A revelation of sorts

Last Updated 09 April 2011, 11:27 IST

Stealing Karma
Aneesha Capur
Harper Collins
2011, pp 244

A novel set amidst the political turmoil in the country, it exposes the protagonist’s struggles to fend for herself and her young daughter, Shanti, after the sudden demise of her husband. To make matters worse, her late husband’s assets are frozen following an attempted coup by the military.

Mira is left with no income and a daughter to support. But Mira is unable to steady her troubled mind and provide strength and support to Shanti; instead burdened by the memories of her past, she succumbs to depression. Mira is able to get temporary bouts of relief during her passionate love affairs with men with whom she hardly has any match at all. It is only during those times that the mother-daughter relationship goes through its best phase when Mira starts trusting Shanti as “her aide, her truest confidante”.

Capur, in fact, critically exposes the true impact of Mira’s relationships with other men on her daughter. Shanti feels neglected and is distressed to find that “her mother was only happy when there was another person, a man, to take her away from Shanti. No matter how hard she tried to bury this little fact, it prevailed, assuming its own misshapen, ugly form, as it whispered confirmation of Shanti’s solitary, neglected existence…”

As Mira retreats into her own cocoon, the job of bringing up Shanti is taken over by Wairimu, their African housekeeper. Wairimu’s role in the evolving political and social climate is indeed complicated and is not revealed till the end of the novel.

Even though the novel focuses mainly on Mira and Shanti amidst the political unrest, Capur, however, does not limit herself only to the stories of these two women. The novel addresses several other issues like man-woman relationship; women’s status in the society; African core beliefs; the aftermath of partition in India; and so on.

The relationship of Mira with her husband, Prashant, triggers off Capur’s commentary on man-woman relationship in the novel. Mira and Prashant’s superficial relationship brings to light the fact that it takes both the partners in a married relationship to contribute towards the notion of a happy and successful marriage. Even though Prashant’s focus is on keeping his wife happy all the time, Mira is completely lost in herself and is, in fact, found to be relishing her freedom after her husband’s death.

Capur paints similar complex marital relationships in her book; one among those unignorable ones is the case of Flip, an unplanned child, “conceived in error”, and a constant reminder to her parents of their wrong judgment in a moment of casual intimacy.

The position of women in a complex social structure where the society has certain pre-conceived roles for them is another prominent issue raised by the novelist. Carol is one such woman who is caught in this web of society’s expectations. A professor with all her education and training, she is reduced to nothingness and a life of compromise as her husband considers “asking a family friend to make a baby with him” and probably eventually marry her as Carol is unable to get pregnant.

Capur brings to light much more harrowing experiences of women, irrespective of time and place, especially in the story of Shakuntala which is based on a real life story on the practice of sati in India.

The novel, however, ends on a positive note as Capur highlights Shanti’s coming to terms with her loss, following the death of her mother; leaving Africa and her past memories behind, in search of a new self!

(Published 09 April 2011, 11:27 IST)

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