Wordy Wednesday: A Burning by Megha Majumdar
“If she had received a chance to tell her story, how might her life have been?”
Set in present-day India, Megha Majumdar’s A Burning is a book about storytelling.
Jivan knows the power of story, but never gets the chance to tell hers. The moment she claims her voice on Facebook, she is labeled a terrorist.
Lovely aspires to tell stories through film. When a video of Lovely goes viral, the same internet machine that imprisons Jivan lifts Lovely up.
PT Sir finds his voice in the courtroom, lured by greed for money and status, speaking as a false witness to squelch the voice of those like Jivan.
Jivan’s crime is not that she threatens the state, but that she is a woman who attempts to speak for herself. Imprisoned, Jivan relies on her lawyer as well as a journalist—men—to speak for her, and they fail to tell the story she needs them to tell.
Jivan is tragic in her innocence and naïveté. She balks at her cellmate’s spirit of resignation. Jivan wonders what that woman’s life could be if she only had a chance to tell her story. But what of Jivan’s life? If she had a voice, would it save her or condemn her?
A Burning is a grim, gripping novel that you can finish in an afternoon, but will linger in your thoughts for days.
The words below come from A Burning. I start with the sentence in which I found the word, followed by its Oxford definition (unless otherwise stated), and finish with a sentence of my own using the word.
“The truth was that Mrs. Debnath was not wanting a hijra in the house” (12).
Here’s a description from Wikipedia: “In the Indian subcontinent, Hijra are eunuchs, intersex people, and transgender people.” The article further explains it is a third gender category, recognized by the government, that is neither male nor female. Typically it is a label used by a person assigned male at birth but whose gender expression is female. Hijra comes from the Arabic word hijrah meaning “flight or departure”.
As a hijra using she/her pronouns, Lovely’s voice has greater clout than Jivan’s because Lovely is not viewed by society in the same way that women are. Both hijra and women are subject to prejudice, but they are distinct prejudices.
“Here, in the flesh, are the people of the hinterland about whom he has only seen features on TV” (44).
the often uncharted areas beyond a coastal district or a river's banks.
an area lying beyond what is visible or known.
Lewis and Clark explored, what was to them, the hinterland of the American continent.
“At home, I was feted as a graduate” (185).
Noun: a celebration or festival
Verb: honor or entertain (someone) lavishly
Once Mom receives her covid vaccines and can safely come to visit, she will be feted upon her arrival by Mark and me.