When gender norms are broken: Book Review of ‘Teen Ghumti’
By Shreni Rajbhandary
Teen Ghumti is a novel written by B.P Koirala set during the Panchayat regime. Considered to be one of the most charismatic political leaders of Nepal, Koirala was also one of the most well-read and thoughtful writers of Nepali literature. This novel is about a girl and the three stages of her life that have been depicted through the character Indramaya. Indramaya has been portrayed as a strong courageous and resilient woman who fights for herself and makes decisions that change the way her life works.
In the first phase or ghumti of the story, we are shown the general perspective of a woman in Nepali society. Our patriarchal society has many established ways in which female members are supposed to act or behave in order to be accepted; so that she can live in the society with decorum. If she does not follow these social norms, she is tormented and boycotted from the societal sphere.
In the novel, Indramaya belongs to an ethnic Newar family which supported the king and his autocratic rule. She fell in love with Pitambar- a devoted Brahmin involved with a group of revolutionaries who were planning protests against the autocratic rule. Since the two were from two different worlds, her family did not agree with their love or marriage. Her father created a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ which she couldn’t cross and if she did she’d be considered as dead for her family. But for her love she defied her parents, she did not think about what the society would think about her or how they would treat her. All that she could think of was love. Thus, she parted from the society that created boundaries for her love. This was the first decision that she made which brought changes in her life.
In the second phase or ghumti of the story, we are shown how women are pictured to be breadwinners only and how the male counterparts consider themselves the breadwinners of the family. Women are expected do each and every household errands with utmost diligence. Conversely, they do not have right to speak or express themselves. If they do, the males feel debased thus, are asked to remain silent. It’s always about men and their rights, always. They are not given the love, attention and affection they deserve. Their requirements are not kept in mind and after marriage. Society tends to curse a woman when is not able to give birth to a child. She is thought to be a disgrace and has to bear the burden alone.
Indramaya’s yearnings are not fulfilled by her husband until Pitambar gets arrested. Ramesh – Pitambar’s friend takes care of her. He starts living with her and soon falls in love. Though she rejects his advances initially, she eventually gives in. They are both attracted towards each other. Their relationship leads to Indira’s pregnancy. This is her second decision where she decides to ditch on her legitimate conjugal life. This is not at all acceptable, whether by the society or by her own spouse. The society thinks that she is the only and only person responsible for having a physical relationship with another man. Nobody risked giving her a shoulder. She was all-alone throughout her pregnancy.
In the third phase or ghumti of the story, her husband is released from the prison, exactly when she is giving birth to her daughter (Rama). Pitambar despite living under the same roof did not melt by her innocence and did not consider Ramesh’s daughter as his own. Indramaya suffered a lot, as nothing is more important to a mother than her child. She then decides to take the third ghumti; she decides to leave her hearth along with Rama and chooses to be a mother than a wife.
At 45, she is a single mother and independent. She is aware of the fact that her daughter (Rama) is in love with a guy. She unlike any other mother reacts in a bold and supportive manner and chooses to break the norm. After all that she had faced in her life, she knows that oppressing Rama’s feelings will do no good. At this age, she has a reminiscence of her old days; she has the reminiscence of the three major metamorphic decisions made.
This novel by Koirala set during the Panchayat regime vividly depicts how a woman has turned her despairs into prosperity and bravely nurtured hope and struggle to cultivate a brighter future. It has been brilliantly written to describe the transcendent injustices in Nepali society for women and shows us the power and resilience of a woman who had every reason to give up but never did. This book has raised the conscience of many including me and has made its readers understand the many reasons of oppression of women despite covering half the sky.
There’s movie based on the novel. Here’s a review of it:
Cover Image Source: GulmiResunga.com
About the Contributor
The terms “Social butterfly and environmental enthusiast” best defines Shreni Rajbhandary. Shreni is doing her Bachelor in Development Studies from National College. At 20 years of age, she is an entrepreneur and the youngest serving executive board member at Youth Thinkers’ Society (YTS). Moreover, she is US Embassy Youth Council alumni. She is also a prominent speaker who has spoken in BBC thrice representing Nepal. She is also passionate about writing and is currently a contributing writer at Smart family and Shine. She has a great volunteerism spirit with volunteering experiences at 8 years and many other notable organizations.