Tag Archive | feminism

The Colour Purple- Alice Walker : 5/52 (Colour)

Such a feel good book.

Whaat? Yes. To me, it was a feel good book. Because, read it to know why.

Celie. Young, traumatized, lost, helpless Celie writes letters to god because she has no one else to write to. She tells god about how she got big after her Pa visited her at night. She tells god about the babies she gave birth to, the babies that disappeared, the baby she saw again with the pastor’s wife. About how she was made to marry Mister___ just to look after him and his horrid kids because her father refused to let her younger and prettier sister Nettie marry him. Through these letters,she tells god the story of her life. She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t ask him for anything. She just tells him.

Her closest relative is her sister Nettie who suddenly leaves her life, and then Shug enters. Shug, her husband Mister____’s mistress. Shug who had children with Mister_____.But again, Celie just takes it in as what was meant to be. She nurses Shug back to health and the two women form a bond that is so tender, so beautiful and oh so disturbingly twisted. All the relationships in the book are so strong and beautiful. Celie and Sophia, two women at the opposite ends of the spectrum. While Celie submits to fate, Sophia punches fate in the nose, be it her husband Harpo or his new girlfriend Squeak or the mayor’s wife. The women and men are so different, but so much the same. They love, they live, they laugh, they bond. And inspite of everything, they stay together as one big happy family. There are round houses, there are pink houses and there are pretty pants. Yes, it is a happy book because not once did I lose hope. There was always something that kept telling me that things will change for everyone, and it did. Maybe it was the way Celie looked at life with no expectations. Such and attitude shames god and he feels guilty and so, he gives.

I usually don’t highlight much, but in this book, I highlighted almost an entire chapter. The one where Shug and Celie talk about god. It was such a stimulating discussion and it gave me an answer that no one has been able to give me all these years. That is god to me.

The book moves to Africa and gives you a glimpse of life in an African village through the eyes of a black American woman. Something quite the opposite of Americanah. Much of that reminded me of Things Fall Apart. How the white man makes inroads into the continent in the name of civilizing the heathen natives, bringing progress and development and taking away the little bit of life that they have.

There’s graphic sex and violence, there’s deep racism, there’s capitalism, there’s chauvinism, there’s a wide gender divide. But it also overcomes. Everything.

I really don’t understand why this book was so controversial. Maybe those who outraged about it didn’t read it till the very end.

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7 Secrets of the Goddess: Devdutt Pattanaik- 54/52

Godesses 101

I’ve never had the opportunity to sit at a grandmother’s feet and listen to stories; stories that I would have listened to in wide eyed wonder at the age of 5, stories that I would have listened to,rolling my eyes in unbelief, at the age of 10 and beyond. Devdutt Pattanaik takes the place of that grandmother in my life. I think he is the only person who can actually get me to sit through a whole book on gods and Gods, goddesses and Goddesses, without waking up that mocking non-believing cynic in me. His books always make me see things from the larger perspective. Nothing is thrust in your face and it is upto you to interpret things the way you want to. And while this book isn’t exactly a page turner, it is an extremely interesting read. I wish I had this book in an e format for easy reference because this is a book that I will revisit again and again , maybe to pick up a tidbit to win an argument or just to reread a story so that I can look at some tradition through less judgmental eyes.

The book starts off with Gaia, but that section somehow felt obligatory. It felt like it was just added to make this book more ‘inclusive’. But once we move on to ‘our’ goddesses, it is familiar territory again and the book picks up speed. Again, these are all familiar stories that we’ve heard over the years, but they are put into neat logical sections. The wild Kali vs the domesticated Gauri. The richposh Lakshmi vs the humble Saraswati. The pure women gods vs Vitthai. The book explores the playful side, the sensual side, the generous side, the benevolent side and the angry side of those women who were created by the gods,  those women who married the gods, those women who gave birth to the gods, those women who are the actual gods. The subtext of the whole book is that Goddesses rule. They are the mothers, the consorts, the sisters. They are the ones who keep the Man Gods under control, the Man Gods who come running to them for help in times of trouble.

I somehow didn’t like the huge font, it made the book seem childish. Also, the pictures on every single facing page seemed a bit distracting. I had to read the text first and then revisit the whole book to study the pictures. It wasn’t possible to do both without breaking the flow. Though every single one of those pictures had a whole story of their own to tell, I somehow couldn’t multitask. And since there was so much, so many names, stories and references, it did need a bit of concentration to keep up.

In a country where the Goddess has so many names, so many faces, so many temples, so many forms, this book should be made mandatory reading. And after this book, I have the urge to watch some of those numerous Amman movies that were a thing in Tamil cinema some years ago.

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The Handmaid’s Tale- Margaret Atwood :43/52

Crazy.

This book was on a list of books so depressing that people abandoned it halfway. Being a sucker for dark, deep and depressing, I immediately picked it up. It wasn’t so gripping or unputdownable, so I was comfortable reading just a few chapters every day an wasn’t in a hurry to finish it. But somehow, the book didn’t hit me at all. Or so I thought. Because much to my surprise, almost every night during the ten days it took me to finish the book I had disturbing dreams: dreams of being trapped in abandoned buildings or of being suffocated or trying to cross over barbed wire fences. Books don’t usually do that to me. They affect my thoughts when I’m awake, not in my dreams. I’m awake right now, and this book is not doing anything to me.

Yes, there is a society, not too far away, where women are all dressed in blue and wear something more stifling than white wings on their faces. There is a society, currently emerging at alarming speed, where women are allegedly being turned into beings of mere procreation without pleasure. But by no stretch of imagination can I picture such a society ever being possible in the US. Not now, not in the past, not in the next million years. I couldn’t relate, couldn’t relate to the horror that this was supposed to be. Most of it seemed more amusing or satirical rather than horrifying. And the futuristic set up, as imagined 30 years ago,that has technology prefixed with the word Compu is just plain hilarious.

Gilead is a Christian theocracy. What denomination, it doesn’t say. Baptists are supposed to be enemies, Catholic priests are hanged at the Wall and people quote rules from the Bible. The Old Testament does have a lot of convenient rules. So this society too has rules, actually laws, which allot babymaking women to husbands of infertile wives  because pollution, immorality and birth control have rendered most of the women sterile. And when the husband himself is the problem, the task is quietly reoutsourced. (Very Pandu-like. Or actually more like this ). Women are colour coded and slotted into roles. The Handmaids wear red and their only job is to make babies. The older women take on the role of Aunts or Marthas, chaperons or servants; they wear grey and green. The Wives wear blue and their role in society is pretty much to do nothing but wait for a Handmaid to give them a baby. And there are Econowives who are everything, multcoloured. Unwomen who fall under ‘none of the above’ are sent to the Colonies where they clean up toxic waste and waste away.  The fertile Handmaids are given three chances to fill the barren houses they occupy with babies; healthy babies, babies that are conceived in Ceremonies and born in Ceremonies. Babies, not Unbabies. Unbabies  go to the Shredder (The only thing in this book that continues to disturb me when I’m awake). Handmaids take on the names of the men they are passed on to: Offred, Ofwarren, Ofglen. Of <man’s name>. (How different is this from suffixing the man’s name to hers? Anyway) And the men of course, are just Men. The Commanders. Men who lust after Jezebels who wear salvaged lingerie from the past or just sad little men who just want to have have normal lives and play Scrabble. The sole purpose of human existence is to repopulate the country and impose Biblical rule, complete with loopholes that allow Jezebels. And life goes on. Goes on until.

As I said, Crazy.

Afternote: There seem to be extreme reactions to this book. People are comparing the Hobby Lobby ruling with this and seeing it as a sign of things to come. I can only say LOL.

 

Sita’s Curse- Sreemoyee Piu Kundu: 29/52

She lost me at ‘Feminist Erotica’. And then I saw the promo video, the one with a woman eating a mango more sensuously than Katrina Kaif, and it got me curious. But if this is ‘feminism’, hand me my pink chaddis already.

Spoilers ahead. But hey, this is not the kind of book you read for the plot.

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‘After 15 years of a loveless marriage…’ it says. Love? Hah.

Meera. The ordinary girl from the village. The girl who starts off her sexual journey with incest, moves on to underage discovery, graduates to doing it with a stranger on a riverbank, experiments with another woman and finally gets into that supposedly loveless marriage.

The husband ofcourse is,well, inadequate.  Mohan, inconsistent wimpy creature that he is, tries hard. He really tries. He tries at home, he tries in a movie theater, he tries on the public road behind a parked car. He tries. He even calls her up in the middle of the day and has a very contrived, shudderworthy conversation describing various pieces of imported lingerie. The poor man.  He tries. But hello, what about love shove and all that.

In between the extremely graphic scenes a bit of story happens. And then she goes on to have Guruji sex, indulges in icky voyeurism ( thanks to the lustworthy brother-in-law and his wife), lots of self pleasuring and some more. And then some more. Wait. That’s not all. There is a rendezvous with the hot dance teacher neighbour and some cliched partying with classmates from her English class.

And finally she ushers in the internet era and discovers the pleasures of cyber sex using webcams in paid chatrooms. Oh, the book doesn’t disappoint. These scenes come complete with graphic chats with mumbailover (well researched, I assume ). And then that cataclysmic day finally happens with the earth shaking climax : A  gigolo who completes her search for whatever she is searching for. A godman, his assistant, a neighbour, cheesy classmates, chatrooms and a man who charges three thousand rupees per hour. What more can a woman trapped in a loveless marriage ask for? Seriously.

Yes, the book is not meant to titillate. It is meant to make you cringe. No, I’m not a prude. I’m so ‘modern’ that I was even disappointed with the level of erotica in the 50 Shades books. But this book is pure ick. I have no other words to describe it. Written in first person, it makes it even more icky. There’s so much of sex, that towards the end I skimmed through the scenes just to get to the damn story.

You know those sleazy websites like indian sax stories dot com ( how do I know? Puhleese). Those websites that have ‘true’ stories born out of suppressed fantasies and written in really bad grammar? This book is  like a compilation of all those stories, but with the grammar and spellings corrected. Complete with backless cholis and conveniently slipping pallus.

Sita. Where does she come in? I don’t know. She is plugged into the book in a few places, but I don’t understand the connection. Maybe I should read between the sheets. I have half a mind to call in the culturebrigade and outrage about misusing Sita’s name.

Verdict? Nope. I couldn’t digest it. But maybe you can.

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