‘Ladies Coupe’- The title itself conjures up feelings of warmth and intimacy. An image of a safe haven where one can freely divulge one’s secrets maybe? Anita Nair artfully feeds the female soul and teases the male ego with a plot which is not devoid of feminist undercurrents.
Our protagonist is Akhilandeswari (aka Akhila) who is a 45 year old spinster on a train journey in a ladies only compartment. Her final destination is a place called Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India. Or is ‘final destination’ a metaphor for where she is ultimately headed to in life at large? Akhila meets five different women during the course of her journey and each of them reveals to her their personal story. It is through each story that Akhila seeks answers to questions in her own life.
Traditional Indian culture, whether you like it or not views a woman’s contribution to society on the basis of the role(s) she plays during different stages of her life – daughter, sister, daughter in law, mother, mother in law, grandmother. Her individuality is often supressed and asserting her own wishes is perceived as selfishness. Nair, through her characters in this book brings to life this very theme.
I will not give you a glimpse into the characters nor their stories; as doing so will only spoil what you might take away from each voice. The writing is succinct yet evocative, a balance that very few writers are able to successfully achieve. An added attraction for me was the references made to food from Southern India – delicacies that I grew up on, took for granted and that which I dearly miss today. For, they remind me of a place that still engulfs me with a deep sense of warmth and security, a place that is truly mine, a place I call Home.
So, if you are in need of some motivation or indeed some inspiration, Ladies Coupe will do its bit to help you on your own adventurous journey called life!