Book Title: The Temple Bar Woman

Author : Sujata Parashar

Publication: Vishwakarma Publication

Reviewer : Puja Roy

Puja is an avid reader who loves to explore life’s various facets and bring them out through her short stories. A Copywriter by profession, she also blogs at speakometer.wordpress.com.

~ Review ~

There are few tales that despite their simplicity in storyline and treatment manages to touch the reader’s heart. Sujata Parashar’s ‘The Temple Bar Woman’ is of that kind.

‘The Temple Bar woman’ as the title suggests is the story of a girl, who by the cruel stroke of fate lands up in a brothel house and her battle thereon in conquering over all the obstacles that comes her way. It is her journey and the transformation that she undergoes through this journey of life that unfolds itself into the pages of the book.

The novel begins in a fictional town called ‘Anhoni’ in Agria Pradesh. The set up is that of a school where students are rushing out gleefully after hearing the dismissal bell. Radhika Choudhury the daughter of the school’s principle is excited about going to the nearby Satrangi mela, with her friend Seema. After a lot of apprehensions as to whether she would be allowed to go there or not, she and her friend finally get the approval and off they go to the mela. In the mela, a gang of boys misbehave with her and Radha (Radhika) after tolerating the lewd comments for sometime retorts in return in front of everyone. These guys then feel insulted and plan to avenge their insult anyhow. In order to do that, they kidnap Radha after few hours and after gang-raping her, dumps her in the brothel house by the name, ‘The Temple Bar’. As a reader, I feel that the actual story starts from here. It’s quite intriguing and engaging at the same time to find out page by page how this girl faces each wound that comes her way, cures her inner injuries and resolves to fight back her tormentors.

The storyline is nicely woven through each chapter giving sufficient space for the various characters to grow in the minds of the reader. Characters like ‘Habiba Bi’, the owner of the brothel house, ‘Vikram Pratap Singh’ the son of the heavy weight politician and the main tormentor and ‘Rakshit Singh’, another politician of the area and Radha’s love interest need special mention for the way they have been sketched and developed. Habiba Bi’s character has really come out well through the skillfully crafted words of the author. I for one could very well imagine Shabana Azmi’s character from Shyam Benegal’s classic – Mandi. Habiba is haughty, she is outright in her words, she is ruthless also when it comes to it, but, at the same time, she too is pained by the various blows that life has thrown at her, inside her tough visage lies the heart of a mother, a protector.

Vikram Pratap Singh’s character is that misogynistic man who thinks of woman as a commodity and has the least regards for them. Born of a rich father with considerable political powers, he is a downright debauch, who fears none.

Rakshit Singh’s character is a polar opposite to Vikram. A respected man of another fictional town ‘Lat Serai’, he is a kind man with an affectionate heart. Rakshit loves Radha and wishes to marry her. But does Radha marry him eventually? Well, one has to read the book to find it out.

Politics and political battle between two major parties runs on parallelly in this novel along with Radha’s journey from darkness to light.  At the backdrop of is a political scenario that brews right from the beginning. The author seems to have a good grip over this particular area and that comes out through the way she depicts the local problems of the people with great clarity and the way political parties approach such issues in their constituencies.

The novel spans over a period of 20 years. The first part covers tale of 5 years, and then it takes a 15 year leap. Amidst all this, what the author brings out through her tale is the development of our protagonist Radha’s character. From being this small town girl who led a simple life bereft of any complexities to being this woman who fought unthinkable battles and to reach a stage where she avenges her injuries and rightfully shows her perpetrators their place. This story truly belongs to Radha and her transformation from being the girl-next-door to the ‘women of the world’. Strongly recommend it to all readers, this is surely your perfect weekend read.

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