Manju Dasgupta writes about her mother-in-law, whom she chooses to refer to as her Mother-In-Love for this book. Otherwise, she calls her Ma-almost like the first syllable that we all learn to speak. Not many women love their mother-in-laws. Or maybe not many mother-in-laws make an effort to make their daughter-in-laws very comfortable. So that they would remember them when she is no longer around. Or could it be the case of nostalgia smoothening all the rough edges after many decades?
Manju Dasgupta starts talking about her mother-in-law Dr. Asrubala Dasgupta. She was a medical doctor way back in early days of India’s independence. The author brings out her subject as someone with a big heart. And someone who took all possible responsibilities that she could take on herself despite having no support from any man in her life. She talks about incidents when Asrubala went all out to take care of the smallest possible desires of hers. And even bought a cow for her mother’s visit. She brings out the resilience of her mother-in-law. And in dealing with all the challenges that life threw at her, despite which she was capable of giving love to anyone around her.
Manju Dasgupta also talks about the various other women whom her mother-in-law nurtured. Those who went on to become women of substance in their own way. She talks about the women who brought up her mother-in-law and made her the woman she became. The author even dedicates the book to her two daughter-in-laws whom she admires for having the courage to marry her sons. She brings out the connections their family has shared with the well-known personalities of Bengal. Including Rabindranath Tagore who she says might have read her aunt-in-laws book before visiting Japan and Subhash Chandra Bose with whom the same aunt-in-law worked.
It’s a small book of 56 pages that the author admits was written in 18 straight days. She was encouraged by the friends-cum-editors of the book. I think the book has been written in a hurry. There was much more to Asrubala and many other women Manju Dasgupta mentions. I know the author would have to depend on her and her husband’s memory only to retrieve a lot of material, as not many people who knew Dr. Asrubala would be around. Still, I think a lot more could have been written about her. Especially from what her husband could have shared about his growing up with Asrubala. Editing could have been better. I found a choice of terms like ‘birth mother’ and fiancé in place of boyfriend a bit distracting. And overall the flow was missing in the narrative.
Women camaraderie is a subject that needs lots of research and documentation and that is what makes this booklet important.