New Login   

A Way of Life

Rakhshanda Jalil

By Ira Pande
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2005, pp. 216, Rs. 250.00


Reading Diddi while on holiday in the Kumaon mountains, later writing this review and e-mailing it from a poky little internet cafe across the lake from the house where Shivani lived for 15 years, has been an evocative experience. The sights and sounds of the mountains she loved so dearly are all around me. The lilting pahadi voices, the broad smiling faces, the women sporting bright red tikkas, the sound of temple bells drifting across the hills and dales are all there. What is missing, or perhaps hidden from sight by the hordes of tourists swarming these once pristine mountains, are the jewel-like characters that stud Shivani’s writings, characters that she fleshed from real-life people who lived among the terraced fields and high-walled brahmin households. What is gone most certainly is the way of life that she once knew and lived and the time-honoured social order that had begun to crumble in her own lifetime.   Diddi: My Mother’s Voice by Ira Pande is, in many respects, an unusual book. For one, it speaks in many voices. There is, above all others, a singularly individual and highly idiosyncratic voice, the voice of Gaura Pant who adopted the nom de plume of Shivani. There is also Shivani the novelist speaking through the many characters she created in her short stories and novels. Leavening what would otherwise be a personal and fictional landscape, is the voice of a socially conscious being speaking through newspaper columns, essays, obituaries and travelogues. Then there is Ira Pande, the daughter, Ira Pande the translator, and Ira Pande the sutra dhar of this complex, many-stranded, multilayered mise en scène. The narrative flits not just between voices but dips between past and present, between memory and fiction, between what was real and what seemed real.   Early on, Ira Pande explains the somewhat bewildering title: “Perhaps because we called our mother Diddi, elder sister, our relationship with her was always somewhat ambivalent. More than a mother she was for us a difficult sibling, an eccentric, much older sister who belonged to a different generation.” In doing so, Pande sets the tone for what turns out to be an engaging tribute to a mother, a writer of near legendary proportions, a woman who delighted in breaking the mould yet paradoxically revered time-honoured traditions. In the process, Pande also provides a record of the proud families of Kasoon brahmins and ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.