Ladies Coupé

17 12 2011

It’s been a while since I read this long-pending Indian chick-lit by Anita Nair. Finally took time to write something about it. I expected it to be a racy, shallow, gossipy and “masala-filled” novel depicting lives of a group of women travelling together in a Ladies Coupé of a train. I was part-right and part-wrong. It sure was fast-paced and interesting but it was anything but shallow.

Each and every woman character in the novel had been dealt with a depth of empathy and understanding as they shared their stories. Each woman seeks to find herself, making sense of her life and her role in it. Akhilandeswari, who is forced to stay single until 45 by circumstances, embarks on a journey to Kanyakumari to break free from all the oppressing ties of traditional norms and society and seeks answers to her questions before asserting her freedom and independence through her actions. In a society, which stresses that a woman can’t live alone and makes every attempt to make her life terrible, trying to come to terms with self isn’t very easy. I liked the way the author didn’t offer any readymade solutions to the predicament, but rather allowed the character to discover her own path to deal with it.

I was seriously shocked by the way Margaret Shanti dealt with her imposing, insensitive, and tyrant husband. She took revenge by attacking his sense of pride in self. She fed him enormous meals with the effect that it impacted his fitness, thereby reducing his self-confidence. I felt that this is a clever idea. It’s only her way to cope with the situation.

Each woman has varying degrees of problems, and considering each of them from a vantage point, one would tend to rate them on a scale. However, a problem is a problem. There is no one without any troubles. In the absence of a great tragedy, even a seemingly minor issue takes the mind off peace. Marikolanthu’s life might have been the worst of all of them, but that doesn’t make the others’ troubles any slighter. Despite having normal life with material comforts and close-knit family, Prabha Devi and Janaki struggle with their sense of loss of self before finding their way out.

The ability to solve all our problems lies within ourselves. It just needs some calling. One has to grapple with it and persevere to succeed.

Ladies Coupé is an enlightening and thought-provoking work, which stimulates the reader to reflect on his/her own life. It is a must read for everyone, especially women.

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