This is an anthology about the author'sencounters with some stellar women characters during his lifetime and those encountered during his profession and which have left an indelible impression in the deep recesses of his mind and ?brain wirings?. He finds that most of them ?illuminated the paths even at the darkest moment if despair? while passing through his life. He observes that all animate and inanimate objects begin their journey from a mother particle ? the Eternal Shakti.
This compilation'sfirst story is about an 11-year-old Muslim girl named Lutf-un-Nissa who, during the freedom struggle, helps a gang of swadeshi revolutionaries. She is hit and tortured and lodged in jail when caught red-handed for her underground activities. The author, then five years her junior, goes to meet her in jail. In 1949, as soon as she is released, she is married off to a Pakistan Army sepoy and the author forgets her. It is in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war that she, now a widow, runs into him and they spend a short time over tea before she returns to Bangladesh. The author learns from her ? ?we have to pay a price to liberate ourselves from everything that militates against our Independence.?
In another subtle story, the author describes his meeting with Rani, a fisherman's16-year-old daughter. Rani, who is more like an ?accomplished daredevil boy?. Once she takes the author and two others to Deotar Char to hunt for ducks. When the author'scousin Amrit, a prospective lawyer, meets Rani, he wants to seduce her. He misbehaves with her and despite being engaged to a rich businessman'sdaughter asks the author to lure her to a secluded rendezvous in return for a shogun. The author and Rani devise a plan by which she punishes Amrit and takes her revenge.
In the story entitled ?Shefali?, the author talks of Shibu, a Santhal boy'slove for Dr Dutta'sdaughter named Shefali, with both Shibu and Shefali expressing their commitment to each other through letters. Chunni, a boy from a respectable family, is unable to tolerate a Santhal boy'slove for Shefali and complains to her father. Meanwhile Shibu is found dead with his throat slit. When Shefali comes know of it, she jumps from the rooftop room. By the time the smoke from Shibu'spyre had melted into thin air, that same night another pyre was lit to consign Shefali'sbody to the flames. ?It also evaporated in huge columns of smoke, probably seeking the smoke of Shibu'sfuneral pyre. Perhaps, their souls would meet somewhere in the uncharted void of the universe, which we call heaven,? says the author, who admits that he likes to imagine that ?they did keep up the final rendezvous.?
In a very interesting narrative about his stay in Ottawa during his posting abroad, the author tells a very moving story of a quiet love. The author meets Eileen when he goes to buy flowers for her on his wedding anniversary. She tells him her life story which runs thus:
Eileen falls in love with Jason when staying in Ottawa. One day she meets Bob and both go to stay at Manali, in India. There they meet Titli who is being brought up by her Brahmin father. What surprises Eileen is how Titli can be the Brahmin'sdaughter as she has blue eyes and looks like a European. While professing his love to Eileen, Bob falls for Titli, marries her and begins to live on the mountains. One day the Brahmin father reveals to Eileen that he had been married to Mayna but she fell in love with a foreign tourist and died when giving birth to her daughter Titli, whom the Brahmin brings up as his own daughter. He never reveals to Titli that he was not her real father. Bob falling in love with Titli seems like a re-enactment of the history of Mayna. They have a daughter Teeaa but soon both the parents die, leaving Teeaa to be brought up by the Brahmin. Spending all his savings, the Brahmin takes Teeaa to Ottawa to give her to her grandmother but on meeting Eileen, he accepts the latter'soffer to bring Teeaa up as her own daughter in memory of her first real love, Bob. It is rather a convoluted story but a very endearing one as it conveys that no one knows what destiny has in sore for you.
All the stories are as varied as the women protagonists who fight their way out of the different situations that they face in life. From portraying the undying love of his friends of college days to the harrowing account of a 1984-riot victim, the author shows that the foundation of all creation is Shakti. His stories paint life as it really is and reveal a strong element of women'sintrinsic power to fight societal evils.
(Vitasta Publishing Ltd, 2/15 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002.)