A Matter of Time
By Shashi Deshpande. Feminist Press at the CUNY, 1999.
Reviewed by Sudha S. Balagopal
I first read a A Matter of Time a few years ago, when it was published in India. The book made a deep impression on me, with its sensitive story of rebuilding and hope. After its more recent release in the US, I read it again, enjoying it even more.Very few books can lay claim to that fact for me. In A Matter of Time, a father, named Gopal, with three almost-grown girls, decides he has had enough of marriage and its binding ties, and walks out on his family. In a culture where marriage, to many, is the be-all and end-all of existence, where responsibilities outweigh desires, this expression to be free of all bondage in itself is strange and different to say the least (unless of course, it is for spiritual reasons). Sumi, Gopal’s wife, and his three daughters, seek shelter with her parents. Coincidentally, Sumi's parents themselves have a relationship that is more than strained. They are husband and wife in name only, inhabiting the same house with virtually no communication between the two of them. The three girls, Aru, Charu and Seema are bewildered and adrift. They all want normalcy. But what is normalcy once a father has walked out on his family? Sumi, the mother, is extraordinarily collected, to the point of indifference. How they learn to cope with this dislocation is the story that Deshpande spins for her readers. Ofcourse this is not the only story-it is also the story of all the families that are intimately linked to Sumi's. The one problem I had with A Matter of Time was the abrupt introduction of characters. Deshpande does not describe how some of the people are related to the main character as they come into the picture. In the beginning, I had a problem sorting out the various relationships. And in this I do not mean the central family of Sumi, Gopal and their three daughters. It is all the other family members: the cousins, their...
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