The Blind Matriarch – Namita Gokhale
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The blind matriarch, Matangi-Ma, lives on the topmost floor of an old house with many stories. From her eyrie, she hovers unseeingly over the lives of her family. Her long-time companion Lali is her emissary to the world. Her three children are by turn overprotective and dismissive of her. Her grandchildren are coming to terms with old secrets and growing pains. Life goes on this way until one day the world comes to a standstill-and they all begin to look inward.
This assured novel records the different registers in the complex inner life of an extended family. Like
the nation itself, the strict hierarchy of the joint-family home can be dysfunctional, and yet it is this home that often provides unexpected relief and succour to the vulnerable within its walls.
As certainties dissolve, endings lead to new beginnings. Structured with the warp of memory and the weft of conjoined lives, the narrative follows middle India, even as it records the struggles for individual growth, with successive generations trying to break out of the stranglehold of the all-encompassing Indian family.
Ebbing and flowing like the waves of a pandemic, the novel is a clear-eyed chronicle of the tragedies of India’s encounter with the Coronavirus, the cynicism and despair that accompanied it, and the resilience and strength of the human spirit.
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