Book: The Dark Holds No Terrors
Author: Shashi Deshpande
Sarita, a doctor by profession, holds on to her troubled past. Her mother’s bitterness towards her for being unable to save her younger brother from drowning follows her all her life. Later, as a grown woman, it continues in the form of disownment for choosing to marry the love of her life – a man belonging to the lower caste.
Years later, Sarita returns home – the home she had left as a young woman – to her father, to escape from her troubled marriage, wondering if it was her dead mother’s curse that her life turned out the way it did.
The story is about Sarita, who, as a little girl, doesn’t find favour with her mother – a resentment she vents out on her younger brother, their mother’s pet. With no friends to confide her turmoil in, the pent up feelings simmer within her for years together. To get away from her claustrophobic life at home, she decides to take up medicine at a Bombay college. Her father, much to her mother’s chagrin, supports her in her decision and gives her the much-needed respite.
Shashi Deshpande has used the stream of consciousness to narrate the story of Sarita. Peppered with memories, mostly unpleasant, from her childhood, her youth and her married life, the story takes you along a journey that at once feels heartrending and perplexing.
How can a mother be so cruel towards her daughter? Why doesn’t the father find the courage to speak up against the injustice meted out to his daughter? are some of the thoughts that cross your mind as you go further into the story. There are moments when you wonder at the human nature – cowering in fear and at the same time cold and calculating, wicked and egotistic!
Escaping to a city to follow her dreams, falling in love with a man who, she thinks, will rescue her from her dark past, and then realising that life’s miseries haven’t ended just yet, for the darkness has followed her in her married life, too. For how much respect and money can a poet earn as compared to his doctor wife? Sarita’s sorrow tugs at your heart strings.
Shashi Deshpande has done a fabulous job in her very first novel written in 1980. The language and the words chosen to portray the turmoil within the human mind and within the four walls of a simple, middle-class family in a small town are perfect. The atmosphere at Sarita’s home – her parents’ as well as her marital home – is almost tangible.
I liked the book, and I am sure you will like it, too. We may not have experienced the sorrow, the injustice Sarita did, but there are moments when one can relate to her story. The importance given to the son over the daughter, ego hassles that arise within a marriage, a domineering parent whose words wound the heart so, the scars stay fresh for years. All of this and much more will touch you to the core, leaving you breathless.