Translated from the Kannada original 'Chandragiri Theeradalli', this work lays bare the intricate web of relations - economic, sexual and religious - that operate within domesticity in a larger patriarchal order.
Born as the first daughter to the tyrannical Mahammad Khan and the submissive Fatimma, Nadira is married at the age of fourteen to the young and handsome Rashid. The humane and loving Rashid is progressive too - he wants to take his bride to watch films and he insists on educating her. The birth of a baby boy makes their life fuller.
But Rashid's love for his wife and his courage fail in the face of her father's machinations and the two are separated when Mahammad Khan, realizing Nadira's market value, insists on a talaaq. The child who belongs to the father according to law is abducted by Rashid in the hope of drawing Nadira from her natal home. But it only breaks Nadira's heart.
She puts up a stiff fight against Mahammad Khan's idea of marrying her off to Selim, a man his own age, with a house full of children and an ailing wife. Mahammad Khan then tries to reason with Rashid who is only too ready to have Nadira back. Only this time, religious practices come in their way. Nadira can reunite with her husband only if she goes through another marriage, and gets a talaaq from the second husband.
Silenced by a patriarchy that governs women's lives in the name of religion, how can Nadira, an unlettered Muslim girl, write her story of misery and indignity? The autho9r, a first-generation literate o9ffers in the second half, an autobiographical account of what it takes for a Muslim girl to go to school, and gives voice in the first, to the predicament of Muslim women within the unilateral practices of marriage in Islam. The twin narratives constitute an internal critique of Muslim patriarchy.
VANAMALA VISWANATHA has degrees in English Language and Literature and her doctorate was on literary pedagogy. She teaches Modern Indian Literature and Translation Studies at the Post Graduate Centre, Bangalore University. Her work includes several translations into both Kannada and English.