In sync with the times

Priya: In Incredible Indyaa
By Namita Gokhale.
Pages 193. Rs 350.

Reviewed by Aditi Garg

MUCH has been said and written about the Great Indian Woman, be it in the role of the sacrificing mother, the understanding wife, the scheming mother-in-law or the dutiful sister. A lot of it is still relevant, but not all is as serene as it appears. Time changes everything, and women in India have not been untouched by it. They stand at the confluence of traditional and contemporary times, swayed to either side with equal ease as per the demand of the situation. This change has come about as much from social pressures as from a desire from within. She can be the perfect wife, homemaker or businesswoman, allows herself little indiscretions on the side and ignore her husbandís philandering, if she chooses to.

Namita Gokhale is a writer par excellence. Her latest novel Priya applauds her qualities as a writer. She has the amazing ability to rivet the reader and entice them in the lives of her characters. This novel is a sequel to her 1984 bestseller Paro. She is a writer, publisher and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. She has written Paro: Dreams of Passion, A Himalayan Love Story, Gods, Graves and Grandmother, The Book of Shadows and Shakuntala: The Play of Memories. Her non-fiction works include The Book of Shiva and Mountain Echoes: Reminiscences of Kumaoni Women.

Priya is the quintessential Indian housewife. She has been by her husbandís side through his rise from being a lawyer to the dizzying heights of Delhiís high-flying political circle. From being a girl from Mumbai, who had grown up in a one-bedroom apartment, she now has a sprawling mansion. Her husbandís success has been heady for her and she makes the best of it while trying to keep a level head. She meets all kinds of people; those who seek her friendship to reach her husband and those who want to be seen with her for the sake of it. Then, there are those who are just plain poisonous. Her life centres around her husband and their two sons. Her relationship with each one of them has varying shades of emotions that are insightful. She tries to give her sons space but cannot resist the temptation to snoop in on them once in a while. And she is actively involved in the process of finding them the right wives, though it would not be wrong to say that she is in fact looking for dutiful daughters-in-law.

Priya holds on to old memories like old friends. And her old friends have become mere memories. Though she is perturbed by her husbandís liaisons, she chooses to ignore them. She may seem like a fragile housewife but she stands like a rock through everything. There is so much more to her. The writer has shown her many facets that go on to prove that her simple life is anything but that. Her shades of grey do not evoke a negative response but makes her more human. Though the language is not always very simple, it does not impede the pace of the novel. Rather it feels more like a part of the plot. The style of writing raises it above the realm of chick-lit.