Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Excerpts from Reviews of my Novels

The Higher Education of Geetika Mehendiratta (Disha Books, Orient Longman 1993)

Anuradha Marwah Roy’s remarkable first novel, intelligently crafted, touchingly told. Free from stylistic affectations, her fluent prose is devoid of the subverting impact of pleonastic frills – a virtue few debutante-writers can claim to possess. Reflecting a bilingual sensibility, what emerges as a very obvious concern is her desire to be recognized as a natural storyteller.
Bishwadeep Ghosh in ‘The Sunday Times of India’.

What is not to be taken for granted are the clear flashes of insight into character, the incisive use of dialogue to pad out the even tone of the narrative style, so that Geetika becomes unforgettable not just for her polysyllabic name (which she hates) but because she has been so believably and recognizably put together – the new Indian woman coming to terms with herself in an Indian society from which she can expect no quarter and to which she will grant none.
Carol Andrade in ‘The Metropolis on Saturday’

The book is wholly modern and yet Indian enough, is fluently written and easily read.
Muriel Wasi in ‘The Hindustan Times’

It is a charming story, written blandly and without excessive emotion, about growing up. The style is reminiscent of Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole series.
Prita Maitra in ‘Sunday Magazine’

Geetika, the girl, the teenager, the post-graduate student rings true. You delight in her discoveries and share her pain.
Sunil Mehra in ‘The Pioneer’.

Geetika traverses the geographical and mental space between a small town in Rajasthan and the national capital. First novels are notoriously unreliable for future projection, but collectively these books point to an indigenous state of good literary health.
Meenakshi Mukherjee in ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’

Idol Love (Ravi Dayal Publisher, 1999)

Anuradha Marwah-Roy’s novel, Idol Love (1999) addresses the rise of the Hindu Right. The “Ramins”, as she calls them, in a clever conflation of “Brahmins” and a newly reincarnated deity “Poornaramin” rule over the new-old Raminland in an Indian dystopia reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Significantly, it is a strategic use of the Bhagwad Gita that is decisive in converting a “no-win situation” into a landslide victory for the Ramins in the general election. The novel’s female protagonist, an English-educated writer who has been working with a secularist coalition, finds herself co-opted and used by the very forces she had been opposing. By the end of the novel, her voice has been completely silenced and her “karma” defined for her by the state as the “action of dedicating her womb to her race,” her social status based upon her caste and her power to give birth to sons.

Josna Rege in Colonial Karma: Self, Action and Nation in the Indian English Novel. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) p 159.

Anuradha Marwah-Roy’s Idol Love (1999) presents a chilling picture of an Indian dystopia in the twenty-first century.
Antonia Navarro-Tejero in The Essentials of Literature in English Post-1914

Idol Love by Anuradha Marwah-Roy presents a chilling picture of an Indian dystopia in the twenty-first century. The Hindutva agenda has been carried to its logical end. Society in Raminland is ordered on the precepts of Manu and women are honoured as ‘Ardhanginis’ (better halves). Careers are open to women if they give up family life and become ‘Sadhvis’ ( female hermits). The capital Rajdhani has been sanitised and the lower classes (‘Dasa’ slaves and religious minorities called ‘Drohi’ traitors) have to get special passes when they enter it for doing all the menial work. The novelist’s attention to detail in recreating day to day life in India makes this dystopia utterly credible.”
M.K. Naik and Shyamala A Narayan in Indian English Literature 1980-2000 (p 95)

This is an intricately crafted story, and marvelously innovative in the use of English to suggest Indian languages - the author indicates subtle differences between the Hindi spoken by the Dasas and the Urdu of the Drohis without using a single italicized desi word. A novel of ideas, Idol Love is an ambitious risk to take at this moment when fiction by Indian women seems largely to swirl gently around the vicissitudes of quotidian life.
Nivedita Menon in ‘The Book Review’.

It is a modern love story set in contemporary Delhi against the backdrop of the Babri Masjid demolition and has an interesting twist.
Renu Govil in ‘The Statesman’

Anuradha Marwah Roy’s second novel Idol Love is soaked in the suicidal sadness of unrequited love or alternatively the love of idols in a Hindu state, is shown to be a hypnotist seducing us into false prophecies.
Manish Chand in ‘The Asian Age’.

Anuradha Marwah-Roy is erudite, has a way with words and compels attention.
Khushwant Singh in ‘The Hindustan Times’

Dirty Picture (Indialog Publications, 2007)
Serious, responsible, yet funny and ironic, that is Anuradha’s writing.
A criticism – a false criticism that is levelled all the time against women’s writing, is that it tends to be internal and domestic. I think in that sense Anuradha is not a woman – the larger world is her domain. So that she unites in her writing two kinds of sensibility – one that is intimate and personal, and the other that deals for example with politicised religion and socially disruptive forces.
It is not easy to write about such things, and in a way that will induce people to be concerned about them, but I think she succeeds brilliantly. In Dirty Picture, particularly she has managed to bring all her interests together in a narrative that is both disturbing and persuasive.
This is a story that needs to be told, but because of its complexity, it is not an easy story to tell. But Anuradha persisted, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude that she did. This particular incident at least will not be covered by the dust of ages.
Manju Kapur, the author of Difficult Daughters’

While most contemporary feminist writers see no reason to transcend their comfortable urban locations to engage with poverty, male domination and issues that trap middle class women in India’s forgotten, small dusty towns, Anuradha Marwah presents an unflinching picture of two sisters “who become a victim of their own mindset” in her third novel Dirty Picture (published by IndiaLog and priced at Rs 195).
Richa Bhatia in ‘Indian Express’

Dirty Picture by Anuradha Marwah deals earnestly with difficult realities. Set around the Ajmer sex scandal of the early nineties it goes beyond the news to discover reasons and processes.
Nandini Nair in ‘The Hindu’

To weave in fact and fiction, biographical and imaginative elements and structure a story that would hold the readers’ interest could not have been an easy task.
Purabi Shridhar in Femina’’

An Unputdownable book
The Hindustan Times

There is ambition, desire, politics and much more in this novel about small town India. An interesting read.
Ramya Sharma in DNA

Well crafted narrative and perfectly moulded incidents make this novel a must read.
Sumandra Singh in Merinews.

Blame it on the novel being sufficiently disturbing or on the fact that the lives of the protagonists in the novel could be anyone’s story today, Dirty Picture in its cut and dried format is evocative.
Preetika Mathew in And Persand

Required Discomfort

Anuradha Marwah's first book, 'The Higher Education of Geetika Mehendiratta', was the story of a young woman in a provincial setting, struggling to make some very bold decisions (Keeping a baby born out of wedlock).
Her second, Idol Love, was a complete departure from the earlier theme, a futuristic satire on the nature of gender relations and the constantly changing equations between the two.
However, in 'Dirty Picture', Marwah goes off in another direction and she does it with equal felicity, if such a word may be used about what is essentially a most unpleasant subject - the sexual exploitation of young women by politicians and the law in small towns.
As she has done in her first two books, in writing about what is essentially an 'underwritten' subject in Indian fiction writing, Marwah, who teaches English at Zakir Hussain University in New Delhi, uses authority. She writes from the perspective of the insider, at home in the small town milieu, an environment that you usually carry with you when relocating (as she has done) to the metropolis.
She used it well in her first book, she employed 'authority' in her second, and the fact that her own background is very different proves no obstacle at all in fleshing out the characters of Bharti and Reena, two sisters who are exploited in different ways.
In "Dirty Pictures", the author uses a foundation of solid fact to create her most believable scenario. She also empathises so completely that the most memorable segments comprise the use of stream of consciousness as a literary device to mentally box Bharti in so completely that she is helpless in the face of the circumstances that overwhelm her. Left with no option, fire becomes a way out. Even so, when it happens, it is a shock.
The case itself took place in Ajmer in the early 90s and as a former resident of the town, the author brings alive the ambience so vividly that it is difficult to put the book down. Against your better judgment, you keep hoping that there will be some happy endings. But life takes over!
In a recent telephone conversation, Marwah described her book as certainly very dark, but not desperate. Why not, since there is no halfway happy ending for any of the protagonists, except perhaps Reena, and even for her; it's just the triumph of hard lessons learned and a sort of self-awareness achieved.
Because, she says, the book focuses upon the real, the fact that life is tough, and with the rallying cries of liberalisation, globalisation and change ringing in everyone's ears, it is just going to get tougher.
"Mores are changing and the lessons women are expected to learn can be very cruel," she declares, what could help, in her opinion, is developing greater degrees of self-awareness.
She talked about her own visit to Ajmer when the story broke (exploded), and her first view of one of the victims in a picture published in a local newspaper. It showed her with her eyes blacked out and two men with their hands upon her breasts.
The girl's hair was neatly plaited, which is when, Marwah realised, she was a schoolgirl. One of the victims later committed suicide; others vanished within families, a lot of the newspapers practiced self-censorship because it was felt the situation should not be exacerbated.
But the ending was far from satisfactory, even though the law did step in. Ultimately, private agendas had to be addressed.
The book itself is worth a read. And while it may not be one that can be easily re-read, it can be allowed permanent space on one's bookshelf because, after all, it is telling the story of a modern India trying to come to grips with the fact that nobody - and nothing - is ever perfect, whether in towns or cities.
At best, we come to grips with the stresses that unhinge us and ensure that they become part of an urban legend that is recognisable without being terrifying.
Carol Andrade in ‘The Times of India.’