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Author: Ashapoorna Devi
Translator(s): Indira Chowdhury
Publisher: Orient Longman
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8125026509
Set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Ashapurna Debi’s widely acclaimed Pratham Pratisruti, translated as The First Promise, attempts to commemorate the struggles and efforts of women, of the mute domestic space, starkly neglected by history. This book, about one of the many unknown women from the ignored interiors of Bengal, also captures the larger social and cultural transformations of the colonial era.
In a deceptively easy, conversational style, through episodes that sketch out the rituals, the quarrels and predicaments of women’s lives, a compelling story emerges upon the landscapes of rural Bengal and colonial Calcutta. Satyabati, whom we first meet as a vivid and enchanting eight-year-old, a child bride, leaves the remote, rural environment of her husband’s village for the capital of British India, to plunge into the world of women’s education, social reform agendas, modern medicine and urban entertainment. The urban landscape nurtures Satyabati’s hope and aspirations, in particular, for her daughter. But the promises held out by modernity turn out to be empty, instigating Satyabati to break away form her inherited world and initiate a quest that will take her to the very heart of tradition. Ashapurna’s absorbing story creates a rich and vast world, peopled with memorable characters and embodying the dichotomy between tradition and modernity.
Indira Chowdhury's confident translation, with its conscious choice of Indian English equivalents over British and American colloquilisms, carries across the language divide, the flavour of Ashapurna's unique idiomatic style.