An Unrestored Woman and Other Short Stories is a collection of six paired short stories, set around the events of partition of India and Pakistan that took place in 1947. As the author states in the note, ”The transfer of populations between India and Pakistan is considered the largest peacetime migration in all of human history.” However, this migration saw some of the most violent and ruthless acts. We have heard of those cruel stories where trains were burnt, women abducted and people slaughtered.
This collection, although fiction, puts faces on those tragedies that one has just heard, but not experienced. Each story narrates the tale of loss, brutality, survival and strength. The title story is about a woman who was kidnapped by a Pakistani after the rioters burnt down her house and her husband. When faced with a choice, she turns the concept of liberation upside down. The next story is about another survivor who uses her sexuality and subverts the idea of gender to find liberation miles away from her homeland. The Opposite of Sex is a story that illustrates how just a line, when moved by a few inches, changed so many fates during partition. Then there is a story about a woman who is dragged into prostitution, she waits patiently for years to avenge herself.
The overlapping of the partner stories is an interesting tool. It illustrates that just when you think you know the character and have become familiar with the protagonist in the prequel, the sequel story shows that the protagonist is just a mist. Everything is relative. Many ideas, such as sexuality, freedom, boundary and violence have been subverted. The stories stay with you much after they have ended. However, at many times, the sexual act and violence is forced, and more than required. The book doesn’t deal with history but its effect on people that transcends boundaries, continents and generations.
Title: An Unrestored Woman and Other Short Stories
Author: Shobha Rao
Publisher: Hachette India