Said to be written just after the death of her mother, Krishna Sobti’s Ai Ladki attracted much attractions and was hailed as a masterpiece by Hindi literary Dom when it was first published in 1991. Awarded the Sahitya Akademi in 1980, Sobti was known for innovative use of language, technique and refreshing delineation of strong women characters which opened new vistas in Hindi literature. This ably translated Listen Girl! by a Dogri scholar Shivanath came in 2003. The novella, Hindi or English, was a classics.
– You girl! Why have you kept it so dark in here? Stinging on electricity, are you? Have we actually come down to this now?
– I wanted to climb tall mountains, reach limitless peaks. But this did not fit into the scheme of things domestic. Who could have said that this to? Your father? He could barely cope with the family pinpricks. Besides, he loved his punctuality; everything on its time, not a minute early, not a second late. I turned myself into a clock for him.
Taking the forms of dialogue, the book opens inside the sick room and closely explores the relationship of a dying woman and her daughter. The mother often thrashes the daughter, who’s independent and single, with pointed references to her barrenness. The relationship between these two individuals, two conflicting aspects of womanhood, smartly casts and wraps engagingly the dialogues. The mother, having brought up to care the needs of the “brothers” in the family and after marriage devoted her life to her husband – whom she loved dearly – stood by the conventional rules of society. She now questions all the restrictions under which she’s lived and voices her regret at having sacrifice her youthful ambitions to fit into her husband’s family.
– When the journey’s nearing its end, god knows what different things knock at the heart. The many pleasures make one look back, while the soul pushes towards the infinite. And back again.
Lifetime , with its love and pain, trembles in and out the dying woman; She’s struggling to connect equally as to detach from it. The mother went to her daughter room spending the night with her. And she declared her daughter’s writing as important as any other. This resolutions seemingly gave her strength to let go. Their relationship turned out lovely ‘more like magic’. The stark realism of the depictions during the last hours are poignant.