Nobel Laureate William Golding and author of timeless classics such as “The Lord of the Flies”, once memorably stated this about women: “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been. Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.” Tina Sequeira in her engrossing work “Bhumi” pays unabashed homage to Golding’s woman. A riveting bouquet of short stories, each one of which is a paean to womanhood, “Bhumi” evokes a cascading phalanx of contrasting emotions. Mirroring the protagonists themselves. Ms. Sequiera’s women are vulnerable yet victorious, prosaic yet profound, triumphant yet tortured and aspirational yet ambivalent. But ultimately each one of them is a monumental testimony to an unseen yet explicit collective progress of a gender as a whole.
“Bhumi” explodes with a very touching and wistful story titled “Amma.” The travails and tribulations of a father in bringing up his daughter as a single parent is mitigated by the encouraging yet unseen presence of his deceased wife Swati. Her confident personality and vision goads her husband on in his endeavour to ensure that his daughter Priya gets the upbringing that is necessary. When Priya acknowledges the efforts of her father in a scintillatingly innovative manner, her father realises that it is Swati who has ultimately prevailed.
While it would not do any justice to both the reader as well as the author to reveal the gist of every story, I would like to touch upon a couple of my favourites. “Grey” in my personal opinion is one of the best stories in the book. The quaint setting of Angamaly, a municipality and the northernmost suburb of the city of Kochi in Kerala, India forms the backdrop for this moving story that has at its core and crux an 87-year-old affable woman, fondly known as “Ammamma” (maternal grandmother in Malayalam). Exuding unblemished and pure love towards her family in general and grandchildren in particular, Ammamma is also a strict disciplinarian dealing with nonsense in a ruthless and remorseless fashion. As she battles the insidious disease that is cancer, she knows that she does not have time on her hands. It is imperative that she have a talk with her grandchildren. A talk that is in effect a portal to unearthing secrets hidden hitherto, and a realm that encompasses within, a personality hitherto unimagined.
“Mirror Mirror On the Wall” is not just Meena’s battle with misogyny, male chauvinism and repulsive patriarchy. The story illustrates the dangers faced by every woman at the hands of a bruised ego lying within the deadly recesses of a scorned or a jilted lover. When an ambitious – and duskily curvaceous – Meena decides to call it quits in her relationship with Sunil, her maniacally obsessed lover just cannot get it. First resorting to relentless coaxing, he switches over to nagging coercion. When even revenge porn does not work…
The brazen self-aggrandizement of Dr. Shikha Sharma in “Juxtaposition” is the wolf in sheep’s clothing in this fantastic collection. Ms. Sequeira cleverly explores the darker sides and selfish shades that pervades through the fabric of human emotion. A highflier in her chosen field of expertise, Dr. Sharma deftly manipulates people and emotions like a master puppeteer manipulating strings. Everything that she contrives has at its end, the advancement of her prosperity and purpose.
At a time when the whole of India is yet to come to grips with the heinous, dastardly and unspeakable crime committed on a young woman in Hathras, the question of protecting, preserving and pursuing the dignity of a woman has assumed paramount importance. We seem to be steadfast in our obstinacy that despite a thousand Nirbhayas we will continue to proceed unheeded in a manner reprehensible and in a fashion deplorable. Ms. Sequiera’s book serves as a timely reminder to usher in not just a paradigm shift in mindset but a very revolution in our thoughts, actions and deeds towards a woman and her self-respect, self-esteem and dignity.