Of Madhavis among the Middle Class
B. Mangalam
I AM MADHABI by Suchitra Bhattacharya Katha, 2006, 195 pp., 200
January 2006, volume 30, No 1

Madhavi, the daughter of Yayati has intrigued writers over the decades. There have been novels, plays, short stories in many Indian languages focussing on her fate. The tale of Yayati’s gifting away of his daughter to Galav who asks her to bed three kings and his Guru so that he may fulfil his vow to offer appropriate Guru dakshina has, time and again, provoked debates over issues of female subjectivity, patriarchal control over women’s body, women’s sexuality and their place in natal and marital domestic space. Literally forced to rent out her womb, commodifying her body to fulfil her husband’s ambition, suppressing her maternal instincts, deserted at old age, recognizing her enforced dependence on father, brother, husband, son…Madhavi’s life underlines a woman’s subjugation irrespective of her class or caste. Suchitra Bhattacharya draws our attention to the fact that women are not allowed to carve out an independent identity in our society. Her Madhabi observes with dismay, “A princess or whatever I might be, every fibre of my body knew that a woman could not have an independent identity” (p.94).

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