February 17, 2020
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Blues Mama

Jung's problem is she colours each scene with a hoarding-painter's palette. The evils are vile, the virtuous glow...

Blues Mama
Beyond The Courtyard: A Sequel To Unveiling India
By Anees Jung
Penguin India Rs 250; Pages: 176
Nineteen years after travelling the country meeting the women who’d feature in her Unveiling India, Anees Jung set off on a similar journey to find out what had happened to them and how things have changed for their daughters—for better, or for worse. (No point keeping you in suspense: it’s worse). Unveiling sold in the kind of numbers more intellectual feminists can only dream of. But Jung’s problem is she colours each scene with a hoarding-painter’s palette. The evils are vile, the virtuous glow, but subtle shades in between are sacrificed at the cost of wringing out the last emotional drop.

She thanks the "women themselves, both old and young, who, smiling through their tears, shared with me their stories—of so much pain and such little joy". India’s clearly not a happy place for women. In villages, there’s "nothing worth enjoying. Even to sing or laugh loudly is taboo". And she sees the self-confidence of young urban women as a "veneer layered so consciously with aspiration". There is much rending of blouses and beating of breasts, and precious little cheer, either in the writing or in the scenarios described. The one wonderful thing is the excellent directory of women’s organisations at the back.

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