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Painting Reality

Arundhati Das Gupta

By Sudha Arora
Hindi Book Centre, 2010, pp. 175, Rs. 250.00


Yahin Kahin Tha Ghar details the life of a middleclass Punjabi family the Tanejas in Kolkata as witnessed by Vishakha, a teenager growing up amidst the tension of old traditions giving way to the new era of emancipation and rationality. Vishakha is a rebel questioning her familys attitude towards child abuse, medicare, day to day functioning of the household, education of the girlchild, marriage and childbirth. She is in daily conflict with tradition and backwardness, modernism appears logical to her, she is also a brilliant and studious student. She does not understand the daily rituals of her traditional religious family, their superstitions, their compulsions, the grandmothers imposing behaviour, the submissive role of her mother, the repeated cycle of childbirth and child care they have accepted as life. Vishakha wants to be different, she does not want the life of her mother, or the life the family decides for her elder sister who is groomed for marriage and eventually married off to a stranger. The characters are very real, from the blind guru who literally runs the family by giving advice sacrosanct to Vishakhas struggling businessman father and exploits the familys overgeneourous hospitality, to the landlady Guptain who complains about Vishakhas elder sisters teteatete with the Bengali boy next door and Natthuthe daily labourer who cruelly abuses the vulnerable Vishakha in the dark alley entrance to the house. The book depicts two houses. One, in which a girl spends her childhood with siblings and parents and the other housewhere she goes after her marriage. Whether it is an arranged marriage or a love marriage, there are endless reasons for a marriage to go wrong either way. From the depictions of the emotions and complications of the youngest little Tijis death , to the way the discontented bridegrooms relatives discuss the flower arrangements of Vishakhas elder sisters marriage, the descriptions are impeccable. Sudha Aroras use of Punjabi idioms and songs gives the novel an endearing narration. The novel never gets beyond the personal, confined to the four walls of the Taneja residence. Occassionally there is the Bengali Mohalla addabaji or the Binaca Geet Mala on radio appearing as glimpses of the outside world. But this is perhaps Sudha Aroras intention: creation of a microcosm of the Indian familys experience of the journey from the traditional to the modern values of the twentieth century. The second novellette Yeh Rasta Usi Aspatal Ko Jata Hai ...

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