Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reflections: Unveiling India

There are many books and movies that have tried to depict India, painting a picture of the land, the villages, the traditions, the superstitions, the colors, the spices, the festivals, along with the developing urban world of sky scrapers and modern thoughts juxtaposed with the still struggling and canopied rural world. The bare truths make some turn away with embarrassment, some wince with anger coated with shame, some ridicule and laugh to shield themselves, and others seeped in denial angrily retort, claiming a bias. However, this book has been one of the first of its kind to bring about an emotional connection far beyond mere empathy. Neither a documentary of facts, nor a fictional fantasy; neither a treatise of self-imposed thoughts, nor a play of drama. The book is the story of India's women - told by them, in their own simple words.

The author Anees Jung, is a Muslim woman from Hyderabad blessed with a liberal father. She was fortunate to break out of the mold and establish herself with education and a career. She stands as the face of the Indian urban woman - fiercely independent, financially stable, progressive in her thoughts, and brave in facing life alone... although she constantly struggles with the inner conflict between the traditional culture that seems to root her to the land and inexplicably enough, also seems to form a part of who she is, and with her rational thoughts that torment and contradict the very same culture. A tug of war that is familiar to all urban Indian women, who are often lost in defining their identities. Yet, despite coming from a world so very different from the rural women, along with Jung every Indian woman (or perhaps every woman) who reads the book can instantly associate with the stories of women taken from the hearts and depths of India's villages. I could easily associate with the helplessness of young girls being pushed into a life they are not ready for, despite me being so much more blessed in my life. It is as vivid as listening to my domestic maid recount the story of her life. The book characterizes the diversity of the land by bringing stories from villages and previously unheard of tribes from the east, west, north, and south of India.

For an Indian, the stories have been heard, the superstitions and crimes based on them are all too familiar. I could see my great grandmother, my grandmother, my great aunt, my domestic maid, the sales girl in Spencers and many more women from my life through the stories. A bit sad that even after a hundred years, there are girls who are still subjected to the same brutal treatment as my great grandmother. But the book explores the collective strength of women when they bravely unite to demand respect for themselves and to establish meaning in their lives, and that to me was most inspiring. The stories highlight not just the heart wrenching state of affairs, but also assert the immense potential for change that lie within women.

Anees Jung's writing flows limpidly. I love how she effortlessly strings beautiful and profound insights into sentences without making them seem heavy and weighed down with emotions. She reaches a middle ground between apathy (of stating facts), and heavy drama, which is quite popular while dealing with subjects like these. Her writing has a quiet sense of resignation while she encounters beliefs and superstitions, a dignified sense of acceptance and respect to those women who choose to have faith in them and an optimistic view point while thinking of their future. As a feminist, she doesn't go overboard with any strong opinions lashing against men, culture and superstition. She doesn't fuel the reader with rage but guides them to think in terms of workable solutions.

A touching book that makes the modern feminist who fights and asserts her right to not cook breakfast everyday, rethink the priorities of her battle, to appreciate her life and to probably fight and spend her energy on more worthier battles.


SecondSight said...

Wonderful review !:) I have to say.. was waiting for this post, that is one of my favorite books :)

Neeraja said...

Thank you for the wonderful book! Really good read :)

Perception said...

Truly wonderful review. I will definitely read this one.

Neeraja said...

Thank you... and please do. It's a touching book.