Have you ever seen a strand of pearls? Of course, you have. They are most often laid out for your perusal in long strands. Lustrous, iridescent, strand after strand, pearls of different sizes and shapes. Eventually, they become jewellery that sits on someone’s neck giving the wearer a silent elegance.
Sometimes though, what catches our eye will be a strand of natural pearls put together haphazardly. Of different sizes and shapes. But each competing to show which one is more lustrous than the other harmoniously. And their flaws add on to their charm. Anita Nair‘s Eating Wasps is one such jewel. A collection of pearls that have their own glow, and together complement each other.
Eating Wasps‘s pearls are its characters. No matter how tiny a part they have in the book or how large, no matter how old or how young, they are all precious. And the thread that running through them is that of Sreelakshmi. A writer, a scientist, a teacher and most importantly a woman. Having committed suicide decades ago, it is her ghost that encounters the women who make Eating Wasps a glorious book. I must mention that her ghost is trapped in no man’s land when the man who broke her heart takes the bones of her index finger and tucks it away in an almirah. Like a keepsake, even if he was the reason she gave up life. Markose, and all the Markose-like men of the world deserve to have their heads hammered with a pressure cooker. Repeatedly! Once I had finished reading the book, for it is at the very end that one learns of Sreelakshmi’s story, I wanted to rip apart the pages that featured Markose in them.
Enough of that villain when I have such lovely females to write about. Urvashi, a much-married journalist escaping an unrelenting tinder date turned stalker; Najma, a woman bearing scars inflicted when a man threw acid on her face; Brinda, a sportswoman who walked away at the height of her career; Molly who cares for her deluded and blind sister; Rupa, a diplomat’s wife; Liliana, a resident dance student and victim of cyberbullying; Maya, the oldest of them, mother of an autistic son; and little Megha, the youngest. Each woman has a story and each story is riveting. (You may already know of a few characters from Mistress, and the resort as well)
As each woman ends up staying in a resort in Kerala at the same time, Megha hiding away from her fears in ‘the almirah’ stumbles upon Sreelakshmi’s bone. And it is through that little phalange that we all come to know of these women’s stories. I put down Eating Wasps and walked away when I had read Megha’s story. Megha’s and Sreelakshmi’s were perhaps the most disturbing of tales. And what amazes me is that despite their age, or whatever the differentiating attribute, all of Eating Wasps‘s main characters have suffered some form of abuse or the other. And they each find a way to gather their strength, survive and face the music that is life.
Eating Wasps is a grim reminder that no matter what, no one lives a perfect life. And life as such is not easy. The book also serves an important insight – that irrespective of how modern and ‘liberal’ we are now, we aren’t much different now as a society than we were during Sreelakshmi’s times. Eating Wasps is a great many things, but for me, it will be a sombre reminder of strong and resilient women, no matter how fictitious they are.
Oh, if you have already noted that I mentioned the author’s name but once in this review, it is because she doesn’t need to be introduced. As usual, Anita Nair is brilliant!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars