What Women’s Stories Tell Us
Namita Ranganathan
AGAINST ALL ODDS: PSYCHOSOCIAL DISTRESS AND HEALING AMONG WOMEN by Mahima Nayar Sage Publications, Yoda Press, 2019, 256 pp., Rs.795
February 2020, volume 44, No 2-3

Issues related to women’s mental health have always occupied centre-stage attention. The reasons for this are not hard to find. The lived realities of women’s existence that highlight their subjugation and distress in a patriarchal order have been the subject matter of literary narrations, theatre enactments and academic courses on gender. One almost always encounters the trials and struggles of suffering protagonists with heightened vulnerability to depression, free floating anxiety, often bordering on mental illness as the main story line or the text narrative. The model is one of women being victims of insensitive, hapless social systems. It is in this backdrop that Mahima Nayar’s book comes as a very refreshing and significant contribution, for it asserts very strongly that women have their own voice and agency and can assume control over their own lives. It is almost as if Positive Psychology comes alive in her writings with the focus shifting to women building resilience, rather than crumbling or succumbing to the weight of societal pressures.

The other very attractive feature is the visible departure from what may be labelled, presenting the textual narrative as a clinical case study which is usually how authors in the field of mental health build their treatise or worldview. Nayar takes recourse to presenting nuanced depictions of women’s experiences and emotions, locating them in the culture, context and social fabric of their lives. These give the much needed authenticity and richness to the discourse that she is trying to build. A long innings in fieldwork experience and the ability to theorize from ground realities are evident all through her writing.

Continue reading this review