Ladies Coupe is a novel by Anita Nair that has offered the space for varied interpretations by critics, reviewers, scholars and nincompoops alike. Though the author has been denying any formal charges of being ‘a feminist’ the readers and the scholars have concluded their own orgasmic hypotheses that Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupe is nothing but a feminist’s attempt of showing ‘patriarchy’ and man-dominance in the society. Well, it’s true that Anita gives the space for that but does not formally engage herself. So, other than this ‘feminism’ that we suppose to be there, what else do we find in the novel?
The novel is a journey by a few women from different walks of life. They tell each other (and the readers) their stories that stir the conscience of the readers as well as the characters. Here, one has to accept the mastery of narrative that Anita Nair possesses as a contemporary novelist. While other novelists are busy in making their novels reader-friendly, she is the one who is busy in making the readers her novel-friendly with standard narrative and dignified language (to a great extent). Akhila takes the centre stage in the novel and becomes the symbol of women trapped in the male-dominated ‘Indian society’.
Akhila’s story and that of the other five co-travellers to Kanyakumari tell the ‘usual’ saga of male-dominance and female subjugation. Metaphors and diction are the same. However, the journey to Kanyakumari can certainly be seen as hypothetical salvation that Anita Nair has been successful in achieving for her text. Nevertheless, one should always remember that these novelists, the ones who popularise themselves and the ones who are done by the people with vested interests and agendas, who are feminists and social revolutionaries (like Roy) often forget that Indian society is made of many kinds of people who come from many different backgrounds. They will write about ‘Brahminical’ patriarchy and ‘Hindu’ oppression of women in society. However, they will never raise their eyebrows for the SIN that triple talaak and Halala have been for the Muslim women in India and the world. Why? Do they not think that the problems of Muslim women also form the Indian problematic umbrella? Do they not think of Muslim women as a part of Indian society? This is a question that Akhila should have asked right in the face of Anita Nair and it’d be interesting to see her response.
Nevertheless, there is no advantage in questioning the consciousness of the novelists as that might trigger their ego and it’d hurt the next story on ‘how Brahmans have been dominating the society by worshipping women as mothers and Goddesses’. Still, a question that haunts me each time I read something of the feminist sort in India, are these novelists really after the problems faced by women or they are just after certain Brahman or Hindus or a certain idea?
Ladies Coupe, to be frank, is a novel that is limited to academic interpretations and allegations. General readers who don’t come from literary backgrounds will find this novel slow, unmoving and also boring to a large extent. However, the ones who want to know the real issues faced by ‘certain women’ can certainly find many things in the novel described in a metaphorical way or even directly. Anita Nair has done a commendable job that she could make even more conclusive but failed to do so. Language is more than average and beyond the grasp of common readers who are obsessed with modern novelists with zero respect for narrative.
You can get a piece of this well-written novel by Anita from Amazon. Here is the link:
review by Aditya Shankar for Indian Book Critics