Monthly Archives: January 2012
She picked up the strewn pieces of her life with great panache. I’m sure she grieved for her loss. But she didn’t let it overwhelm her. At least, for not beyond a few miserable weeks when she woke up sobbing at 3 am, unable to sight the rubber slippers she always associated with him.
It was a rude shock, like it sometimes is. Just the other day, they were discussing salad dressing techniques over breakfast and two days later, she returned to an empty home, with swollen eyes and wads of tissue.
She dreamt of him often. Always sighed when there was no one sitting next to her to enjoy the purple sunset with. A couple of evenings, she even laid out his place on the dinner table. Partially, out of habit, partially, she was hoping against hope.
But she moved on. And with grace. She slowly, but determinedly, resigned to the fact that perhaps there would be no one who would look at her questioningly every time she returned from a shopping binge. And then compliment her on the great earrings she had picked! His compliments had meant the most to her. Probably because he wasn’t ever superfluous with them.
There were, no doubt, some weak moments. She missed his measured words of caution each time she stepped out for a late-evening drive with the gal-pals. But mostly, she missed how she was, when she was with him. Dealing with the memories wasn’t too painful. She struggled with the fact that henceforth, there wouldn’t be any more with him.
She shifted to a different city. Packing and moving and settling down into the place kept her on her toes for a while. She began taking a lot more weekend trips, outside the city, to ease herself out of her comfort zone. She attended drama classes in the evenings, going back to her childhood dream of being a performing artist. She watched a lot of movies, even those that they had once enjoyed together. She made it a point to regularly be in touch with her mother and aunt.
And she survived. She learnt to smile within a few weeks. That got replaced with a bigger grin in the next few months. And eventually, the laughs and giggles followed. It didn’t hurt to remember him. She had learnt to live in the moment. That had always been his words of advice for her. “Live in the moment. Everything else is transitory.”
It was painful that this learning had come to her only once she lost her father. That was probably one of her biggest regrets. The universe had extracted too great a price.
Book: A Calendar Too Crowded
Author: Sagarika Chakraborty
Number of pages: 189
Price: Rs. 295
A Calendar Too Crowded is a collection of stories and poems woven around the theme of womanhood. It is a clever, imaginative take on the numerous days earmarked in a calendar to celebrate feminism and protect women’s rights. Sagarika Chakraborty rips apart the popular misconceptions and misleading statistics that sometime portray women’s emancipation and liberation.
The book is divided into 12 sections – one for each month, with stories and/or poems for that particular month. Chakraborty refrains from naming her characters, “… because no name would justify a voice which represents millions.” As readers, we’ll probably have our own list of names for some of the characters.
Most of the incidents mentioned in the book are commonplace to our lives today. Girls who are chastised twice as much as boys are, women who are told to behave themselves or must be put in place, and mothers who exhaust their bodies and souls to devote their entire lives to their children. There is nothing that you don’t already know of, nothing that you haven’t already heard of, in terms of the facts and emotions. But Chakraborty’s words sting. And they sting hard. They stir me out of my cushy lifestyle to remind me to not take my life and its set of privileges for granted.
I sense the rage, the frustration, the despair, the angst, term it what you will, in each page of the book. But some stories also end on an optimistic note. I want to reread them for that alone.
Chakraborty tackles a gamut of experiences:
- Of a woman on a steady diet of pills and prayers for a male child
- Of teenage angst upon discovering that one has been adopted
- Of renewed marital vows
- Of an elderly woman embarking on a new relationship in her sunset years, amidst much acrimony
- Of a model craving acceptance and dignity in society
- Of brides settling into new homes
- Of a man and wife tackling HIV together
- Of an anonymous mutilated body, which no one knew anything of
- Of a prostitute who kept her child away from her “squalor-ridden life”
- Of a mother torn with the idea of nationality
I had many favorites in the book.
I reread Homecoming a few times. These lines leapt out at me, “He sounded like her husband right now and she just couldn’t accept that, for there was no one like him. She knew that her husband would never have spoken to another lady apart from her in this tone, and to sit there and listen to words from another married man was to insult the man she had loved for the last twenty-five years of her life.”
I cried upon reading Sister by Choice and not by Chance. I also smiled a slow smile at the end.
But my favoritest line is from Knowledge Beyond the Printed Letters.
“If literacy is to sign your name, education is to realize the identity the name bestows upon you.”
A Calendar Too Crowded is a light read for most part, but some of the stories linger long after you’ve turned the pages and kept the book aside. The prose is eloquent, the descriptions detailed, the emotions crisp. Give it a read.