Book Review: The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist

Book: The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist
Author: Bhavna Bhavna
Number of pages: 197
Price: Rs. 299

The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist by Bhavna Bhavna is a warm and humorous account of a young woman’s attempt to get divorced, or “die-vorced,” as some folks would like it. And believe it or not, her divorce is opposed not by her in-laws or the husband but her own parents. It is a tale of growing up, of overcoming insecurities, of confronting the truth.

The book, with an arresting pink cover, had me enthralled from the beginning. The blurb on the back cover is revealing but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Written in the first person voice, this intense account reads like a personal diary; like you’re meeting an old friend. Sometimes, it’s like you’re meeting yourself.

In the pages of this diary, Bhavna lays bare the zillion insecurities that plague most old-fashioned, middle class families today. She is verbose at the risk of repeating herself often. But that only serves to underline the point she is trying to make. I particularly love the dash of poetry at the start of every chapter and the sometimes-exaggerated check list at the end of every chapter.

The protagonist vividly describes how it was growing up in an extended, old-fashioned, middle-class Punjabi family. She refers to the Indian family as a veritable dictatorship and how women were only trained for eternal marriage and motherhood, themes that a lot of us are familiar with. There is ample melodrama and Bhavna chooses to tell it as is. No trace of malice or spite, just a casual narration of how things unfolded, like you would converse with a friend.

Some would say that the tone of her writing is flippant. But that’s exactly what makes for easy reading. No having to read between the lines, the words mean what they mean, without the sub-text. It’s only in the latter chapters that her writing assumes a serious tone, when the protagonist is confronting her fears and insecurities. An otherwise finely written book also gets slightly sloppy.

My favorite bit is when the protagonist gets candid about the damages of divorce, “No, there are no victims in a divorce; sadly there are only casualties.” (Page 152).

Bhavna, in the same chapter, also reveals the choice of words in the title, “reluctant feminist.” On page, 150, she writes, “… some women are born feminists and the rest of us have feminism thrust upon us.”

We’ve often heard the aphorism, “It’s all about the journey.” On page 171, Bhavna confesses it is. “So it wasn’t really the ‘divorce’ that was significant in my life but the process I had undergone to get it…”

Bhavna’s The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist has more such nuggets of wisdom. Curl up with it one weekend and get lost in its pages only to find a bit of yourself in it. You will laugh at some of the observations, some you will nod your head in agreement with. Read this book.

Learn more about The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist.

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