ON reading this book, the first question that comes to the mind is why the book is titled A Pack of Lies when it should have been called A Pack of Truths. The author seems to be brimming with anger and feelings of rejection waiting to find an outlet. Possibly Urmilla couldn’t find a shoulder to cry on to this day and was left with no alternative but to pen the story of her life so as to be able to give vent to her emotions.
The book reads like her life story replete with incidents of derelict parenting by her mother. But at the same time one cannot help but feel sympathy for the mother who has to bring up an audacious child like Urmilla. At the same time, one is made to wonder how this could be the author’s life story when she hailed from such an illustrious family – her mother was poet and novelist Gauri Deshpande and grandmother was Irawati Karve, the famous sociologist, who could not have ignored this child who was blessed with a lively imagination. This is, in any case, a tragic story of a highly-acclaimed mother who has no time or patience to take care of her daughters, two by her first husband and one by the second.
Virginia, normally called Ginny or Gin, begins her story by talking about her wait outside the Intensive Care Unit where her mother lies dying and is being looked after by a doctor who had been spurned by her long ago. Virginia talks of the stark poverty they lived in with her mother unable to buy even shoe-polish and how her mother gets the daughter enrolled in a school for mid-day free meals. At home, Virginia longs for her mother’s attention. At first she attends to all the household chores but her mother looks past her. The loneliness of not being acknowledged is so terrifying that Virginia becomes destructive.
In her desperation, she uses her body to get her mother’s love. After a long-winded journey through her love life, we find this protagonist finding happiness and peace in the true conventional style. What is more, the little girl stumbles her way through life devoid of support from her mother, biological father, stepfather, grandparents or any other relation.
The book is nothing much to write home about.
(Tranquebar Press, 571 Poonamallee High Road, Kamaraj Bhavan, Aminijikarai, Chennai- 600 029.)