6.00pm


‘Therein lies, for us, its (storytelling) real moral … perhaps the narrator thinks he is producing only variations on a theme, whereas he actually ends up telling us what is in his heart’ – Italo Calvino Italian Folktales (Penguin, 2000)

‘She did not like these things… she was ashamed, but there was no support…our parents pushed (her) into it…it was our tradition, our vocation… they (the parents) threatened to kill themselves if she did not do her duty, there was no choice.’ – On his sister’s life as a Bhavin, Interview with K (December 2013)

My PhD explores the oral history of the divine prostitutes (Bhavins) of Goa – a sect of women who were dedicated to a local deity in their prepubescent age and subsequently maintained as mistresses by the priests and rich landlords of the village. There are no written records about the history of the Bhavins. Their history is entirely preserved in oral sources and their narratives.

This presentation will focus on an oral history interview I conducted in Mumbai on December 2013 with an interviewee, K, who gave me a first-hand account of his sister’s life as a divine prostitute. Through this presentation, I hope to explore the intersubjective relationship between the narrator and his audience within the storytelling process with reference to feelings of guilt and shame experienced by K while narrating his story and me while listening to his narrative.

Brief Bio
Ishita Mandrekar has a Bachelor in Mass Media (Mumbai) and Masters in Creative Writing (Essex, RHUL). She is currently in her second year of a practice based PhD in Creative Writing and Oral History. Her thesis focusses on the oral history and narratives of the divine prostitutes of Goa. She has contributes articles, reviews and stories to various online and print publications, and occasionally does live readings as part of RHUL’s PhD student –led initiative Purpureus. Previous publications can be found in Muse India, Milestone, Contemporary Women’s Writing Network and Don’t Do It Magazine (upcoming).


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