Debajani Mohanty’s first novel, The Curse of Damini shows her handling the art of writing with great power. This book is not a horror novel as the title of the book and the dark colours used in the book cover suggest. On the other hand, the central theme of The Curse of Damini is the age-old injustice perpetrated by traditional Hindu society upon women. The author has thrown light on the plight of women through a number of incidents in the form of a well-woven story-line. The special focus is on the condition of a wife in an orthodox milieu of Indian society. While the book shows the author’s compassion for the exploited women in an intense manner, the book does not degenerate into blind hysterics or dull preaching. In contrast, the narrative in this book speaks to you. The story takes you through an extensive variety of feelings. The story makes you both angry and proud. Angry because of the ways people have treated women in traditional Indian societies, and still do in lots of places, and proud because of the ways some people stood up against these evil practices and loudly opposed the same. The story is set in West Bengal.
At the centre of the novel under review, stands Renuka (the lead character), whose personality, life and career illustrates the central theme of this book. Her character provides the main perspective and point of view in this novel. By contrasting the character of Renuka with a number of other women characters in the novel, the author has tried to provide a reasonably complete picture of women in orthodox Indian society. Renuka’s character is compared with Papia and Mandira, who are more complex women characters in the novel. The character of Papia presents, with deep compassion, the psychological torture undergone by a young wife as she comes to realize her true position in the house as merely a lust-satisfying machine for her over-sexed husband. The interplay between Renuka and Mandira in the novel beautifully portrays a contrast between two diametrically opposed attitudes to life; Mandira’s shown to be disastrous in its own way. For Mandira, everything in the external world must serve her own interests. Such interests, as shown in the book, inevitably end in self-destruction.
The book can also be placed in the category of historical fiction as we find the description of a number of historical events in the narrative. The author has been successful in capturing the cultural and social aspects of both pre and post-independence era in India. The author has certainly put a lot of effort as can be seen in the book. A number of local words used in West Bengal have been used in the plot. However, don’t get scared as a comprehensive glossary given at the end of the book explains these local words beautifully. On top of that, the use of such words adds a different charm to the narrative.
Let’s come to some of the drawbacks of this book. While the blurb of the book has been written well, the fonts are too small to read. Additionally, the background colour makes it further difficult to read. The writing is good but the story losses pace at certain portions. The end does not disappoint you but could have been better. I also felt that some more pages could have been devoted to ‘the plot of curse’ as it somehow gets lost in the narrative.
Bottom line, this book impressed me on several fronts. This book is an honest attempt by the author to throw light on socially relevant issues and she has accomplished that successfully.
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review