24 January, 2021

Chasing Chimeras

Two impressive debuts focusing on women's search for space

Chasing Chimeras

EARLY on in Toad in My Garden, its feisty narrator Megha declares apropos of nothing immediately pertinent: "Strength, I want to say, is a matter of lacking options, the reasonable certainty that if you fall apart, there will be nobody to pick up the pieces. So you put all you've got into never falling apart." This is an enervating endeavour that unites the strikingly bold protagonists of both novels at hand as they soldier on in search of space, throughout chased by the binding narrow concerns of daily life.

A space Manju Kapur's heroine Virmati never finds, a space her daughter Ida, the narrator, painstakingly accords her after her death. "The one thing I had wanted was not to be like my mother," begins Ida, sneering at Virmati's desire that her eyes, kidney, heart be donated, that there be no mourning. But while the body has been consigned to the flames, organs intact, Ida knows mourning is inevitable, no matter how bitter, grudging, guilt-laden. Ever the aloof, yet highly strung, storyteller, she is drawn into retracing her mother's life, the cities and circumstances...



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