Tag Archives: Family

The Heart Has Its Reason: Krishna Sobti

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Having read a few of Sobti’s book, it was no surprise that I was yet again drawn towards her writing. This time I picked up The Heart Has Its Reasons.  An unusual title, I was drawn by the image of the woman on the cover. To me it seemed like a mughal era painting of a princess/ queen. But when I got down to reading I discovered that there is more to the picture.

The Heart Has Its Reasons,  was originally published as Dill-O-Danish. The book was released in 1992. It is a love triangle woven beautifully in streets of Delhi of 20’s. Mehak The novel is spun around the lives of Bano, Kutumb and Kripanarayan. The vortex of the story is Bano and Kripanarayan’s love story. It threatens to rupture and pull apart at the seams of the family. Meanwhile Kutumb, the wife gropes to save her marriage. The novel has all the flavors that come together to make a reading complete with emotions, drama, romance and leads you gently by the hands into their lives. You feel like an audience to the inner working of the lives of the characters.

Kripanarayan was Bano’s mother’s lawyer who happens to fall in a tumultuous passionate relationship with Bano. They have two kids. This becomes the sore eye for Kutumb who leaves no leaves unturned to express her anger and hatred toward Bano and her kids. She even infects her children with vile and hatred and towards Badru and Masooma, their half siblings. The start of the story sees Bano as a docile and submissive woman who has accepted the fate as meted out to her by Kripanarayan. Yet in between she does display grit and determination. As the other woman, Bano makes no demands on Kripanarayan and is happy and content in her simple lodgings. In contrast, Kutumb has all the riches and also social standing as the legally wedded wife, yet she is dissatisfied and always cantankerous. But the very lives Bano nurtured, that of her children also seem to drifting away she comes into her true character. From a quiet flame she turns into a raging fire, with the power to consume any that comes her way. She refuses to cow down before social diktats and embraces her role in the life of Kripanarayan, that of the other woman. She comes out boldly into the open from behind her purdah as the mother of Badru and Masooma and not hide behind in the background. Even when she is expected to be absent from the events of her children’s lives she step in to make her presence evident. Thus the woman in the cover is an enigma and perfectly resembles Bano. She is the quiet flame who has the storm within to become a blazing fire.

The story was inspired by Begum Samru ki Kothi, an old mansion that used to be one of the grandest houses in Old Delhi but is today the location of an electrical goods market. It is a rich masterpiece, a magnificent tapestry of characters, times, contexts, and raw emotions.

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Mahashweta: Sudha Murthy

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I was looking for a book to read with not more than 150 page or so. Mahashweta fit the bill. But I was not prepared for what was to come. Today when I put the book down I feel that I have lost a friend. So attached did I get to the protagonist that, I feel she is still with me. Anupama will stay with me for long for she has taught me some very valuable lessons.

The plot: This book is a moving tale of a female protagonist, who gets ostracized by all and sundry, including the man who marries after despite opposition , for the only reason that she has started developing white patches on her skin( leukoderma).

The novel starts off with the fairy tale like romance between Anupama and Anand. Anupama is your classic Indian heroine, a beauty beyond parallel with brains to match. The only defect about her is her poverty. The hero, Anand , is a charming, brilliant, but abundantly rich hero, who falls in love at the first sight with the heroine. Not all is hunky dory in this fairy tale. There is the typical mother-in-law who is always flaunting the social status, and an arrogant sister, who happens to get away with her mistakes just because she is rich (What a cliche!!!). And to match the mother-in-law we have the equally typical incapable father of Anupama, who is poor and a sorry figure, as is typical in Indian setup. Anand marries Anupama despite obvious confrontations and dispapproval of his mother.

He later flies to England for his higher studies leaving Anupama behind. She is convinces that he will be by her side always. Anand tells her to join him later, meanwhile Anupama is diagnosed with leukoderma/ Vitiligo. This releases a barrage of curses and taunts from the mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Anupama is all alone without any care or support , she turns to Anand for emotional support and soothing words. Being a doctor himself she has full faith in him. But she realizes that her faith was ill placed. For all she gets in return is his aloofness, uncaring and heartless. As as person obsessesed with beauty and perfection, Anand in a way highlights the stereotypical male mindset in India. All men want fair, slim, beautiful brides. This is only in keeping with the idea of having a trophy wife who can be showcased to friends and relatives, and then put away within the cages of marital home.

Anupama’s faith is tested in every step from there on. She is not allowed to live peacefully in her in-laws place nor in her parents’. Having suffered immensely, she decides to take the reins of her life into her own hands. She decides to live independently without any inhibitions and succeeds in the end.  In the course she meets people whom she not only inspires but also forges bonds that are thicker than blood.

For me its a book that I will definitely re-read. Not because it is something untold, rather for the very reason it is written. Through the novel Sudha Murthy has touched upon some very sensitive topics. These are understated and woven expertly throughout the book. Take for eg: the expectation of grooms to have a beautiful bride and also satatite their greed in terms of dowry. And if the bride is poor all hell is let loose. Similarly poverty is a curse for a girl if she is unemployed and dependent on her parents. Thus, self reliance and self independence is of utmost importance for every girl. Mnay incidents are criticized as cliches, but ironically they are very much the truth of our Indian society. Had Anupama brought dowry she would have been treated differently and not suffered. The society at large sees a woman who is separated/divorcee as an easy target and often perpetrate her privacy.

Though the ending is not your ‘happily-ever-after’ but nevertheless it is inspiring and uplifting enough for me to pick the book up for a read again.

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                                                                                                                                                                           The slideshow contains pictures of passages that left a mark with me. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Happy reading.

Witness the night: Kishwar Desai

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Female Infanticide is problem that troubles India since many years. It has deepened roots to such an extent that even education and literacy cannot mar the effects of this crime. Though secluded to some states now, it still poses a serious threat resulting in an imbalanced male-female sex ratio. Girls are killed right in the womb without a second thought. And the hands that perform this dreadful act is not necessarily male, females who themselves have wombs are party to this crime in the name of taking forwarding the lineage. I was drawn to this book because of the cover, which shows a girl half cowering with deep eyes that see to bore through you. So I immediately read the blurb as to see what it holds for me. I was captivated from the start: Durga. A fourteen-year-old girl, found all alone in a sprawling house in Punjab. Silent, terrified, and the sole suspect in the mass murder of thirteen members of her family.  Though hard to digest I was hooked to the story line to know what can drive someone to commit such a horrifying act.

Set in small town Jullundur (Jalandhar) in Punjab, the story is about a 14 year old girl Durga caught in a nightmare, accused of having murdered thirteen family members, and a 45-year-old social worker Simran who is working hard to find out the truth. The story opens with the diary entry of the girl that feels unvarnished, though a confused confession to a crime in which she was involved. The details of the crime are unclear and distorted, but it appears that the girl might have staged her own rape in order to make it look like “someone had tried to hurt me”.

Simran, a fiercely independent and outspoken social worker is given the task to speak with Durga and find out the truth from her. In course of time, Simran realizes that the incident is not as straight forward as it seems. Durga looks like a scared child but she keeps silent  about the incident and seems unemotional about the whole incident. It is up-to Simran to find out the truth on her own. As she tries to uncover the truth, she finds that the relationship of Durga with her family has sinister undertones to it. There are many skeletons in the closet which would be hard to unearth.

The narrative shifts between Durga’s diary entry and Simran. Durga, is sent to a remand home, as she is charged with the murder of 13 members of her family in one night. All of the victims had been poisoned, some had been stabbed and others burnt. Hard as it seems to comprehend how such a task can be done by a teenager, when the coils unwind you do understand the working of a tortured, unwanted and neglected girl child. Despite the lack of fingerprints and no evidence to suggest an outsider was involved, Simran is convinced there is more to the story than meets the eye. She wonders if a man was involved or whether Durga acted in self-defence. She feels that the only reason the case has attracted a blaze of publicity is because of the large inheritance involved. There are many instances of her having to pilot around the police to reach the actual conclusion. Its in many ways depiction of the law and order system that goes silent when blinded by money.

What follows is Simran’s painstaking investigation in which she immerses herself in the corrupted and vile Indian legal and judicial system in an attempt to unearth the truth. What she finds out along the way is often eye-opening. But it’s not until she is forced to confront an entire clan intent on eliminating unwanted females, often before they are born, that she begins to understand Durga’s dilemma.

The book is written from 2 viewpoints, Durga’s and Simran’s. While Durga’s writing is serious and dark , Simran’s is sarcastic and funny at times. Durga’s writing is reflective of the conservative, cloistered and shackled life she has led for 14 years. While Simran’s life shows the contrast in city life where even though a woman she leads life on her own terms and is fearless about it. By juxtaposing these two females, Desai shows the contrast in the existence of the two.

Though an easy read there were many issues I faced while reading. Firstly, I could not fathom the idea of a 14 year old girl murdering her family to avenge her unborn sisters and herself. Such a thought seems unrealistic no matter how many justifications are presented. Secondly the novel is riddled with continual exposition. Almost every chapter has something important to say about the plight of women, the trauma of having achild killed, ways foeticide is done, and so on. The author’s attempts to mould them into the plot is unsuccessful. They seem more like preachy monologues by the narrator than part of the narration. I do truly care about female infanticide, but would have preferred to discover the issues and decided what to think about them for myself rather than have them shoved down my throat, choking me, gasping for breath. I had almost put the book down if the desire to know the reason for the murder had not driven me on.

The opening chapter was shocking and held the promise of an intense mystery and drama, but the intensity evaporates by the climax. Motivations often seemed weak, and there were very few moments that pulled me out of my seat. The book marvels in parts where Desai describes how the girls where killed in earthen pots filled with milk(a cleanser in Hindu rites) or drugged to death, or worse buried alive in the fields behind the house. The incident with servant girls being bought as objects of pleasure to keep the boys tied to the house and not stray out. These give a depth to an otherwise rushed and hurried writing. The ending seems highly unacceptable after all that happens in the book. It seems that Desai after burning herself out of ideas haphazardly gave the ending . The book could have achieved greater heights if the writing and treatment to the sensitive topic was better handled.

Sharing some powerful quotes:

“Most of them I knew were just waiting for a chance to avenge themselves on the world that had robbed them of the one thingy they would never enjoy again, their childhood.”

“The midwives used to take away newborn girls from their mothers, seal them in earthen pots and roll the pot around till the baby stopped crying. Or they would simply suffocate them. Or give them opium and then bury them. For a largely farming community, girls were a burden. A woman confessed to having had seven abortions in the hope of a boy.”

“Tired of the sound of the baby crying, she took some poisonous juice from the oleander flower, mixed it with castor oil, and forced it down the child’s throat. Eventually the crying stopped. The crying had bothered her more than the act of killing.”

” Carefully, Sharda took out a paper envelope from which she drew out a tiny white skeletal hand…This hand was buried in the vegetable plot….Cradling that hand still in my hand, like a precious flower, I gazed out at the innocent-looking field behind our house which…., I  imagined the claws tearing away the flesh from tiny bodies which never had a chance to cry out or draw their first breath……

 

 

Dog Boy: Eva Hornung

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This was unlike any book I have ever read. After my first reading I was left aghast, as to how a child could be left to fend on his own. It took me a while to re read this one since the imagery had left such an impact, that the moment I held the book in my hands I had such an eerie feeling of deja vu that I had to push myself to re read. It is thought provoking, fascinating, gripping, sad, heart wrenching and at times so graphic that it feels your guts are being pulled out.

Imagine that you are a 4-year-old boy, abandoned in Moscow in the bitter winter cold?  What would you do? How would you fend for yourself in the biting winter? Would you wander off and join a pack of feral dogs and, over time, assimilate to the point of becoming one of them? Ludicrous? But these are the premises of Dog Boy”. Hornung’s work is inspired by the true account of a Russian boy named Ivan Mishukov, who lived with a pack of dogs for a period of two years before being discovered at age of 6. Ivan had run away from a home where adults had ill treated and abused him. In choosing to write about such a child, her dog-boy, Romochka, is not Ivan Mishukov, though he seems to share many characteristics with him. Eva Hornung opens up a Pandora’s box, full of questions about our humanity, our dealings with other creatures, our sense of family, and our sense of what is normal.

The plot: Romochka is four years old when his mother and uncle never return home (reason not known) to their small apartment building in an outer suburb of Moscow, leaving the little boy to fend for himself. While his mother had always told him not to leave the apartment or the building, when his food supply runs out, Romochka ventures out to explore.  All he has with him are some clothes and his blanket.

Outside, he ventures farther from his building than he’s ever been before, and starts to follow a beautiful stray dog down the alleys. The dog, a female clan leader, takes the small boy to her den . There he lives in the nest with her four puppies, and begins his life as a dog. There are seven dogs when he first arrives: the mother and leader, Mamochka (a Russian nickname meaning tender or sweet Mother); her two older offspring, Black Dog and Golden Bitch; and the four puppies: White Sister, Black Sister, Grey Brother and Brown Brother. Romochka becomes a member of their clan, sleeping and eating with them, hunting for food . He thinks more like a dog than a human, but since he was four when he came to them, he retains a mixture of confusing and complicated desires and human instincts. As the years go by, Romochka loses “normal human behaviour” and becomes wild. For an eight-year-old, he is feared, infamous in the poverty-stricken area that the clan considers its territory. Set in communist Russia there is  the militzia who are a constant threat, as are the gangs of kids who hang out in abandoned buildings before returning to their real homes and families. Romochka develops a bit of a reputation among both groups. There are increasingly military sweeps in an effort to round up homeless children to be locked into state run ‘homes’. The condition of these homes is hardly better than the life they are supposedly saved from. The fate of the thousands of dogs is at risk, if they are fortunate they’ll be spared, but most are mercilessly shot as menaces to humans. The possibility of discovering a real, genuine “dog boy” is tantalising to the psychiatrists who work with orphans. These people see such examples as research projects without understanding the impact and outcome of their intrusion. Thus, Romochka is hunted down like a prey by humans, even as the dogs try hard to protect him. The clan loses members but such is the loyalty and bonding that the sacrifice is hardly any task for them. The struggles of an eight year old, as he is pulled between his twin identities as a dog and as a boy is emotional and traumatic.

I had a very hard time getting through some parts of the book, as the writer doesn’t hold anything back. She goes into explicit and gory detail of their survival techniques; the constant licking of pus and blood from their wounds, the hunting and what they were eating.  Like for eg: the boy eats raw rats, pees on frozen food in order to eat it, plays with the bones from carcasses, and the most graphic and bone chilling is when he puts his hands into a bird carcass and pulls out the heart to eat it.

” Dog Boy” , gives rise to myriad of emotions and also kicks up a storm of questions in one’s mind. The story is like no other story that is told from the perspective of animals, or near enough. It is certainly no Charlotte’s Web or any other children’s book told from the point of view of an animal which leaves a soft fuzzy feeling inside. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that this is no children’s book at all. It is dense, descriptive, questioning, wondering and brutally honest. Beneath it all lies layers of philosophical thoughts and questions-the riddle of human nature, and a jab at what separates us from other animals, or at what we think separates us. I cannot do justice to the book while writing the review because there is so much to talk and question.

The book is a perfect platform to debate humanity and if humans really rise above the animals. A peek into Romochka’s life with the dogs reveals how they look after each other despite danger to own life. Quite unlike the humans who leave a small child alone in a big city, at such a tender age. It forces you to think, ponder, question, analyse, reflect and revisit the human aspect of life , and see for yourself are we human enough !!

Dahan: Suchitra Bhattacharya, Debjani Sengupta (Editor), Mahua Mitra (Translator)

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As a literature student I have been exposed to many books that speak of atrocities against women. But few have struck a chord when it comes to Indian  writing. On a vacation I happened to read the much acclaimed novel Dahan by Suchitra Bhattacharya. Being a fan of Bengali literature I picked up this book while surfing for a read at Amazon. To say the least, I was not disappointed, but the end was disheartening as I felt there was more scope of happening rather than succumbing to the situation. The ending seemed ambiguous leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions.

Dahan is a simple and yet hard hitting retelling of an incident that happened way back in 90’s when Bengal was suffering under the grips of Naxalites. This was a time when virtues and integrity had taken a back seat and the goons ruled the roost. Thus making the whole societal setup unfriendly and hostile for women and middle class. The novel seems inspired by a real-life incident in Calcutta, in which a journalist rushed to the rescue of a woman who was being sexually assaulted by a group of men near the Tollygunj Metro station. Bhattacharya claims that all the characters are fictional . But when one reads the fine lines it seems that she is  trying to make a crossover from reality to fiction while retaining the authenticity the horror of the incident. No where does she happen to dilute the details or lessen the impact of the gory episode.

Dahan revolves around the incident of  molestation of a housewife near a Metro station. She is rescued by a young school teacher who tries to bring the molesters to the book. The young men are arrested on the basis of an FIR filed at the initiative of Jhinuk, the teacher. But they get off the hook due to lack of evidence and the reluctance on the part of the assaulted woman Romita, the housewife to identify her aggressors. She gets little or no support from her conservative in-laws to fight the case, who are more concerned about waggling tongues rather than her self respect. Her husband Palash, who is unsupportive and passive  throughout, implies that Romita had asked for it with her beauty and dressing style, and takes out is aggression on Romita through marital rape. Eventually, the defense lawyer turns the table around for Jhinuk, by casting aspersions on her morality and motives in rushing to the aid of Romita. Her intentions are belittled as asking for five seconds of fame, since no one present at the time of incident comes forward. It highlights the prejudices in the urban, middle-class Bengali society through the tribulations faced by the two protagonists, Jhinuk and Romita. Romita belongs to an affluent family and hence is asked to mask the episode so that family name is not tarnished. On the other hand is Jhinuk, coming from middle class where ideals are still alive, but family pressures makes one bend. But the character that stays with you till the end is the taciturn, idealistic Thammi, Jhinuk’s fiercely independent septuagenarian grandmother.

Dahan literally translates as burning and in a normal scenario indicate a story about Sati pratha, but it is not so. The burning here is of the female soul . She burns in every strata of society and is not immune to oppression. There is burning when she is sexually molested in the middle of a street, she burns when she attempts to help her and is driven to personal horrors, woman burns when her own husband with whom she rests her trust rapes her to avenge himself and his ego. Dahan does not make for feel-good reading. It is an utterly unflattering portrait of the society by large. The novel on reading brings forth a web of thoughts. It is very tempting to cast away the books as another example of a male dominated society. But that would be belittling the work apart from a judgement which is biased and incorrect. Because a society that is male dominated does not easily tolerate a violation of a woman by strangers. Such a toleration goes to  shows a lack of virility of males and the social setting women belong to. This holds mirror to the idea that a woman is a possession, not a person in her own right, where a man claims his masculinity in sexual exploitation of woman.

Thus when a society tolerates this and fails to protect or even avenge the woman, it makes for modern society where people are immune to others’ pain and suffering and are in fact alienated and selfish. They would rather not risk their own security and fail even to seek justice for fear of safety, it creates a society paralyzed by fear of those in power and the internal terrorist elements within the society. When terror begins to reign at street level, and acid along with other weapons are easily available at disposal, the wise keep their own counsel until better times prevail. But then again, someone has to come forward and strike a determined blow at the terror or it would never go away. It is high time the dark curtain of terror and being passive/mute audiences is cast away and we become proactive. We should not need a Nirbhaya to remind us that society together needs to make living safe for women.

 

 

 

 

Three Women: Rabindranath Tagore (translated by Arunava Sinha)

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Having tasted the sweet nectar of Tagore’s writing, I am lately drawn towards his writings. My last read was ” Three Women”, a collection of three short novels . They are aptly titled that summarizes the whole complex setup within a word. The novellas, Nashtaneer( Broken nest), Dui Bon( Two sisters) and Malancha( The gardener). I would be only reiterating what the translator feels, that Tagore was a feminist before his time. Men often remark that women folk are beyond their comprehension. And yet here is a writer who not only understands women but each and every nuances of their heart.

The novels draw light upon the status of women in the Indian society across three decades. It highlights the complexities and the never ending maze created by love, romance and sexual desires. Add to this, the couples in the three stories are childless which seems a conscious effort on Tagore’s part to question the duplicity of marriage as a bond. The woman are barren which unconsciously is shown as a reason for the women to oscillate between the roles of a mother and lover with their husbands. As Tagore himself has written beautifully, ” There are two kinds of women, or so I’ve head some pundits say. one is mostly maternal. the other is the lover.” 

The first novel weaves the story of a lonely , love deprived wife and how she finds solace in a companion out of her marriage. She is sexually and emotionally deprived of  her husband’s presence in the married life. The 3rd story is about a sick and bed ridden women who is engulfed with despair at the thought of leaving her happy household very soon owing to her prolonged illness, which is further marred by jealousy and revenge.

The writing and the characters are all life like and completely relatable. Be it Charulata in Nashtaneer, who comes as a child bride and blossoms young womanhood unnoticed by her husband.  This is true for women married to men who pay more attention to their work than their spouses. Little do they realize that the first spring goes away taking with it many more seasons. Urmila and Sharmila in Dui Bon  are sisters whom we can find reflected in a family around us where when elder sister falls ill, the younger one fills the space. And sometimes that extension becomes a solid bond between brother-in-law and sister-in-law, resulting in an unhappy marriage to silence rumors. Though few such instances do happen. And in Niraja is every wife who lays claim on her husband as a property owned and not a person in question.

In all the stories, the characters fail to understand each other as well as themselves. They are so full of themselves that their own potentialities cries in the shadows while they unnecessarily deride themselves for others. The women characters have more gall than the male characters, but are rendered helpless due to societal setup. Be it Charu living virtually in two corridors without a common meeting point. Though Amal is himself a writer, he fails to comprehend the proficient and natural literary style of Charu. It can also be seen as reflection of the male ego being hurt. On one hand, Charu is misunderstood by Amal, and on the other hand she suffers under the lack of communication and understanding from her husband, Bhupati.She leads a double life oscillating between the two. Similarly, In Dui Bon, Sharmila and Urmila play dual roles of lovers and wives. Sharmila and Shashanka though married are not united, and the wedge between them though blurred is evident. Sharmila longs for the consummation as a lover, but she readily surrenders to the role of the stereotypical women  who hides behind the shadow of her husband. She is happy in the background. While her sister Urmila is impulsive, passionate and quite the opposite. She becomes the lover for Shashanka, while remaining faithful as a wife to Nirad. Then again in Malancha, Niraja discovers the essential biological drives in married life coming upon her with all colors of sensuousness. But in her current lifeless form she is helpless and this drives her insane making her feel hollow and barren. So she holds on possessively as a wife what she fails to get as a lover in marriage.

The men in Tagore’s story fail their counterpart with respect to emotional gratification and vigor because they are pampered and spoiled by the society at large into emotional immaturity and crudeness. They do not share or understand the female realm to be real participants. This leaves the womenfolk at the core, lonely, depressed, traumatized and bereft. Tagore gives them their own realm to venture forth, reflect and come to terms with the situations in their lives. All three resign to the situation in their life, be it good or bad. Nevertheless, they are shown as strong and relentless despite hardships.

Lines that are hauntingly beautiful:

” Neither of them noticed that he period in which husband and wife rediscover each other in the exquisite first light of love had slipped into the past. Even before savoring the new, they had become old, familiar and accustomed to each other.” : Nashtaneer

 

” She had been banished from the very garden that had claimed her heart, the heart of the childless mother. It was such a cruel separation.” : Malancha

 

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.

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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