My grandmother has been confined to her house for several years now. She wouldn’t talk to anyone, forget things, accuse everyone out of nothing, and never agree to move. None of her children except my mother takes care of her. We visit her sometimes and there are a set of people who provide her food and amenities as we pay them. So, yes I do relate with Avni Doshi’s – Girl In White Cotton.
When I held the book and read the first line – “I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure,” my soul shook. The picture of my own mother struggling to take care of her senile mom came before my eyes.
The old have always been unloved and neglected, the reason being that age makes a person difficult to deal with. It’s not just the physical incapability but the generation gap and the mental distortions – like Alzheimer’s that creeps in. The modern world has the least patience to handle all this.
Burnt Sugar or Girl In White Cotton is the story of Tara and her daughter Antara. Tara is a self-centered mother who leaves her first husband of whom Antara is born. She then lives with a Baba in an ashram who leaves her eventually. All along, Antara feels left out and holds anguish for her mother. On growing up, Antara created a heaven of her life and lived with her husband in affluence. As time passed, Antara’s anger towards her mother magnified when Tara got old and was forgetting things. Though Antara doesn’t live with her mother at that time, she soon revisits her mother’s past and gets irked by the uncanny resemblance between the two.
If you are a patriarch or believe that a mother should never care for herself but her child, then Girl In White Cotton is not the book for you. It is for those who see and respect the variety of characters that live in this vast world. And it is for those who see a woman/mother as a human with all rights to make mistakes, fail, and be reckless. The protagonist is not an ideal mother that women are expected to be. You may hate her just the way Antara did, which is perfectly fine. But what you should technically take home from this book is that it respects women not conforming to standards by portraying them as the leads.
View this post on Instagram
Doshi in an interview expresses her own depression after delivery. Her motherhood played a part in what she wrote. She says that she at times did feel one with the narrator – Antara. Moreover, Doshi’s grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s.
These facts add more substance to what Doshi subconsciously brought out in this book. The book feels so real that I imagined Doshi to be knowing the exact characters. Though it is fiction, it surely doesn’t feel like one.
Her sensory detailing has been so vivid that the book seems like a live movie or like you as a reader are in Antara’s shoes. This seldom happens with books, and when it does, all the credits go to no one but the author.
This is a sad book delving deep into dark emotions and Avni Doshi is a marvelous writer. I have completely fallen in love with her narration and choice of words. She is unabashed in showing the rawness of damaged relationships. Though in a few of her interviews Doshi sounds surprised and humble, she totally deserved the Booker nomination. I can’t wait to hear the results coming on November 19th.