How does one talk about a book that says so much, that has so many layers to it? How does one even try to make sense of such an empathetic, sometimes unforgiving, mostly sensitive book? These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light by Dharini Bhaskar is a debut, and doesn’t read like one. It has been nurtured and taken care of for years for it to be what it is. It is a book that is about women, absent men, houses that are spectators, and emotions that are unexpressed.
What is the plot of the book, you ask?
Well, it all begins with Ammama and how she was married to a stranger – almost taken – before the Partition of the country. It then follows the story of her daughter, Vanaja and how she comes to marry Karthik, who chances upon her outside a temple, till we finally get to the narrator of the story Deeya – the second daughter of Vanaja – the middle child amongst three daughters – each with their own fate, body, and mind. Each struggling in their own way to cope with the absence of their father – who just took off one fine day, never to return.
Bhaskar’s prose is haunting. The only way I can describe it, I guess. It takes you back and forth into the narrative – the past, present, and even the future intermingles and that jolted me – and also made me see my relationships in a different light. We are all flawed – and so are Bhaskar’s characters. No one is perfect. No one is expected to be. That to me is the beauty of the novel at its very core. The decisions they take – of falling in love with an older person, of leaving, of wanting to run away only to come back, and mostly of loving, being cruel, and taking relationships for granted.
These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light is so much and all of which is so wonderfully laid out for the reader. The loneliness, the angst, also the wonderful compromises we all make in the name of love and togetherness, and above all the longing – the longing that is present throughout the book – running through every woman. Conversations that are never spoken. Absent people who inhabit spaces of the heart, from which they can’t be evicted, no matter how hard one tries. Women who love beyond – with inner lives, far removed from being just maternal figures. Different women, different times, from the same family, blending into being alive – just alive.