Title: The Diary of a Lutyens’ Princess; Author: Bindu Dalmia; Publisher: Rupa Publications; Pages: 227; Price: Rs 500
The patriarchal structure, where men are in authority over women in all aspects of society, has sadly been predominant in India for years.
Addressing the issue, which has for long caged the freedom of expression of women, author Bindu Dalmia relates the experience of one such independent woman who faces it all with confidence.
The book is about a girl who belongs to a middle-class family, and she has a strict father whose rulebook for her reads: “Daughters are not allowed to mingle with the opposite sex as all men are rascals.”
He also mandated that the men his daughters would marry were to be “good, virtuous Punjabis, preferable from the services, who had no vices like smoking or drinking”. And if this basic premise was not met, “the girls dared not step out” of the Laxman Rekha he drew — perhaps a sentiment shared by most fathers to this day.
“The Diary…” charts the protagonist Akshraa’s life over five decades full of turbulence. But no matter how difficult the situation, she braves it all.
Through this book, Dalmia has penned situations which in her words, shows that Delhi and its elite is all about “power, power and power”. She says that for an outsider who hails from a comparatively small city, Delhi is “fascinating and equally intimidating”.
In a situation where the protagonist is climbing the stairs of success in her career, where work becomes her dope, Dalmia writes a very hard-hitting line that her character had “gotten over the human need of feeling complete only if one was in a relationship”.
Summing up Akshraa’s experience over the years, Dalmia says that “royalty, as also stiff-upper-lipped business aristocratic families and their scions, were reared in the most robotic manner to never express joy, mirth, grief, heady laughter or tears”.
A single mother, Akshara’s life sees a lot of ups and downs where she was eyed by wannabe men, while her child was sent to a boarding school. She is also seen being apologetic to her son in some parts of the story.
It’s a read that you won’t be able to put down for sure. The flow keeps you engrossed until the end as many would be able to connect with the story in some or the other way, in one or the other situation.
(Kishori Sud can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)