The Bandit Queens
Author: Parini Shroff
Published by HarperCollins India
MRP: Rs. 499/-
Thank you @harpercollinsin for a media copy of the book.
I first came across the OG Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi, through Shekhar Kapur’s film of the same name, released in 1994. It is a powerful exploration of Phoolan Devi's life, showcasing the harsh realities faced by women in rural India. The movie delves into the deeply entrenched social hierarchies, caste discrimination, and gender-based violence prevalent in Indian society at the time. It presents a raw and unflinching portrayal of Phoolan's journey, leaving a profound impact on the audience.
The Bandit Queen by Parini Shroff is a funny, engrossing, and heartbreaking novel that tells an important story about domestic abuse, caste discrimination, and the power of the patriarchy in India. The book follows Geeta, a woman approaching middle-age, who is alone because her abusive drunk husband left her five years ago. Everyone in town thinks she is a witch and that she killed her husband and fed him to the dogs. Geeta is perfectly happy to let them believe that, as it gives her a certain amount of power and freedom.
However, Geeta's reputation soon attracts the attention of other women in the village who are also being abused by their husbands. These women start asking Geeta for help in getting rid of their husbands, and Geeta is initially reluctant to get involved. However, as she gets to know these women and sees the extent of the abuse they are suffering, she realizes that she cannot turn her back on them.
The Bandit Queen is a powerful and moving novel that explores the themes of female empowerment, friendship, and revenge. It is a story that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
The book is inspired by the story of the real-life Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi, a low-caste woman who was abused beyond what one would think was imaginable. She fought back against the system, ended up in jail (for real crimes), and then became a politician but was assassinated in her 30s. Her story is truly inspiring.
I found the social commentary and messaging regarding women's empowerment to be overly explicit and lacking subtlety. I would have preferred a more nuanced approach where the story allowed me to interpret and understand the message on my own, rather than being explicitly told.
Additionally, I felt uncomfortable with how the story seemed to downplay violence committed by women towards men. While it took domestic abuse by men seriously, the violence perpetrated by women was portrayed too casually. I don't believe we should excuse violence by women simply because the men may have been abusive and deserved it. The consequences and moral implications should be explored more deeply. It's possible that I may have missed something or misinterpreted it, but that's how I felt.
However, I did appreciate the portrayal of the female characters and how they resolved their conflicts. That aspect of the novel was enjoyable to me.
I recommend The Bandit Queen to anyone who enjoys a good story with a strong message. It is a book that will make you laugh, cry, and think.
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