Like her other feministic works, this also voices the angst and oppression suffered domestically or publicly by women who are judged with an unfair standard when it comes to prism of honor, privilege, conduct, rights, duties and abilities.
The story revolves around a female protagonist name Urmi. The story begins with the scene of mourning as Urmi is benumbed with the pain of losing her young daughter Anu. Even though she should wail and cry she finds it hard to shed tears and to let others help her share the grief.
She is consoled by her best friend Vanna and her mother Inni. Urmi believes she deserved such suffering as she had never appreciated the luxuries and opportunities that she had received all her life. She struggles with the thought of losing her daughter forever and letting go of her memory.
However, as the story progresses Urmi connects to other women who have also suffered much in their lives. She finds courage in their struggle and strength in their defiance.
The first woman she remembers is her mother on law, Mira. She discovers her old journals, notebooks etc. and realizes the unrewarded genius of Mira’s writing. Mira never got recognition as she was regarded as just a woman, a wife, a daughter, a mother etc and not a writer. Her loveless marriage and marital ordeal is palpable for Urmi.
Her book named ‘The Binding Vine’ refers to the umbilicus or the physical connect a mother shares with her child. Urmi naturally is overwhelmed with such content.
Next, Urmi meets two more women- young Kalpana who is a rape victim and her mother Shakutai. Kaplana lies on the hospital bed fighting a battle of survival but shrouded in forced silence of the crime she suffered. The outraging of a woman’s modesty brings more questions and pain to the victim than to the perpetrator. The author strikes the point of assumed negligence or rampant accusation that follow after such heinous acts.
Urmi understands and feels the fear and agony the two are going through even thought their stories are quite disparate and unconnected. The scourge of marital rape and other wise is exposed in the text with unflinching directness and is overwhelmingly brutal.
Urmi struggles with her own past memories and grapples with concepts of honor, dignity, ignominy, marriage etc.
Urmi wants to expose the perpetrator of rape but Shakutai is worried about her daughter’s future and [possible marriage even though her life hangs in the balance while the body lies motionless on the hospital bed.
When Dr. Bhaskar encourages Shakutai to impart justice to her daughter and reveal the identity if the criminal, she dissuades him from making the information public.
Urmi realizes the constant tug of war women have to contest between the self and what others see them as. The expectations to conform to the socially constructed image are both scary and impossible to fulfill. The sacrifice however I soften silent and unnoticed. Such questions are confronted by the individual even when she is not alone because she remains lonely within the confines of her body.
Shakutai ultimately summons enough courage to reveal her daughter’s sufferance and reaffirms a stamp of defiant and free conscience.
The story is a bold and hard hitting exposition of the life for millions of India women who suffer neglect, pain and even crimes in isolation, silence and submission.
The story foregrounds the theme of rape, violence, loss etc but also celebrates the spirit of women and individuals who rise above their ordeals and attain deliverance, victory and even salvation.