THE WAYWARD DAUGHTER: A KATHMANDU STORY
MIDDLE CLASS FAMILY, TEENAGE GIRLS, CASTE DIVISION AND A CHANGING SOCIETY
“Some people appear so straight and sojho from outside,” she said, “but they’re bent as a sickle on the inside”
The Wayward Daughter is the debut novel of Shradha Ghale which explores the changing society of Nepal and how people cope up with it along with the flow of time. “Wayward” means to be difficult to control or predict because of willful or perverse behaviour. And that is exactly what this book revolves around, with a young girl and her middle-class family, barely surviving with a minimum wage, going through life, little by little.
Sumnina Tamule, our young protagonist, studies in a very prestigious all-girls school, a haven for all young girls belonging to rich and royal families. She and her sister, Numa, are among the very few students with a middle-class background, which she tries to hide and suppress in order to cope up with her peers. Along with this, she is not the golden daughter her parents expect her to be; she has a lot of distractions going on in her life, like a certain boy who just came back from the US.
However, the book does not only revolve around just the wayward daughter, but also her parents, Gajey and Premkala and their love story, her sister Numa and her experiences, her grandmother Boju and her story of love and pain, her cousins Ganga and Manlahari who live with their relatives to survive and grow, and many of her other relatives from a village in Lungla who are dependent on the Tamule family.
The book takes a deep dive into the Nepali society and looks closely at the livelihood of a middle–class family. It is portrayed via the eyes of the various personas in the novel and how they wish to fit in the rich society, figuring to live the luxurious life that others have. It shows the common dream of people and their needs and wants to feel good about their day to day life, and meet up with the standards of the affluent. And that standard is kept hurtfully high to obtain, let alone keep it.
With these converging storyline, the plot is set between the 1990s and 2000s, from the Peoples’ Movement I to the Royal Massacre. These key time points bring the focus to the transitional society and how much it affected the people living in it. The movements, strikes, curfews, insurgency, killings, all affected the people more than ever, creating turmoil in the country. Even though the plot is not all about these major incidents, the Tamule family and the difficulties they face stand in for the hardships endured by the general people across the country, making Ghale’s writing that much better.
Another thing The Wayward Daughter is the portrayal of Nepal as a patriarchal society. Sure, it has decreased over time, but it still exists. The book shows how women, especially daughters-in-law, have to face oppression from their husbands’ family, how they are treated very badly, how they are pressurised in having a son. They are forced to live their lives in accordance to the will of their husbands’ families. And if they give birth to a girl, they are considered to be unblessed and are cursed upon. The book has interpreted these diligently through the eyes of Boju and Premkala.
Needless to say, the story told by the book is quite realistic. At times, it feels like it is your own family the book is narrating, and it is your life and behaviours that the story is showing. The book feels very “Nepali”. Nepali words and phrases are used here and there and some facts mentioned can only be understood by the native speakers. For others, research might be required to truly appreciate and enjoy the book. That is the only downside.
Book provided by @laibarynp
Contributed by Isha Bhusal
Ratings: 4.8 / 5