Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Book Independence Is About A Sisterhood That Makes You Resilient…

While differing greatly in their worldview, what the sisters have in common is the way they carry their respective choices on their shoulders, and learn to grow to respect each other more for their differing opinions.

‘Here is a river like a slender silver chain, here is a village bordered by greengold rice-fields, here is a breeze smelling of sweet water-rushes… Here is the country that contains them all.’

And with that, the stage is set for Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Independence.

We begin in August 1946 with a moment of utter peace and joy, the silence before the storm, in the quiet village of Ranipur in Bengal. On the veranda of a mansion, 18-year-old Priya Ganguly plays chess with the mansion’s owner Somnath Chowdhury, a zamindar and her father Nabakumar’s best friend. This ambience of cheeriness amidst brewing restlessness country-wide shatters on Direct Action Day in Calcutta when Nabakumar gets caught in a crossfire while rescuing injured people outside his clinic and subsequently dies.

As the country reels from the aftermath of that day, which churns into a cesspool of communal fights in all its horrors, the Ganguly family of one mother and three daughters are left to pick up the pieces and find their footing again. Told through the alternating perspectives of the three sisters—Deepa, Jamini and Priya—their story unravels while India inches closer to an independence that comes at a heavy price.

Deepa, the oldest and prettiest of the sisters, is determined and decisive. She takes over the family affairs without batting an eyelid when tragedy strikes. The middle sister, Jamini, is born with a golden voice and a limp, and has little expectations of life while pining for more, yet always works hard regardless. Priya, the youngest, aspires to be a doctor like her father, but faces gender bias in pre-Independence India and is forced to decide to leave the country to pursue her dreams.

‘No matter how her story ends, she refuses to believe that a woman cannot have the joys of home and also a place in the world.’

While differing greatly in their worldview, what the sisters have in common is the way they carry their respective choices on their shoulders, good or bad in the eyes of the society or the family, and learn to grow to respect each other more for their differing opinions. The thing most refreshing to watch unfold in the story is their solidarity towards each other, their love which stands strong even when apart, and the lengths to which they are willing to go for each other. Each of the sisters fosters within herself a resilience to never give up, even as the world falls apart or turns against them. To that extent, Jamini advises Priya: ‘Count only upon yourself. Do not be ashamed of anything anyone can do to you.’

As an added bonus, the novel comes accompanied with a playlist of patriotic songs, a lot of which feature in the narrative as well, and which are well worth treating oneself to while becoming engrossed in the book.

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‘…there is a wind, the wind of independence, blowing away centuries of fog, revealing sparkling skies.’

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Independence is a linear timeline narrative fraught with its own style of prose, which might delight or disappoint but certainly delivers the impact more often than not. The differing perspectives of the sisters provide for varied angles of view for the picture on hand and help us understand the characters better, though the progression of the fictional story dons on a familiar garb very quickly. The harrowing scenes of the riots and all its revenges which sprout from that one fateful day leave one’s heart bleeding.

‘Can you cut up a country as though it were cake?’

It is always a welcome treat to read about lasting bonds between women, friendships and relationships which time, distance and politics cannot render asunder. Moreover, the novel’s respect for women and their choices, whether it is a grand career move or a happily ever after or even what could be considered a deceitful move, is heartwarming to read, especially when said respect comes in the form of characters within the pages. One of the subtly powerful messages which I loved from the book is:

‘She no longer feels the need to be apologetic…’

Overall, Independence speaks of resilience, pain, scars which never fade, and love that can carry us through, whether it’s love for each other or for the motherland. One of the best things about the novel is the full circle it comes to.

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up Independence written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, use our affiliate links at Amazon Indiaand at Amazon US.

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Image source: a still from Mrinal ki Chitthi from Tagore Stories and book cover Amazon

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About the Author

Manisha Sahoo

Clumsy. Awkward. Straight-forward. A writer, in progress. A pencil sketch artist by hobby. IG: @leesplash read more...

17 Posts | 30,929 Views

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