This gem was hiding in my shelf for years and I didn’t notice it. So, when recently, I rearranged my bookshelf, I saw this novel staring at me with puppy eyes as if begging me to read it. And, guess what, I did. And, after finishing Ladies Coupé , I was so angry with myself for not reading this precious possession before! Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair is a book with which dreams are made of.
Once I started reading it, I found myself unable to put it down. I finished this book in 2 days and that’s the quickest I’ve ever finished reading a book. Being a book about women, I connected with this book at so many levels. I know there are a lot of women-centric novels available today but to accomplish such a powerful writing back in 2001 is something that is simply marvelous, especially by an Indian female author. Ladies Coupé carries so much potential that it can still move you no matter whenever you pick it up.
Ladies Coupé is a novel about 6 unrelated women travelling together in a ladies compartment and sharing the stories of their lives. Nothing extraordinary, right? But once you begin reading the stories of their lives, you understand how extraordinary it is to be a woman. Entangled in a dominating & gender-biased patriarchal society, some of these women find their independence while others do not. Akhila, the protagonist, is a 45 year old single woman who has lived her life always putting other’s wishes before hers. Due to her father’s sudden death, she becomes the bread-winner of her house in a tender age. And, everybody stops thinking about her as a woman with desires. In the eyes of her family, she is just a source of livelihood. She is just a protectress of her house on whose shoulders everybody’s responsibility lies. And, in the process of all this, Akhila begins to accept herself as just that and kills every desire that springs forth.
But the decision to travel alone to Kanyakumari in a ladies coupé (compartment) changes her life. This novel is a gorgeous tale where Akhila finds her true self while listening to the stories of her co-travelers. Anita Nair has described this novel as the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, where so many different lives of different pilgrims collide, each tale symbolic of something. Likewise, the stories of the five co-travelers of Akhila deal with different themes.
There is an old lady, Janaki, who has been husband-pampered her whole life and feels that a man completes a woman. Next is a 14 year old girl, Sheela, who narrates the story of her dead grandmother. Then, there is Margaret, a chemistry teacher, who has found a way to tackle her malicious husband. She contradicts Janaki’s ideology and believes that a man may be required in a woman’s life otherwise but not to complete her. Then, Prabha Devi, who has learned to appreciate & be open about her sexual desires. And, the last female character is Marikolanthu. Her story turns out to be the most heart-rending & nerve-wrecking of all. From being raped to prostituting her body, and coming to terms to raising an illegitimate child, Marikolanthu has to go through all.
I would rate this book a 10/10 and a must read. I really wish that universities, especially Indian universities, give a place to Ladies Coupé in their course structures 🙂
P.S. – I’ll be organizing a giveaway soon, stay tuned. Meanwhile, let’s connect via Instagram <3
Other books by Anita Nair –