Book: Ladies Coupé
Written By: Anita Nair
Genre: Life – Contemporary – Drama
“The story of a woman’s search for strength and independence” claims the book’s tagline – at the risk of sounding cliché, Anita Nair has still used a powerful line to kindle one’s curiosity enough to decide to give this book a try. The cover page is arresting – kudos to the creator. The emotions that play on the faces are hard to miss.
The tale comprises of six women, battling life in their own ways, and their chance meeting in the ladies coupé of a south-headed train. Akhila – a 45-year-old bitter spinster awaiting a chance to escape to freedom and contentment, Janaki – old, adorable, having lived an eventful, protected, and pampered life, Margaret – the chemistry teacher who successfully brings her vain and arrogant husband to right ways, Prabha – rich, mother of two, finding solace for her restlessness in swimming classes, Sheela – merely 14 years old, but already endowed with immense insight into life, thanks to her dying grandmother, and Marikozhundhu – a rape victim from a usually downcast, looked-down-upon poor community. How Akhila draws power and strength from the other women’s stories and finds the answer to her question on whether a woman needs a man to survive in this world, is what Nair narrates, wonderfully.
Books dwelling on discussions on women’s roles in the modernist society almost always end up bearing the brunt of scorn from feminist haters. Neither the book-makers, nor the critics deserve to be blamed. Literature dotted with feminine emotions, with female protagonists, have been made to carry the burden of unravelling misinterpretations and misconceptions that have been fattened by ignorance for generations. Untangling layers of dilemma about the role of a woman in the world, and about the moral boundaries of a woman today is a herculean task. Today’s generation needs more writers of Nair’s caliber – exuding the passion to state one’s belief unflinchingly.
Nair is splendid at characterizations. Her depiction of each character and their revelations are superb. This is downright evident in the story of Margaret, my personal favorite. The manner in which Margaret relates to each person in her life by comparing them to elements from her chemistry class, though sounding queer at first sight, is extremely powerful. Nair’s mastery of the language is another facet of hers to marvel about.
A definitely-must-read book.