This is the first time, I have read a novel based on a film. Usually, it is the other way round ; Books inspire Film makers to make movies, following their creativity, adding much needed spices to transform a good written story into a commercially viable cinematic experience.
But, I must say that Bapsi Siddhwa has done a commendable job as a writer, while converting the Lisa ray- John Abraham starrer into a heart rending story, portraying the apathies meted to the weaker sections of our society.
The story revolves around the tragic life of Chuyia , a lively young child whose only fault is her poverty, who is married off to a much older widower at a young age of eight years and even before, she could understand what is marriage and husband, she is packed off to Ganga Kinare along with her dying husband.
In fact, she looks at her husband for the first time during the jerky ride towards the ghat. No sooner that her husband dies, she becomes a cursed burden and her mother in law and her own father abandon her to a widow ashram, leaving her to live on the mercy of tyrannical Madhumati; the matron of widow ashram who is in reality a facilitator for providing easy preys to the rich old men of the holy city.
The story has many twists and turns and explores the hypocrisy of religion and monopoly of blood sucking parasites like Madhumati; the vain ruler of widow ashram located on the banks of Ganga in Rawalpur and exposes the monster residing in the rich men of our society who masquerade as elites.
The veteran is ready to use her authority over poor widows to make her own life easier and to meet her ever growing demand for the dope. She initiates Kalyani; a beautiful young widow into prostitution and makes her life worse than hell on learning about her love interest in a fine young lad called Narayan. Madhumati uses all the religious diktats to prove that a widow is a curse on this society and must live her life in total neglect.
Though, the story is set in pre independence era, most of it is true in even today’s society. Nothing has changed for all the good made by Gandhi’s idealism or Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s sincere efforts.
May it be in the social ostracization faced by women or the economic hurdles heaped on them, they are given a step motherly treatment. Caustic remarks for the divorced or widow or unmarried women still exist in our society.
We may regard ourselves as a developing nation and pride ourselves on our increasing technical prowess or the economic progress , but in our very hearts, we are still rooted to misplaced beliefs which have lost all their significance and have become hollow speech stayed afloat by iron-fisted shackles of modern day fanatics.
Water, is a novel that explores the lesser known travesties of the widows, who are forced to live away from the society, are bound by traditions to restrain their basic needs of food, clothes and shelter and are left to fend on the mercy of people while cursing their fates.
The story has not one but many protagonists, though, Chuyia with her defiant effervescence, overpowers everyone else and surely won my heart. A good read and in its essence on par with Sarat Da’s tragic women centric stories.