By Shobhan Bantwal. Grade: C
‘She is 21, married and childless…and she is about to be burned..
As the dowry culture in India, in spite of the Dowry Law, remains an ugly reality, will Megha Ramnath contribute to changing it, or will she silently succumb to its dark existence?
As Megha wakes up in the dead of night to the squeaking of the woodshed door, she steps out to see the cause behind it. What she witnesses is something so dangerous, so sinister that she is soon racing through the deserted streets of Palgaum, with only one thing on her mind: to put as much distance as she can between herself and the place she has come to call home for the past year, for her very family members—husband and mother-in-law—are plotting to burn her alive that very night!
What will she do now? Where will she go?
Making her way through the dim-lit streets, there is only one name that comes to her mind—Kunal, the one man who has shown her friendship and respect in her new household. Hiding in his apartment, he becomes her protector. As the forbidden attraction between them grows and complicates an already messy situation, will Kunal be successful in safeguarding Megha?
Torn between her affections for Kunal and the conventional ethos of the society, which path will she choose?
Follow Megha as she struggles to piece together her life and work towards an unblemished future, unveiling the brutal realities faced by the Dowry Brides.”
Shobhan Bantwal brings to the surface the plight of hundreds of women burdened under this archaic concept of dowry. It’s a blemish on the glorious Indian culture and is a subject that is often pushed under the carpet. In this novel, reality leaps out from within the pages. The author approaches an old yet ever-strong enemy of our modern dilemma, and shows the morbid human irrationality. It provides an insight into the darker part of Indian culture that has refused to lessen its grip in spite of us having advanced into the 21st century.
The protagonist is Megha, a 21 year old Indian woman who flees from her house, narrowly escaping the harrowing death that awaited her at the hands of her husband and the scheming greedy mother-in-law. She is saved by her brother-in-law, Kunal and a subtle romance shows its kind side. While Megha is torn between her love for Kunal and the social stigma attached to such forbidden relationships, she has to save herself. Turning to her conservative family would be of no use. Kunal, assumes the responsibility of protecting her, and hides her in his apartment. Their journey is a beautiful expression of true love, presented in stark contradiction to her love-less marriage to her spine-less husband, who barely makes a cameo in the novel. Besides the mother-in-law, Chandramma, whose cruel intentions provide the base to this plot, no other character is particularly well defined. The flashback technique has been used effectively and the events are realistically narrated.
I’ve run out of bouquets, so here are a few brickbats.
The writing borders on average and the story is a bit all over the countryside. The plot lacks coherence and it does little justice to the gravity of the subject matter. The author takes the idea to a different tangent and the work looks more like a chic-lit romance novel that a narrative on the plight of a young woman on the run. The book didn’t fare up to my expectations of a narrative fraught with conflict and adventure with a side serving of romance. The characters are all too black and white with gender stereotypes to worsen the matter. To cut long things short, we could’ve done without the glaring clichés.
Overall: an ambitious topic undone by bad plot-line and prose.