Dec 28, 2009

Ladies Coupe and a couple of idlis

So this then is Akhila. Forty five years old. San rose-colored spectacles. Sans husband, children, home and family. Dreaming of escape and space. Hungary for life and experience. Aching to connect.
In a paragraph, this is the heroin of Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupe. She is a spinster who since the age of 19 has taken care of her three sibling and widowed mother. At 45 she finally wants to be free of her responsibilities and find herself. But her family and her fears weigh her down. Not sure if an educated, financially independent woman can live by herself (really Ms. Nair?), she decides to consult five other women travelling with her in the now extinct Ladies Coupe of the Kanyakumari Express.
Akhila finds out that these women, from a sixteen year old girl to a 60 year old married woman, are not all that different from her despite their varied social and economic background.
They all find themselves bound by duty, tradition and family to put the needs of others before them. Nair reduces these strong women to sniveling, docile, weak women who either wallow in self pity or eat their way through bars of chocolate to curb their anger and hatred.

Thankfully, their stories end on a positive note when they realize that all their sacrifice comes to a naught unless they take charge of their lives and find happiness.
Whether it was Prabha who rediscovers her spontaneity with self taught swimming lessons or Sheela who is perceptive at a young age of the hidden intentions and thoughts of adults.
The plucky Margaret who finally realizes that drowning her husband’s obnoxious nature in sinfully rich food was the only way for her to find happiness. Whoever said the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, eat crow. Today’s women know how to turn the tables on you!
It takes forty years for Janaki to realize that though she will be able to survive without her husband, it just wouldn’t be same.
I was left wondering if it was Mari with whom Akhila bonds with at the end. Their life paths are so different yet so similar. Both have to shoulder the burden of their families at a young age and both are shunned by their families in the end.
And yet, while Akhila lives her life like a martyr, I couldn’t help but admire Mari who rebels against the conventions of a society that expects her to behave a certain way. Her rebellion comes at a price though and only when she accepts her past does her future starts to look good.
So it is with Akhila, who has to seduce a younger man to absolve her from her sense of duty and insecurity.
Nair weaves a deft tale of the six women, ties up all the loose ends and leaves us questioning our intents, desires and relationships. However, there was not a lot of sympathy I could muster for Akhila’s martyr like behavior or her bold yet sneaky move to travel to Kanyakumari. But then again, we wouldn’t have a Ladies Coupe without Akhila’s journey of self discovery, would we?

After the book review, which regrettably is longer than Nair’s prologue, I leave you with pictures of Idlis I made in the morning. I do make them from scratch at home but with idli rava instead of the urad dal recipe in the book. The ones above were made from store bought batter and so no recipe, just pictures. Enjoy! And Ann, you got my permission to take points off for no recipes.

Other members of our book club who not only posted the reviews but were inspired to cook from it, with the exception of Sheba of Forks, Boots and a Pallette who followed her review with some pictures of hideous cakes (her words, not mine), were:
Ann of Split Pear Personality who made Counterfeit Appams.
Simran of Bombay Foodie made Lacy Appams.
Sweatha of Curry Leaf made Cutlets.
Bhagyasrie of Taste Buds made aubergine fritters.


  1. Hey now! Eat crow ma'am - my food post came deftly after I posted my review. I split the posts now, because I write so much in the reviews , I end up with a monster post once the recipes comes into play....

  2. I stand corrected Ann and even as I am writing this I am nibbling on the last piece of roasted crow. :)

  3. Someday...I really must make these....and you WILL have to use a recipe or point me in the right direction. Good you inspire me to take up a book! Perhaps life will settle down in the new year can only hope. Happy New Year to favorite space to visit...Jayaspace!

  4. Longer the better ..if it is a review like this !!
    This book has been on my list for long n this review rekindled the interest ..i agree for not being very sympathetic to such lives ( lives of women )n i have personally seen such women who are so bound by their duties that they forget about their own self takes a reality check , or an accident to make them realize ....
    i must read the book to comment on the characters here..

  5. The way to a man's heart is through his chest - something I read on the Internet.

  6. Sra, after that macabre statement, I would like to add a more physical one: I heard in a Hindi movie (I forget which), that the way to a man's heart is below his stomach. :)

  7. Nice review. It is nice to see more books by Indian writers these days. And somehow it is easier to relate to their writing. I shall pick up this one on my next visit to the library.

  8. That's an optimistic statement. :-) My experience of Hindi (and all other) movies is that men don't bother about the heart once that path has been taken :-D

  9. Must be an enjoyable read Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.


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