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A Magic Weave

Kiran Doshi

By Suniti Namjoshi
Zubaan Books, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 252, Rs. 450.00


Maybe being an aggressive lesbian feminist was the easiest way for a young woman from India to find fame in those happening decades of 60’s and 70’s in the West (where Suniti Namjoshi has lived most of her adult life.)  It is a pity though that she found fame thus, for her real talent lies elsewhere.  It is in the magic that she weaves with words.  It lights up everything she writes—poetry, prose, parables, fables, fantasies, autobiographical sketches, articles, children’s stories . . .             Suniti was a year junior to me in college.  I did not know her, but had a friend who did.  He admired her for her ‘sensitivity’ and her love of books, a love he shared.  I left Bombay after college to join the Foreign Service.  She joined the IAS a year or two later, left it after a few years, then left India altogether.  Years passed.  I read, or maybe someone told me, that she had written a book.   The Fabulous Feminist thus happened to be the first book by Suniti to be read by me.  I began with a mistake.  I opened it at a wrong page, read about her encounters with some western feminists, found the whole thing narcissistic, pointless and unendurably tiresome. I closed the book.  A gentle reminder by the editor of The Book Review some months later made me pick up the book again, and again I opened it at random, to read (on p. 248)                      Time trickles down your face                   more sluggishly than tears,           more kindly than acid,                   more slowly than oil.          And day breaks and breaks and breaks,                                            and time trickles          like a broken egg, like a—          It does not matter                  how time trickles.          It slits my heart and stops my breath.   Feeling somewhat breathless myself, I  opened the book at the beginning, finished it two hours later and began reading it from the first page again . . .         The Fabulous Feminist (whoever thinks of such titles?) is not a new work (save for about a dozen pieces bunged in at the end.)  It is an anthology of some hundred poems, fables and part-stories selected mainly from the author’s many published works.  Included in it are gems from The Feminist Fables (which launched Suniti as a writer to watch), The Bedside Book of Nightmares, The Blue Donkey Fables, The Authentic Lies and a few more.  Like all anthologies, it is a mixed ...

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