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Aur Todi Bhi


By Mrinal Pandey
Radhakrishna Prakashan, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 148, Rs.175.00


Jack and Jill/ Went up the hill/ To fetch a pail of water/ Jack fell down/ And broke his crown/ And Jill came tumbling after.   As a little girl I always wondered why Jill lost her cool when Jack fell down and broke his crown! Did she tumble down out of mere empathy? She could very well have run after him and nursed his wounds. Why tumble down? Now, of course, I understand that the whole idea of ‘tumbling after’ can be traced back to the other orientedness of girls/women all the world over. Feminists all the world over defend women’s right to ‘play’ as, in some sense, a retreat from this long term sense of duty, the service ethic that women have, for centuries, been subtly (and not so subtly) maneuvered into.   All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy but Jillls, and not only Jills but Dhaniyas, Munias, Razias and Nomchungs of the Third World too, remain bright and beautiful even under the tremendous pressure of unrewarded work and drudgery of all kinds. Against all odds they smile and laugh the laugh of Medusa (or is it the ‘Attahas’ of the local devies Mrinal beautifully portrays in another feminist treatise published earlier?) Ticking off that ‘Poor Liza complex’ and ‘good girl syndrome’ now these women smile on or off screen, but behind these ‘close up smiles’ loom shadows as dark and dismal as a haunted greenroom backstage. Even those who have made it big in life – film heroines, theatre-artists, major writers, Mother Hubbards, beauty pageants, Panchayat Pradhans, musicians, TV anchors, publishers, journalists… have a long story of sharp gender discrimination to unfold. The gap between the real and the virtual has been insightfully analysed in Mrinal Pande’s recent collection of essays called Jahan Auraten Garhi Jati Hain.   Mrinal’s feminist intervention marks the rise of an Asian discourse. Her first hand exposure to the ground realities of the rural, urban and sub-urban terrains and her intelligent research in the areas of women’s health, education politics, and women’s writing get her language multi-centric and her vision sharp. A sense of sardonic humour underlines her whole discourse, especially her ironic observations like the following : “Ek bholi, sadgrihastha mahila yadi yauvan mein prayah ekaki ya pati dwara upekshit rahti hai to youvavastha mein pharratedar jeevan jeenewali dhansampanna rahi roopajeeva burhape mein.” (A cursed loneliness ...

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