Friday, June 8, 2018

Knot for Keeps - Edited by Sathya Saran

"Knot for Keeps", is an anthology on marriage (goes with the tagline - Writing the Modern Marriage). It is edited by Sathya Saran who was editor of Femina and author of biographies on Guru Dutt, S.D. Burman and Jagjit Singh. The contributors to the anthology are Sharanya Manivannan (award winning writer), Chitra Viraraghavan (writer and editor), Rita Mukherjee (writer), Krishna Shastri Devulapalli (Humor writer, cartoonist, columnist and novelist), Prasoon Joshi (poet, lyricist), Noor Zaheer (writer and researcher), Kalyan Ray (author, novelist), Deeksha Nagar (ethnographer and folklorist), Neha Dixit (independent award winning journalist), Bulbul Sharma (painter and writer), Modhurima Sinha (journalist, photographer and writer), Abha Iyengar (award winning poet, author, writer, editor, translator), Wendell Rodricks (award winning fashion designer), Milan Vohra (juggler and writer) and Vijay Nagaswami (psychiatrist).
And, yours truly.
Harper Collins, 164 p, Rs. 299
When I was first asked to contribute, I had no idea what to write. All thoughts of marriage, especially when asked to put down on paper or any other shareable form, evoked nervous laughter, jokes. Maybe because I didn't know how I had handled mine and what I made of it. After some thought I decided it was best to explore my own marriage, the why of it, since it's an odd marriage - tall, short, dark, fair, last bencher, frontbencher etc. And that's about as much as I will devote to my contribution (The Imperfect Marriage) and will now review the rest of book in the kindliest of ways. It is the first time I am reviewing a book where I feature.

Sharanya Manivannan's "Apportionments of Love' is about not accepting marriage or a partner for its own sake and making sense of it. It is an intense piece that explores all the facets of a life without marriage. 'Conjugular' by Chitra Viraraghavan, is a delightfully mischievous fictional piece about a marriage that seemingly hangs by a thread, but is actually built strongly on a desire to hurt each other in as many ways as possible. Rita Mukherjee's 'A Life Sentence' is heavy and layered with her life experience and honesty, her love for her husband, and the fact that she would leave the love of her life due to her illness. As I read the story I saw her mention being in Hyderabad for a while. Our paths must have crossed somewhere, we might have been this close sometime in Hyderabad, or maybe even read or shared something in the paper. I loved the piece. It's sad she is not there to see the book.

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli's 'Heaven Forbid' takes a look at some of the more stressful ways marriages work - his friend sponsors his wife's passion for dance to keep her happy and employed. He goes beyond the call of duty though (with good reason because she has strong reasons backing her) - paying tuition fees to parents to keep sending the kids, guru fees, for music by the best in the business. At times, he fantasizes about killing her. Meanwhile, she plans her magnum opus 'Heaven Forbid.' Funny as ever, made me laugh out loud a few times - something not many humor writers in India manage to do.

Noor Zaheer's 'Keep Searching, A Light Might Appear' looks at the khula system in Islamic marriages where women have an opportunity to divorce husbands. She looks at how the institution has, over the years, become unequal in Islam and how husband's use the triple talaq system to threaten their wives and keep them under control while the khula system seems to have been lost under layers of misinterpretation. Kalyan Ray's "Our Bi-Continental Marriage' gives an interesting perspective into a marriage between a couple, both married twice before, with kids from earlier marriages, one living in India and another in America and how their bi-continental marriage held for twenty years. Kalyan is a professor in America and his wife Aparna Sen is a filmmaker and actress based in Kolkata so it makes for some interesting reading on how it worked. Next comes 'The Imperfect Marriage'.

In 'Marriage and Me', Deeksha Nagar looks at the many marriages she saw, how they formed her opinion about it and how she makes sense of love, sex, compatibility, and marriage. Neha Dixit explores runaway marriages in 'The Cost of a Runaway Marriage' including her own and gives some fine information about this little known Act called the Special Marriages Act (SMA). The SMA is a special kind of marriage for all Indian nationals in India and in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party. It provides equal inheritance and divorce rights to both. With SMA you don't have to convert and be married under one religion or another it appears.

'Mixed Media Marriage' by Bulbul Sharma looks at the grand Bengali-Punjabi marriage between Neela Banerjee and Vikram Kapoor and all that happens when the two cultures and families meet in Delhi. Modhurima Sinha, in 'The Thin Red Line' says 'the opposite of ritual is love' and explores the many rituals associated with marriage. Abha Iyengar's 'A Girl of a Certain Age' talks of how heavily the pressure of marriage weighs on the girl despite her qualifications, intelligence or beauty, the moment she comes of marriageable age. Marriage is a responsibility and she cannot be a burden on her parents anymore. Wendell Rodricks jumps headlong into the maze of lines that govern his love and his life in 'Across Latitudes and Longitudes' and how he and his partner had had to face so many problems while traveling to meet one another, in foreign lands, in India simply because same-sex love is not yet legal. It's the same feeling of love, yet not accepted by those who perhaps, do not feel that feeling or want to restrict it to their own type. It is so unjust and downright ridiculous - the same people who rush to justify war cannot validate love. Wendell writes with great love and patience and understanding.

Milan Vohra's 'What I Hate Most' starts gently and hurtles to the point when there is no time left to hate anymore in the relationship - somewhere the opportunity to see or express the love they felt seems to have gone. But one can feel the love that is hidden beneath all that 'hate'. Vijay Nagaswami explores the institution of marriage - sacrament, contract or relationship?

Some very interesting perspectives on marriage by a diverse lot of writers. I enjoyed reading the book and am certainly wiser on many counts. 

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