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Journeying Home

Malati Mathur

By Raji Narasimhan
Promilla & Co. in association with Bibliophile South Asia, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 184, Rs. 200.00

By Sivasankari. Translated by Rekha Shetty
Promilla & Co. in association with Bibliophile South Asia, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 263, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 12 December 2007

Woman is the leitmotif of The Illusion of Home, a collection of short stories by Raji Narasimhan. The women featured in the seventeen stories are all on the fringes of ‘respectable’ society for they are single by choice. They have left home and in some cases, husband, in order to live according to the dictates of their heart and spirit to which the soul within their soul leans and listens. Often leading lives of quiet desperation, they are courageous, strong and resilient, carving out a niche for themselves on their own terms. It is not easy to live like this for sometimes even basic necessities are hard to come by. Their lives are ‘lived on the margin’, full of the traps that come with the territory of a life so led. Yet, in spite of all the hardships—financial, material, social, psychological—the women soldier on, never losing sight of their goal, never ignoring the sensitive whisper of their inner selves.   Whether it is Divya who yearns to live in a ground floor flat so that she may be firmly rooted to reality; Aditi who, as a tourist in Chittor, holds a piece of matte-finished terracotta ware and in so doing seems to be accorded a peep into the collective memory of the people of a land; Shanta, visiting Germany who feels ‘unwatched’ there in a way she can never hope to be in India… Each of these women has experiences that are so often so mundane and so ordinary, they could be happening to you, me, the woman next door, the girl at the bus stop. The only difference is that not every woman would react in the same way to the situations conjured up by the writer nor would everyone deal so sensitively or competently with the negativity that these ordinary protagonists confront and vanquish everyday.   When one of the protagonists is asked why women with talent ever get married since they reject marital ties and walk away so as to be true to their calling, the answer is that ‘some talents need calamities to show up’. There is the realization that the talented woman has to go through a painful rebirth—has to ‘dynamite’ herself—in order to realize her potential. There is also the acceptance that strong women do not ask for endorsements of themselves from anyone. They just are.   The incandescent quality of the writing ...

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