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Home is Where You Start From


By Shaila Bajpai
HarperCollins Publishers, India, 2011, pp.410, 399.00


It is ironic indeed that 'Woman's Desire' has always been a no man's land, a barbed twilight zone far beyond anyone's reach. As the prime site of women-centric crimes, woman's body has been on the focus for the last few decades, but not many have dared navigate into the 'cora', the mystique, the semiotics of woman's fantasy, her instinct to fly beyond borders and boundaries, beyond the narrow confines of a rigid social structure which grants her soul no choice to select 'her own society', a 'home' or even a 'room' of her own. Even Didies and Babies who have not been denied basic privileges of good education and a rich library network, even those who have been blessed with some opportunities to earn global exposure (a foreign degree and a varied male company) find their wings clipped by the inner contradictions of a rigid patriarchal structure which pampers and pats and flattens the 'calf' only for the D-day—a caste and class bound 'arranged marriage' nailed in a set routine of warming the bed, cooking dishes and raising kids. Purush's impotency in the novel is metaphoric. Most of such bossy men suffer some kind of a spiritual impotency which 'demands' without the innate potential to 'return' love. Pitched against 'Purush' are the gentlemen like Jeff and the 'new men' like Bhai Chacha, sensitive Utopians torn between the world of poetry and that of business; and men also like Kartik, 'brilliant' failures among the first generation migrants, who fail major exams despite all brilliance, but pass the test of love. Their long wait, the wait without hope, speaks for their rootedness. It is this very rootedness, this sense of character, that draws the uprooted Babies back to their roots. The quest of 'home' is metaphoric too and the 'equation' between the vulnerable Didi and her omniscient mother-in-law smacks of a new sense of poetic justice. The moral geography of the well-crafted novel is rich and varied private dining spaces, pitched against 'dhabas', gardens pitched against streets and parks, private libraries pitched against public libraries and bookstores, 'space' flights pitched against auto and bus rides, UPSC building, posh govt. localities and Charbagh bungalows pitched against basties and other sublet spaces, highfliers like Daddy pitched against UPSC aspirants and other 'failures' among Delhi University pass-outs. This checkered reality that is India, has been delicately unfolded. Cousins like Mahendra and maids like Sista ...

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