A calendar too crowded :: A review
I did not know what I was getting into when I started the book “A Calendar too crowded”. Written by Sagarika Chakraborthy, this book is a collection of short stories and poems which speak about the problems and issues of today’s women. In this book the author questions the conventional thinking and the estabilished beliefs about women and their role in the society. Some points made by her look very valid but some of the stories have a very strong feministic touch and I found it tough at times to proceed with the book.
What I liked in the book ?
There are some stories which I liked very much, The one that appealed the most to me is “selling a body to gain a mind ” was beautiful, the way the author presented the mother –daughter bond and the determination they display in fighting one of the menaces engulfing us is very good. This story might alter one’s views on sex workers. The other stories that left an impression on me are “Knowledge beyond the printed letters” (this story tells us about the essence of education— a very beautiful one ) and “Living by the double edged sword”.
I also liked the narration style in some of the stories, the author has done a good job when it comes to style and presentation of content.
What I did not like ?
The strong doses of feminism, though there were some stories that were balanced enough, I felt there was a strong dose of feminism in others. I donot know how an average girl would respond to it, but it might drive the menfolk away from the book.
Yes, there are problems, there are differences in the way a boy and girl are being viewed by the society. Yes, there are problems, there are differences in the way a man at work and a woman at work are percieved, but then things are evolving and I strongly believe that a radical view towards any sex is only going to damage things further, if the intent is for a better society the view and the thought process ought to be inclusive.
I have got to differ with the author on the subject of adoption, in one of the stories the couple have got part ways due to this issue. In the story the wife does not want to bear a child but she rather wants to adopt one. The husband says no and they part their ways. I am not against adoption, I do support adoption but that should happen with the consent of both the partners, if a woman does not want to bear kids for the sake of her career or some thing else, it is always advisable to bring this discussion upfront (before marriage) so that they both enter the wedlock only when their opinions match. I felt blaming it all on the husband was not correct, I felt he is justified when he wanted to have a child from his wife.
I might disagree on the dressing part again , but I think I have debated enough of it already in one of my previous posts hence I am not bringing it up here again, the conservativ person I am, I cannot still accept the idea of not changing the surnames after marriage, surnames indeed a bigger relavence and meaning and unfortunately today we see an increasing breed of women not willing to change their surnames.
The author has drawn from some of the hindu epics, I felt there was a misunderstanding somewhere. I believe there are some misgivings as to understanding of the epics is concerned. One should not see everything from a single viewpoint, I felt the author was looking at epics also from a feministic view.
For example, in one of the stories the lead is inspired by “Shikhandi”, if you look at the character of Amba(Amba later becomes Shikhandi) in Mahabharata, you would understand that her’s was a case of misplaced priorities, She loved Salva raja, but she did not tell it before Swayamvaram, she was confident that Salva will win the battle at the Swayamvaram. On the contrary Bhishma (on behalf of his younger brother Vichitravirya)wins the Swayamvaram and upon hearing to Amba (she tells Bhishma that she loves Salva), Bhishma leaves her and tells her that she free to marry whomever she wants. Now, when she returns to Salva Raja, Salva also rejects her saying he lost the battle and she belongs to winner not the loser(as proscribed in the rules of Swayamvaram). Now, she comes back to Bhishma who again rejects her marriage to his brother on the grounds that a King should never marry a lady who has her love and affection for another person. Then Amba goes on tapsaya and gets the boon to become a Shikhandi and dislodge Bhishma. In this story, I strongly feel it was Amba’s mindset and misplaced priorities that brought her to the condition where she was left in the end. Her anger on Bhishma is also uncalled for, her father declared the swayamvaram and Bhishama participated in it. She should have expressed her love to her parents before, incase they did not listen and all the mess was because of that decision from her parents she should have been angry with them or with Salva for rejecting her choices, what has Bhishma got to do with all this? All the while he stood by his Dharma and it was Amba who messed her life up.
I did not like the lead of a story drawing inspiration from this sort of a lady, if she was looking for a self confident woman from Mahabharatha, there are n number of women like Sakuntala, Kunti, Satybhama etc… I did not know why author picked up “Shikhandi”. The very reason I dwelled so much on this point is that we should not present epics and religious literature with wrong interpretations to generations that follow. One ought to be cautious while drawing from epics, its better to sit with some verified and tested authority before drawing from the holy books. Otherwise, we might endup committing bigger mistakes than the ones we can imagine.
I liked some of the points raised by the author, but they are outnumbered by the number of things that I tend to disagree with the author. A more balanced perspective might help the author bring the change she intends to bring. Sagarika writes well, she knows her language and has a remarkable flair that keeps the reader glued to the book. Her stint at ISB, her education as a lawyer, her expertise on issues like governance would come handy for her in order to project the plight of women better. I think, a more balanced perspective and a more inclusive theme would take her places and make her one of the celebrated writers of our era.