Stories and fiction have so much power, to move and to convey a message without overt moralising. What many a march or occupation may not be able to achieve, art quietly can. Be it a piece of fiction or a play or even cinema, if it is powerful and effective, it leaves its mark on the psyche of the audience without loud declarations of intent. I've been mulling over this as I've restricted my reading- or, as I'd like to put it- opened it up - to the exclusive authorship of women. I will try to read only women's writing in 2016.
A collection that's moving as well as thought provoking at the same time is Shashi Deshpande's "The Intrusion and Other Stories". I've been a fan of Shashi Deshpande for long and I've read most of what she's written. This collection of stories is lovely in the way she conveys in little vignettes the dilemmas and the conflicts of women's lives -the overwhelming majority of protagonists of these stories are women- all the while providing insights into their minds. The women who inhabit her stories are a varied lot, not just in age and the lives they lead but also their milieu.
She depicts struggles which are exclusive to women and some which are simply human dilemmas. The protagonists of these stories come through the narratives, their voices ringing clear in your ears long after the stories have ended. They may, at times, be beaten, but often the most unlikeliest of characters manage to transcend their boundaries and circumstances.
I was pleasantly surprised to find in this collection, the tales of women ranging from ambitious career women and the lonely new widow who struggles with an empty nest. There's also the widow who will not let all the gossip or even the physical and verbal abuse from her extended family keep her from forging new paths for herself.
The housewife who is on the verge of adultery, or the bored first lady who scoffs at those around her, each bored out of her wits by her humdrum existence or even more interesting, the woman who has given up a full time job to relocate and become a housewife. Yet each woman asserts herself in her own unique way, usually quietly, sometimes not so much! But none of these women sees herself as a victim.
Each story is unique and told with sensitivity. More than a few of these tales left me with a lump in my throat. Vintage Shashi Deshpande and a thoroughly enjoyable read!
AUTHOR : Shashi Deshpande
BOOK : The Intrusion And Other Stories
Publisher : Penguin Books, 1993 (Reprint 1994)