I was captivated by Miranda Kennedy’s account of her time in India, her experiences as a “feringhee”- a foreigner, and more significantly, as a woman on her own, living the life of a local in Delhi.
The window into the lives of the women who are an important part of her life there, reveal the limitations facing women in Indian society and how this limitation of mind, birth and opportunity ultimately determines their fate, if they allow it, and to what degree do they have any option. It is an interwoven story of many lives, of women in a chauvinistic male-controlled society, where their future and happiness is determined by the choices the men in their families make for them.
It is also about Miranda Kennedy’s own life, her compulsive need to prove herself to her then boyfriend and to her family, living the endlessly unsettled, adrenalin addicted life of a war correspondent in some of the most dangerous places in the world. India has proved a lesson to her, that Indian women, seemingly impotent in their own lives, perhaps show her the compromise needed to allow commitment and happiness into her own.
Miranda Kennedy is an engaging writer, a journalist with direct experience of conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who has seen and reported first-hand, the unimaginable human suffering of the Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka. This hardened war correspondent writes an amazingly honest, yet engaging, account of the frustrations and fascination of living in such a contradictory yet alluring country such as India, with its injustices, poverty and charms. She provides an insightful report that draws you into the lives of the people, especially the women, she met there and through them, so much of the country, its culture and outlook, is revealed…the triumphs and trials of womenfolk in India, as defined by their mindset and the limitations imposed upon them by their culture, but also, the benefits and burdens of such close-knit family loyalties. It is a much more informative read than any travelogue on Delhi and India.
In the course of experiencing such entrenched differences in the attitude of, and to, women from her western viewpoint, Miranda Kennedy eventually discovers that there may be more similarities than she first imagined possible, and that the happiness that had eluded her in personal relationships may be found in learning to compromise her expectations and to accept that families, though stifling at times, have their compensations for even headstrong, wilful and independent women such as herself, who do not accept being alone as “loneliness”. I would recommend it as an illuminating read for women everywhere; after all, it is barely one hundred years since the suffragette movement was campaigning for women’s rights in England. It was after all, Australia and New Zealand which led the way for Europe to give women the vote.