02 April 2010

Dance O' Peacock by Aruna Jethwani

To be a woman, you just need to be a person
I was present when this book was released at the Poona Club on Tuesday. It was a very sweet ceremony, with the author’s friends and well-wishers packed into a hall at the club. The dancer Yogini Gandhi was the chief guest and some of us spoke on the theme of Women’s Identity. The reason we had been asked to speak on this topic was that this is the central theme of the book. Neelam, the heroine, is born to a well-off family in Rajasthan, and thereby doomed to a life of oppression. The birth of a woman is a big tragedy, and in her case in particular, her female parameters are faulty. Her puberty is delayed, her breasts are small, her husband doesn’t much fancy her and she seems unable to bear a child. Her life in her in-laws’ home is circumscribed by fear.
Neelam, however, cuts out of this narrow existence and runs off, educates herself, remarries, inherits a fortune – and more. When I read this I found it a little far-fetched – and Aruna Jethwani surprised me by saying, as she released the book that evening, that Neelam had been inspired by a real woman she once met several years ago.

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