Indira Goswami’s Five novellas about women consists of 5 hearttouching stories. The stories are deftly woven and each story deserves to be introduced in this review (something that I haven’t done before.)

Breaking the Begging Bowl is the ultimate sign of accepting defeat. It is heartpeircing. The story of Phuleshwari whose fate leaves her wretched and crying. Her husband succumbs to an injury, her son elopes to joins the insurgency movement, her older daughter is widowed and duped by a zamindar and her younger daughter does all she can to save her family from the being wrecked. However, destiny of Phuleshwari who comes from a lower caste is already written in blood. And so she suffers.

The blood of Devipeeth was an enigmatic and enchanting tale. It was an empowering story of a woman who was abandoned by her husband. And mystically she develops courage to face her husband. There’s a lot of symbolic significance to this story. And the vivid imagery will stay for long.

Delhi, 5 November 1991 is a tragic tale which subtly grows on you. You see a bunch of people from a neighborhood, a strong woman Vimala and then a tragedy strikes. The imagery is heartbreaking and the story simplistically narrated. In this story you see the steely resolve of Vimala against the patriarchal society, alongside the life of daily wage labourers.

Ishwari’s doubts and desires touched upon some bitter aspects of a woman’s life. The reality is spoken so nonchalantly via the women characters of this story, I can never get over those quotes I feel. “I don’t want to sit near the men. You know why, don’t you? Most of them crave for the warmth of flesh,” says a firangi women. The boldness that motherhood brings to us is understood from this line, “The woman next to Ishwari was feeding her baby in front of everyone, without shame and inhibition.” And the entire story can be simply explained in this one line, “For this attraction she felt towards Dharma Bahadur soon after her husband’s death, she was filled with guilt and remorse.”

The touchstone was a story of redemption. Here the me fail to understand their women. We see grey characters here. And this story has an aura that is sure to strike you long after you are done reading it.

If you ask me which is my favourite story amongst these 5 then it would definitely be Ishwari’s doubts and desires. It has gripped my heart and refuses to let go.

Overall, the book touches upon various subtle aspects of women’s life. It doesn’t just tell us a story (or 5 stories) but it shows us the characters, how the patriarchy has sculpted their mindset. There is a rusticness to these stories. This book was quite a pleasing read.

If you like reading short stories and especially, women fiction then this book is for you.

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