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Interiority of the 'Economic'

Prashant Gupta

By Chitra Mudgal
Samayik Prakashan, Delhi, 2008, pp. 816, Rs. 900.00


In reviewing this third volume of the three volume collection of short stories, one is immediately stuck by the importance of writing about the interiority of the economic. This more than anything, and rightly so, is an aspect of life that finds a stream of expression across the stories. And why should not the economic be represented in its sharp diversity, its insidious presence in all aspects of life? For is not the economic something that is ever present in front of the subjects eyes. something that swims in its head with a presence more real than the real itself. Chitra Mudgal ventures a proposition in the introduction Main Kyon Likhti Hoon. As Kabirs apparition tells her, and as she herself agreesshe writes to those who are in a dream, and are unaware of it. She writes to draw them from their reveries. A commitment to social change and an attempt to question and unmask the ideologies that inform everyday beliefs are at the heart of her fiction. She is also as we all know, an indefatigable worker for the oppressed and the disenfranchized. This is not, of course, a coherent and cohesive politics. But before we make that charge, we have a more difficult task of finding out what this coherent politics could be. These are stories, you might say, of an incoherent and elastic politics. If, as Edward Said has theorized, the responsibility of the intellectual is to speak truth to power, then Chitra Mudgal answers this responsibility by fighting power through fictionin those texts patriarchal, commercial, and other myriad ways in which power imposes itself on our everyday lives are laid bare. Everyday people fight it in their own chaotic way. Sometimes they just do enough to survive. In Laptein an immigrant couple chooses to support a xenophobic candidate of a jingoistic party for survival. In the first story of the collection titled Abhi Bhi, a young widow is married off to her brother-in-law on the pretext of her well being. The real reason, it turns out, is to keep the money that has been awarded to her as government compensation, in the family. The author has taken care to shape a resistant victim. Her displeasure at the gradual erosion of death-money in the name of the greater good of the family is vocal. Her language bears the mark of frustrations and is peppered with expletives. In ...

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