Laughter and forgetting: A review of Meera Rajagopalan's latest

In a rather fun and unassuming way, the heartwarming tale puts the spotlight on some of possibly the most trending themes of our times.

Published: 26th September 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2021 01:07 PM   |  A+A-

The Eminently Forgettable Life of Mrs. Pankajam. (Photo | Hachette)

The Eminently Forgettable Life of Mrs Pankajam. (Photo | Hachette)

Express News Service

When a 63- year-old middle class woman, Mrs Pankajam, begins to lose her memory, her doctor recommends that she keep a diary in order to help record and recall important life events. Though reluctant at first, the quest leads her to analyse the different aspects and people that make up her seemingly uneventful existence—largely comprising her husband and two daughters.

The diary has the protagonist’s declining mind processing many emotional episodes in her twilight years—her husband’s heart condition and subsequent passing away; coming to terms with her daughter’s divorce followed by her coming out as a lesbian and second wedding to her woman friend; and her final move to a home for the aged.

Even though to Mrs Pankajam her diary feels like “a camera that’s recording useless pixels that trigger nothing”, it turns out to be a lighthearted journal summing up her innermost thoughts, ramblings about life as well as personal insights about her family and the world around her. “We have a few choices we can make, but by and large, we must earn, save, marry off kids, retire, play with grandchildren, wait for death and when the Buffalo Man comes, embrace him with a smile,” she writes.

Along the way, her memory also manages to travel far back to a time when she was a young girl and new bride. Mrs Pankajam often longs to visit her native village, Nandhimangalam, where she grew up. She also reminisces about her long lost childhood best friend who is believed to have been mysteriously washed away by a river.

In a rather fun and unassuming way, the heartwarming tale puts the spotlight on some of possibly the most trending themes of our times—mental health, LGBTQ identity and breaking tradition. Further, the story subtly examines how society at large has greatly transformed over the past few decades, and the huge generation gap that it has resulted in.   

Chennai-based Meera Rajagopalan works in the development sector. Her fiction, which tends to veer around issues of identity, has appeared in several anthologies, including Dissent: The Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing Vol. 6 and Have a Safe Journey. Her humorous writing is sure to keep the reader suitably entertained and frequently in splits—as she brings alive various comical, even laugh-out-loud, moments throughout the narrative. 

Needless to say, the book also makes a number of poignant observations about amnesia, such as what one’s worth is if his or her memory is completely wiped out, and the fact that it becomes easier to pretend to lose memories when one is losing them anyway.  

India Matters


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