An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao

A collection of a dozen short stories An Unrestored Woman, speaks of the sentiments of women caught under the web of various conspiracies hatched by fate, at the juncture of the most crucial political decision undivided India was ever subjected to – The Partition. These stories are spread over a timeline ranging from during British Raj to during partition and post-partition. The time span also highlights the development of people – intellectually and emotionally-to combat adverse situations. It is interesting that throughout the narrative each of the twelve stories is connected through a location, a character or an object.

Crushed Hopes of Belonging

What maintains continuity throughout all stories is the focal point of Partition. A phenomenon that not only created two new states by mapping lines but also drew permanent lines in the hearts of people with one unanswered question- ‘Where does one truly belong?’ Partition became a personification of homelessness. The tales of injustice and social stigma revolving around refugee camps would need another post to talk about. However, it was not easy for the people to move beyond borders in the light of communal differences that followed neither was it possible for many to live in the environment that they had known to be home for ages. This resulted in thousands of people dying with crushed hopes of belonging ‘somewhere’. The same resulted in the loss of friends and families – some of whom who could never make it to the destination and many who united after decades with their loved ones.

Throughout the aftermath of Partition, innocent souls suffered the most seeing, what was their home, turn hostile against them in a matter of seconds. Many died unwanted deaths and in the hope of being able to call themselves a citizen of a country. An Unrestored Woman upholds this inner turmoil through the stories, where the characters face situations, where they have to let go of everything and everyone they could once describe as home in search of ‘the other’ – some reaching their destinations while others losing themselves in the journey.

Game of Conscience

We often tend to act in a manner that is guided by our conscience; which in turn is shaped by our preconceived notions and beliefs. In ‘An Unrestored Woman’ every character primary or secondary acts with a strong sense of conscience upholding their own biases and prejudices, which develops the personality of the character in the long run. The author has touched every possible aspect of emotion throughout the book. The protagonists are guided by vengeance, sense of duty, strong will power, stoicism and much more. What needs to be kept in mind is that their conscience and the way they react to situations thereafter have been formed after being subjected to immense pain, struggle and emotional turmoil. Hence, their actions need to be perceived neutrally by the reader instead of judging them.

What’s in the  Name? – An Unrestored Woman

”In 1949, India legislated the return of these women with the Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Act. Though the commonly used term for these women is recovered women, I have chosen to refer to them as restored. The distinction may seem trivial, but it is necessary, for I believe that while the recovery of a person is possible, the restoration of a human being to her original state is not.”

The author justifies the name of the book through these lines. The women protagonists in the stories may have all continued to live their lives at the end but the lives that they lived were not the same as before. Haunted by the loss of relations, home and a life that they once knew, these unrestored women would fight for survival with courage and hope till their very last breath.

An Unrestored Woman is an assemblage of tales of remarkable decisions made by women in order to survive in a world full of vice and angst. It only portrays how powerful women can be when needed and that their silence should never be taken for granted.

Publisher: Hachette

No. of Pages: 244

Rating: 3.5/5

Available at: Flipkart/ Amazon

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