The Private Life of
Mrs Sharma By Ratika Kapur
Once in a
while, along comes a book written at the cusp of imagination and craft. This
slim volume that released a few months ago, tells a compellingly ordinary story
and tells it in style.
The protagonist is a middle-aged housewife running to a
little fat, going about her everyday life: tending to her truant son, verily
the apple of her eye; tending to her in-laws who, she assures the reader, treat
her with love as well as respect; and keeping things in fine fettle whilst her physiotherapist
husband does his job in faraway Dubai. Only, Renuka Sharma has more longings and desires inside her than she
had previously gauged or plumbed.
The argot is
so genuine, with delightful little frills
like: he stood calmly in one place, like a statue of some great man; she did
her level best; I was feeling a little
bit odd; I asked him jokily; he agreed
then and there. Never does it all become caricature of a certain type, indicating
the author`s control over both plot and characterisation.
reader finds herself falling in love with the tone, the cadence, and the language Renu Sharma uses. Voila, we
are now interested and invested in Renu Sharma, and when she finds a young
swain with an old heart, we cheer for her. Of course, by now we have ascertained
that Mrs. Sharma is both respectable as well as practical, remarkably level-headed,
such an Everywoman. (But yes, sometimes that there are occasional lapses in moral
rectitude, like when she is on a walk-through in a boutique hotel and comes upon a shiny red leather case for ties. She wants
to pick it up for Mr. Sharma, only it is
too large to slip into her purse.) And we
are almost sure that the swain is only a very small part of this woman`s matrix.
some real gems in here. Like when Renu Sharma explains to the reader that she
goes to malls to find peace. What she likes is the `cool and clean of the
building`; she does not go to buy because everything is at least thirty per
cent costlier than what is in the market and then everything is also fixe price
so you can even bargain. She goes to find peace.
she tells us the difference between being work-busy which, of course, is
totally different from being house-busy. The author has skillfully depicted the
clashing of personalities that actually dovetail: the dutiful wife, mother,
daughter-in-law vs. the woman who refuses to recognize certain needs even as
she involuntarily gives in to them.
writing at times brings to mind the style of another Kapur, Manju Kapur. As the
intensity of Mrs Sharma`s need to see and be with her swain increases, she
starts to feel confused and despises that confusion, convinced it is a sickness
suffered by the weak-minded. And not for one minute is our Mrs. Sharma
weak-minded. She knows that life’s problems cannot be solved by ten or twenty
simple words. More importantly, she knows her limits. She knows her duties
toward her family, she has always
fulfilled those duties and intends to continue doing so till the day she dies.
In the meantime, can we blame her if all she wants is to have some fun?
It’s such a
smooth transition, the superseding of the duties by the fun. The reader is forever glancing up at the
invisible sword dangling above Mrs. Sharma`s sleek head. Will it fall? Does it
fall? Well really, can anything bad
befall such a sensible woman? And yes, Mrs. Sharma`s ruminations are a
crystal-clear reflection on the social and economic inequities that define India
If this is the
only read for you all of this hot summer, go ahead, read it. You won’t regret
Labels: Book Review, Ratika Kapur, Sheila Kumar, The Private Life of Mrs Sharma, Unboxed Writers website