Saturday, November 12, 2016

Book Review # 16: Mahashweta

My rating: ●●●●
Sudha Murty
India: Penguin Books India, 2007
154 pp. 250
ISBN: 9780143103295

Summary: Anupama has everything a man would ever yearn to get in a girl - looks, education, morals, conducts and intellect - yet she faces the worst in life due to her malady - vitiligo. Mahashweta is a beautiful portrayal of a woman's faith in herself and her work, her fate and the power she vests in her beliefs and how she uses that faith to get herself free of all the shackles holding her back. 

What really clicked? The author – the lady that she is and the substance that makes her so!

My take: A deep connection between ancient literature, values and a strong story is all that makes Mahashweta. Further, there are so many fine elements, which make you love the book a little more; for instance, the cover and the story behind it revealed in the postscript, the end, which is the least expected one, the title and the portrayal of Anupama, the protagonist and incomparable.

Anupama was the eldest daughter of a poor schoolteacher, Shamanna, and was, in a way, destined to struggle her whole life. When Anand, a rich doctor, and Anupama meet during one of her plays, love infatuates both of them, with Anand taking the first step of sending the proposal to her family. Anand’s mother, though utterly cunning, decides to go along with the flow in order to appease his son.

Shortly after their marriage, Anand flies to England to pursue his studies leaving Anupama behind to join him there after Diwali. Anand, however, reiterates the vow to reassure Anupama of his fidelity – till death do us apart!

Anupama, trying to put up with his mother-in-law, Radhakka, and sister-in-law, Girija, discovers their weird activities. Upon discovering Girija's promiscuous character, she tries to bring her on the right path but without the absence of an evidence, ends up ridiculing herself in the family.

With both the ladies turning hostile to her, Anupama, now, starts waiting for Diwali to be over so that she could join Anand, when a burning coal falls on her foot, giving way to a white patch. She starts consulting a famous dermatologist who confirms this is leukoderma. Anupama, who was always known for her impeccable beauty, was truly turning into a character she loved playing on stage, Mahashweta!

Radhakka, when comes to know about this, calls Shamanna and send her back home. Anupama tries to get in touch with Anand through innumerable letters explaining him the problem and the fact that it wasn’t there before marriage. She thought being a doctor, he would understand it the best.

Sabakka, the second wife of Shamanna, not only gets concerned by a daughter she hates the most coming back home but also about her own daughters who were of marriageable age. Meanwhile, the white patches on Anupama’s body keep spreading.

The increased financial pressure at home, her father’s attitude changing towards her, the hostility from her stepmother, her stepsisters’ marriage breaking because of her, Anand’s no response to her letter all compel Anupama to commit suicide when she makes her mind that she won’t as that would only aggravate her family’s problems.

She decides to join her friend, Sumi, in Mumbai and her life truly takes a U-turn from here, for she starts earning and standing for her own good. Switching jobs, she joins the work which she actually loved doing – dramatics. She not only becomes financially independent but also gains all her lost confidence back. Mumbai was after all a city which overlooked her white patches for her work.

She meets Dr. Vasanth when she gets admitted to hospital one day. Dr. Vasanth starts admiring her and ends up proposing her for marriage. Anand, too, returns to her later in the story, repenting his mistake and wanting to restart their married life but Anupama has her say – she chooses no one but herself! The kind of lady she had become – independent, self-sufficient, confident and far superior in morals, intellects and conduct – she truly believed in herself and the fact that she needs nobody’ support to live a life she ever dreamt of.

The end of the story takes time to sink in and leaves you with an aftertaste of victory. Although I wouldn’t have done the same had I been in Anupama’s shoes, but her move, obviously, seemed more profound and liberating. She had given her soul to the person she got married to, just life Mahashweta, but in real life, she had turned the opposite. 

Final word: Sudha Murty - She must be my foster mom, for she teaches me so much, so easily, that I never want to lose her. The major takeaway from this read was no matter how hard you hit the rock bottom in life, you still can look up and hope for a miracle. Anupama, despite suffering from vitiligo, doesn't let it become the end of her life. She fights all the odds and not only becomes self-sufficient but also determines herself to be on her own. The transformation shown through the emotional roller coaster she goes through is superlatively inspirational. The author fills the reader with so much self-esteem and confidence that no crisis in life seems bigger than a mole. Thank you, Sudha Murty!

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