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A Dystopian Satire


Premola Ghosh

THE LESSON
By Sowmya Rajendran
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 200, $19.99

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 9 September 2015

A society dominated by Morality, as defined by the patriarchs who hope to keep the world going according to their writ. This is what The Lesson is about. The blurb describes it as ‘a dystopian satire on the violence that women live with.’ The dominant role is that of the rapist, a rather perverted ‘knight in shining armour’ who descends on recalcitrant women to teach them a lesson. It’s a job without emotion, lust or desire—a mechanical action which has the desired effect, damning the disobedient woman. Said the rapist: ‘“Look, I was told that you needed to be taught a lesson. Lessons actually. Do you have your Conduct Book in front of you?...” ‘It was mandatory for all citizens to keep a copy of the Conduct Book at home in a ‘prominent place of display’ … Under Women, Chapter 2: How to Talk To a Man; Chapter 8: Get Married, Stay Married; Chapter 9: National Adjustment Policy; Chapter 10: Compulsory Maternal Feelings…’ Like Hitler’s Germany children are the wealth of this society. The media mogul of the Good News channel ran a very popular show, The Storks, which featured only pregnant women. This serial won the Golden Geese every year. And what were the Golden Geese? ‘a pair of magical birds that fornicated every night and laid a golden egg in the morning.’ The media mogul herself was the proud mother of five children and had grown enormously fat. The rival channel, Straight Shooting, was run by a priest and ‘only featured reality shows and most of them were about lesbians, gays and people of such unnatural sexualities.’ Their popular series was Medical Miracles which ‘profiled such elements in society and invited them to participate in a reality show in which the priest would cure them. Sometimes the cure was yoga. Sometimes it was shock therapy. One lesbian had been cured by lighting an incense stick!’ The characters are all nameless, best described by their occupation such as the dupatta regulator or media mogul or dentist or the first daughter or second daughter who is the main protagonist. An intellectual bent of mind, modern, not in favour of marriage, keen on studies, but the upholders of the society who spend their time watching girls, send a brown envelope to her mother. The brown envelope is a veiled threat or reminder that the second daughter is of marriageable age. Finally a dentist ...


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