Hot Off the Press - Mallika Menon

Review of Scar Tissue

Nikhat Grewal (Editor), Women Unlimited, New Delhi, 2006

Mallika Menon

Every girl has a story. Some get told, some don’t. Many are similar while some are completely different. But all of them have one thing in common: all women, young and old have strength and survival in them.

The first title of the Maiden Voices series of Women Unlimited, Scar Tissue is about the thoughts and ideas that many of us have. That’s what struck me the most. The editor Nikhat Grewal ends the introduction to the book saying, ‘So these are our stories and perhaps some of yours, as well’. She is right. All of us often think about our lives, the things, people and places that have affected us and grown with us. Through the pages of this book, you find elements that you identify with, often finding yourself expressed through another person’s thought. 

Scar Tissue is a collection of eight stories written by eight different young women. The stories themselves are like parts of their lives, still incomplete, with no clear beginnings and no definitive endings. They wind through different phases and thoughts in their lives - as a school girl, to a young adult, to a full-fledged woman legally able to do it all - growing only because of your understanding, like in ‘The Howling’, or Nikhat’s ‘The Reading’, both a journey through time. Never really ending; just moving on - like scars that fade away but don’t disappear and are constant reminders.

In Deveshe’s ‘Shock Of Recognition’, a young woman wonders about what it means to have a family that is liberal, what her parents think of her partying all night, and whether that make her less ‘responsible’. Identifying with women from the classics or from the movies and their roles as leading women balancing responsibilities and sensibilities and their position in society - something my friends and I would talk about, thinking about love lost and found, marriage, family, and even children.

Common threads through many of the stories are a comparison of the lives of these women with those of their mothers and grandmothers. Or, how through their mistakes these young women learn not to make the same ones again. Or, the strength and love they get from other women in the family, like their sisters, younger and older. Or, the times that you are just misunderstood, when you feel like even the closest people in the world aren’t really getting the drift or giving you their much-needed support, and then, without even realizing, you find it within yourself.

The stories are easy to read because they are relevant to today’s women, referring to recognizable characters like Ally McBeal and Bridget Jones, like in ‘The Story Of Me’ and ‘On Being Labelled A Feminist’. Or closer home, the idea of India Shining. Mukulika in ‘The Abyss’ and ‘Mulligatawny Soup’ talks about women living between the world of nightclubs and margaritas and agricultural economy and democracy. Affected by both government policies and Bollywood and Hollywood. Discussing trends that are very much a part of today and urban Indian women, in this age of globalisation and 9% GDP growth.

Most of the stories are also about questions. Every woman questions almost everything, and reading other women’s stories somewhere one hopes for some answers. However, here one can end up with even more questions which may not help. Still, Phoenix’s ‘Soul Searching’, a story like a poem, speaks to you because it is simply put and you find yourself saying out loud, ‘Yes, I know what that feels like - to trust someone and have them betray you or break you heart; to love someone, and, when they die, you never find a good enough reason for them to have gone away’. Through the questions, sometimes you find yourself answering many of your own and it gives you hope.

The stories are very personal and close to the heart of each writer. These women have the courage to put them out there and took a big leap actually writing them. Because you realize that these are your stories too, it makes you think about your reactions to comparable situations and experiences. This may encourage others to start writing down their own stories.

Scar Tissue goes beyond just boyfriends and heartbreaks; the collection is about women who are thinking about their lives. It has short stories that won’t take you long to read, but once you are done it is the kind of book you pass on to a best friend because you know that many of these stories are true for her as well. It’s a collection of stories that you can keep adding to, because everyone experiences different incidents or has different ways of looking at things.

Having said all this, I also wonder whether the men and the boys in my life read this book. My brother, my boyfriends? Would it give them an insight into being a woman, help them get a sense of what we feel, or, would they just toss it aside as another ‘get in touch with your inner woman book’?

As a young woman, for me it’s a book that you read and maybe feel more ‘normal’ about being yourself, because somewhere, someone you don’t know, went through it too. It leaves you feeling a little less alone and a lot more inspired to tell your own story.

Mallika Menon is 22 years old. A graduate in History from St Stephen’s College, New Delhi, she studied Journalism at the Asian School of Journalism in Chennai. Currently she is working for CNBC-TV18 where she works at the desk for a live news bulletin as well as a feature show called Young Turks. She lives in New Delhi, India