By Amisha Bhardwaj:
Just a few weeks back while shuffling through the books at a stall at the recent International Delhi book fair, a book, rather it’s title to be very honest, caught my eye; ‘A Quest For Freedom‘. The word ‘freedom’ is enough to fascinate anybody, A Quest To Freedom is an English translation of Volga’s ‘Swechcha’, a Telugu novel written long back, translated by Ari Sitaramayya – a distinguished translator and a professor at the Department of Bio Medical Sciences at Oakland University.
The novel focuses on several problems that today’s woman face, the way their lives are being reined in by the men around her, be it in her family or her work space. It deals with the issues like restricting the freedom of girl child, husband dictating terms to wife and oppressing her, woman lacking freedom to decide when to have children, rape in married life and laws that decide that children stay with their father when husband and wife are divorced. It deals with how women are being deprived of the freedom of taking small decisions concerning them. Also it supports the idea of freedom to the adults to have live-in relationship without entering matrimony.
Coming to the protagonist of the novel, Aruna, a well read post graduate financially independent girl who has been suppressed since her childhood at her paternal house and believes that her eloped marriage with Prakasam, the guy she loved, can only bring the sunshine, the freedom she yearns for in her life. But no sooner does she realize that her life isn’t less miserable now too as she still feels suffocated and suppressed. The author has been successful in depicting the tsunami of questions, the dilemmas that emerge inside a women shaking her emotionally and taking away her inner peace once the veil of the false freedom, liberty, equality and love disappears. In Volga’s own words, ” This novel questions the system which always tries to hold back women in families, politics or movements and suggests that matters which commonly occur in middle class families need to be recognized as social issues and treated as such.”
What I liked the most about Aruna is that she refuses to be a victim rather she denies to succumb to the circumstances , ideologies that doesn’t allow her to follow her wishes, her will. She takes a stand for herself and is very much able to differentiate between the responsibilities that are being imposed on her and the ones she chooses for herself. Hers is the character that keeps on evolving throughout the story and attains her desired goal, her individuality, her freedom.
This is that one novel that can change the way one looks at the traditions, the ‘supposed’ responsibilities that are tailor-made for women. I think that there is Aruna in every woman, what is different is that some are able to suppress her within and some let go themselves chasing their goals, breaking free!