Astha is a good middle-class girl growing up in lates Delhi - artistic, dreamy, sheltered and obedient. Her parents are not wealthy, but they have aspirations. Her likeably progressive father wants to educate her; her mother just wants to see her settled in a safe arranged marriage. As stranger-husbands go, Hemant is not as bad as he might have been. Something like love develops between them. But as a daughter and then a son are born in quick succession, Astha begins to outgrow some of the more confining aspects of her marriage.
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My library had a couple of books by her and for some strange reason I was attracted to this book. Astha is a middle class woman ,who lives in Delhi with her husband, two children and in-laws. She has everything a woman would need, but still has niggles of dissatisfaction bubbling in her.
The story is really about how Astha changes from a unsure,college girl who has dreams of a mills and boons- type hero swooping in and carrying her away to a mature ,middle-aged woman who feels a little alienated in her marriage as time passes. She takes time to build characters,but does a good job of keeping the reader glued to the pages. I am sure a lot of people will relate to a lot of things Astha or her family goes through like how they struggle to buy their first house or what is perceived to be the role of a woman in a traditional Indian household.
She meets like minded people and drifts off into the world of activism. Their relationship has friendship as a base and deepens into something more as time passes. The rest of the story is about what happens to the relationship between Pipee and Astha and also how Astha manages a double life- the life of a lover of a woman and that of a married woman with kids and responsibilities.
The intimate scenes between Astha and Pipee have been handled very sensitively by Manju,so have the incidents surrounding the Babri Masjid demolition and riots. At times Pipee came across as an overly selfish, immature person. The backdrop of political agitation imparts a bitter-sweet tinge to the main story. The abrupt change seemed a little weird and makes the narrative choppy.
Overall, an okay read. Not brilliant,but entertaining and a thought-provoking piece of fiction. I recommend it people who like Indian writing.
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