“I Like Stories Where Women Save Themselves.”

Posted: October 20, 2015

This October Women’s Web, with JustBooks, is running Book Talk, a writing theme where you get to write (read) about books that inspire us. The first winning entry is all about women in books who save themselves, sans knight in shining armour. 

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In October, we asked you to write on My Favourite Fictional Female Character: Women Who Rock! This week we publish the three winning entries, beginning with I like stories where women save themselves, by Bhavani.

Strength and willingness to stand up for themselves are possibly the two most attractive characteristics I find while reading a book with a well-etched heroine. Whether Elizabeth Bennett or the Bronte heroines in their complexity, or the quiet grit shown by Hester of the Scarlet Letter, these were heroines who stood up for themselves, each in their own way, even if it simply meant not giving in.

But they belonged to another generation, and in some ways, no longer shape the way I think about myself, as a modern woman and as a woman of contradictions. Today I think our internal demons beat the hell out of us.

The one woman that stands out for me and my current favourite (current because these things change) is Nomi from Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy. She shows fortitude, understated power, and a certain elegance despite her bold actions. There is a willingness to give herself time to deal with things instead of getting impatient.

There are traces of Lisbeth Slander in her grit to push on, and glimpses of vulnerability too, but she doesn’t choose revenge unlike Lisbeth and attempts to exorcise the demons in her own way.

(Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the book)

She has had a tough childhood, watching her father die in front of her, being separated from her family, growing up in an orphanage and being abused by the guruji there, and then finally moving to Norway, a distant and strange land, to live with a foster parent.

She comes back as an adult to get closure. She questions society, but society pushes back its judgments of her, though no one stood up for her when she was the victim. Three elderly women on the train judge her, without trying to understand her. The priest at the temple comments on her attire and says she cannot enter the temple like that, which seems more important than the sexual abuse that took place at the ashram close. A man beats her in a fit of rage when she doesn’t respond the way he wants her to, even though he was initially attracted to her independence. The guide is disappointed that while she is a foreigner she is as ‘normal’ in looks like everyone else in this Indian village.

Nomi acts as a window to India; she gives us a window seat and we are all peeping in at all the hypocrisy and misogyny, and wondering how we got here. Or maybe not surprised at all, for haven’t we all experienced at least one of the scenarios mentioned above?

I wanted her to sort out the ghosts from her past, and in some ways, when she did it in a non-dramatic way, without the help of anyone else but herself, I respected her even more. She picks herself up, figures out how to go on ahead, and she does. As Neil Gaiman says, “I like stories where women save themselves.”

The prize

Bhavani wins a Rs.500 voucher for this entry, from JustBooks, India’s First & Largest Community Library Chain. 

JustBooks gives you (and your entire family, from toddlers to teens, dabblers to bookworms), a wide selection of 9 lakh books on an affordable membership plan! You can read unlimited books and at your leisure with no late fee. Don’t forget to check out their excellent reading list for women, and other book recommendations!

JustBooks stocks books in 8 regional languages and offers door delivery services in 36 cities including Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad.

Here is a JustBooks special offer just for Women’s Web readers! Use coupon code JBWWD250 to redeem Rs.250 on JustBooks membership plans when you signup.

Top image of woman via Shutterstock

bhavani is an independent fiction and non-fiction writer. She has crafted over 20 heritage

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