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.