A deep cloudy sky glowing in delicious twilight.
Warm summer breeze infused with the bitter scent of Neem.
Forbidden but tasteful anda bhurji cooked in a strictly vegetarian household.
A river that has to change its course far too often.
A chiffon dupatta treasured at the back of your wardrobe, faintly smelling of sandalwood.
All that and much more is Meera, the protagonist of this first feminist erotica novel written in India.
We, at Writersmelon, are not really concerned about bottling up books within certain genre or labels. However, ‘Feminist Erotica’ seems to be a debutante genre in Indian English Literature. It is not plain erotica, and it is certainly not a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. In Sita’s Curse, erotica is an accompaniment. To Meera. And Yosuf. To Mohan. And Vrinda. It is the story that matters here, the little nuances in the life of a middle class housewife.
The fact that she’s Gujarati doesn’t add or take away much from her story. There are a few Gujarati phrases and a stray dhokla or thepla thrown into the book. What matters is Meera, and her colourful Gharchola sarees and backless, embroidered cholis. Meera is often a celebration of colours, painted beautifully by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu. Rarely do we encounter a plot handled with such maturity. It is not for the faint hearted, or the conservative.
The book liltingly begins in Meera’s teens and her relationship with twin brother Kartik. They share a bond beyond this world, as twins are said to have karmic connections. Sreemoyee shares bits and pieces of Meera’s growing up moments with her readers; a few of them touching our lives in a way that we have learnt to bury well. Meera embarks into a journey after marriage which she hadn’t comprehended. Her dreams of a palatial home in Mumbai and a loving husband are shattered when she enters a dingy two-room chawl with dampened walls and a lone window, to watch the occasional full moon. Gradually realizing that she is trapped in the marriage, Meera tries to settle and love her tiny cage, its wires clipping her wings each time.
There are a plethora of men in Meera’s life – Kartik, Amarkant Maharaj, Mohan, Yosuf – each of whom are explored splendidly by Sreemoyee. Their characters are transparent at times, murky otherwise. Each of them plays significant roles in shaping up Meera the way she is. Each of them add and extract colours from her being. Mumbai plays another important role – it helps Meera grow up, it brings her husband close to her and shoves him away equally, it makes her want to live and die at the same moment. We are meandered to the confining lanes of Mumbai that most authors don’t explore.
The first half of the book is like a haunting melody that lingers in your mind, but the latter half is dark and poignant, more so with the Mumbai floods and Yosuf mingling with each other.
Summing it up – Sita’s Curse deals with issues – yes, the ones we rave about on social media but hush up in our lives. It speaks of marital rape, superstition, religion as opium for the middle class, and above all sexuality, of a woman. Shunning the idea of commoditising women for sex, Sreemoyee celebrates it instead, through Meera and her desires. The very idea that a woman in our society is banned from nurturing sexual desires is trashed in this book, and genre.
We would recommend this book especially for women, as there is a Meera in each of us, waiting to be freed of the barbed cage, some day.
— Reviewed By “PRB”
Also blogs actively at Oneandahalfminutes – A moment. Reminiscence. Rumination. Musings.
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Sita’s Curse by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu is the book “In Focus”.