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This is the author’s debut novel and the title is based on the number of days on the calendar dedicated to women and their causes. The book tries to show that how, despite numerous occasions which allegedly ‘celebrate’ or ‘protect’ women, we are still a country that can’t see them as humans, forget equals.
Title: A Calendar Too Crowded
Author: Sagarika Chakraborty
Plot: There really isn’t a plot per se, but being a woman is the common theme that flits across all the stories and poems. However, since women are said to be creatures having several dimensions to them, the stories are also different, each stressing on one or more of these.
The topics dealt with in the book consist of those that already occupy lots of newspace in India, like dowry deaths, female foeticide, domestic violence as well as lesser known matters of migrant laborers, adopted children, childless women. These issues affect women irrespective of their education, religion/caste, socio-economic standing or family backgrounds and this is what makes the book all the more easy to identify with.
My first thoughts after reading this book were “I wonder how a man would feel after reading this book? Would he be enraged at his sex being made the ‘villain’? Would he be shocked at the injustices being meted out to women, even modern urban women, even today? What exactly would he be thinking?”
The reason I felt like that is because it’s hard to call this book fiction, since fiction implies stuff that isn’t real, doesn’t happen in real life. Nothing here could be farther from the truth. Every single character in this book has lived and every incident has already taken place in our country, several times over. The names and faces don’t matter. This is as real as it gets.
The scenarios mentioned in the book are commonplace in our society and have also been written about plenty. Then what is it that this book does that others haven’t? Using stories, which could be about your neighbor or yourself, the issues take on a much bigger level of realism, and you can’t help but feel for the characters in the book.
Sagarika Chakraborty’s style of writing is very gripping; the reader can’t stop till he reaches the end of the story to know the conclusion. She is quite talented and has all the means to make an un-putdownable page turner.
The book follows a simple pattern of going by the calendar, and listing out all the women-centric days in each month. The stories that follow are related to these days, though not in a very explicit way.
The book opens with a story about a woman who has a flashback into her worldly life, just as she’s leaving it, and she realizes how she has been blamed for every little thing that has happened in and outside her, starting from simply being the wrong sex.
Some of the stories are about problems faced by women since time immemorial and it might surprise some to know that they exist even today. ‘The Witch with the Broomstick’ and ‘Barren yet Ploughed’ are two such examples.
In ‘Finding an Ideal Mother for my Unborn Child’, one of my personal faves, the mother is portrayed almost as a slave to her son, sacrificing all her needs and desires for her spoilt child. However, today’s urban Indian mothers are learning the concept of ‘self love’ and are adopting ‘western’ disciplinary practices of self feeding, instilling feelings of responsibility in the child etc. and to them this story might appear a little outdated. It would have been interesting to know if the mother would undergo this level of sacrifice had her child been a girl.
On the other hand, stories like ‘A Life in my Mind’ and ‘Darkness under the Spotlight’ speak of the other end of the spectrum – modern and independent, financially and otherwise, who tries extremely hard not to fall into the moulds that have been created for her by her grandmothers, and ends up wondering if that is not a kind of oppression too.
Yet, all is not gloom and despair. ‘Selling a body to gain a mind’ is an excellent example of how it is possible for people to come out into the light and lead respectable lives, no matter how doomed their current circumstances may be.
‘Can you Hear me Ma?’ and ‘Choices without Options’ deal with the much-discussed evils plaguing current
– female foeticide and domestic abuse. They depict the plight of several educated Indian women, who end up covering bruises with silk sarees and sacrificing their unborn daughters for sons. India
There isn’t much to criticize about this book, though I would have liked the cover to be a little more attractive. Another grouse is that the author uses certain phrases throughout the story - italicized and repeated. It was probably done to drive home the point, but it feels too labored and actually acts like a speed breaker in an otherwise smoothly flowing narrative.
Also, some stories don’t really offer a solution which makes you feel a bit let down at the end. One possible reason for this is because there are no easy answers and maybe because the author wants you to consider solutions of your own and hence make you understand the gravity of the situation.
One of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book, is because the author seems to have written from the heart. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I’d say that since all the stories are so real, they all touch certain chords in us.
This book is by no means a light read, but if you don’t really have anything planned for this Women’s Day, get a hold of it. Don’t let it be just another day on the calendar.