Exploring an era when men ruled and women were merely consorts, Didi by Nirupama Devi, a classic, is a piece of writing that does not only showcase resilience but also tough-spiritedness as well as the truly transforming force of pure love and affection.
Polygamy: An endeavour to get more out of life than there is in it.Elbert Hubbard
Indeed, as Tom Robbins has succinctly put it, when we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on with polygamy until we admit that, while a partner can add a sweet dimension to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfilment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure in every relationship we enter.
A brilliantly captivating tale of an exploit of societal fads and fallacies as well as the complex pursuits of womanhood, Didi, written by Nirupama Devi and translated by Alo Shome, is a book I recently completed and was absolutely enamoured by. A poignantly narrated and meticulously captured tale, this one, which peruses majorly sensitive issues such as widowhood and polygamy, is based on the life pursuits of Surama, a strong and resilient lady who must make peace with her circumstances, continuing to move on relentlessly in spite of any odds.
Based on the former era, when divorce as a concept was not yet introduced or practiced much and polygamy was still in vogue, this is the story of Amar and Surama. These two, who get married in an arranged setup, having not even met each other before, part soon after their marriage owing to a situation that leads them to stay apart for 6 months. During this period, Amar falls for and gets married to Charu, a younger woman. When his family shuns him for this act of his, Amar goes to stay with Charu until one day, when his father’s death compels him to come back home.
While being back, somehow the unexpected occurs when Charu becomes too taken by Surama, being in total awe, love and respect for her. As gradually an amicable bond develops between the two women, they now must get together to do the unthinkable—living together as a family of three! Whether they are successful in doing so or fail, well, that constitutes the rest of the tale.
You know, I saw Shyam Benegal’s “Zubeidaa” a long time ago. A brilliant story, this one too based on a real-life queen’s pursuits, portrayed polygamy in a light I had never fathomed before. Albeit the character of the younger wife Zubeidaa, aka Karisma Kapoor, was more rebellious, it was “Mandy Didi,” aka Rekha, the elder wife, that had me besotted as well. The manner in which she used to handle everything, especially her younger “extended sister,” aka Zubeidaa, was shown so gracefully that it was absolutely spellbinding to witness Rekha as the epitome of grace she always is.
Although this book, a classic, was written much before this movie, Didi is more essentially centered around letting go of pretence and false egos and surrendering to love unconditionally. There was so much to drink in from this narrative, be it the equation between Amar and Surama, between Amar and Charu, or, for that matter, even between Surama and Charu, that I was taken in by the frank splay of it all. Being in one of the most awkward relationships, nevertheless, Surama treated Charu with love and care as she would have treated her own sibling. She also respected her naivety, fully aware of how Charu was an innocuous and susceptible being.
For me, Nirupama Devi has managed to score brownie points, especially by displaying such a headstrong character as Surama, the epitome of resilience, dignity and power. Sacrifice as a societal norm, that too in the face of patriarchal pressures in such a dignified manner, is no mean feat to depict, and Nirupama Devi has done it with an enthusiasm that is awe-inspiring. Charu, as a naïve and good wife, is believable too and it was endearing to see how Surama protected her fiercely despite being in an awkward position alongside her. Even Amar’s character had hues of positive touches’ and there was a resonance I felt for what he did and why he did it, thus making him more of a character with dual hues instead of being the “villain” here.
I always say that love as a force has power that no one can fathom, and this narrative in particular is hard proof of this theory of mine. Yes, love has power no one knows about, and it can move mountains too if the need arises. The metamorphic and gargantuan force and power of genuine love and affection is one of the central themes and messages being conveyed through this one.
One may even go so far as to say that this is a life-changing story in many ways, as despite being patriarchal and orthodox in places, it is transformational and inspiring enough to give positive messages too. True, the backdrop of it is widowhood and polygamy, but with so many positive notes in the central theme, it is hard not to be smitten by Nirupama’s writing style, which is enticing as well as cohesively entrancing.
It is a brilliant classic, beautifully translated by Alo Shome. Go for this one if you want to read a tale about a bygone era and pore over and wonder over the power of love, resilience and relentless determination.
So, I hope you guys liked my book review of Didi by Nirupama Devi.