Non Fiction

Radical Spirits by Nandini Patwardhan

I have been so fidgety the last week or two that I read one chapter each of a lot more books than I usually read simultaneously. I kept it up, hoping to break the barrier at some point and start finishing them (one at a time). As most other ardent readers would acknowledge, the boost a finished book gives is beneficial in general. I broke through finally yesterday finishing two of them, and I have been riding on that feeling since. I might even take my sewing machine out for something random today. Wishing myself luck! I intend to schedule this post for later this evening, by then I should be done with something!

I found the synopsis of this book interesting since I was unaware of AnandiBai Joshee or her remarkable achievement. I even went to check if there were collections of women in Indian history who did extraordinary things but did not find anything concrete on Book Depository and then did not continue my search.

Since it is not often I get to read a book written about a woman from my country, I counted myself fortunate and jumped right into it. I have to be frank that I went in on the defensive as I am wont to do, once again due to the lack of texts that I have actually pursued that do not skew a narrative in any one direction. The author has done a grand job in making sure all angles were covered, and it felt like her personal stand did not play into the narrative.

AnandiBai Joshee got her degree in western medicine in 1886 from the US and throughout her struggles to survive in a world entirely new for her, she remained steadfast in her thought process. She was well versed in the background of her roots while simultaneously absorbing things from her new surroundings. Her path crossed with many well-wishers amongst the numerous naysayers, but the most unique part has to be her relationship with the family that housed her. Their contribution to the growth and emotional nourishment of AnandiBai brought tears to my eyes in some poignant moments. The parallels that the author drew with her own move to the country versus AnandiBai’s journey gave the narration a whole new dimension. The story is built on actual excerpts of letters that the people involved wrote to each other as well as direct transcripts of lectures/speeches given which lets us draw our own impressions of people like her husband ( a very multifaceted person!). The writing was smooth and never once did I feel bogged down by facts (as it sometimes happens when I read non-fiction). It is a story of astonishing fortitude by a woman so young. She had clarity in thought as well as in expression for one so young, and I shudder to think of the physical burden she had to experience before her untimely demise.

There are even political implications hidden within the narrative and does focus on different versions of faith that people then followed and used as a moral guideline for all their actions. This once again is usually a topic I am not overly comfortable reading about. Still, nothing in this instance unduly perturbed me, and that was a personal reason that I liked it all.

I felt energized by this book, and I think I would recommend it to anyone who finds the topic or the person described within even mildly interesting.

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley, and my review is entirely based on my reading experience and may be mildly influenced by the fact that the story is a part of my own country’s history.

I am adding this to my #1 of Non-Fiction Challenge 2020

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