December 10, 2015

#BookReview: The curse of Damini by Debjjani Mohanty

"Damini is not a name, and the curse is no supernatural power. Damini symbolizes the vulnerability of women in our society. Damini exists within our minds. She lives in me and in you." 
(The curse of Damini, Chapter: 34, page: 179)

Title: The Curse of Damini
Author: Debjani Mohanty
Published by: Partridge India 2015
Price: Rs. 399
Pages: 185
Rate: 4/5

The Curse of Damini is the debut novel by Debjani Mohanty. First a glimpse on the summary of the book as the blurb reads:
"The world seemed not enough for free spirited Renuka, when she married the highly educated Shashank hailing from the mightiest Zamindars of Bengal. However, soon her life turned upside down when a neighbor revealed her of their sinister past.
It is a mysterious supernatural curse cast on their family almost a century back. Generation by generation, Damini's enraged curse had passed on, declining their family clan from hundreds to a handful few. Who would be Damini's next victim? And why innocent lives are at a stake for a crime committed by an ancestor a hundred years back? Renuka would not settle until she finds an answer and in her quest she struggles to eradicate all the evils that come in her way. Would she ever win a battle against an unseen enemy? Would the wrong done to Damini be ever avenged?
Set against the nostalgic era of 1940s, the story narrates the arduous journey of Renuka Pal, the protagonist, from a rash teenage freedom fighter to the seasoned writer of the 21st century India. In this thrilling saga of death, betrayal and power play the narrative would cover a large chunk of twentieth century history. The passing of time, historical events and the changing country is so well-woven to the story that one would hardly differentiate between fact and fiction."

I was quite pulled in after reading the plot and decided to review the book - The Curse of Damini. . After reading the prologue, I thought it was a kind of haunted stories and found the dialogues pretty cinematic. But as I dug deep in more, the book took me no time to finish it. After a long time, I read a novel with such a free flowing grip that can't be left in-between. Each chapter entices to move on to the next to find out what surprise is waiting for us. Debutante Debjani Mohanty skilfully delineated the focus on the struggle of the women, their fight for existence and the search for Identity which was warmly wrapped up with a fervid romance in between the two main leads. The main protagonist Renuka is the epitome of existence with whom the womanhood has been empowered to fight against the odds. The whole story evolves around her with her encounter with different incidents that a patriarchal society exemplifies as the oppressed ruler where women are the subjects to suffer. Damini turns out to be the silent protagonist who throughout the novel haunted the women of the Roy Choudhury family as a curse but at the end, Renuka elucidates the truth of Damini who is none but the prototype of female subjugation.
                                                   The fiction started from the very backdrop of pre-independence and early independent India  when Renuka’s journey for existence started right as a freedom fighter at the age of fifteen. Slowly the story built up with a confrontation of teenage love at first sight in between Shashank (the son of Roy Choudhury family) and Renuka. Then after few years, incidentally, they got conjugally knotted against some odds where the dreams of two hearts elated with joy. The curse that haunted the Roy Choudhury family started haunting Renuka too. But Renuka with her education and rationality spiflicated the curse and established her own institution. Renuka proved herself that financial independence not only gives an identity to a lady but the power to fight back against the male dominated society. Though the half of the credit goes to her success to her husband whose constant support and understanding helped her to surmount the success. Papiya, Ichamayi, Catherine, Mandira who all are the victim of the patriarchal society, became the strength of Renuka to fight back and stood against the norms and ordinances that a patriarchal society tabooed for women. The book floated with a great acquisition denoting the women struggle in terms of rape, prostitution, several childbirth and miscarriages leading to a depression, fate of a girl child etc. The fiction covered an era starting from the pre-independence India till 21st century remonstrating that the female struggle for existence remained more or less same. The book even ended up with the Nirbhaya rape case and Renuka’s cogitation how rape could be demolished from this society.

What I liked most, is the way the author described with minute detailing the era of Zaminder, their culture and the rituals, the riot after the partition. Being a Bengali, I very much float with the memory line that many of us may have heard the stories from our grandmothers. The author has delimitated romance as the main drive that made the readers to get hooked till the end. The character of Mandira, I found too bold and plain spoken considering the time when she was born.  Renuka’s mentation on how to stop rape broke the rhythm how the novel was flowing freely. I also wished if the Title of the book would be more theme-centric as the title is not justifying the theme of the novel. But I would really like to appreciate the way being an engineering graduate and working as a senior IT professional with one of the biggest MNCs of India, Debjani Mohanty presented her debut novel. I will be surely looking forward to her next fiction.

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