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Lives and Struggles

K. Saradamoni

By Deepti Priya Mehrotra
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 239, Rs. 250.00

By Mrinal Pande
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 221, Rs. 295.00


These two books, both published by Penguin in 2003 talk of women in India; certainly not all women and everywhere. One can see some commonalities in the two books , but they are also different and they have to be dealt with separately.   Deepti Priya’s book Home Truths explores the life, struggles and coping mechanisms of Single Mothers who cannot be, as the stories show, a homogeneous category. The book has three parts, the ‘Terrain’, ‘Stories’ and ‘Reflections and Insights’. The section ‘Stories’ gives the case histories of fourteen women she has interviewed. They come from slums and middle class homes in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengal, Karnataka, Punjab and Haryana. Some came out of difficult or violent marriages and fought for survival in a wider world which was also not peaceful and welcoming. For some it was essential to prove to oneself ‘I can do this’ while in the case of some it was misfortune like death of husband or his abduction that forced them to fend for themselves and their children. Despite all the hazards they faced many of them received the support of the natal family, even while the latter itself did not have a sound financial base. Though Anna’s can be called a ‘success’ story many would not have had the chance or ability to take many a plunge which she courageously took. The same Anna talks about her widowhood this way: “I was widowed in 1973. My son was just a year old. My daughter was four. After he died I just lost it. It was as if I was sinking in a deep sea and I would suddenly surface and take a breath……sinking again.”   To be a woman who has to bring up her children without the help and support of their father is not easy. It has economic, social, psychological underpinnings. Deepti has just touched the tip; we have to delve into the questions of woman-man equality, sharing and mutual respect within the present day marriage in the wider context of socio-economic, cultural and political changes which fundamentally alter human relationships, and the values that sustain them.   While Mrinal Pande was trying to write her book Stepping Out people asked her what the book was about. At that time she could not give a precise answer. “I can say the book is variously about women’s health, about how their lives were affected by the ...

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