Inner Psyche

Succeeds as an account, both of a candid quest for true love and of a world that seems removed from the bright lights of post-liberalisation India
From Kippers To Karimeen: A Life
By Psyche Abraham
Athena Press Pages: 274 Rs: $14.95
There are virtually no stories out of India that openly, if not explicitly, chronicle a woman’s life and loves, in all its curious twists and matrimonial multiplicities. There are classics, like M.K. Indira’s Phaniyamma or Matampu Kunjukuttan’s Brushta, but these are really biting social commentaries on a gender-unequal society.

Psyche Abraham’s autobiography features a woman who determinedly plots her own path through a society that still labels a woman with a past as a nymphomaniac and admires an adventurous man as a playboy. Her engaging account of her English background, her love for an Indian artist in London, her life in Calcutta and Bombay, her affair with her husband’s boss and eventual marriage to famed cartoonist Abu Abraham are candidly told, but never pruriently.

The book is also a rare insight into a world gone by. Psyche’s accounts of life, ilish-eating and much else evoke a gentler Calcutta, Bombay and Delhi that today’s urban gridlocks rarely reveal. It is also an unusual view of a newly independent India’s emerging media world. Besides Abu, there’s Psyche’s first husband, Jhupu Adhikari, art director at ASP, one of India’s first ad agencies. Their daughter Sara was a successful Indian journalist before she moved to England. Jhupu’s nephew, Gautam, now edits DNA, while his boss, and later Psyche’s husband, Jog Chatterji, was another veteran of a nascent Indian advertising scene which included Gerson and Sylvester da Cunha, Raj and Romesh Thapar, Rusi Karanjia, Vinod Mehta, all of whom feature here.

In a sense, we learn more about the world Psyche lives in than about herself. Yet as an account, both of a candid quest for true love, and of a world that seems removed from the bright lights of post-liberalisation India, it does succeed.

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