Book Review: A Calendar Too Crowded by Sagarika Chakraborty

India has problems; everyone knows India has problems and it’s no secret. The problem with India’s problems is that they are usually swept under the mat and rarely, if ever, discussed out on a public platform or even in a circle of peers. Although A Calendar Too Crowded, the first book written by Sagarika Chakraborty, lets down on many fronts, it should be credited for pulling out some secrets and stripping them clear on a platform which can be openly discussed even though they may be considered untoward topics even in today’s day and age.

A Calendar Too Crowded is a collection of short stories and poems mostly focusing on the plight of women in modern India. While the topic is sympathetic for any feminist who will pick up the book, the same may not be said for the remaining population who, albeit care for the rights of women, may prefer an egalitarian society over matriarchy. From the get go, each story is based on an individual day in a calendar which is celebrated for the upliftment of women. The short story ‘Barren yet Ploughed’ is about the criticism faced by a wife in spite of her husband’s impotence which is marked by Mother’s Day and international Family Day on the month of May. The poem ‘Behind those Whispers’, coincides with the date of International Women’s Day, and is a fictional account of how a girl is forced to believe that she suffers from ‘dirty blood’ during menstruation which forces her to stay aloof from other members of her family and society. Other stories also feature a letter from Panchali to Krishna which questions why women in today’s society are said to be attaining equal status as men when in fact they should have always been considered as equals, one story talks about the plight of mothers-to-be who struggle because of the lack of amenities, another story highlights how women who choose their own profession and seek equality can be looked down upon by society as being ‘easy and of low moral standing’, and another story also highlights the plight of the women who are forced into the sex trade industry.

Overall, the book has a typically feministic approach which tends to breakaway when picking out accounts such as adopted children, illegal immigrants and senior citizens who have been ignored by their families. While most of the accounts are harrowing truths in the form of fiction, it is easy to recognise and empathise with the stories and characters since it cannot be ignored that our country is not devoid of hidden secrets of injustice. In a way of speaking, the book grows on you.

But the style of writing leaves much to be desired. The constant repetition of a sentence or phrase throughout the story or poem for the sake of effect or emphasis can be quite cumbersome. While the stories take up hard topics, they only subtly prod instead of creating gut-wrenching accounts. On the whole, the book can be applauded for picking up difficult topics and having a unique systematised calendar style layout, but it fails short to see out the topic and hasn’t been crafted with enough intensity to achieve its aims.

Depending on the approach and perspective, A Calendar Too Crowded can be an interesting read about the hidden plight of the Indian women which is still ignored, or it could fall short of expectations and be disappointing.

- Sean Sequeira

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