At the heart of Indira Goswami’s sprawling fictional world (set in the heartland of Assam, and elsewhere, including Vrindavan, Raebareli, and Delhi) resides the image of a destitute woman, pushed to the margin by the cruel twist of fate and the demands of equally cruel patriarchal society.
It is nothing short of a miracle that Goswami’s women characters pick themselves up from the depth of their existent and fight back.
This book chronicles three stories of three such women. In ‘Breaking the Begging Bowl,’ when the mother of a missing son and a crazy daughter is pushed to the wall, her young daughter picks up the cudgel, and fights back the only way she can, with her body. In ‘The Blood of Devipeeth’, while everyone expects the beautiful girl who was deserted by her husband because of a vitiligo patch on her back, to return to her marital home, she finds her comforts in a forbidden romance. In ‘Delhi, 5 November 1991, a girl from the margin forgoes her own comforts to care for the destitute, and yet cannot escape her own body, which, for the privileged men around her, is an object to be snared and enjoyed.
The beauty of Goswami’s fiction is not the just the tale, but how is it told, with tactile details and violent imagery, and a deep understanding of the human psyche, not only of her central characters, but also of those in the fringes. Her writing holds a mirror to our society and what it reveals is a portrait of ‘terrible beauty’.