Mythily Sivaraman's grandmother, Subbalakshmi, lived in the early years of the twentieth century. Married at 11 and a mother by 14, Subblakshmi lived a hard life, dealing with her husband's frequent absences, with illness and neglect. Over the years, she became more and more reclusive, focusing on the one thing that perhaps gave her hope: her fierce desire to read. In these meticulously researched and loving book, Mythily reconstructs her grandmother's life from the fragments of papers and notes, and an occasional diary that she left behind in a tin trunk. In doing so, she explores the silences that surround women's innermost feelings. Subbalakshmi records even the most mundane of activities such as going to hospital, embroidering things for her daughter, but remains silent on the many other important events in her life.
Mythily's painstaking research into both the wider context and the intimate details of Subbalakshmi life sheds light on the Tamil Brahmin culture with its strong silencing of women and denial of their thoughts and feelings. It explores the ways in which silence and secrecy often become an Armour and a survival strategy for women. The book directs the reader to new archives for seeking out history, for with women, silence and speech, the written and the unsaid, the occasional fragment, the odd noting, the library ticket, the shopping list...all of these provide pointers to their lived lives and locations. In its portrayal of the life of one woman, the author weaves together different strands to five the reader a rich and complex book that contributes to new ways of approaching women's history.
About the Author:
MYTHILY SIVARAMAN, a political and social activist of thirty years standing is currently the national Vice President of the All India Democratic Women's Association. She is Subbalakshmi's granddaughter.
|Foreword by Githa Hariharan||vii|
|1.||The Natal Family||1|
|3.||A Loyal Friend: Grace Samuel||34|
|4.||Fight to Madras||41|
|5.||Subbalakshmi's Growing political Awareness||49|
|6.||Subbalakshmi and the Charkha||64|
|7.||Women's Issues in the 1920s||71|
|8.||Connoisseur of Arts||79|
|9.||Some of Her Favourite Things||93|
|14.||Life after PRG's Retirement||130|
|15.||As Mother and Grandmother||135|
|16.||Subbalakshmi's South African Dream||143|
|18.||The Celibate Couple||160|
|20||The 'Dumb Dark Hours'||170|
|The Blue Tin Trunk By Uma Chakravarti||186|