Namita Gokhale is an award winning writer and festival director. She is the author of eleven works of fiction and has written extensively on myth as well as the Himalayan region. Her acclaimed debut novel, Paro: Dreams of Passion, was published in 1984. Her recent novel Jaipur Journals, published in January 2020, was set against the backdrop of the vibrant Jaipur Literature Festival. Betrayed By Hope, a play on the life of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, was also published in 2020.
A co-founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Gokhale is committed to supporting translations and curating literary dialogues across languages and cultures. She was conferred the Centenary National Award for Literature by the Asam Sahitya Sabha in Guwahati in 2017. She won the Sushila Devi Literature Award for her novel Things to Leave Behind, which also received the Best Fiction Jury Award at the Valley of Words Literature Festival 2017, and was on the longlist for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award. The Blind Matriarch is her twentieth book.
The blind matriarch, Matangi-Ma, lives on the topmost floor of an old house with many stories. From her eyrie, she hovers unseeingly over the lives of her family. Her long-time companion Lali is her emissary to the world. Her three children are by turn overprotective and dismissive of her. Her grandchildren are coming to terms with old secrets and growing pains. Life goes on this way until one day the world comes to a standstill-and they all begin to look inward.
This assured novel records the different registers in the complex inner life of an extended family. Like
the nation itself, the strict hierarchy of the joint-family home can be dysfunctional, and yet it is this home that often provides unexpected relief and succour to the vulnerable within its walls.
As certainties dissolve, endings lead to new beginnings. Structured with the warp of memory and the weft of conjoined lives, the narrative follows middle India, even as it records the struggles for individual growth, with successive generations trying to break out of the stranglehold of the all-encompassing Indian family.
Ebbing and flowing like the waves of a pandemic, the novel is a clear-eyed chronicle of the tragedies of India's encounter with the Coronavirus, the cynicism and despair that accompanied it, and the resilience and strength of the human spirit.
In The Blind Matriarch
, Namita Gokhale tackles our recent pandemic nightmare with courage and remarkable skill. It is a bold and entertaining novel by a hugely talented writerNamita Gokhale is a master storyteller. Whenever I pick up her book, I always feel I am listening to her and not reading it. She has a rare art of tying up the time-ends in her narrative. That's what makes her stories classic. In The Blind Matriarch
, she has stretched the experience of the two years of the pandemic to the entire middle-class behaviour of our times. Hats off to you, Namita!Here is a profoundly Indian novel, a multi-layered narrative woven around an extended family, with a blind matriarch who holds it all together at its centre; her world, a universe of sounds and smells, vague shapes and sharp thoughts, that keep her alert to everything that goes on around her. The novel set in the context of the raging pandemic that turns everything upside-down is simultaneously a fascinating family story and a record of the gruesome days of the disease when dark death stalks the dreams of the living and tests their resilience and the solidity of their domestic and social bonds. Somewhere it also grows into an allegory of our existence as a nation with its vulnerabilities, its hierarchies, and its battles to transcend its losses and failures, touchingly narrated with all the confidence of a committed and experienced storyteller with her rare insights into human relationships with their complexities, and their special modes of surviving crisesNamita Gokhale's latest novel is a universal tale of love, loss, regret and stoicism in the year of the pandemic, where the acclaimed author of the searingly honest Paro
now turns her attention to a joint family's sudden skirmish with mortality. Matangi Ma, the stoic, weather-beaten blind matriarch, presides over her large family, all living under one roof. She is a lady Dhritrashtra, with Lali, her long-suffering but loyal maid, reporting to her, Sanjaya-like, on family battles from ground zero. Matangi Ma has deep insights into what Death really is, even as her beloved grandchild describes his version of Death-a contemporary cross between Yama from Amar Chitra Katha and Thanos from The Avengers
. The novel takes shape over a traumatic year and signals the end of an era. With its powerful meditations on both life and death, The Blind Matriarch
is simultaneously Namita Gokhale's most sombre and life-affirming novel yetThrough her simple and soft prose, Gokhale lets us revisit the pandemic without the paralysing glares of its horrors.The blind Matangi-Ma registers the changing dynamics of her family during the extended lockdowns, as they begin to re-examine their life and purpose, reconcile with old secrets, and form new bonds. Namita Gokhale's twentieth novel is a story of love and loss, of the resilience and triumph of the human spirit.The novel seems to invite us to think about what 'home' and 'family' mean after having lived through this pandemic.Namita Gokhale's The Blind Matriarch mimics the uncertainties of our chaotic lives. While extraordinary reporting from all over the world has kept us in news, it is fiction we must turn to for sense.The Blind Matriarch is about resilience, secrets, families and the complexities of living together.Reading Namita Gokhale is akin to sitting around a campfire and listening to stories. In The Blind Matriarch
, she continues this tradition as she spins a tale around an old lady who, in many ways, is reminiscent of the quintessential grandmother figure that one often finds in Indian families.A contemporary family saga explores urban relationships in the face of an upheaval caused by the pandemic.