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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.
Namita Gokhale is an award winning writer and festival director. She is the author of eleven works of fiction and has written extensively on myth as well as the Himalayan region. Her acclaimed debut novel, Paro: Dreams of Passion, was published in 1984. Her recent novel Jaipur Journals, published in January 2020, was set against the backdrop of the vibrant Jaipur Literature Festival. Betrayed By Hope, a play on the life of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, was also published in 2020.
A co-founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Gokhale is committed to supporting translations and curating literary dialogues across languages and cultures. She was conferred the Centenary National Award for Literature by the Asam Sahitya Sabha in Guwahati in 2017. She won the Sushila Devi Literature Award for her novel Things to Leave Behind, which also received the Best Fiction Jury Award at the Valley of Words Literature Festival 2017, and was on the longlist for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award. The Blind Matriarch is her twentieth book.