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A Matter of Time by Shashi DeshpandeReview by: Josna E. Rege
The Journal of Asian Studies,
Vol. 59, No. 2 (May, 2000), pp. 463-464Published by:
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Accessed: 06/02/2013 05:15
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This content downloaded on Wed, 6 Feb 2013 05:15:21 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions
463A Matter fTime.
Afterwordy RituMenon.NewYork: The FeministPressatthe City University f New York,1999. 269pp. $21.95 (cloth).This is Shashi Deshpande'sseventhnovelandthefirsto be published ntheUnited States.Quietlybutpassionatelyerebral,tis typical f hermatureworknitsfaithfulresentationf middle-class ife inWestern Indiafrom women'sperspectives,ts narrativehifts romirst ersonoomnipotenthird,nd itsonely,Vedantic,toic vision.thas characteristic oments f philosophicowerwhen herdeterminedlyrosaicproses illuminatedy flashes f insight.tis alsohermostambitiousnovelnits generationalnd gender ompass, reating hreeenerationsffemale o-heroinesnd amorefully evelopedmale protagonisthanverbefore.In theepigraphrom heBrhddaranyakapanishad,heage YajnavalkyaellshiswifeMaitreyihatheis about to renounce he life of a householder.nthe novel,Sumiand herthreeeenagedaughtersmust return o her ancestralomeafter erhusband Gopalhas decided unilaterallyoleave them.FromthemomentSumi'smotherKalyanigreetsherwiththe anguished ry, No! no, my God, not again" p.12), both charactersndreadersre hauntedby a persistentense ofde~j,-vureatedbyanunresolvedamily ast.Kalyani, oo,oncehadtoreturn oherfather's ousewithheraughters,bandonedbyherhusband fterheoss of their on.The loss of a male childand its consequences or he survivingister r motherarerecurrenthemesnDeshpande'swork.nTheDark HoldsNoTerrors1980), Saritawasmade to feelguiltyorherbrother'sccidentalrowning,aunted orever y herdistractedmother'sutburst,Itshouldhavebeenyou."nAMatterfTime, alyanihas internalized erownoss as wellhermother'sisappointment nnot havinghadason,but seventuallyble to embracend drawtrengthrom ergranddaughters.The Upanishadic tory oths and is not ike ts contemporaryounterpart.ustasYajnavalkya'swifenever condemnedhisactionorindulgedinself-pity,utconcerned erselfith howshe,too, mightttainenlightenment,o Sumialone ofall herfriendsndfamilyever lamesGopal,butturnsnward, ainingperspectiveonthepastandpreparingerself o meeta newstagenher ifewith nodesirefor retributivection.However,whatkind of actioncan she take?Hasn'tGopal's desirefor elf-realizationurtailedhefreedomf his wife nddaughtersnforcinghem oreturnsdependentso her hildhood ome?QuotingfrequentlyromheUpanishadsand the Mahdbhdrata,eshpandemeditateshroughoutn the limitsofndividualfreedom.Whois the novel'sprotagonist?he reader skept guessing.Fivegenerationsfwomennhabithenarrative:orty-year-oldumi,her hreeaughters,nd hermotherat thecenter;nd behindthem,hespiritsfKalyani'sducatedmotherManoramaand Manorama'spioneeringteacherYamunabai. Aboveandbeforethe humanprotagonists, owever,oomstheBig House,Sumi's mother'samilyome,withthestatusfcentral haracter.amedafteralyani's ather,ts describedmbivalentlyas bothimpressivendoppressive,onveyingsenseofcontinuityutalso ofclaustrophobia.omatter ow muchSumiseeksfreedom,heseemsfatedo returnto theBig House,asif shehas "no choicebut tofollowhatunseenracing" p. 78).Deshpande'sfemaleprotagoniststruggletoreappropriate atriarchalraditionsbecauseforher,heauthor,here s no otherwayforward.heBigHouse,the GreatTradition ofVedicBrahmanism,s her ownpersonaland culturalpast,arichrepositoryf wisdomtowhich shecontinuallyindsherself eturning,eekingtoinhzabit
in new ways.
This content downloaded on Wed, 6 Feb 2013 05:15:21 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions

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