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khaitan

Out of the several, two things according to me that this book clearly underlines; firstly blind love defies all odds whatever maybe the outcome, be it a success or a suffocating failure.  Second, determination could pave out all impediments on the path to desired goal.  With a frankness that is rare in the world of Hindi autobiographical writing by women, Prabha Khaitan here speaks of her feelings, her sense of discomfort and unease at not being the legitimate woman, about what she gained and lost from a relationship that was generally frowned upon by society and how she fought to become her own woman.  In doing so, she reflects on marriage, relationships, intimacy and distance, the professional and the personal, and the ways in which women are caught within these often conflicting forces.

One of Hindi's best known writers, Prabha Khaitan spent much of her life as the second woman in a long term relationship with a married man.  Born in a conservative Marwari family, she defied tradition and family expectations, insisting on living life as a single woman, setting up her own business and earning the respect of her peers and colleagues in the corporate world. Despite her yearning to be loved and cherished by the man to whom she gave her life, Prabha Khaitan lived life on her own terms.

An eye doctor looked into her eyes, remarked, “I don’t think I have examined a more beautiful pair of eyes till now”, and 22-year-old Prabha Khaitan was in love.  So blindly did she fall for the much-married, 40-plus father of five, that she chose to live a doomed life with him as “the other woman” for close to three decades, suffering as much social humiliation as ill-treatment.  Apart from the initial throes of passion, the relationship, between a naïve girl from a conservative Marwari family and a well-established doctor, had little going for it.  The story of this relationship, written by Prabha long after Dr Saraf’s death, is a bitter recollection of stressful times, with the doctor calling all the shots.

In order not to get labelled as his ‘keep’, the besotted Prabha plunged into a leather export business so she could be financially independent.  It was not easy.  Those days, girls of her community were married after a basic education and were expected to live in their husbands shadow.  Stuck between family pressures and the turbulent industrial climate of the ’60s in Calcutta, Prabha nevertheless managed to make a success of her business.  Did this increase her self-worth and put her relationship on an equal footing? No, the insecure older man controlled all her earnings, making even his son a partner in her business, and threw jealous fits about the men she interacted with professionally.

Her encounters with struggling, working women in other countries also makes interesting reading.  The balancing act that the so-called weaker gender had to do in the ‘60s and ‘70s between professional and family lives was the same all over the world, whether it was Los Angeles, Hong Kong or Calcutta.  The biography ends with the death of Dr Saraf, when Prabha was 50.  How she lived her life, unshackled from an unproductive affair, we do not know.  Neither do we know how and when the son the publisher refers to came into her life.

MY TAKE:  Adding to my opening line, I think the book is an honest narrative that many women will empathize with and perhaps learn a lesson or two from.  The book is an interesting pick but hard to find conclusions going by the author's way.  With no offence to any one, sometimes brain needs to object when heart goes blind.  Maybe, this could be an eye opener for some souls around.

 

BOOK DETAILS

AUTHOR:  Prabha Khaitan

TRANSLATED By: Ira Pande

PUBLISHER:  Zubaan

LANGUAGE:  English

NUMBER OF PAGES:  258 Pages

PRICE:  Rs. 395

 

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