At first glance, this book seemed rather mundane – a book featuring stories about women and highlighting days in the calendar dedicated to them could get too preachy. But A Calendar Too Crowded fell under the fiction genre, making me curious to find out what its pages contained.
The book is divided into the twelve months and lays an emphasis on days that celebrate womanhood. Using fictional characters, the author, Sagarika Chakraborty manages to stress on the plight of women across the country in diverse life situations. What is interesting is the way in which the author succeeds in writing about all strata of female existence – right from the unborn foetus to the rag picker, the high school teenager to the ailing grandmother. The fictional nature of these stories prevent them from becoming preachy, yet each story succeeds in driving the point home – the women today continue to suffer in many cruel and disheartening ways.
Some of the stories like Naked, The Last Flicker and The Priceless Gift of Nationality are extremely powerful, hard-hitting and do complete justice to the issues they deal with. A few others tend to seem a bit unrealistic and do not hit the nail. Certain references are frequently repeated, especially that of Panchali (Draupadi). Chakraborty does not do as much justice to her poetry as to her prose, making it seem like the work of a school child at times. Though the book uses diverse characters, the same style of writing can be seen across stories, making it seem rather repetitive.
The concept of this book is extremely unique and manages to catch your attention, albeit a little slowly. The author’s writing is very simple and straightforward. It took me a while to warm up to the stories. The book is definitely a leisure read, as each story provokes you to question society’s justification of certain acts and rituals. You cannot read it all at once; it is too much to take in and could get dull.
All in all, A Calendar Too Crowded is a great first attempt by Sagarika Chakraborty. She has utilized fiction brilliantly to highlight women’s issues, those discussed openly and those shunned by society, which generally fall into the non-fiction category. Definitely worth a read for all the women out there!