I knew that Shashi Deshpande is a famous writer, known for her feminist writings. Ships that pass is the first book of hers which I read. I really liked the book.
The book opens with Radhika, the protagonist declaring her decision as to what she wants to do after completing graduation. No law, no post graduation, she justs wants to get married. Well she is not in love with anyone. She wants to go for an arranged marriage. Her elder brother, who knows her very well, tells her that she should think twice about her decision. He feels she will change her decision at the eleventh hour. Radhika assures him that nothing of that sort will happen. Her family finds her a groom and his name is Ghanashyam.
That is when she receives a call from her brother-in-law Shantanu aka Shaan. He tells her that her sister Tara is sick and asks her to come immediately. She goes to the distant place where Shaan is staying with his family. There she discovers that Tara is not only ill but also unhappy. She comes to know that Shaan is having an extramarital affair. She also meets a widower doctor Ram Mohan who is senior to her by seventeen years. One day Tara dies under mysterious circumstances. Shaan is arrested for her murder. Ram Mohan and Radhika come close during these trying times. Radhika calls off her engagement with Ghanashyam and gets married to Ram Mohan in a simple registered marriage.
What I liked about the book is that it has a really different story. This is not a murder mystery. The suspicious death of Tara is used very subtly in the story. Even after reaching to the last page of the book, you will not know whether Tara was killed or she committed suicide. In arranged marriages we just look if the parties are compatible physically, educationally and sometimes mentally. We are particular about the age and the marital status of the would be groom and bride as well. But does it assure that you will have a happy marriage? Does having a love marriage give a guarantee that the love will never whither away? What if you are pulled towards a man who is not compatible with you in terms of the traditionally laid criterion for compatibility. It is around these questions that the author weaves her story. She doesn’t give any answers. She just puts the questions in situations as a matter of fact.
The characters in the story are well etched. It is easy to relate to these characters from a middle class Maharashtrian household. This novel is indeed different from the novels available in the market today. It is a powerful story very subtly told. Indeed Shashi Deshpande’s Ships that pass had a great impact upon me.
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