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Priya Somaiya has almost 3 decades of social work behind her, and this can be seen in this anthology of true stories she has written.
When I picked up the book Unwilling to Bend, I was in the midst of a busy, and sometimes crazy schedule, finding very little time to read. But as soon as I read the first story in this anthology, I knew I had to read every one of them.
The stories are all on a subject very close to my heart: women and their plight in today’s world. Each one narrates the story of a strong woman – unique in her own way, how she goes through life, and all that it throws at her. Be it the brave Janvi, or the traditional Shailaja, or the determined Asma, they all became my companions as I read about them and rooted for them.
I read the stories in sequence, and what is unique about this collection of stories, is that no two stories are alike. Each one deals with different characters and situations. I felt each woman’s pain as I read about what they were going through. Ten stories come together beautifully in the book and you get onto a roller coaster of emotions as you laugh, cry, and feel angry with these women.
Author Priya Somaiya has deftly captured the essence of the true Indian woman – courageous, determined, willing to break the mold, and yet embracing everything that signifies Indian culture.
If I had to name one story that I liked best, I would have to be Dark Clouds without Silver Linings. As I read it, I remembered a movie I had watched recently, Article 15, which deals with somewhat similar premises.
Both are set in Uttar Pradesh, and both deal with the exploitation of women in a fully male dominated society. Of course, that is where the similarities end. But both the story and the movie will hit you hard and you realize there is so much that goes on in this vast country of ours that we have no idea about. You also feel sad that although we keep talking about gender equality, feminism, and women’s liberation, we have miles to go – and sometimes it is women who hold themselves and each other back.
Forgive me if I am rambling, but this is something that I feel strongly about.
There is another story I’d like to mention – Platform Number Six. All the others ended with a ray of hope, but this one, Nutan’s story, makes you sad. There must be many Nutans in railway stations across India. They grow up without love and survive in ways we cannot imagine. And of course, when it comes to real life, not everyone finds their ‘happily ever after’.
As you read these stories, you will find that somewhere or the other, some situation or some reaction from a character is something you have gone through in your life.
That is because as women living our lives, we have to fight every day to be recognized as something other than a wife and a mother. Career women juggle home and career, and often face criticism if they neglect any of these two worlds in the slightest. Though the men in our lives have come some way in recognizing that they need to be supportive and actively contribute to housework, some situations are still something only a woman can handle. A sick child and an important meeting at work that you cannot miss – how do you choose?
All in all, the book is a great read, and should appeal to a wide audience. The only area where it can be improved is the copy-editing, which had some errors in tense that I could spot while reading.
Once I had finished the stories, I took a few minutes to read Ms. Somaiya’s profile at the back of the book. She has spent three decades in human resources and social welfare work and as the cover page says, these are true stories of courageous and determined women she must have come across in her work and her life. I hope she keeps writing more about her experiences and enlighten readers with many other stories.
If you want a book that you don’t want to put down and are forced to make time for, get your copy of Unwilling to Bend. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did!
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Image source: shutterstock, and book cover via Amazon
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