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A Life of a Child

Aruna Naqvi

By Shouri Daniels
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1978, Rs. 7.50

VOLUME III NUMBER 4 January/February 1979

Feelings and emotions, however trite, can never be classed as meaningless, but one's way of portraying them can often fall short of an aesthetically acceptable standard. The Salt Doll is erotica without style. It is peopled with characters whose actions are largely conditioned by their own private compulsions. At rare moments, the book is perceptive and brutally honest, but it generally lacks finesse. The setting, in part, is the South of India, and the few pages that elaborate on the caste hierarchies and texture of the lives of the Syrian Christians (whom the Brahmins place in the same exalted posi­tion as themselves) and the Hindus are lucid and enlightening. The earlier chapters relate to Mira Cheriyan's experiences as a Syrian Christian child, belonging to the privileged section of society. Hatred and scorn of the system are underlying emotions in her description of her school days and her relationship with her father. Her life follows the well-understood pattern of separation from parents, an Anglo-Indian education, a leaning towards radical thought, and a pathetic effort at sexual freedom. Though an overt rebel she easily succumbs to male domination. She feels and lets her feelings run riot with thoughts like: ‘If today I am an angry woman, it is not because I menstruate once a month, or that my womb is tired from bearing young or that I do not have something hanging between my thighs, but because children and women if they are passive, attract the beast in every man.’ Shouri Daniels has sufficient command over words to be able to 'put forward her desire to put meaning into void, but not quite sufficient to transform the void into a worthwhile experience. If the book lacks cogency, it partially makes up by its sass and lack of inhibition. Mira Cheriyan's revolt centres around ideas that have, over the years, geared the feminist into action, or at least into arti­culation. The thinking woman, after a fashion, is expected not only to be able to analyse and dissect the present social sys­tem, but also to be able to find a remedy to the prevailing ills. Shouri Daniels does not have a ready answer to the contradic­tions that exist in life; she relates her ex­periences from personal level, and if at any stage the reader is able to relate her­self to Mira Cheriyan, then again it is up to ...

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