(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
Archana Rathore. She & Everything: A Window to Her Soul. notionpress.com, 2022. Pp. 213. Price: 304/-. ISBN: 979-8-88530-425-2
Reviewed by Mani Bansal
Archana Rathore’s She & Everything: A Window to Her Soul is a collection of eight stories, written flawlessly with utmost attention to even the smallest detail. It is about everything a woman has to deal with in her day to day life, which is often overlooked.
“I would venture to guess that anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was a woman” (A Room of One’s Own 38). This is what Virginia Woolf wrote. Quoting it here, the reviewer intends to acknowledge the fact that women have always been enormously creative and expressive with an identity unrevealed.
Archana Rathore’s story collection, titled, “She & Everything” is the voice of all such women. The book, in which the author takes the charge of speaking numerous of such beautiful souls, with the tints of femininity and hell, lot of audacity, resonates with contemporary zeitgeist.
‘She’ is the woman, who observes, experiences, struggles, fights and eventually creates. ‘She’ is an epitome of brilliance, love, compassion, empathy and unfortunately of compromises too. ‘She’ is me, ‘She’ is you, and ‘She’ is always one of us. Be it the mayhem of Anukriti's life, the elegance of Ketaki, the rage of Sapna, Deepti's desires, half-hearted but chosen happiness of Payal, Divya's unconventional but purest love for Kabir, or Sandhya's balance between the ecstasy of her achievements and tragedy of losing her father, it is always a woman, facing challenges in various phases of life. She validates herself, despite not actually being needed a validation from anyone around.
“Yes, it is true, poetry is delicious, but the best prose is that which is most full of poetry” (brainyquote.com), says Virginia Woolf. What Woolf writes is quite applicable to Rathore’s She & Everything. Rathore writes in prose but her prose is poetic as it is the best. A connoisseur needs no validation. This is the feeling which a reader feels after going through the stories of the book.
The innocence and faith in “the charisma of dhai patti”, the regression and much needed introspection of lost humanity in “It was enough to be just humane / instead of being a metero-sexual man”(97) , the beauty of love beyond worldly barriers in “You should have been a Hindu and I should have been born a Muslim” (131), the words of her mentor reverberating to Mitishka “Some goals are so worthy, that it is glorious even to fail” (173) etc. are such striking issues and ideas as definitely leave the readers in awe of the emotional intensity of the characters so vividly.
To read Rathore’s stories is like reading stories not only well written but with an eye on intricate details dealing with end number of subjects like psychology, medicine, horticulture, army, journalism to academics and so on. The canvas covered by the stories may be too large but it is handled deftly and flawlessly. Rathore’s knack of story writing can be seen in these stories. She is never short of words. Exact expressions just start flowing effortlessly from her pen. Her idiom of short story writing takes the reader to the depths of information and knowledge as well as it keeps him glued to the storyline.
The stories do convey the ‘age of technology’ in which they are located, thus being the true mirror of the contemporary society. No wonder, some researcher, interested in historical studies, will stumble on it as a source of information to gather his/her facts of the changing Indian society, where Archana Rathore is using the language in a masterly manner and, at the same time, the roots of her legacy are underlined. Such examples abound and are interspersed whether in the rituals, connected with the worship of Lord Shiva or how Tulsi is not to be plucked or disturbed on Sundays. Here too, she hasn’t used ‘Basil’ and felt comfortable with ‘Tulsi.’ Quotes like “with her bangles clanking, anklets tinkling, eyes twinkling” (150), “quenching of those thirsts, satiation of those hungers...” (173), “Martyrdom is not the end. It is the beginning of a legend” (176) etc. reveal Rathore’s idiom of expression and impression. Her writing style is more akin to the Hindi writers like Mradula Garg and Amrita Pritam. The book is a mental feast for a reader who loves detailing and it is sure that he will be astonished by going through the research about plants and the detailing about military but he will be a little disappointed if he searches for a solid plot and a clean conclusion in every story. But, surely, the ‘committed’ reader cannot stop himself from seeing ‘spring’, which becomes a ‘talisman’ that makes him ‘feel like home’ but ‘when the rainbow fades’, he consults the ‘mentor’ whom he ‘listens’, ‘pauses’ to think about ‘she’ and then peeps through ‘a window to her soul’ to see some unseen and overlooked truths.
Woolf, Virginia. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/virginia_woolf_401361
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. The Hogarth Press, 1929.
About the Reviewer:
Dr Mani Bansal is a Professor in the Department of Education, DAK Degree College, Moradabad. She did her doctorate on special children. Her areas of interest include women centric readings and research work. She has been a policy maker in NEP 2020. She is a movie buff and works for children with special needs. She can be contacted at email@example.com.