Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review - A CALENDAR TOO CROWDED




Hello Everyone,

This is my first book review on the blog . The book I'll be reviewing is Sagarika Chakraborty's A Calendar Too Crowded and it is a part of Blogadda's Book Review program.

Title: A Calendar Too Back

Author: Sagarika Chakraborty


Pages: 189

Price: 295 INR

Publishers : Niyogi Books

ISBN :978-93-81523-06-3

Author speaks: The stories and poems in there, cover an entire year – January to December and each story is based on a particular day of the month which in some corner of the world is dedicated to women and children (Jan 24, National Girl Child Day, Nov 25- Anti Dowry Day etc). Each story is spun keeping a particular day in mind. The book goes on to discover the paradoxical situation of how despite having so many days attributed to women all over the world, there’s little that we achieve at the grass root levels. It goes on to urge us to spread awareness about the crimes against gender each day. The characters in the book are as nameless as the places they reside in the book – for the book encourages the readers to pick out that one character whom they feel they have met and whose voice can read the stories to them in their heads.

Swarnali Says: As the author says, the book is a collection of stories and poems for each month of the year. These tales and poems are the author's take on those dates of our calendar that are marked to celebrate/remind us of a definite social reality. Be it January 24 marked as the National Day for the Girl Child (India) or be it March 8 celebrating International Women's Day, Sagarika Chakraborty, through her book compels us to ponder over the validity of such days. Does having one day as women’s day means the rest are for men?? I am not sure, yes that is what you are left with once you read the book, it does not provide you with concrete answers, it just makes you question the pre-conceived notions about the role of women and their status.

The best thing about the book is - no character is given a name as “they represent the millions of female voices that they seek to free from the clutches of injustice and oppression” and giving a name to them would make them one Sita or Gita and not the universal woman the author intended them to be. She could be you, your friend, your mom or that woman on the other side of the street. The issues picked up in the book are numerous and there are high chances that every woman who reads it identifies herself with one character or the other or maybe finds a strong similarity with some other woman she knows from very close. With issues like dowry system, the concept of the modern woman, the adoption scenario, prostitution, rape, nationality, puberty, motherhood, female feticide, women’s emancipation, domestic violence, the author hardly leaves any topic untouched, unquestioned and thought over.

I try to take a neutral stand while reviewing, this book turns to be strongly feminist at some points and men may not accept all that the author says. However,a sensitive and empathetic approach without prior biases while reading the book will help the reader understand that the author intends you to think and try to understand the plight of the women around you who are tortured on a daily basis either mentally, physically, emotionally or sexually, if not all of them. Every woman, no matter her nationality or her social status has at least once in her life gone through a situation where she was humiliated or taken advantage of, only because of her gender. Sagarika Chakraborty does not intend to be the champion to the women who are not allowed to fight for themselves, she attempts to bring to us the realities that happen every day, things that we have taken for granted. She puts a finger into our eyes and asks us if we should continue letting this happen or try to make a change.

The tales which were closest to my heart were "Naked" and "Selling a Body to Gain a Mind" . The first one is about the morning when a girl's body is found on the pavement , who died after being gang raped the previous night. The hypocrisy of the society we live in, is clearly reflected when people instead of trying to find the girl's identity and sympathizing for her and her family, blame her provocative dressing and not-so-sober habits of going to a bar to be the reason of her death. The second is a mother-daughter story where the mother, who herself being a prostitute tries everything she can to shield her daughter from getting into the snare of prostitution. The question "why a prostitute is ashamed of what she does all her life,but the society is never ashamed of what it has done to her?" is very thought provocative. This story reminds me very much of an Academy award winning documentary I saw sometime back -" Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids".

Not all stories are sad,some do have a happy ending like "Homecoming" and "Sisters by Choice and not by Chance", indicating that a happy end is possible.This is not a book that you can read over a cup of tea and forget after you get up from the chair, the book and the characters remain in your mind for a very long time. I loved the author's style and the double narrative technique she adopted,some tales in the first person for a direct view and some in the third person for a more impersonal perspective. The book makes a good read and a very good one for a debut.

Rating: 4/5
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

18 comments:

  1. Sounds like a must read... As Gandhi said " true independence will only be achieved when a woman can safely walk alone even at midnight"

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  2. @thePURPLEspirit_yep you are right. Do read this book and do watch the documentary as well :)

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  3. That was a wonderful review! I had also applied for this book, but didn't get it :-(. But I really want to read it now!!

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  4. @beingFab_thank you so much...I was wondering if I had gone too boring with the review. The book is worth reading .

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  5. Hi Swarnali..this is such an insightful review..I so want to read this book now..
    As you mentioned in one part of your review, that every woman once in her lifetime has been 'held back' in many respects only because of her gender..this is so very true..its a reality that indeed surpasses and holds true in any social class that exists..
    Great review :)
    Keep visiting me..:)

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  6. @Agam_do grab a copy of the book,I assure you won't regret it.

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  7. wow such an in depth review! I wana read it now!

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  8. @Kiran_Yeah do read it,I hope you like it as much as I did.

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  9. Hi Swarnali..I honestly did not feel that you are being feminist in your review..since, the book largely revolves around issues faced by the women of today which even if we try and overlook will remain the harshest realities of our society. So, your views are bound to express the same. Also, as you mentioned that the book is not something you'll read and forget about, I am guessing your thoughts became all the more powerful when you finally penned them. But they certainly weren't feminist :)

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  10. This sounds very very interesting. You write good reviews! :)

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  12. What an interesting book - I really like the concept of it. I will be looking for this in my library for sure.

    great review!

    Amber
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  13. yeah your review is really good...i really liked it......after reading your review and being a female i really can understand the problems that women face in everyday life

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  14. interesting....but im not going to read this for sure......so much introspection aint gud for me right now!!

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

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  15. After applying to the book review program, do we have to apply separately for each book put up ?

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  16. You could certainly see your expertise within the paintings you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart.
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  17. @Drisha,Amber,Aish and Chandana_Thanks a lot to all of you. I really appreciate your encouragement :D
    @Sushmita_Yeah at times serious books aren't too good for one's health :P

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