Reading Adventure Review: May (South Asia)

A gangly young girl transforms her village with a revolutionary idea. Sixty-eight-year-old Noni Appa finds herself drawn to a married man – ‘Why do people have to define relationships, underline each word till the paper gives way beneath,’ she wonders. Bablu Kewat becomes obsessed with sanitary napkins much to his family’s horror, and a young woman keeps checking the weather forecast as she meticulously plans each of her five weddings. Funny, observant and wise, this is storytelling at its most irresistible.

Finally! A lighter read to break the streak of depression and horror!

That’s not to say that there aren’t some heavy bits in these stories – from abusive relationships (suffered by women and men), to death, to mental health, to community ostracism, this books covers a range of real topics – but they’re embedded in stories that are generally uplifting and hopeful rather than soul-crushing.

Rather than a single story, this book is a series of short stories connected with a theme of gendered empowerment and strength in the face of society’s expectations. I almost wrote ‘female empowerment’, but the last story is about a man going against society’s belief that menstruation is ‘women’s business’ and thus to be avoided by men at all costs, even when it is clear that women are suffering for this secrecy. His dogged determination to help women gain control over their menstrual health is quite a treat to witness. My particular favourite was the story of Noni Appa, which is less about Noni Appa’s attraction to a married man (as the blurb suggests) but more about a married man gathering the courage to leave his abusive wife and chase what makes him happy.

The author, Twinkle Khana, is an Indian Interior designer, author, producer, and former film actress. Among other notable life events, she spent 30 days in jail for the ‘crime’ of unbuttoning her husband’s jeans at Lakme Fashion Week. This should give you a hint of the type of culture that she was raised in and why society’s expectations of behaviour are indelibly imprinted in every line of this book. While the writing is not the most sophisticated (she trained as an accountant before she became an actress) it is a gentle examination of these issues and a welcome change from the darker books from this reading adventure.

Next month is East Asia, and I’ll be reading Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee?  🙂

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