‘The Blue Women’ by Anukrti Upadhyay: A feminist compendium : The Tribune India

‘The Blue Women’ by Anukrti Upadhyay: A feminist compendium

‘The Blue Women’ by Anukrti Upadhyay: A feminist compendium

The Blue Women by Anukrti Upadhyay. HarperCollins. Pages 276. Rs 399

Book Title: The Blue Women

Author: Anukrti Upadhyay

Aradhika Sharma

ThIS collection of short stories is as surprising as it is delightful in terms of freshness and imagination. Upadhyay has a unique vision of feminism, love and life. She empowers the women protagonists to think and make choices, traditional or unconventional. She comfortably tackles the challenges inherent in the short story form and packs in one complete narrative after another in her 12 stories.

In most stories, the woman is the primary narrator or mover of the story, while the man has a more static position as the listener.

The book starts with ‘The Blue Woman’, a tale of a clairvoyant woman taxi driver who sees disfigured bodies of dead women passengers in the back seat of her cab when she looks into her rearview mirror. These women are perfectly normal when they board and alight the taxi. She discovers that the women are doomed to a dire end at the hands of men. To avoid such unnerving experiences, she chooses to ferry male passengers on intercity routes either late in the night or early morning. “I had to do something to stop the blue woman from haunting my taxi,” she explains. Throughout the narrative, her strong decisions come through.

Often, the woman’s narrative comes as a surprise to the man. In ‘Mauna’, for instance, the protagonist, torn asunder by grief following the death of her father, summons Vishwa, a colleague, for a purely physical tryst to purge herself from the overwhelming sorrow. Vishwa’s emotions have no significance, neither does conventional morality.

Even in stories where the man is supposedly dominant, the woman displays quiet strength. ‘Made in Heaven’ explores Ujla and Pankaj’s arranged marriage. Ujla must subjugate her ambitions to those of her husband’s, but when she meets with an accident, Pankaj discovers hidden aspects of Ujla: her love for music, the fact that she did not want a second child and ensured she did not have one, her unwillingness to move to Singapore. He is also surprised to see the extent of love and devotion she inspires in her students. The realisation that she has a meaningful life unshared with him, is not a pleasant one.

Upadhyay tends to lean towards unusual scenarios. In ‘Dhani’, she introduces the reader to a couple en route to Pune to get divorced. The reason, ostensibly, is the pervasive presence of an army of tiny frogs that infests their new home. The underlying reason is that the two harbour varying sensibilities and worldviews.

‘Sona’ is the story of a 16-year-old girl, jealous of her mother and drawn to her stepfather. So obsessed is she with him that she will try every trick to attract and possess him. Called the ‘Golden Girl’ by her stepfather, she is convinced that it is she who he wants, not her mother.

Some stories such as that of the taxi driver might vaguely remind the reader of ‘Eyes of Laura Mars’ and that of the obsessive Sona of ‘Mildred Pierce’. However, Upadhyay’s prose is evocative and sensuous. Dexterously using her words, she draws vivid portraits of people, their lives and surroundings. Her stories flit between the illusionary and the real. The ends are often startling, allowing the reader’s imagination to draw its conclusion.