Author-artist Bulbul Sharma is such a sparkly, adventurous person, it’s hard to believe this collection of stories about meek wives and self-effacing widows comes from her.
The title suggests a lively debunking of age-related anxieties. Alas: the main message of these 11 stories seems to be that without men to define them as wives, widows, mistresses or divorcees, women really have no stories to tell. One character’s already dead, another one’s starting to see phantoms and a third one tries to escape an abusive husband but fails. There’s one learning the salsa but only because her husband ran off to Goa with a gay lover. There’s Madhu, whose husband takes her to Bangkok for her 50th birthday, but oh dear, he sneaks out and almost gets killed in a brothel.
If they’re not dead or declining, then they’re facing impossible odds with brave smiles and no arguments. Meera makes a promising start as a happy bachelorette but when she encounters The Perfect Man in her parents’ own front yard you know she’s lost her chance of being a swingin’ single for the rest of her life.
Maybe these stories resonate with millions of suffering women, but I found myself wanting to shake Bulbul and yell, “Enough with the grey shadowy stuff! We’re both almost 60! Cheer up. The party’s just begun.”