Once again Mahasweta Devi has touched upon the lives of those who are never noticed, never cared for. And her pen cuts a deep wound in the minds of readers, forcing them to sit up and discern the essential from the inessential.
Bedanabala. Her Life. Her Times is a touching tale told in first person of a woman, Bedanabala, whose mother used to live in a brothel. These reminiscences are sometimes personal, sometimes historical. The story begins in the late 19th Century, with the “theft” of a beautiful girl child from a wealthy family. She is Bedanabala’s mother. She grows up in the house of ill repute, to be groomed to enter the profession once she has come of age. But then, Did’ma, the owner of the brothel, grows to love this beautiful child as she would her own daughter and does not want her to enter this profession. She seeks for her a life of a householder. It is story that is seldom told. Did’ma’s contribution to the war effort, her donations to the fighters of India’s freedom and her gifts to the mission are her way of atoning for her sins.
The story is set in a changing India, an India poised on the threshold of progress and transformation. New thoughts and ideas are forming in the minds of idealistic youth and nationalistic passion runs high. I like how she merges topics – nationalism with the issue of prostitution and yet none of them are glorified. She writes the way she imagines and the way she has known. There is not an ounce of superficialness in her penmanship skills.
Mahasweta Devi’s Bedanabala. Her Life. Her Times empathises with a section of women that is misunderstood and disapproved of. She narrates the story with great sensitivity, skilfully weaving into the story a changing India and nationalism. I am a great fan of her works and that is only because she knows how to write and write well. The book is translated by Sunandini Banerjee.