Reading this book reminded me why I love reading, it reminded me that literature has the power to connect with you deeply. Panty (which I have reviewed earlier here) is the first book I read by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay and completely loved. So when I heard that Tilted Axis were publishing another one of her works in English I couldn’t wait! I’m always a bit worried when there is a book I really want coming out, you never know if a book is a one hit wonder (this is also the reason why Harper Lee’s Go set a Watchman is still on my bookshelf unread). I shouldn’t have worried though, once again Bandyopadhyay knocked me off my feet with this complex take about a woman struggling with her many Selfs.
Abandon is the story of Ishwari, a writer, who runs away from home, seeking to free herself from the shackles of society and familial attachments, and instead devote her attentions to writing a novel. However, her five year old son, Roo has followed her. Ishwari and Roo wander the streets of Kolkata in search of shelter until an old man takes pity on them and offers them a room on the guesthouse. Soon Ishwari gets a job as a caregiver to a rich man living nextdoor, while an increasingly deteriorating Roo spends the whole day locked up in the room.
Self and identity
Abandon takes an interesting take on the eternal question ‘Who am I?’, this is essentially the question that has led Ishwari to forsake everything and run to Kolkata. Ishwari is trying to both make ends meet on a day to day basis but also trying to be true to herself and her identity as an artist. On a personal note, I related to this internal struggle of being yourself as you see yourself and playing out the Self that others expect you to be. I recognised the frustration and anger that this created in Ishwari.
At other times however I found it a challenging. Ishwari is an ‘anti-hero’ to some extent, it was hard for me to completely empathise with her. Whilst you want her to thrive in Kolkatta you cant help but feel repulsed by her treatment of her son.
Abandon is a commentary on the social expectations that Motherhood as an ideology demands of women. The two sides of Ishwari are at war about its demands. Ishwari the wife and mother want to sacrifice mission for herself and Roo. Ishwari the writer however is fighting to establish a voice for herself. Her quest to find a space for her creative self becomes mutually exclusive to her self as the mother or nurturer. They become mutually exclusive, it seems that really she can’t have it all.
Overall another intense but amazing read by Tilted Axis Press and Sangeeta Bandopadhyay. Read it for yourself and share your thought below!
Abandon is now available on the Tilted Axis website: click here