Set against the rural background of the South, One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan, describes the societal stigma attached to couples who fail to produce a child after years of marriage. Having a child, in the Indian tradition is the primordial aim of marriage. From the Vedas and Upanishads to other religious scriptures, all stress on the significance of a child, for pleasing one’s ancestor and to take the lineage forward. But unfortunately, many are not easily blessed with this boon.
Society often attach ridiculous humiliations to these couples, especially to the woman, resulting into a strained husband wife relationship. Many a times, the man even considers settling for a second marriage due to the doomed infertility of the first. Also, one must not forget the numerous notes that leave one’s pockets in order to please a little less than the supposedly thirty three crore Gods and Goddesses of the Indian mythology. One Part Woman highlights how society , especially the gossip girls of the society treat a barren woman. They usually compete against one another trying to pull down the morale of a woman who has been unsuccessful in bearing a child. The continuous bullying, insults, tantrums and being the centre of attention in public gathering and social events, change the personalities of such women making them impatient, outspoken, restless and even rude at times.
The storyline of One Part Woman follows the relationship of Kali and Ponna, a couple married for over twelve years. A couple deeply in love with each other. A couple unable to conceive for the last decade despite trying all measures. Nevertheless, they have stood by each other and fought against all odds, never doubting or leaving one another. But things take an impactful turn when news reaches them of a last possible way to conceive.
If you are to read the blurb for the book, you would be thoroughly excited to read between the pages as it implies of a relationship test the couple must go through to produce an heir. However, once you start reading the book, you would find about three-fourths of it consumed by the social stigma imposed on the couple and the little intricacies of their relationship which are narrated through flashback episodes. The most anticipated part of the tale begins and ends within the last few chapters, giving less space for the readers to ponder on it. In fact, for those who would want to read the book solely based on this reason are bound to feel somewhat disappointed as the most anticipated portion of the story comes and goes at lightning speed. Further, though many writers prefer open-ended conclusions to their stories, somehow the readers would have anticipated a concrete conclusion to One Part Woman. The million dollar question of whether the couple is blessed with a child or not, gets lost in the maze of incidents that take place towards the end of this novel.
Nevertheless, the portrayal of a social cause is well highlighted by the author. The peer pressure thrust upon a childless couple often pushes them to make severe decisions. Thus, it is food for thought for the society, as it reflects the repercussions of societal pressure on the physical and mental strength of two otherwise perfect human beings.