Why did I ever think of translating Volga’s novel ‘ YesoBuddha’ into English? To be honest I do not know. Something pulled me. It was, perhaps, the magnificent character of Yasodhara. The moment I finished reading the book on the day of its release , I rang up Volga and, putting aside all my inhibitions, requested her for permission. I am much obliged to her for her generosity.
YesoBuddha (Yasodhara in English translation) is a great feminist novel — the magnum opus of Volga’s novels. Readers who are not familiar with feminism are likely to miss its significance. For over two decades I have been telling my students that women can not aspire to equal rights and opportunities as long as they adhere to patriarchal religions. Adherence to any patriarchal religion only means acceptance of male superiority. I was demanding women and feminists to bring in a new religion that would ensure peace and prosperity to the human race. So I was shocked and also thrilled when on a fine morning Yasodhara slapped on my cheek and laughed in my face, and said,” Dude, more than two thousand years ago I did what you’re asking women to do now.” Wasn’t that a tremendous achievement? She had the guts to defy the dictates of a patriarchal religion. She had the common sense to understand that reforms would not better the conditions of women. She wanted Siddhartha to find a new path and allow women to walk on it.
Why is there not even a single religion in the world that was started by a woman or a group of women? Were there no religions in the world prior to the advent of patriarchy? Why was goddess worship prevalent all over the world? Of all the religions why did Buddhism alone reject the concept of god and human soul? Was the Buddha influenced by the intellectual women of his times? If such questions do not fire the imagination of the readers the novel is likely to be misconstrued as a pleasant story of love and sacrifice. If it is seen as a woman’s fight for equal rights and opportunities, Volga’s effort in creating this character will be well understood and well commended.
Like Sita in Volga’s other work The Liberation of Sita, Yesodhara is not satisfied with self liberation. She wants to help the entire womankind to get out of patriarchal rut. I am sure , women readers will be greatly inspired by the strength of Yasodhara’s character. If they do not, they will have to remain fallen for ever.