Families. They can make us or break us. They play a huge role in shaping us and forming our identities. They care for us, nurture us and protect us against the evils of the world and when the time comes, they release us to the same world, to fight our own battles and live our lives.
It is the circle of the life repeating itself when we decide to bring new life into the world. The need to bring new life into the world is perhaps more primal than any instinct. It is more than passing on our genes or keeping the family name alive. It is giving back what we have got growing up, to the universe and to the society. Bringing up a child, whether by childbirth or adoption, and watching them grow is one of life’s greatest treasures.
Priyamvada Purushotham’s The Purple Line is about our need to bring life into the world.
Mrinalini, a gynaecologist, tells the stories of women coming to her clinic – women from diverse backgrounds – each driven driven by their own motivations and compulsions. She doesn’t view them just as patients but as women. Besides treating them for their ailments, she also talks to them, laying out their options, so that they can take the decision which is right for them, not what has been decided for them by their families. In between their life stories, we get to know Mrinalini’s story. As the book progresses, hidden connections are revealed and new connections are formed between the women, sometimes subtle, and sometimes having the impact of a sledgehammer.
Zubeida is a young Muslim house wife from a conservative family, who was taken out of school the day she got her period, and married off to a man nearly twice her age. She has 3 boys and yet yearns for a girl. She wants to be the mother she never had growing up.
Pooja is a teenager, who has a rude awakening into adulthood when she finds out she is pregnant and deserted by the man she thought she loved.
Megha is an overburdened housewife who is alive by the skin of her teeth. She is petrified that she will deliver another girl child when her family expects a son from her.
Tulsi is an artist who works in the same advertising agency as her husband. It was a workplace romance for them. Her trying too hard for a child is driving them apart, and straining their relationship in more ways than one.
Anjolie is a performance artist who is well known for her work but feels a void inside, suffering miscarriage after miscarriage, hoping that a baby would fill her womb and her life with light.
Leela is a computer programmer and never has a hair out of place. She remains calm and composed even when being wheeled in for the operation. She’s “looking to complete her family” but fate has other plans for her.
Each of these women come to terms with their fate and find new strength to make choices that are best for them, and live courageously with the unexpected that life has saddled them with.
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- The book is unique for the Indian perspectives it offers, showing us the lives of women from different backgrounds.
- She does not shy away from describing women’s bodies as they are, which is refreshing.
- The narrative is such, that you get a sense that their lives continue beyond the pages of the book and you wonder about the characters long after you have finished reading.
- Rich visual imagery leaps off the pages in the book. It perhaps comes naturally to her because she is a poet too.
She was like a peppered moth camouflaged against a predatory bird and like the moth before a flame she stood before a stove making over a hundred rotis every day…
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- The sterile cover showing the chairs in a waiting room of the hospital appeared too clinical. It doesn’t do justice to the words inside, so rich and varied. Harper Collins could have done a much better job.
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- The title is interesting and it refers to the purple line that appears on a pregnancy test which confirms the pregnancy. It is fitting because the stories revolve around pregnancy.
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- The narrator is an independent working professional, who chooses not to marry. A gynaecologist who has her own clinic and lives a good life as any, is a rare fictional character in Indian writing.
- The Purple Line resonates because it is not only the story of these characters, but of regular everyday people. I had read the book a couple of years back and read it again recently, which explains the different perspective I gained that only the passing years could have bestowed upon me.
Bold and unconventional.