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Women: At Home and Outside


By Jamila Verghese
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 228, Rs. 60.00

By Devaki Jain
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 272, Rs. 75.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 2 September/October 1980

Newly-married women being tor­tured to death for the sake of dowry has become such a common event these days that it has almost ceased to shock. And here, in the routine appearance of small in. significant paragraphs in the crime briefs column of newspapers of young women burning themselves ‘accidentally’ while working in the kitchen, lies the danger of our beginning to accept yet another form: of mind-boggling cruelty as inevitable. After all, there is a point beyond which horror ceases to horrify, the human mind's capacity for intense emotions being limited. Besides, our newspapers rarely follow up these terse reports culled from the daily police bulletin, with detailed investigation. For, in the sensation-loving world of journalism even man biting dog would cease to be news if it happened day in and day out. A book that seeks to paint the sordid details of the hard-headed money-talk 'that accompanies every marriage deal in India, and goes on to provide a blow-by­-blow account of the physical and mental battering that a bride receives at the hands of her lord and master and in-­laws, was therefore long overdue and we ought to be thankful to Jamila Verghese for attempting to piece together from newspaper reports and a lifetime's ex­perience and observation, a picture of the torture and humiliation of the woman who is bartered away in marriage by her parents. Her book gives detailed accounts of true cases; and yet it could be a book about any woman, or every woman rolled into one suffering woman—the typical Indian wife. It is a case study that takes into account our everyday encounter with the hardships and sorrows of other women and their everyday experience. Facts are fortified with soul searching to recreate the suffocating atmosphere within which most of our women spend all their life. And yet, somehow, the mix is not quite right. Perhaps the gruesomeness of it all would have been more telling if the stark facts had been allowed to speak for them­selves, without any attempt to give them body and flesh through the drama­tic devise of dialogue. Jamila Verghese tries to analyse the social factors that have led to the sub­jugation of women and their being used as pawns in a game which men play. It ends in a pessimistic note. And yet, for any kind of salvation for women we ...

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