Arranged Marriage - Book Review


Book Title: Arranged Marriage

Author Name: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Publishers: Kindle Edition

My Rating: 5/5⭐

About the Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni won the American Book Award for this book. She writes for children as well as adults and has written in multiple genres including historical, mythology as well as fantasy. 

This is the second Indian- American author I've read as we celebrate Women's History Month for #FemmeMarchAtWomaniyat-Week #2 prompt: Literary Fiction 

It's a collection of 11 short stories that capture the life of Bengali women based in Calcutta and America. As the title suggests all the stories highlight the flawed concept of the arranged marriage and the traditional patriarchal mold in which it has been shaped, stuffed and crammed as per convenience since ages. Each story is different from the next, which will go at your heart with a wrench, leaving you wondering how women suffered it in silent submission. Why did it take so much time to shake things up and wake up to feminism?

These stories are not about the downtrodden classes but of women from educated and well-off backgrounds who are also subjects no less. Each protagonist and her story is different; battling the various issues that result from marriages designed to break her wings and mute her voice. The protagonists are awakening to the disparaging difference between the Indian and Western belief systems. Though the theme may seem old-world but there are many societies in India even today where inconsiderate rituals, orthodox traditions and culture are ardently followed. It's deeply saddening to see that women themselves should champion such schools of thought. 

Here's a poetic excerpt from the 'Maid-servant's story'- an internal pondering over the predicament- "Perhaps it is like this for all daughters, doomed to choose for ourselves, over and over, the men who have destroyed our mothers....I reach for her hand, she holds tightly to my fingers. We sit like this, two women caught in the repeating, circular world of shadow and memory, watching where the last fight, silky and fragile, has spilled itself just above the horizon like the palloo of a saffron sari."

There are some quotes that will also superbly instill the readers with hope and reflect the spirit of a modern, liberated, thinking woman- "No man was going to call me stupid and get away with it." I loved the spunk! And that's exactly how I'd like to imagine one day man and woman will learn to co-exist giving and receiving respect for the intelligent minds and equally capable beings we all are.

At the outset, reading these stories left me feeling depressed and there's a sense of foreboding and melancholy all throughout, but the author's command over the language, the descriptive style of storytelling and the power to transport the reader to that time and place makes this book a fabulous MUST READ. 

I would recommend this book to all- female and male readers as well. As a writer this is the quality of work I dream and yearn to achieve. As a reader, we need more literary fiction books like this which put the spotlight on the truths of our society, and help kindle the spark of progressive thinking and hope for a brighter future for women in India.  


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