The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, November 3, 2002

Fall of love and hope
Geetu Vaid

My Place
by Surinder Kaur. Unistar Books, Chandigarh. Pages 160. Rs 100.

My PlaceTHE Indian woman is born free but is everywhere in chains. This is yet another attempt by a woman writer to depict the dilemma being faced by countless women in India: whether to live according to the norms laid by society or to live on their own terms, following their own heart. According to the author, the novel is an attempt at conveying that love is a thoughtless and instant process. It can catch up happen to a person irrespective of age, marital status or social standing.

Roshni, chief protagonist in the novel, embodies the dilemma of a woman caught in the web of a loveless marriage and a clandestine affair. Her dilemma is reflected in the struggle between tradition and values embedded into the psyche of Indian women over the centuries and a sense of individuality that has been nurtured by modernity.

She struggles to find her place as an individual, a person, a human being who wants to risk living with abandon in a tradition-bound society. After suffering for 18 years in a loveless marriage she starts on a journey to discover herself. "I don’t want any answer from anyone. The answer is within me only. I care a damn for the society".

To live a few moments of bliss one is ready to put at stake one’s reputation, conjugal duties and to weave a shimmering fabric of sham, lies and falsehood.

But underlying her quest for love is the tragic stream of helplessness of being caught in a relationship where without commitment love loses all its glitter and purity. Fear of society’s reprimand gives it a connotation of sin.

Page after page her struggle is bared before the reader, albeit in a monotonous repetitive manner. Roshni, caught between her insensitive and complex-ridden husband and a loving but spineless lover, feels used by both.


After venturing into the dark and exciting woods of a clandestine affair she realises that it is no better than the grey, dry forest of marriage and is as frustrating as her marriage was suffocating.

Roshni’s candyfloss romanticism is shattered on the rough altar of marriage. She finds it hard to accept the reality that all her dreams of a loving husband and a blissful and satisfying marriage were likely to remain unfulfilled. In her idealistic dream world she had not imagined ending up with a jealous, abusive and insensitive husband.

She realises the hard way that "the institution of marriage is not based on love but on duty."

Her husband Krishan is suspicious and complex-ridden because of her beauty and tries to control her by belittling her with his derisive comments and insensitive behaviour. Always suspicious of his wife, Krishan’s hypocrisy is revealed through his loaded talk with his sister-in-law and ‘encounter’ with Roshni’s friend Tripta.

Suraj, on the other hand, in spite of all his love and caring attitude, fails to fill the vacuum in Roshni’s life.

He is no better than Krishan as social obligations get priority over his feelings. So he can only meet his beloved clandestinely and refuses to acknowledge her in social gatherings; is disturbed by her phone calls.

In her quest for love Roshni is like a traveller in a desert of loveless marriage, but tragically she realises that ultimate happiness in love is nothing but a frustrating pursuit of a mirage.

The failings of language, however, mar the effect of substance in the book. Frequent repetitions make it unexciting and unfailingly dull. There is also scant respect for syntax and idiom. The writer has tried to bring out the anguish of a soul crying for love and unbridled celebration of life. Narration tends to become bland and limitation of expression is evident in poor presentation of thought and phrase.

The writer tries to go into the stream-of-consciousness style, but with little success.