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A Fight For Identity


Madhumita Chakraborty

DAUGHTER BY COURT ORDER
By Ratna Vira
Fingerprint, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 369, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 12 December 2014

My narrative will not be your’s. I will live my life. You have to live with your demons. Daughter by Court Order    In a country like India, it is still the norm in many parts of the country to cut women off from all aspects of family decision making processes, or even from decisions involving their own lives—marriage, family planning etc. Debut novelist Ratna Vira’s book Daughter by Court Order explores this discrimination against women in all spheres of her socio-economic milieu, and particularly in property rights. Bringing her own personal experiences into the narrative, Vira tells us the story of a young woman from an affluent section of society, as she tries to establish, not just her identity but her very existence! Aranya’s story could be the story of any Indian woman—rich or poor, urban or rural, single child or a child with siblings. In particular, it could be the story of any female single parent, fighting against all odds to protect her children, fighting against the system and seeking justice. Aranya or Arnie, as she is popularly known throughout the novel, is an unwanted premature child. From her days in the incubator, two things have become clear—one, that she is a fighter, and two, her mother hates her. She has been brought up under the watchful eye of her grandfather, and cared for by her chhoti phua, Baby Singh. Eshwar Dhari, her grandfather, is a man far beyond the age—‘a freedom fighter, a secular humanist, a politician and administrator and an educationist who founded schools and colleges with a special focus on educating women.’ Yet, those in his household seem to defy his ideals the most. Arnie’s biggest enemy in the house is her birth mother, a woman who wanted her dead when born, a woman who has denied her existence at any level, and who has cursed her at every point in her life. The novel pitches its central argument around this mother-daughter relationship, or the lack of it.  The death of Eshwar Dhari has led to a decade long bitter battle regarding his property, a battle from which Arnie has not only been kept in the dark, coming to know of it only when Baby Singh lets her know about it,  but also learning that her very existence has been kept out of the court’s knowledge! And ...


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