- Indu Kulkarni
The Book Club had an exciting evening with Mohini in conversation with the author, Rohini Paranjpe Sathe about her debut novel, Being Good Enough on the 18th of July. Mohini introduced Rohini, born in Jamshedpur studied at the Gokhale Institute of Economics and trained in Hindustani classical music, but was drawn to her love of words. Her first book of short stories Swans and Songs was well received. This novel just happened as the author says. A powerful portrait of a young girl, Jyoti of the Gupta family of Delhi who braves the onslaught of patriarchy, pressures of society to forge a way for herself in the world of man. The plot as Mohini recounted moves from present to past creating suspense and featuring real people in today’s world. The Guptas are cloth merchants and the household comprises the obedient wife, Munni Masi, widowed sister of the wife and Sooraj their son. Jyoti is bold and forthright in her manner and goes to college. She has an affair with Sameer, the Muslim electrician and Munni Masi warns her. In the present where the novel opens Jyoti is in a chawl in Ghatkopar with Munni Masi and her 14 year old son, Abir. Working for a Mrs. Bhojwani who has a boutique in Mumbai, where Masi sells her embroidery work and Jyoti does the accounts. The author read the opening para of the novel, so arresting in the fear of Jyoti in the market when she is recognized by a friend from Delhi.
The levels of sexuality explored in the novel are interesting. The problem of Homophobia or the fear of gay men in society , the desire to ignore or set right the situation. Jyoti is married off to Amar Agarwal; their family is in the jewelry business. She discovers he is a homosexual and is enraged at her family’s complicity in getting rid of her.
The question was, is the theme of oppression of women dominant or is the growth of Jyoti’s character more important. Rohini felt the challenges faced by Jyoti and her brave survival made the novel. Another question is the cruelty of men even within the family, fear, sadism and power wielded by them over women. Patriarchal tradition does not let women’s voices be heard. Rohini confessed that her emotional involvement in writing the novel was painful but rewarding. Jyoti’s resilience in the face of odds is the core of the novel. She realizes it is not being good but good enough that matters…mockingly!!
A member from the audience asked does not happiness portrayed by the writer bring about deep emotions in the writer or is it only tragic circumstances. Rohini concurred and said both emotions involve commitment of the writer. A member of the audience said the novel should be translated into regional languages to reach the masses to make them aware of the evils of sexual maladjustment and powerlessness of women under the terror of the times. Maybe a serial or a movie could be made. Another short story writer spoke of the intricacies of exploration possible in the novel’s wide canvas.
A rewarding evening with the writer sharing her secrets with us. Mohini’s expert comments were illuminating. We look forward to another Sunday of stimulating talks.
Recording of the program :