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Book Review (Sunanda J. Chatterjee's Fighting For Tara)



Title: Fighting For Tara
Author: Sunanda J. Chatterjee

I was in a classroom, a student of journalism. One of the other students, another female, was lamenting about the problems of being born in a family which was not very welcoming to the idea of an independent, earning daughter.

Go back a couple of classes. Mr. Ramesh Menon, our teacher had narrated an experience of his. In a village in Rajasthan, he had been courteously welcomed into a home. Tired and thirsty, he had asked for water. He was offered some milk instead.
He reiterated that he wanted just water. He was told that there was no water and was offered milk again.
Later he was told by the local person he was traveling with that he had embarrassed the host family by asking for water. Water is scarce and precious. 
The women of the family walked miles for the water.

Back to the class that I started with. Mr. Menon's answer was simple - Think of those women of Rajasthan. Every single day, a large part of their day is spent to get water. What little is left is spent in cooking and taking care of the family.
Be thankful for, or at least accept, what you have, and do your best from that point on.

Mind you, this was years back. So I just remember the gist of this conversation. Not the details and certainly not how Mr. Menon expressed himself.

I thought of this and more as I started reading Fighting for Tara. It is a book that tugs your heartstrings.

My daughter is eleven. At times she would ask me a question that I think she is too young to know the answer to.
What I tell her instead is that, though I can give her an answer, there are certain thoughts I do not want in her head. There are certain things she is too young to ponder or worry over. Let it go for a couple of years.
If she insists, I do give her an answer. Usually, she lets it go.

Hansa, the protagonist of Fighting for Tara is thirteen. She is worried about a dead husband, the man who will be her second husband, the second husband's first wife, and most of all about her daughter.
She is just thirteen, I want to shout.

As I mentioned before the subject and the writing of this book moved me from the very beginning.

The one ray of light is the fact that Hansa is literate. The Rani Sahiba of the village has taught her and Hansa's thoughts reflect her knowledge.
"Somewhere deep in her heart, Hansa knew none of this was fair. It wasn't fair that in a country with a rich heritage of brave queens, where the people had elected a female Prime Minster not long ago, young girls were still forced into marriage, sometimes to men older than their grandfathers. It wasn't fair that a girl child was considered a burden on parents. It wasn't fair that she'd been born to poor parents in rural Rajasthan, a state rife with archaic traditions. It wasn't fair that she had matured early..."

Hansa is in a grave situation, and her life till then has not given her any motivation to be strong or independent.
But now she has been asked to kill her daughter, Tara - an infant that the soon-to-be husband refuses to accept.

Fighting for Tara is an amazing story of Hansa's strength. 

'The combined wisdom of ancestors' - this phrase has been used in this book to describe our customs. Our ancestors clearly didn't know it all. 
As Hansa chooses to defy this wisdom, her thoughts are made me smile...
"Now was the time to walk on a path she made for herself and her baby, to forge her own destiny. Her ancestors would be shocked!"

A couple in America trying to conceive, the harsh truth of the financial troubles of royalty in modern India, the life of immigrants in America, and Tara's struggles to give a good life to her daughter - Fighting for Tara is a multi-faceted story and the author makes you connect to each facet as it is introduced.
Whether you like a character or not, you understand them.

I could analyze that certain twists of this story seem to be almost impossible in reality. As you read it, you feel like 'that's too good to be true'. 
Well, I could analyze it, because I thought so a couple of times while reading this book. 
But I won't. Because I loved this book and I will accept it with these twists.
Also, they do say that 'reality is stranger than fiction'. This book showcases some very grim realities. I would like to believe in the reality of the smiles too.

Fighting for Tara is a story that despite its' sad subject leaves you with hope...
"...what if happiness was a choice? Events weren't inherently happy or sad. It was her reaction to them that determined her state of mind. She could choose to be happy with her circumstances, whatever they may be."

Fighting for Tara is a story that deserves to be read... because it makes you think of the social problems prevalent in our country, yes... but mainly because it is a beautiful, very well-written, emotional story of love and hope.

"...love is a language that knows no boundaries, no borders. It's universal. It's just the nuances of that language that are sometimes hard to understand."


*  *  *

The italicized text in quotation marks are quotes from the book.

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