“The Curse: Stories”: tales of thousand choked voices

Reviewed by Abhra Roy

“Writing is extremely political” – states Salma, the prolific Tamil writer and the author of “The Curse: Stories”, published in October 2020. So those who don’t hesitate to choose a not so ‘cozy’ reading, “The Curse: Stories” is definitely a perfect pick for them.

Though based on the lives of rural Muslim women in Tamilnadu, “The Curse: Stories” delves deep into complicated dramas that rule the daily lives of most women traveling through the globe. Translated by N Kalyan Raman from Tamil to English, this translation never fails to overshadow neither the lucidity of the original language nor does it minimize the author’s art of storytelling in any way. Needless to say, the translator’s mastery over his craft has made the reader’s journey more delightful.

The story “Toilets” astonishes us with its poignant portrayal of a woman’s trouble for just finding a toilet on her period days. We learn gory details about how the story’s central character, Shamim, deals with various types of toilets, her excretions, and her attempts to hide them.

In “On the Edge,” the bathroom environment reappears again, this time to depict Nanni’s obsessive washing. The woman can’t stop herself from constantly scrubbing everything she owns. This type of habitual behaviour can also lead to her imposing her choices on others.

Each protagonist from the stories is trapped – physically and mentally – in knots tightened by the patriarchal society.  When her childhood lover comes to visit, Mehrunnisa from “Childhood” is trapped between the kitchen and her bedroom. In “Atonement,” Jameela is trapped in her room with the spirit of her dead husband. Zakiramma from “Black Beads and Television” is enamoured by Mahmuda’s television and longs to possess one of her own. The nameless narrator of “Trap” is trapped in her dark chamber, paralyzed by terror of what news (if any) will be delivered. Shamim from “The Curse” is stranded as the sole unmarried caretaker of a household where a family curse drives women insane once they marry.

The darkened side of patriarchy is revealed more through the story “The Orbit of confusion.” A daughter writes her mother a letter titled “The Orbit of Confusion.” Throughout the letter, the daughter expresses her displeasure with her patriarchal mother, citing examples of her hypocrisy and immaturity. On the other hand, the letter goes on and on, detailing the incident after the occurrence, and the reader begins to wonder where it is going. The rushed discovery and reunion at the end, on the other hand, is a let-down though.

Despite the fact that the stories are about women’s daily lives, they are anything but average. Salma’s calm demeanour and wide range of perspectives guarantee to reach the reader’s expectations. Besides, the climax is always accompanied by an insight that leaves her imaginative universe lingering in the reader’s mind.

Abhra Roy is a master’s graduate in English literature from Presidency University. She has finally dared to come out of her hesitant self and start exploring the various domains of creative writing. Abhra has a compelling drive to learn and is extremely curious and engaged in everything she opts for. When she’s not struggling to meet her deadlines, you can find her curled up in a corner with some poetry and Edward Abbey adventures.

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