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Revoking the Given

Prachi Deshpande

By Gauri Deshpande
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2010, pp. 134, Rs. 225.00


Deliverance opens with a one-line letter written by two sisters, Mimi and Shami, to various people across the world—Ranju, Janaki, Toshi-Ojisan, Yoshiyo-Hisayo, and Dr. Abhi—about their parents’ death. From this terse assembling of all its characters at the very beginning, the story reaches back into the past and gradually brings it back to the present. The past is recalled as a series of conversations between the various characters, recorded in letters, therapist’s notes, and the diary entries of the protagonist, the mother. Through them we learn about the emotional turbulence that threatens to tear the family asunder, but also the many ties of friendship and companionship that are affirmed through, and in spite of, these shocks. These then, are the niragaathii (literally tight, but also knotty ties) of the novel’s original Marathi title. Gauri Deshpande’s novellas and short stories are well known for their masterly observation of human relationships, especially that of man-woman. Her straightforward, yet deeply sensitive exploration of female sexuality, companionships, marital politics and family dynamics carved a space all its own in Marathi literature from the 1970s onwards. She created a world with women unafraid to express themselves in the first flush of love or about a middle-aged reassessment of their choices and options, laughing at, or acting upon them. Her prose was unadorned, conversational and firmly rooted in an everyday Puneri Marathi idiom, but her characters and plots were drawn from all over the globe, and restlessly roamed it as well. The intimate, confessional form of a single narrator’s letters or private musings became her specialty, at once her technique for sketching worlds made up basically of relationships, and for instantly drawing her readers into these webs.   In many ways, Deliverance is a classic Gauri Deshpande work in form and content, but it is also unique for its searing, frank look at motherhood through the eyes of a sincere, even eager, but frustrated woman who confronts the realization that motherhood is thankless and all-consuming. Before I became a mother, I had thought that this new experience, this new person, would fill some gap in my life, that I would become more complete, that one of my life’s potentials would now be realised, and so on. But what happened was just the opposite. Because of the children all my activities were curtailed. I began to wonder whether we shouldn’t ...

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