As I start reading the novel, I go through the preface. I know there and then that this book is going to be a hard hitting one. And so with each story I read, I simply grope on to the next one, wanting to discover one more aspect of prostitution in India.
Women have NEVER been treated with the desired respect in our country, be it currently or centuries ago. They have been mistreated, abused physically as well as mentally, manhandled, neglected, underestimated and most importantly taken for granted.
This book is for those readers who like some serious non fiction. I call it non fiction because all the stories are true. This is only the tip of the massive iceberg of women trafficking and prostitution.
PLOT & CONTENT
A variety of celebrated as well as less known authors come together and contribute a total of 21 short stories painstakingly compiled by Ruchira Gupta from the nook and corners of India.
Each story depicts the tale of a woman troubled by her own problems.
We have a woman who willingly works as a maid for her owner, satisfying her physically as well as emotionally, only to end up getting married and later divorced by him.
We have an egoistic clash between a man’s wife and lover, beautifully depicted by Premchand.
We have a heart wrenching letter written by a prostitute addressed to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, educating him about the rampantly spreading prostitution in Mumbai and India.
We have a wife who sells herself just so that she can buy some milk gruel for her injured husband.
We are introduced to a word used commonly all around – “COMING?”
Overall, each story is a gem in itself. There is an overall morose feel to the book. You can feel that air of helplessness around you but can do nothing to reduce it. This only makes you more engrossed in the novel.
The translations are beautifully done. Be it Urdu, Bengali, Marathi or Hindi, every story is brilliantly translated into English without draining away the emotional quotient from the story. This is a big plus point as I have read various stories whose inference and emotional connect gets lost in translation.
Secondly, the characters in each story are very well sketched. Be it Jugnu in “The river of flesh”, or Kusum in “Heeng kochuri” or Lata in “The kept woman” – every single character stands out. Your heart goes out for them irrespective of their intentions.
There were one or two stories which exactly didn’t appeal to me. Nothing wrong with them, they just didn’t click.
Apart from that, this book is a perfection of sorts.
OVERALL, this novel is a must read for those who wish to know the extent of spread of prostitution in our society. Reading all the 21 stories, I realized one thing – very few of these women did it out of choice. Infact, no one ever did it out of choice. It was always compulsion that led to them taking this path. They simply didn’t have any other choice.
We ought to feel really privileged and lucky that we were born and brought up in an environment where we atleast had the liberty of choosing what we liked and what we didn’t.
A book which should be read by every single Indian, this one is definitely recommended!