Tag Archives: Family

Sunflowers of the Dark: Krishna Sobti: translated by Pamela Manasi

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Katha has always offered a wide array of literature through translated works. I recently finished reading Krishna Sobti’s ‘Memory’s Daughter’. And the after effects are that I am drawn to books by the author. So I managed to lay my hands on another masterpiece, “Sunflowers of the Dark”. The title of the book is enigmatic, and I was hooked on to it from the first page.

The content is highly relevant even today, and all women who have ever been a victim to sexual assault or abuse would find this book liberating. The words seem to have a life of their own that create images before your eyes even as you read. That is the magic of this book.

Plot: It is the story of Ratti, a woman who was sexually abused in her teens . Her spirit continues to be tormented by demons from her past. It raises its head like the hood of a snake to spit venom on her present. She fails to establish relationship with any male  as the past grips her in cold fear whenever she tries to be physically intimate. Yet has an indomitable spirit that refuses to kneel though it weeps. She has a fire, a spirit that does not allow her to succumb or mask herself for the sake of pleasing the ego of her male friends.

The book brings to fore front many issues that assailed women before Independence. But have a look around and not much has changed for women. Ratti is a strong girl, who faces every situation head on and does not shy away from them. She asserts herself boldly and does not bow down even as a teenager when confronted. What happened to her was beyond her control; so why should she carry her dead past over her shoulders always? But the incident does leave a scar on her mind and heart, rendering her helpless against the angst she feels. There is no respite for her and adding to her woes is the mindset of the society that holds her responsible for the accident and constantly reminds her of the misfortune in the form of her schoolmates who fabricate stories about her leaving her amidst the jungle of sexist comments.

Even after years, she is unable to let of go of the incident which hampers her  relationships with men and snubs any of her attempts to realize her womanhood. She tries to consummate with her male friends but the cold grip of her past sends her freezing. Little do they understand her agony and frustrated, they name her sexually perverted and “lacking in heat”. A remark which stayed with me was “…That you have no heat. Barring that of the clothes on your body.” Just because she refuses to give in to the demands of the males she is labeled as a cold wretch-less woman. 

Her saying is unacceptable to her male friends. She refuses to  submit herself to a male who like the unidentified rapist wants to overpower her using brute force.All her male friends let her down emotionally and she is unable to connect with any to let go of herself. Her guards are always up and she refuses to accept any contact where she is not an equal. 

Sobti chose to write against the conventional social fabric of the time and has presented a woman who is in control of her sexuality and refuses to bend to the dictates of society. Ratti can be viewed an an important milestone in the journey of Indian woman
towards self-actualization. She can be called a liberated woman with a modern clear ideas about womanhood and her rights. She is economically independent, courageous and does not allow her past to bend her down. She does not let the traumatic incident crush her personality and mind.Even in the absence of emotional support Ratti successfully maintains her equilibrium. Through Ratti, Sobti shows how a woman can assert herself rather than sit on the sidelines as a marginalized victim waiting to be rescued. She is her own savior. In this sense, she rejects the idealistic, utopian solutions and adopts a practical, down-to-earth take towards the real life problems.

A must read for all women to salute to the never die spirit of all women who struggle and yet smile through their tears.

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All that could have been: Mahesh Bhatt, Suhrita Sengupta

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“All that could have Been” is a 142 page turner that leaves you asking for more.It does not beat round the bush and the tight plot makes it a delightful read. The book is about unrequited love. Yet at the same time it is about love that surpasses all odds and does not follow the injunctions of the world.

The book raises many questions for the discerning reader and forces you to question the norms and dictates that govern our society. He questions through the story that why women alone are tied down by traditions and customs. And the men are free from the shackles that otherwise suffocate the lives of women. It is in this very strain that the story unfolds. The novel questions the restrain society places on emotions and passions. And why passion is a taboo, a word which only creates dirty images and is treated only with sexual connotations. But for a mature person passion withholds in itself several layers of meaning and depends on the people.

Vasudha Prasad is a single mother though married she raises her son single handedly. . She keeps the memory of his father alive for him by writing notes to him and giving gifts in his name. The father in question, Hari Prasad is missing all this while. In the midst of her sheltered life enters Aarav Ruparel, a rich hotelier who has no fixed address. He has lived out of a suitcase and is amongst one of the richest men alive. Fate plays its cards, Vasudha and Aarav’s path cross and the rest that follows is not something they could predict or control.

This is a story of love and sacrifice. Its about all encompassing love that makes existence worthwhile even if lived short. Vasudha’s story tugs strongly at your heart, making you cry between your tears. The connection between Vasudha and Aarav will make you hold your breath and their love will make you feel light. A book that takes you on a ride of emotions, took a piece of me when I finished it. Left me asking for more.

Mahesh Bhatt is truly skilled in narration with never a dull moment. The story grips you from the start since you cannot predict the turn of events. Just when you think you know what will happen in the next page, your thoughts are overthrown by the author in his signature style.

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Custody by Manju Kapur

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This is my first book by the author. And I must say that the book held me captive from the first page. She explores very emotional topics with much fervor.

In today’s society divorce and fight for child custody is a common scenario. Manju Kapur has been described as the great chronicler of the modern Indian family. Thus, her book Custody presents a riveting story of how a loving family falls apart at the seams and all that is left is an emotional and spite-filled battle between the parents for the hearts and souls of their children.
Story: Raman and Shagun have a perfect marriage in the eyes of the society.  He is a market executive at a global drinks company. She is extraordinarily beautiful. But the reality is far from what is shown by the couple. The two are blessed with a son and daughter – life is complete, so to speak. However, things change dramatically when Shagun is introduced to Ashok, Raman’s boss. The loving couple are reduced to spiteful and malicious enemies as they battle for custody of their children. As the children’s lives are thrown upside down, they are forced to negotiate and come to terms with their new circumstances with very little real support from the adults in their lives.Thrown into the puzzle is Ishita – a young woman who has been kicked out of the family she married into because she cannot bear children. Desperate for a husband and child, Ishita will do anything to achieve this. The novel – as it travels through the lives of its characters becomes murkier and also offers a brutal critique of the Indian judicial system that often left me feeling completely hopeless at the forces that come into play and almost whimsically decide the fate of two very innocent children.

What stands out particularly in this novel is Raman’s anguish and anger at the betrayal he experiences at the hands of his worldly wife. Kapur presents him to us with empathy and meticulous attention to detail.Her attention to male characters comes out of her desire to be as balanced as possible in her writing. It is a notable trait of all her work that despite their astute social and political commentary, Kapur avoids making moral judgments about what she is writing about.

Kapur’s writing makes you ponder on certain questions: What does it mean to be a mother? Is a mother a bad mother if she chooses to seek her own happiness? Can a mother be replaced by a mother figure? Is a mother entitled to her children’s love if she is physically separate from them? Though divorce is not uncommon in Asian society today, but in an Indian setting, seems more complicated by the roles of the extended family members- the in-laws with bitter recriminations, the doting grandparents who are denied their weekly feeding sessions, the cousins who seem to be perfectly happy, the lawyer-relative who is caught between legalities and emotional outbursts…..everyone has an opinion. All the adults seem to have forgotten about the child’s inner turmoil; and to me that was exactly what Kapur is trying to convey.

Kapur through her novel opens forth a panorama of the society’s attitudes towards several issues:  infertility is to cast out a wife if she is barren. The fixation with warranting a lady is married and settled, as a yardstick to measure her happiness which filters down to parental compulsion and feeling of low self-esteem. This recurring theme -of what will people say, what will people think is an inherent feature of Asian societies everywhere.

Custody is a novel filled with layers of social and personal commentary that never seeks to judge people’s choices but to illuminate how social values, personal character traits and the legal system can all influence people’s lives in certain ways.

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