Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review : A Calendar Too Crowded

"A Calendar Too Crowded" exposes, forcefully, the outdated prejudices that women are subjected to by women and men. Sagarika Chakraborty insightfully portrays the diabolical events and draconian circumstances that a woman must overcome in order to achieve or even live an ordinary life. It's not just women  from under-privileged background who are subject to such prejudices. Some of these women could be a colleague, friend, wife, mother, sister or just a woman we know. 

Sagarika Chakraborty's narrative is starkly realistic. It is impossible,for anyone not to identify with - as the cause of or knowing of - some of deplorable and despicable circumstances that a woman is put through. The reader could find some stories abhorrent, some obscene or even repulsive. However, nothing less can shake the reader out of his stupor and get him thinking.

Till I read "The Priceless Gift Called Nationality" I never considered it so. Cross-border trafficking in women is nothing new - our newspapers cover it, occasionally. It takes an intense story of the travails Tibetan woman to shake the reader out of his apathy and realize that just having a nationality itself is a blessing. The 25th November is the Anti-Domestic Violence Day and  Anti-Dowry Day. The importance and inadequacy of this day is brought out by the story " Living by the Double-Edged Sword". "Mother-in-law can never be mothers. Daughters-in-law can never be daughters" is the premise of this story about dowry deaths. This story, written against the backdrop of India's record of one reported dowry death every four hours, is numbing.

The "Gift Called Life" explores behind the scenes of the "National Day for the Girl Child" In a country where, in some states like Haryana, female foeticide is making girls disappear - not unlike the Tiger -  protecting the girl child is critical. Jat boys from Haryana have to travel as for as Kerala to find a bride because the child sex ratio has fallen from 947 girls to 1000 boys in 2001 to 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011. This story questions the way women are blamed each time she attempts to break the invisible ceilings blocking her progress. Like all other stories, this too does not pull its punches.

The cathartic exchange of letters between Arzoo and her mother in "Selling a Body to Gain a Mind" is equally so for the reader.  This, along with "Darkness under the Spotlight", lays bare the sexual harassment women face at work and in life. The month of April has days when the focus is on measures to prevent sexual harassment. Reading these stories could heighten the reader's awareness to this situation.

On the book's Facebook page, the author, in jest, suggests to someone about reading "A Calendar Too Crowded" while snacking at one of the many eateries at Khan Market. Elsewhere, Ashwin Sanghi is quoted as saying that this book is "gut-wrenching". That is what the book is: gut-wrenching food for thought, not something which can be chewed over sandwiches and milkshake.

A Calendar Too Crowded by Sagarika Chakraborty published by Niyogi Books. 189 pages Rs.295/-