Among the writers who have portrayed the ‘new
woman’ who is tending to take the ‘road not taken’, and walking on their ‘own
road’, Manju Kapur undoubtedly arrests attention. Kapur says that she is
interested in the lives of women, whether in the political arena or in Difficult
Daughters domestic spaces. One of the main preoccupations in all her books
is how women manage to negotiate both inner and outer spaces in their lives –
what sacrifices do they have to make in order to keep the home fires burning
and at what cost to their personal lives do they find some kind of fulfillment
outside the home.
represents the emergence of new woman who is no longer the “chaste wife whose
suffering can only make her more virtuous, the nurturing mother who denies her
own self, the avenging Kali or a titillating strumpet” (Rao 242). Based
partially on the life of Kapur’s own mother, the novel movingly evokes the
multiple frustrations encountered by the central character, Virmati, in her
efforts to educate herself and establish a domestic space, she can call home.
Born in Amritsar in Punjab in 1940, Virmati, the daughter of a father of
progressive ideas and a traditionalist mother seeks human relations that would
allow her to be herself. Her desire for self expression and self realization is
condemned to failure by her own family as well as that of the man she marries.
Through Virmati’s character, Manju Kapur has dealt with the theme of travails
in self-identity vis-à-vis socio-cultural identity. In this context, Toni
Morrison remarks – Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it
is to be a man. What moves at the margin? What it is to have no home in this
place? To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge
of towns that cannot bear your company? (Morrison 201)
set against the bloody backdrop of partition in the cities of Amritsar and
Lahore, remains a powerful portrait of a society where shame is more important
than grief; the novel spans three generations of women and unveils their sense
of disillusionment. The three generation of women (Kasturi, Virmati and Ida)
symbolize the three stages of Indian independence. Kasturi, the mother
represents the pre-independence and is shown as a victim of the offensive
control of patriarchy. In the beginning, Kasturi is being presented as an
epitome of motherhood who bears pain and suffering.
“Kasturi could not remember a time when she was
not tired, when her feet and legs did not ache” (Kapur DD 7).