The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review- Sita's Curse: The Language of Desire by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

First of all, kudos to the author for daring to write on a topic deliberately suppressed in the annals of public debate in India.

Meera is a girl living in a nondescript village in Gujarat, with her twin brother Kartik and her parents. From the outside she is just another girl living the life her parents have envisioned for her within the defined patriarchal constructs of society- go to school, learn 'ghar-ka-kaam-kaaj' at home, and then once you pass twelfth grade, get married and settle down for a domestic life.

But Meera's mind and heart have a clandestine world of their own...a world where she slowly realizes her own sexuality, desires, her quest for true love and a passionate, fulfilling relationship and her bid for an identity of her own, as she blossoms into a beautiful adolescent, and undergoes many secret intrigues and encounters with people she comes across. At the same time, her world is turned upside down by a tragedy and that part of her life swiftly comes to an end.

Her new life begins as the daughter-in-law of the Patel family, who move to Mumbai and stay in a chawl in Byculla.

The real meat of the story lies here.

Sreemoyee deftly carves out a tale of how Meera survives in her new surroundings. Stuck in a loveless, soulless marriage and sharing a blow-hot, blow-cold relationship with her much older husband, she tries to find a little iota of love from him. Only to get either complete indifference or abuse- verbal,physical, emotional, sexual.
Her in-laws also humiliate her at every turn, blaming her 'planets' for whatever goes wrong in the household and cursing her and her family.=, and blaming her for not conceiving a child. She also suffers a miscarriage in this period.
The Patels also undergo a lot of changes through the fifteen years Meera is with them, interspersed with Meera's attempts to find love outside marriage, to find that one man who can both love her and pleasure her, to assert her sexuality, to be desired and cherished.
Until one day, July 26, 2005, when Mumbai is under the deluge of torrential rains, she finds her salvation- which also forms the climax of the novel.

Sita's Curse is more than a feminist erotica. It is not an Indian 50 Shades of Grey. It is a commentary on the hypocrisies of Indian society, the tyranny of the patriarchal constructs, which suppresses the identity, human rights and sexuality of a woman, taking away her right to make decisions regarding her body, her life partner, her career, her lifestyle. The hypocrisy that says to keep women shut within the four walls of a house to keep her 'safe' from outsiders...and then abuse and torture her within the house. It is a commentary on domestic violence and marital rape.

One must not be misled by the amount of sex in the book. To be fair, this is an erotica, and Sreemoyee has described the encounters in a passionate, colorful manner, and not a titillating way. She writes of sex both as a physical and emotional phenomena- which is not to be found in the other trashy, pulpy novels by most other Indian authors flooding the book market in India.

The amalgam of commentary on social psyche, sexual violence and sexual hypocrisy through the plot and the characters must be appreciated.

Also, Sreemoyee writes very grammatical mistakes or punctuation errors, and her lyrical, non-linear prose is a delight to my reader's sensibilities.

Meera must not be seen just as Meera (which has caused some reviewers to unfairly refer to her as a nymphomaniac), but as an epitome of all that is wrong with the prevalent attitudes towards women in India, as a symbol of every woman straining to assert her independence, her sexuality and take charge of her body and her life, as a symbol of every woman that longs to be seen as a human being and loved and cherished and pleasured.

Very few writers can co-relate love and sexual pleasure successfully- Sreemoyee has done that very effectively.

The only two nitpickings I will point out:
1. I would have liked a much bigger elaboration of Meera and Kartik's incestuous relationship.
2. I felt that the character of Amarkant Maharaj, under the guise of his piety, takes advantage of a young and gullible Meera, rapes her ( with the knowledge of her husband Mohan's family, who know Mohan is sterile) and tries to cover it up by some pseudo-spiritual clap-trap. It reminded me of Swami Nityananda, Asaram Bapu and all those 'God men' in jail for sex crimes against female devotees. I don't know how the author intended to portray him, but I would have liked it better if she had painted him as a rapist (and a nymphomaniac) on the basis of his actions.

Sita's Curse is an important book which needs to be read. Both for its level of writing, and for the issues and questions regarding women's autonomy it raises.

You can buy the book from here:



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