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Publication Date: November 1st 2016
Part of Series? No
Source: Review Copy
Goodreads Blurb: Aruna, a young divorcee, marries Bhuvan, an averagely successful young man. Both make promises of ever after with preconceived expectations—hers, freedom from a judgmental society and validation of herself and his, unconditional love and partnership. Despite their best intentions, life plays rogue.
On the one hand, Aruna’s learned conditioning, developed as a result of her past, keeps coming in the way of their married normalcy and on the other, Bhuvan cannot fathom the signs of her distress.
Their good intentions are tried at every step until the day when Aruna’s past revisits her. Bhuvan’s silences, Aruna’s distrust and the resurrection of her troublesome past lead to a downward spiral in their life that shakes Aruna to the core.
As she stands on the precipice of a second failed marriage, Aruna tries one last time to take control of her life, something she had willingly surrendered last time.
Does she succeed in saving her marriage? Or is she held back by her own apprehensions, choosing to stay victim?
Introduction & Plot
There are some books which make you feel happy and leaves you with a light mood. Then there are a few which are on difficult topics and make you want to discuss the theme. And finally there are a few ones which neither have a difficult topic nor the entertaining one, but yet they make you question your surroundings and beliefs. A Window to Her Dreams falls in the last category.
When I accepted this book for review, I was not at all aware that this book offers such a sensitive theme underlying a simple looking story. And that being said, the theme is – Emotional and physical abuse in a marriage and living your life beyond it. Yes, you read it right! If you look at the cover and the title, you would think it as a simple story. Yes, I agree, the story is simple but behind that simplicity underlies the darkest truth of our society (basically the Indian society) and the condition of women in it.
I like reading feminist books and recently I read one- The Whole Shebang which was quite different from this book as being a nonficiton. Still, the basic feminist things always intrigue me and this novel did no less.
This is a story about Aruna, a young divorcee, who marries Bhuvan. Bhuvan is a simple man who loved Aruna since the college days. Though married again, Aruna was not able to forget his first marriage which was abusive. Her first husband Rafi abused her physically as well as emotionally and that created a long-lasting effect on Aruna. She expected Bhuvan to behave exactly like Rafi and was not able to feel secure no matter how hard Bhuvan tried to make her feel. Their marriage was at stake. Will Bhuvan and Aruna be able to save their marriage? Would Aruna be able to leave her past behind and see Bhuvan as a different person? To know answers to these questions you need to read this book 😀
Now that I am reading the blurb again, I can see that it is giving away most of the story. The story is as simple as that, in fact, many of the Indian readers can connect with it instantly as the script is similar to a Bollywood movie in many aspects. What makes it different is the narrator! The narrator is not a typical person, but it is the Haveli! Yes, the Haveli in which Aruna’s family was living. Now that is totally different, isn’t it? Imagine a house telling its own story, telling what secrets it has confined in its walls, the stories of all the generations that lived in it. This point was really interesting. I haven’t read any story with such narration so I was really impressed.
The underlying theme of the story is that of domestic abuse. In a country like India, it is a topic which is common. I feel ashamed while writing this, but this is the truth. Domestic abuse is a topic about which we hear stories on the daily basis and Harshali Singh has managed to portray those things perfectly.This is an issue which should be highly portrayed in the writings but unfortunately, these kind of stories are often overshadowed by the typical romantic tales. Rafi, Aruna’s ex-husband always treated her like dirt. She was not even allowed to go her parents’ house without his permission and if she did so, she was beaten by him. Rafi had wrong intentions about Aruna’s younger sister Bhavya which ultimately broke their marriage and also made up a wall between Bhavya and her family. This is a horrific example of how your relationship with a wrong person not only destroys you but all those people too who are related to you. Harshali Singh has perfectly captured the feelings of a person who was in an abusive relationship.
Was it because she felt cherished with him, safe enough to pull back the dust covers from the other ‘Aruna’ that hid beneath? This sudden thrill bewildered her; as much as it possessed her. Had she repressed her sensuality, or was it that she had never discovered the facet to herself? It had always been about the act itself and Rafi’s pleasure.
This story also tells the struggles of a middle-class family especially if the family has so many children. Here Aruna had 5 siblings and we can imagine how difficult it would have been for her parents to manage the family within the income of a single person. This situation is not like we Indians are unfamiliar. Many families had a large number of children, even more than they can raise. I am glad that today’s society has a different mindset. Uma, Aruna’s mother, was the sole keeper of her family while Aruna’s father was the person earning bread for them. It must have been very tough for her parents to manage and raise all their kids. Here, Harshali Singh has beautifully described all their struggles and make us feel what it is to be grown in a large family.
Uma’s character has been drawn beautifully. She has been shown as fierce women and I really liked this wave of feminism here. She was the women with a strong will as it was not at all easy to raise 6 children. She was very determined towards her decisions. She made her husband listen to her whenever they were in trouble. I really liked this portrayal of an Indian woman, because I believe in our society most of the women are like this only. Men generally get nervous easily in the difficult situations while it is the women who can take out her family from hard times with her willpower and intelligence. This is, what I believe, portrays most of our Indian women.
She realized that being pretty had its benefits, but that being worldly-wise was more essential for the survival of a woman in any given scenario.
When we reach halfway through the book, then we came to know more about Dheeraj, Aruna’s brother. Dheeraj wanted to be a chef but like a typical Indian family, it was a profession considered to be for females so Dheeraj’s father didn’t allow him to do so. Instead, he wanted him to continue working on his Saree shop. The author has portrayed another issue here that still exists in the Indian society – Children are not allowed to do whatever they want. It is like a taboo in Indian society that a few professions are more suitable for girls than boys and vice-versa. I can’t see why this differentiation? Any job is not defined by a gender role but this discrimination still exists.
Apart from this, it was also portrayed how important it is, in our society, for women to have a son. This is a really disgusting thing that still exists in our society. if a woman can’t bear a son then she would not get the respect she needed and Harshali Singh has written very wisely about it.
Of course it could have been just as simple as a validation of her fertility. After all, she needed to bear a son to prove that she was usefully productive. It was the times with that kind of societal norm..one that wears down your good sense to a nub. Ironically, it is the woman who sometimes perpetuates it and at most times endorses it.
A unique thing that Harshali Singh included in this story was a disabled character. Now, tell me, how many Indian stories you have read where the author includes such a character? Not many, I guess? Here that character was Aruna’s second younger sister Charu, who was blind. But the thing to be applauded here is that besides this disability, Uma doesn’t let her daughter be left behind. Instead, Charu gets out of the city and persuaded to follow her dreams similar to Bhavya. This is a really great emphasis shown on the strength of women.
The main emphasis, however, was on the relationship of Aruna with her new husband Bhuvan. Aruna was afraid of Bhuvan at first and was not ready to be in a normal relationship. She married Bhuvan just for the society’s sake as it is not considered good to be a “divorcee” in our society. Whenever she tried to go near him, the images from her past life keeps coming up and she was really afraid of even trying to go near him. They maintained a casual relationship, like two persons sharing a home rather than husband and wife. She often readies herself, make herself prepare to tell Bhuvan how she feels about him but every time she failed in her attempts because of her past. This was like a lot of struggle for both of them. She explained how she was unable to trust anyone she meets even if she knew that the person is safe.
How cruel of this world, to elevate you, only to shatter you again..and again..a vicious cycle, this living and dying..
Apart from these good parts of the story, obviously there were faults too. It was hard for me to get into the story from the beginning. There were a lot of good vocabulary used so it would not be suitable for the beginners.
Sometimes it felt that there were unnecessary descriptions. At some places, those descriptions were filling the pages and I felt that the story could not have been affected if those were missing. Also, there were so many characters involved in the story which made it confusing sometimes. Each chapter was dedicated to the story of a different character so it was little difficult to regain the reading flow.
The end of the story was totally in a typical Bollywood movie style and it felt unreal. Though I expected a good ending but nothing like a typical end.
A Window to Her Dreams is a heroic tale of a woman fighting from her past and growing out of her abusive relationship. It is a story of courage and determination. With amazing descriptions, it clearly depicts what it feels like to be in an abusive relationship. If you want to read a story about a survivor then I would definitely recommend it. You won’t feel like you are reading a debut novel of the author Harshali Singh.
A Window To Her Dreams by Harshali Singh is a story about woman empowerment, abusive relationship and its effects, to give value to your choices, the struggles and to be a survivor.
**I received a copy of this book from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Have you read this book? Do you plan to read this?
Do you like to read stories about feminism? What do you think about abusive relationships?
Do you personally know someone who has gone through such relationship?