“A Calendar Too Crowded” tells stories of women we know, and have heard of. These are stories that continue to happen in various households around the globe, irrespective of the special “days” allotted to check them. It deals with the need for emancipation(and we are still talking about it even today?) of the fairer sex in an unfair society. It reveals the ugly(common) truth carefully camouflaged by a hypocritical society of so-called 'equals'.
The book is divided into segments based on the calender months, carefully listing out the special days heralding woman rights in each month, before proceeding to narrate heart wrenching tales from rural and urban India.
Given the sensitive theme, the reading sometimes tends to be heavy. considering this is the author’s first work, her ability to get under the skin of so many varied women – an “escort”, a rape/domestic violence victim, a hot-shot professional – alike,and by steering an entire book without disclosing a single name, is commendable.
Most of the incidents mentioned in the book are commonplace to our lives today. Girls who are chastised twice as much as boys are, women who are told to behave themselves or must be put in place, and mothers who exhaust their bodies and souls to devote their entire lives to their children. There is nothing that you don’t already know of, nothing that you haven’t already heard of, in terms of the facts and emotions. But Chakraborty’s words sting. And they sting hard.
However Sagarika falls short on her promise to talk about hidden realities.(or maybe I did expect a little too much) The Fourth estate has been throwing stories of dowry deaths, female infanticide and rape on a daily basis. Though the stories are not like "news", they do sound overtly familiar,with stereotypical notions - A wife who is blamed for everything, a girl pushed into prostitution, the successful woman who is a prey to her own success and even a retiree who finally finds love in an old age home. Every one of these characters can be found in our neighborhood or families.
However most of these these stories have within them nuances of culture and social norms that are often ignored but are significant contributors to the oppression of women. However they are not pronounced in the book .
The stories will not find a place among woman who are already facing these problems, and those who haven’t maybe overwhelmed, but will it really stay in their mind?? I wish the subtle realities were made more promonent than the common case scenario, of woman being mistreated. We know they have been mistreated, we have been seeing them, so this isn’t an eye-opener!!.
The letters exchanged between chipku and her ammi in 'selling a body to gain a mind' are indeed heartwarming and speak volumes of a mother's love---ready to sacrifice every bit of her life for her daughter's good.This story may make a special place in your heart(but the pace is really a drag).
What i particularly liked about Sagarika's writing is her optimism, their is a beam of hope in each of the stories, a hope that things can change.I sense the rage, the frustration, the despair, the angst, in each page of the book.
Her language is easy which makes it worth a read.However, I only wish some of the stories could have had a little dialogue exchange between characters as that would probably have had a little more of an impact on the reader's mind.
For me a couple of stories about the “unemancipated” being read by an “emancipated “ lot did not really go down that well.
Though i must add, that , "A Calendar Too Crowded" is a well-researched work. Though the voice is strongly feminist and the theme is one that almost rules out pleasure reading, this is one book that encourages thought. But it leaves you that very moment.
My rating : "A calender too crowded" , is a little difficult to rate, however, i would go with a 6/10.
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