Girl in White Cotton by Avni Doshi
Girl in white cotton by Avni Doshi is like a set of nesting dolls. Layered. With no escape. What remains after you peel every layer and reach the end is a single doll. The end? Or maybe the start to understand a few things better.
I wanted to race. Race ahead with the written word because the opening line clawed me in. As much as I tried, I couldn’t speed, though I flipped the pages with rapt attention, sometimes reading a paragraph twice to take in the beauty of its formation- revealing a sliver of sentiment but concealing more than that. I was constantly pulled back by a force, it negated my pace asking me to relish the journey instead of reaching the destination rapidly. I was held captive to the immaculate writing within minutes and it persisted my interest in knowing about this mother-daughter duo.
Tara is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a sort of dementia where one starts to lose their memory. Antara, the daughter steps in to take care of her mother, Tara. And hereby starts the peeling of layers- troubled childhood for Antara, always deprived of her mother’s love and attention which was sanctioned to a baba or a lover instead- which also shows the stark dissimilarities in the way the two females have lived their life. Uncanny resemblances start making their appearance and the reader now needs to step into the shoes of the mother and the daughter, both to understand their perspectives. What looks like bickerings are Antara’s sore wounds, what looks like ignorance could be a choice Tara was never entitled to. This clever form of the oscillating narrative is scintillating and never lets you choose sides. Antara’s insecurities creep in when she flashes back to memories of her childhood and the brazen nature of it makes her warier of being a mother. The fear – at some point we become our parents- always looms in her mind. Tara named her daughter Antara (Un-tara) meaning unlike herself, which slips in an edge of self-loathing on the mother’s side. A very compelling turn of point-of-view!
Avni Doshi’s – “but in the process of separating us, we were pitted against each other” is a dialogue of difference that is a reflective glimpse into this complex mother-daughter equation.
The book is authored with dexterity and Doshi’s writing prowess comes most alive in the conclusive pages- it is a mirage that gives you the appearance of answering every question clouding your mind or maybe it lets you form more of them. The writing is fascinating and shows the eye for detail that must have toiled the weight of time to thrive on the pages. Palpable with a hint of mist. I would have loved to read the mother’s narrative as an epilogue, maybe. It would have quenched the thirst for that perfect closure satiation.
The book has been published by the name of Burnt Sugar in the rest of the world and has been shortlisted for the booker prize.