Monday, October 12, 2009
At the final pages of Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair.
Finally. Just as dazed.
Before this, I was comfortable in my skin. Before this.
Akhila’s story. Akhilandeswari’s story.
Possibly, the story of every single (as in unmarried, unattached) forty-five year old woman who lives in India.
At one level, this is the tale of six women—strangers who are co-travellers in a second class ladies compartment.
At one level, its not.
I read the words in italics before the start of her story; the blood in my veins congeals. Mirror image, mine. I read on, and it is as if someone cut through my veins with a sharp knife.
How did she know what if feels like? How did she know all this, this staying at the edges, unwelcome, this wary distrust that every breach of confidence adds to, this brittle sense of appearances? About being cast away, anchorless, till you find your will, your personal North to navigate by, and know that you are your own savior?
How does she know all this? How did she manage to think up these characters? Now, to write like one is, is pretty easy; but to write like one is not- oh la! Whether it is the fragile-as-a-piece-of-glass housewife Janaki, who at sixty-something clambers for a voice to call her own, or the lower strata tamil help Marikonlathu who talks with ease of a lifetime sweeping and mopping, always taking care to stay away from the wandering eye—how did she manage this, this authenticity?
The writing is Indian as the story is, it is fluid and effortless but above all it is unabashedly Indian, there is the music of the land in its cadences. It is difficult to put this into a genre, if this is a romance then it is a romance with oneself.
Update: for all the languid beauty of the rest of the text, the ending is a whopper. Perhaps deadlines or market forces wormed in their influence. Not because her transformation into Scarlet O’Hara is sudden or disconcerting, but Akhila’s behavior is way off the golden mean that runs like a thread in the rest of this work.
No, something’s off here, and the reader is left askance, adrift.