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Manjiri Indurkar narrates a memoir of abuse in It’s All In Your Head, M, sitting with her trauma to heal, with ruthless honesty, sparing no one, even herself.
I knew going into this novel, that this was a memoir, dealing with the difficult crossroads between physical health and emotional well-being, and the long-term effects of childhood trauma on both those deceptively separate things. I know the author Manjiri Indurkar a little bit on Facebook (we have a mutual friend) and so pre-ordered the book based on her smart, fun Facebook persona (I wonder what she thinks of mine, if she does at all).
This is to say I knew the book would be dealing with moments that would be difficult to read and think about, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Manjiri Indurkar takes a ruthless scalpel not only to childhood sexual abuse but also to her self as a friend, a daughter and granddaughter, a (romantic) partner and as a student; we are exposed not just to the sins committed against her, but her own actions without self-pity or excuses. Her entire narrative deals very intimately with pain, betrayal and rage, but Indurkar holds a very firm control on the narrative – she is not here to simply splash horror on the pages and get a visceral reaction.
Compassion is the theme of one of her chapters dealing with her family, but it also is the fundamental usage of that scalpel I mentioned earlier. Manjiri Indurkar talks of her self and her past with gentle care: her lovers and partners, and people who have caused her great harm, contextualising every action and trying to see the others’ lives and perspectives.
Something we see in this memoir is that child abuse doesn’t always exist in an ignorant vacuum. So often it is buttressed, covered up, hidden by family who should have known, who should have cared, who should have protected the child. Indurkar talks of this book as a way to heal herself, but it also acts as a condemnation, and a mercy, to the people who let her down.
I knew Manjiri Indurkar before this book as a poet, and she intersperses the memoir with prose poems she wrote at the time. Her poetry is evocative and compulsive reading , elevating the prose style of the rest of the book.
Physical and mental health are one and the same in Indurkar’s novel.
The memoir starts with an intensively severe diarrhoea that lands her in the hospital – everything unravels from there. Except no – everything had unravelled a long time earlier, and Indurkar had just ignored it. Not suppressed – this is not a filmy narrative where there is a sudden resurfacing of memory.
Our healing is not merely in our knowing, or even in our speaking, of trauma. Sitting with trauma, and examining it, and then looking at and examining all the traumas that we carried, and wielded on ourselves after – this takes more than a telling, and I hope Manjiri Indurkar found it in her book.
Given the poisonous silence we hold around sexual abuse, and child abuse, in this country and everywhere else, this book could already be a must-read for education alone. But it is also a beautiful and hopeful exploration of survival, living with deep wounds, and slowly closing them. And so worth reading even if you already know.
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Rohini Malur is a writer based on Bengaluru. She is a founding member of All
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