Mitro Marjani by Krishna Sobti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Samitravanti alias Mitro is married into a respectable family of traders. Her in-laws are gentle god fearing people. It is a full household of eight people. They are constantly in a spat with each other. Mitro is not the kind of a person to sit coyly behind her ghunghat, doing household chores.
Her wayward ways cause great grief to her in-laws. Her older sister-in-law tries to curb her high spirited behavior. Her husband often beats her up when she refuses to listen to him. He is shocked by her blatant sexuality and feels emasculated by it.
Despite her sharp tongue and constant flightiness, Mitro is an affectionate person and genuinely cares for her mother-in-law and her older sister-in-law. Her problem is her unresponsive husband, who refuses to gratify her deep need for affection and, well, sex.
This is A-Class literature. The story runs smooth and taut. Although the focus of the story is Mitro, it is also a sharp glimpse into a small joint family unit which threatens to fall apart. The language is superb. It is Punjabi as spoken by people, blended into Hindi and Urdu. Krishna Sobti gets every emotion, every reaction, every bit of dialogue just right.
There is a glorious chapter in here where vengeful sisters-in-law(bhabhis) taunt their sister-in-law (Nanad) who has left her husband's home on flimsy grounds. Their taunting is subtle and couched in solicitousness. It is family politics at its best.
Although Mitro Marjani is famous for its portrayal of female sexuality, I found it just as useful for its portrayal of a Punjabi family and a way of life that is no more now.
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