Trying to Grow Out of Stereotypes: The Representation of Disability, Sexuality and the “Modern” Disability Subjectivity in Firdaus Kanga’s Novel

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Department of English, NTNU


Firdaus Kanga’s novel, Trying to Grow, tells the story of Brit Kotwal, a young Parsi boy with osteogenesis imperfecta, negotiating his life in the Bombay of the 1970s. From the beginning, this semi-autobiographical work draws our attention to the common religious and medical perceptions of disability in Indian society. This paper proposes to study how the novel focuses on several aspects of the lived reality of a person with “brittle bones” who does not grow more than four feet tall. The paper also explores how the novel focuses on and confounds the commonly perceived notion of the asexuality of disabled individuals. Brit’s voice is extremely aware and articulates positions of difference within disability and sexuality discourses. He is able to occupy what can be called a truly modern disability subjectivity. But, this paper shall show that Brit presents the reader with this modern, emancipatory rhetoric of disability because of the privileges of his gender and class status in the Indian context. Within the same text, Brit’s disabled female cousin is literally andfiguratively mute and meets with a very different fate. The paper shall thus investigate and try to complicate the representation of disability, sexuality and the “modern” disability subjectivity in Kanga’s novel.