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Women's Voices

Purabi Panwar

By Prema Raghunath
Zubaan Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 209, 325.00

By Sujata Sankranti
Rupa, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 273, 195.00


Relationships can be complex, especially those between a man and a woman.They might be related, the possibi-lities of the relationship culminating in a  marriage might be remote, one or both might already be married. All these things do not matter. The relationship between Goutami and her cousin Krishnand, taken up in The Cousins by Prema Raghunath is an emotional one, the passion and the tur-bulence between the two forms the subject matter of part one of the novel. One must remember that the starting point of the novel is 1921 and Goutami, the main protagonist, gets married to the plain looking and uninteresting Seshadri around 1936, much before women had started asserting themselves, demanding to be treated as individuals and not as chattel. Seshadri's transfer to Delhi separates them. However Goutu, treated shabbily by her husband, yearns for love, a desire which her friend Kamla's vagabond brother takes advantage of. Should one be judgemental about her? No, after all a woman has some expectations from her marriage in the same way that a man does. If she does not get any love and affection, is constantly berated, sometimes beaten, forced to gratify her husband sexually, she might go in for a relationship in which she is treated as an individual. This is human, though in the early years of the last century (and maybe even now) this would have brought social stigma with people saying that she had gone astray. Since his wife has ‘tarnished' his image, Seshadri seeks another transfer, this time to Calcutta (now Kolkata). The violence of the partition in the background matches the turbulence of Goutu's life, her loveless marriage and her inability to get along with her daughters. In a way the partition is a macrocosmic representation of what happens to her day after day—marital rape, domestic violence, even her daughters not making an attempt to understand her. Yet Goutu does not lose heart. Unlike her husband who thinks with his head and is very clear as to what he wants from life, Goutu thinks with her heart. That is why she decides to keep her third child though her husband feels it would be an added expense, they are already spending a lot on the two girls studying in Chennai. The child turns out to be beautiful but special. Things like that do not upset Goutu, Krishnand's death does, though she tries not to ...

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