Thursday, June 30, 2011

A MARRIED WOMAN by Manju Kapur- a Book Review

Synopsis: "Astha was brought up properly, as befits a woman, with large supplements of fear." So begins Manju Kapur's second novel, A Married Woman

My Take:  'A married woman' was perhaps a very disturbing book to start with. It did not have all the causalities of a dreamy marriage but harsh truth about how life after marriage deteriorates and there is not a damn thing one can do about it. Divorce is not a solution when you have a society keeping an eye on you like a hawk. So a world of pretend outside and the bedroom becomes the world of arguments and disappointments. 
Several characters highlights the little parts and Ms Kapur makes sure that its all very pulled together. A flawless narration of characters especially Astha and Pipleeka who in turn break the bonds of marriage wanting to find something more than just love. Someone whom they can talk to, share their fears, anxieties and happiness. Perhaps the character that most gets my sympathy is Hemant, not because I am being prejudiced but because at the times mentioned in the novel, men were busy making money, wanting to leave a secure future for their families. He also has this childish tempers that perhaps makes him a little crass despite his studying abroad for a while. According to him, he has been doing all he can for the family and there is a whole lot of communication gap between the husband and wife. Or Hemant is just dumb that he couldn't make out his wife is unhappy. A teacher's job which according to everyone is the perfect job for every woman, she is rather told than asked most of the times. Astha seems to love everything he did in the earlier part of the novel but slowly starts to resent it because as a creative artist she lives in the world of fantasy where love conquers all. Suffocated and frustrated with a life that she feels that has been forced upon her Astha becomes a spectator rather than a participant in her own home.

Also the novel is based at the times when the Babri Masjid vs Ayodhya was taking place. The setting makes a amazing background with Astha making use of her rebellious side and participating in the Maunch after the death of  a colleague who was brutally murdered in a van with eight other people just because he staged plays based on controversial issues. Also he was a Muslim. The terrorism, the protests, the marches but all it ends with the Babri Masjid being destroyed thus destroying any hope of optimism despite the efforts. Does it mean Hindus rule over Muslims? Will the Muslims ever be able to call India their home? The retaliation from other countries makes it very clear that it was going to be a tit-for-tat business. At last no one actually wins. The politicians playing a huge role yet hiding behind their kutri pyjama, making a mockery of a country.

Admist all this is the delicate but powerful physical relationship that Astha threads on with Pipeelika, a widow of the colleague. Astha has been shown to be a very sexual person from the very beginning. Maybe not overtly but underlying her very affair with Pipeelika was her outburst of sexual attention in the gentle hands of her lover. Slowly the fascination dims into reality and they have to face the future and what lay ahead.

Does Astha leaves her family of the love of her life? Being a married woman with two children, does she take the risk of pursuing her dreams, her passion for something more than just being a wife, a mother, a daughter?

Rating: 4.5/5 (just because I wanted a happy ending)

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