Something for those daughters, who have always been difficult and different from their mothers..
Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur tells a story about Virmati, who is an ideal daughter and future wife. Born into a high held family of Lala Diwan Chand of Arya Samaj, where education is given utmost importance, Virmati stands out from her brothers and sisters. She is obedient, polite and intelligent. But even after being born into a high-held family, traditions creep their way into her parent’s heart. Virmati is now promised to someone, but she doesn’t want to follow her mother, Kasturi’s fate. She wants to be something else in life, not just a wife and a child-bearing machine. She idolises her cousin Shakuntala, who is a teacher in Lahore and independent, someone who never gave into concepts of destiny or fate.
Life takes a turn when Virmati falls in love with a Professor, who is her aunt’s tenant.The only problem, Professor is married. Will Virmati sacrifice her feminism and live with the Professor? Will she let go of her dreams and aspirations and settle with what life gives her, just like Kasturi did?
As Manju Kapur’s debut novel, Difficult Daughters took five years to be completed. When you read the book, you will eventually realise how much research and hard work has been put into it. For Example- The areas where the author has described Lahore’s pre-independent culture is something which will really intrigue you. The chapters of the book have been arranged in such a manner that the book opens up with Virmati’s description of Kasturi who is old now, and then eventually book carries off with Virmati’s life. The language is a mix of Hindi, English and typical Punjabi words, but not something that cannot be understood.
The best character of the book is the female protagonist, Virmati. She signifies those breed of women who never want to settle for something which their mothers settled for. They always want something more from life and marriage comes as their last priority. They prefer intellect along with family life. Though other characters of the book are a little bland. The professor signifies a sect of Indian men who are coward and don’t pay much attention to any woman’s dream. Virmati’s parents are people who simply want to get done with their responsibility of seeing Virmati settled in her new life.
Overall, the book is a light read with a strong female character. Some parts of the book didn’t hit the mark, especially the climax of the book where India- Pakistan partition takes place. The author lacked the creativity to include a political issue in a feminist love story. But apart from that, this is one book that can take you back to the time when women were moving out of their pre-defined lives.