Raja Rao’s Madam, Give Me My Sex explores fault lines in academia

Editor | Fiction
In a University known as the Oxford of the East, situated in India’s cultural capital, Poona, all is not well in the English Department.
The department is headed by Professor Tiwari, who has ambitions to make it one of the best departments in the country. But factors beyond his control thwart him.
Principal among these is the State’s reservation policy which ties his hands. Open Category faculty cannot be given tenure; although they have foreign PhDs, they are shunted to contractual posts. On the other hand, Reserved Category faculty have to be compulsorily appointed to permanent positions, even if they are academically unsound.
The department faces gender and sexuality issues, with the Director of the Women’s Studies Centre accusing Professor Tiwari of patriarchy and misogyny, and a gay professor becoming a victim of homophobia. Foreign students cry foul, complaining of monetary and sexual exploitation. There are faction fights between student unions affiliated to rival political parties, and newspaper reporters hover around the department for sensational news.
A hunger strike by students soon after Professor Tiwari’s retirement perplexes the Vice Chancellor, who issues an administrative order that is unprecedented in University history. Political events such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid, 9/11, Godhra, the Bombay attacks, and the reading down and subsequent re-criminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code form the backdrop of the novel.

About the author:
R. Raj Rao is the author of the iconic novel The Boyfriend, translated into European languages and optioned for a film, as well as of two other novels and collections of short stories. His other work includes poetry, plays, biography, translation and nonfiction. His book Criminal Love: Queer Theory, Culture and Politics in India won the Likho Award for Excellence in Media, in the books category, in 2018.
Madam, Give Me My Sex is his fourth novel. Rao has taught and read from his work in universities in the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, besides India. He has been a panelist at the Jaipur Literature festival and at litfests in Bombay, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Shillong, Chennai, Goa and Poona.

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