Snapshots of tough women
Shalini Rawat

The Illusion of Home
by Raji Narsimhan.
Promilla & Co., Publishers.
Pages 184. Rs 200.

The book takes a look at the world of women separated from their moorings and trying to find their way around. We could also define the book as a collage of stories comprising snapshots of different women, who are really one woman, in differing circumstances but with a common angst.

In this collection of 17 short stories, all the women protagonists are in various stages of eruption. The males, as partners, are conspicuous by their absence or content to be mostly sidelined. Even the ones, like the ever-faithful Bhandari, are depicted as being on the prowl and waiting for a fault line or two. The dormant persona that hides the anger, distrust and disgust of these women at the prevailing norms is a fa`E7ade they assume to simply get by, but the weight of so many smouldering emotions shows.

The women come across as self-absorbed, self-conscious, confused and mostly unable to express themselves. The strain of toiling alone tells, but that could be because they are all groping their own depths to find a voice. In other words, these stories are an attempt by the women pushed to the margins of society to find themselves.

The only difference being that this plunge seems to be their decision. Also the reasons for this break from tradition and society are merely hinted at as being a quest for their true selves. However, neither do these women find what they seek nor are they at peace with themselves after having shed their "oppressive partners."

A feeble attempt to come to terms with oneself is made in a story or two, but the protagonists have to separate themselves from their respective "separations" first in order to embark upon their personal odysseys.

The mood of the stories is somber as the journalist protagonists all stay "apart"—not in the physical sense alone—from their partners but also from the world at large. They are mostly in the process of writing their magnum opus and eagerly await encouraging reviews of their works in the papers. A sense of imminence pervades the book. Since the flux that the women go through has been described at length, we can safely assume that the characters are really on the verge of defining themselves.

The book engages the reader on the problematic of the single woman who, more often than not, sticks out like a sore thumb in the closely-knit fabric of our society. The important question that it poses is that the illusion of a "normal" home is no doubt, dissipated and dispensed with, but will these women ever find the one that is for real?