Monday, 5 August 2013

The Binding Vine - A Book Review

I read Shashi Deshpande’s “The Binding Vine” late into last night and was left with a dark, disturbing feeling . For the first time , I was reading someone who did not romanticize or glorify grief and pain . Urmi , the narrator  stubbornly embraces her grief and pain after losing her one year old daughter to death . She refuses to be condoled  and instead gets pulled into the sad tale of a comatose Kalpana , who apparently had been raped  brutally , but whose mother adamantly  refuses to file a case  because she has two more  daughters to marry  and she does not want the daughters’ ‘ honor’ to be sabotaged .
As the days progress and Kalpana is forcibly shifted to another far away hospital much against her mother’s wish , her mother is forced to revise her views and gives a statement to a journalist of how her daughter was raped and how injustice had been  meted out to her all along . The statement hastens justice , yet at a personal level , it opens a can of worms and Kalpana’s mother is forced to see some ugly truths . By the end , she sees light and in calm undertones tells Urmi that her Kalpana is “not at all like that . she is a nice girl” .   

In between her grief and Kalpana’s case , Urmi manages to unearth the sordid past of  her long dead mother in law Meera, who had been a victim of marital rape . Meera’s poetry speaks directly to Urmi and to the reader  in the four lines painstakingly penned  in a moment of utter despair .

Don’t tread paths barred to you
Obey , never utter a ‘no’
Submit and your life will be
A paradise , she said and blessed m

These four lines sum up the essence of  what  every young girl is taught the moment she is betrothed to a man .
And these lines  Meera pens when renamed as Nirmala

A glittering ring gliding on the rice
Carefully traced a name ‘Nirmala’
Who is this? None but I,
My name hence, bestowed upon me .

Nirmala, they call, I stand satue-still.
Do you build the new without razing the old ?
A tablet of rice, a pencil of gold .
Can they make me Nirmala ? I am Mira

Even as Urmi struggles to bring justice to the dead Mira , by trying to get her poems published , she knows she has to fight many personal battles . The book though primarily about feminism is also about the mechanics of grief and loss.

Yet ,I almost closed this book after the second chapter , because the terms were too colloquial ( the names of different characters and their relationship with each other in the beginning would have helped ) , the shift in the setting and scene was abrupt and sudden . But I am glad I stuck, otherwise I would have missed the compassion and love with which Ms Deshpande weaves her tale.

A book fervently recommended to every feminist and humanist out there , I happily award 4 stars to this book . 


  1. The first few lines that I read I knew it would be tough for me to pick this book and read it. I absolutely salute you for trying this one and liking it too. Okay the reason why it would not be my choice is because its a bit damp for me. Death scares me like nothing else, especially if its of someone who your world revolves around.

    Though, I loved the way the story weaves and how Urmi finds a reason to keep going after a calamity to her heart. The story seems to delve into the realms of the inner sorrows of a woman's mind and make the reader stand upright. I like that part, for sure.

    Thanks for the review! :)

    1. Thank You Kajal for your frank comment :)

  2. The two stories seems to intertwine quite well and the inner strength and dilemma of a woman's mind have been put fort.. Thanks to the review I will put this one in my next reads and will also recommend it to my feminist friends :)
    I loved the way you have portrayed the character of Meera aka Nirmala in the review... You have presented the highlights of the book brilliantly :) Tempted to pick it

  3. I can't wait to get my hands on this book!
    Lemme check Amazon..
    Thank you for the review. :)

  4. I'll also try and procure the book. Sometimes, narration needs to be according to the situation. Glad I stopped by, else the book would have missed my attention.


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