The Bride Who Would not Burn


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Image Courtesy: Internet

Young and smart Delhi girl Poonam Bajaj takes a chance at connubial bliss with Ravinder Arora, a small businessman from Delhi. The match is arranged by their families and the friendly neighborhood panditji, the marriage broker who is more interested in lining his own pockets rather than ensuring the compatibility of the individuals he sets up for a lifetime of togetherness.

An arranged marriage in India which celebrates the union of two families rather than individuals, is a potpourri of human expectations and this story is filled with the most ambitious ones, depending on which person you ask! The mound of expectations that make up this story are those of:

  1. Poonam, who dreams of a cozy future with her husband,
  2. Mrs. Bajaj, Poonam’s mother, who is in a hurry to get her daughter married and is also kind of broke but nevertheless promises a fat dowry to the family of a possible match for her daughter
  3. Mrs, Arora, who dreams of nothing but a big fat dowry, a daughter-in-law that would also act like a live in maid  and a never-ending sponsorship for her son that would help him meet his business goals
  4. Ravinder, the easily manipulative son who wants the excitement that comes with a pretty wife and a big fat dowry
  5. Papaji, the senior Mr.Arora, a truepenny and Ravinder’s father who genuinely wants his son and daughter-in-law to be happy
  6. Panditji, the marriage broker who pulls of the ultimate coup by bringing all the above parties who have nothing in common together

As a  result, we have a  wonderful book that takes a look at the compelling issue of dowry practices prevalent in modern India in the form of a plot that is filled with humor doused with a heavy dose of reality.

The chapters about Poonam pressing her mother-in-law’s feet while churning out of innumerable cups of tea and dusting most of  time reminds the reader of the umpteen saas-bahu serials that seem to run on cable all day. Then there is a dawn of realization that this is the kind of life that many woman face on a day-to-day basis in India.

The book is written in the format of a play, complete with notes on stage setups, props and costumes. The entire story is a conversation between a judge who would be presiding over the dowry case of Poonam Bajaj who thwarted an attempt to burn her alive by delivering karate kicks to her husband and mother-in-law, a public defender representing Poonam and a litigator representing the groom and his mother.

The author brings the reader’s attention to the double standards in our society as it applies to women very cleverly through the arguments between the judge and the two lawyers. What starts as a conversation of the usage of Section 498 A of the India Penal Code moves on to sensitive issues about how women and men are judged differently based on the way they behave or the various traits that they exhibit as a person . For e.g. A man who is well versed in martial arts would be viewed as strong and brave whereas a woman would be deemed aggressive! A woman with an extraordinary sexual appetite is judged to have a low morals whereas a man with the same desires is supposed to be normal and virile.

The book goes on to depict how weddings these days are more like business deals, ritualistic and a cheap display of wealth and one-upmanship rather than the spiritualistic celebration of love and harmony that they should be. If weddings are about the display of wealth and power, the marriages resulting from such weddings seem to be all about expecting the world of the new bride and her family. Nobody is happy if a bride enters her new home with jewellery and gifts for her new family because when compared to another bride in the neighborhood who probably got more jewellery and bigger, better gifts for her new home.

What started as a practice of a bride’s family giving her a wedding gift based on the capacity of the family during the days when the Indian law only entitled sons to inherit family property has now morphed into an ugly practice that makes it mandatory for parents  to send their daughters to their marital homes with fat wads of cash, gold and diamonds, silks and expensive gifts for her new husband and her in-laws. It seems like an entire country missed or rather chose to ignore the memo that clearly states that daughters can inherit family property too and that there is no need to unnecessarily compensate them in the form of a fat dowry!

The author describes this beautifully through the words of one of the characters that states the following: “only when this age old practice o dowry combines with modern day consumerism that the resulting concoction makes for a deadly cocktail

So what does a family who is not happy with their new daughter-in-law’s dowry do? They turn abusive and in many cases they do away with her for good! In India, women are still burnt to death when they don’t satisfy the dowry demands of their new marital homes and most of their deaths are made to look like kitchen accidents.

What’s worse is the fact  that even the courts of law investigate such cases from the point of view of the abuser rather than the victim especially when the victim does not conform to societal norms of being a woman. And that is precisely what happens in the case of Poonam. The puritan judge that listens to the arguments of the two lawyers believes that on some level that Poonam probably instigated her husband and mother-in-law to set her on fire and that she is probably the one at fault rather than those setting her on fire.

All these issues and more are brought to the forefront by the simple words of the author, Rajesh Talwar. The play manages to keep the reader’s attention throughout and even manages to raise a lot of relevant questions in the reader’s mind. By doing this Mr.Talwar has managed to educate the readers about a very serious issue plaguing the country and has also initiated a thought process on what we could do rid away with this ugly practice still practiced in all echelons of the society.

Since I am someone who feels very strongly about such issues, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about some of the cultural practices that plague India. At 223 pages it is a quick and easy read about a sensitive issueIn fact, it would be a great idea to have a student friendly edition of this play to made available at schools all over India to educate our young minds about the practice of dowry and its effects on the lives of the people involved.What better way could there be to nip this process other than making the next generation of young people to seriously think about such issues?

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities

Wise Enough To Be Foolish


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Image Courtesy: Internet

I would describe “Wise Enough To Be Foolish” as an Indian version of Eat, Pray and Love. However there wasn’t too much eating or praying, but this was compensated by some amount of drinking and our protagonist Gauri did not have to take a year long sabbatical to find herself. Nothing against one of my favorite authors Elizabeth Gilbert or her amazing book “Eat, Pray, Love” which I loved, but I found “Wise Enough To Be Foolish”, a more believable journey of  young girl who transforms into a woman of strength while being bold enough to make her own choices without compromising her individual beliefs or independence, while striving to make her place in the world, discover love and happiness, and finally make peace with herself.

 The book is a fictionalized account of the author’s life from being a difficult middle child and the quint-essential black sheep of the family, to a rebellious teenager, to a career woman who falls in love with who she thinks is the perfect guy only to have her fairy tale end in divorce. The book starts off where Gauri discovers that her husband has been cheating on her and from there it flashes back to her childhood and moves ahead in a pretty quick pace describing her life until she turns 40 packing in as much information as possible without being too preachy or boring.

It seems that the goal of the author has been to share her experiences with the world. The book seems to strive to give other women hope and help them believe  that everything works out in the end. And for that Gauri Jayaram needs to be appreciated. It takes a lot of courage to talk about the difficult process of finding love, one’s failures (especially in relationships) as confidently as she has and some humility to give credit where required for her successes. By the end of the book it is heartening to see a woman accept the things that she cannot change and charge ahead to achieve the goals she believes are possible. She places emphasis on the fact that you attract what you want in the universe and it is up to an individual to think right thoughts and pursue their passions in the face of all adversity. And the mother of all lessons, the fact that is perfectly normal for an individual to live life by his/her rules. That, it is perfectly acceptable for women to be non-conformists and protect what they consider their own identity and independence.  What seems like a foolish choice to the rest of the world would actually be the best choice for YOU!

What I did find strange about the Gauri was the ease with which she always comes out of every situation looking like the better person. She even declares the same in her characteristic forthright manner to her ex-husband during a conversation with him. Is this  even possible? How can one only always emerge as the better person after being hit by every curve ball life throws at them? Maybe she is a saint or maybe this is where a fictionalized part of the memoir comes in 🙂

The book also scratches the surface of serious issues issues such as child abuse and the gender equality in India. In fact, it converses on great details about the later.

The language is conversational and the entire book is laced with humor, a writing trait I always enjoy. The cover of the book is stylish – makes you wonder where the woman is off to! 🙂

Pick it up if you are in a mood to read a story about how it always works out!!

J’adore and another challenge……Really??


It is beyond me as to why I would even want to participate in any writing challenges! Seriously! I have tried many of these before and have never succeeded. Why, just as I type this I can see that I am already late by a day, but then to be fair I got to know about this challenge only last evening before dinner and I couldn’t so much until late at night and when its late I just want to sleep!

All said and done, I have been wanting to be more regular with my blogs and writing in general for a few years now, but then life always gets in the way and 24 hours in a day never seems enough. It is always the lack of time or energy 😦 I always wonder how women (especially ones with tiny toddlers) who perform multiple roles in their lives find the time to dedicate for their passions. So as my first post for UBC I would like to applaud the following wonderful bloggers who are a motivation to folks like myself:

Nishita’s Rants and Raves – One my favorite blogs! A tech writer, wife and mom of two – she blogs about everything under the sun! It’s amazing how she manages to find the time for her blog despite a full-time job and two kids!

Books, Life and More – Smitha is a favorite among many bloggers in India! Her blog is popular for all her book reviews and of course her take on life!! Again a busy mom with a full time job and an overflowing book shelf!!

Searching Self –  I love Bhagya’s blog for the great short stories and magic she weaves around many writing prompts. Off late her blog has taken a turn to explore her spiritual journey and her understanding of various chapters of the Bahgavad Gita. Again a woman who performs many roles in her life. I make it a point to read every post on her blog…

Recommend Books – Reema Sahay is an avid reader and doting mom and her book reviews and other posts make for great reading. She writes on multiple sites like parentous.com and http://penpaper.blogspot.com/

Anoobhooti – I have been following Renu’s blog for many years now and I have loved the years of wisdom that shine through in most of her posts! In simple terms she explains the many facets of life and sometimes even makes us wonder about the various things we might not care to think about or take for granted. A great mom and grandmom her love for music, books, food, travel and life shien through in her blog.

I caught a falling star –  A friend with multiple talents! There isn’t anything that Keerti can’t do! A human rights(I think) lawyer, a published author, a great writer, founder of the Red Elephant Foundation, a feminist, an artist and I don’t know what else!I wonder if she ever sleeps! Check out her blog for some great writing on many subjects.

Deep Ties – Again a friend, bibliophile, published author, great writer, fun loving mom, army wife and more! I adore Deepti’s command of the English language and her imagination and creativeness when she does what she does best – Write!

I don’t think you will ever find a dull moment in any of the blogs mentioned above! There are many more blogs that I could add to the list but just like other facets of my life these days even this list is pretty un-organized! With this post I wanted to put my hands to all these lovely bloggers and other great women out there who follow their dreams and passions come what may!! You guys know who you are and I would like to say you ROCK!!

Now let me see if I can try to keep up with all these lovely ladies 🙂