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249 pages, Hardcover
First published May 4, 2017
I am the woman who has tried to shield herself from the pain of the first person singular …. I am the woman who stands in place of the woman who loathes to enter this story in any of its narrations … because that woman has struggled so hard and long to wriggle out of it – and now when asked to speak, she would much rather send a substitute. Sharing stories might be catharsis, but to her it is the second, more sophisticated punishment. I am the woman deputed on her behalf.
When I talk to people about writing my story, the first response is often: have you found the writing cathartic? Not at all. Catharsis is about purging emotions. That was never my aim. Instead, I wanted to take all that hurt and pain and shame and suffering, and distil it and transform it into something beautiful. The process of writing was a kind of alchemy-to take the horror of the violence, to dwell in it and shape that into an intense, moving sentence. I did that until every shard of my sadness caught the right amount of light, and every word shone on the page. I made an abusive marriage into an art object, and that is how I left it in the end
I am the woman who will be cursed by society for being passed from man to man to man, hand to hand to hand. I am the woman at whom society cannot spit or throw stones because this me is a she who is made up only of words on a page, and the lines she speaks are those that everyone hears in their own voice.
I am the woman who stands in place of the woman who loathes to enter this story in any of its narrations - police or procedural, personal or fictional - because that woman has struggled so hard and so long to wriggle out of it - and now, when asked to speak, she would much rather send a substitute. Sharing stories might be catharsis, but to her it is the second, more sophisticated punishment. I am the woman deputed on her behalf.
“My written body opens up only to the extent I decide to demarcate. It does not require the permission of my parents, it does not require the approval of society. My words might reveal a generous cleavage, a breaking waist, but they do not let anyone put their hands on me. Wrapping my body into words, I proof it against the prying eye, against inspection. I have sheathed it against the hands of others. My woman’s body, when it is written down, is rape resistant.”
Sometimes the shame is not the beatings, not the rape.
The shaming is in being asked to stand to judgment.
“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.”
"There is a linguistic theory that the structures of languages determine the mode of thought and behavior of the cultures in which they are spoken. In an effort to understand my life at the moment, I have come up with its far-fetched corollary, a distant cousin of this theory: I think what you know in a language shows who you are in relation to that language (...) Now in Mangalore, I know the Kannada words eshtu: how mych; haalu: milk; anda: eggs; namaskaram: greetings; neerulli: onion; hendathi: wife; illi: here; ahdu: that one; illa: no; saaku: enough; (...) I can dig out ever single word that I've uttered in Kannada. In this language, I am nothing except a housewife."...and about ideas on writing. Particularly, the protagonist sees writing here as her own means of subversion, escape and defiance — be it within the marriage, where she writes letters to imaginary lovers and deletes them before lunchtime, or after her liberation, when she writes down her story so that nobody; neither her husband, nor her mother; can distort or reduce it to something it was not. Kandasamy is writing to achieve the same ends: a fictional account of marital abuse frees her from questioning, from the burden of pain; including epigraphs from linguistically, culturally and ethnically diverse feminists consolidates her position among them. This is an assertion that both the protagonist and the author are, in fact, something "except a housewife" — and that they have a voice.
"Pity seems possible; I have a compulsive need to dole it out like small change, but the writer in me is stronger than the woman in me."