These are exciting times for women writers. There are so many issues that need to be laid bare in all their myriad complexities, and women have found so many different ways to articulate them in order to tease out facets hitherto unheeded. Shakti Niranjchana's The Web of Silk and Gold announces itself as one such work. And sure enough, it deals with all the major Women's Issues—the evils of widowhood in India, wife-beating, marital rape, desire for sons, subjugation of wives by husbands—and these are then combined with other Indian Issues such as corruption, nepotism and party politics.
The problem is that all these issues, which have been dealt with by many people before, are presented here as a bad pastiche of Hindi masala movies. Think of Rishi Kapoor as the rich but neglected child in Bobby, Padmini Kolhapuri's transformation from happy bride to wretched widow in Prem Rog, Manisha Koirala as battered wife in Agni Sakshi, and then limit them to only the cliches that these roles represent and you have The Web of Silk and Gold. Worse, instead of having our hunky Bollywood hero save the day, Niranjchana, who now resides in Canada, has a white Canadian hero come in to show that there are other cultures where women can live a life of equality with men. Penguin should really show better discretion in what it chooses to publish.