Thursday, October 02, 2008

Manju Kapur - Difficult Daughters

"He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."Wittingly or not, the sins of our fathers (or mothers) have a bearing on us.

The eldest of eleven siblings, Veermati is owed only one duty, to marry well. Fate decrees otherwise and she finds herself treading rebellious paths. After her death, her daughter reconstructs her life. The novel traces her journey to her ancestral home in Amritsar and the places her mother had lived in, Lahore and Nahan. The setting is Pre-partition to post-partition Punjab and Lahore, when a few women were taking tentative steps towards emancipation. The rest of Punjab was mired in tradition that decreed zero personal freedom for women.

The novel is rich in detail. So rich, that it can effective be used as a reference for the life in those times. The novel is so rich in detail, that it is evocative not only visually, but also aurally.

"And that is how Veermati found herself on a train leaving Amritsar, her feet on her bedroll, her metal box pushed behind it, its lock faintly clinking with the motion of the train."

Coming back to the richness of the detail, if Veermati finds herself working in a school in Nahan, we are first given the history of Sirmaur in brief, the mission and work of the Rajmata who promotes education for girls and institutes a school there, the civil management of the place, and then we are shown the connection between this prestigious institution and Veermati. This detail enhances the story to the level of a piece of history rather than remaining just an account of the life and times of Veermati.

The book is extremely true to its time, not judging any of the characters, just presenting them to us as they are, so that we find ourselves loving them despite their flaws. The way the old ladies speak, always trying to say what they should say, using sugar coated taunts rather then a direct attack, never saying what they really feel. It is all so true and so familiar to me, I who grew up hearing my aunts and her cronies talk like that.

The men are rather in a shade, egoistic and self centered. The spotlight is on the women who are usually in subjugation here. But in a way, even in subjugation, the women are very much in control and strong.

The book is like a beautiful tapestery which might have been woven by Veermati herself for her trousseau. An elegant work by an elegant lady is how I would classify it.


Bouncing-Bubble said...

Avdi..I too loved the bk. How Veermati was taken advantage of (by tht prof) when she was helpless was brought out so beautifully.

Vinz aka Vinu said...

nice plot...!!
will have to get a hand on it..!!
thanks for the review..


Smita said...

Aha!!! So you have loved it :D

I had initially found the book slow but was captivated by it. I mean just to have the love of her life Veermati keeps compromising...It was sad but true as well...

And I completely agree with your observations about the author :)

Brilliant Review

avdi said...

Bubbles, yes initially I was repulsed by the professor. But he redeemed himself when he waited for her in Amritsar, and in his own way, gave her freedom to study and lead her life in her own way.

Vinz - thanks - I hope you like it too :)

Smee - I was smitten, to say the least, and read the book almost at a stretch. I am dying to pick some more of her books. I will try to get Home that your recommended.

Oxy said...

Kahan kahan se nikalte ho ye sab books ap log.. Ok, so another one which I won't read.. :)

Just first sentence of third para and I already had Madhubala in my mind. And how much ever I tried to take her out of mind as I went further, I could not. Happens to me some times.. wonder why? winder why it should? It kills everything then.

avdi said...

Oxy - sigh ! Yeh koi eM ya Smita Jain types nahi hai.. You know I wasnt able to read beyond the first chapter of KKrishna's Konfessions.

The prose is amazingly elegant. Agar yakeen na ho to Manju Kapur ka background dekh lo.

couchpapaya said...

avdi - loved the review !! have been putting off getting my hands on manju kapur. am in the mood now to read indian stuff ....

avdi said...

papaya.. she has such an elegant prose. totally worth reading

WhatsInAName said...

wow! an apt dedication to a wonderful book. This is one of the recent books I have read and so is still fresh in my mind. Manju Kapoor writes really well. Each of her words touch a chord deep inside
Her Home was wonderful too.

Grasshopper said...

Beautiful review. One of my favorite books.

avdi said...

Thanks WIAN , Grasshopper !

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