Parini Shroff. Pic Courtesy/Devin Spratt, PRH
Title: The Bandit Queens
Author: Parini Shroff
Cost: Rs 499
Broadly speaking, Parini Shroff's debut novel, The Bandit Queens, is a window into the lives of women, who have been abused by their husbands in a fictional village of Gujarat.
It is about what happens when Geeta's husband, Ramesh, suddenly abandons her. A rumour circulates among the village folk that she killed him. The consequences of this can be seen in the behaviour of those around her. Children are afraid to approach her, adults call her names behind her back. Geeta, however, is soon approached by other women - one by one - for the business of "husband disposal".
Shroff's tone makes the novel exciting right from the beginning. She injects it with banter and ripostes exchanged among her female characters. The author uses revenge against the âno-good husbands' as the driving force for the plot. What also stands out is that these women are part of a micro-loan group, a rare dynamic wonderfully explored by Shroff. Women come together to support each other for loans that are too small to avail from banks. These are to be used for growing their local businesses, though Shroff comments they end up getting used up for family needs.
While the novel shines through its humour, one wonders if that overshadows the plot in some moments towards the end. For instance, the novel did not need comic relief from the dim-wittedness of an important character in the last section. The wit and heart of the women through their conversations and actions are enough. It is why one continues to root for them, despite the fact that they sometimes disregard the moral weight of their actions.