Mistress Of Melodies By Nabendu Ghosh- A Review

There are times when you start reading a book you know you are entering into a dark area, a spectrum that you never knew existed, a shade which you never thought you would explore but just like life, this book also wants to surprise you. I read one such book recently and I had so many thoughts, so many epiphanies and enlightened me! ‘Mistress Of Melodies’ by Nabendu Ghosh is the book in question and I hope my writing does justice to what I felt while reading it.
And, then there are places you have never been to but you feel a familiarity with. You can never understand why that feeling exists but it’s there, always. You have anoemia for a place but you don’t know why. For me that place is Kolkata and this book’s premise is set in the city.

“How many deaths did I witness? So many that I became indifferent.”
Imagine becoming indifferent to death and now imagine that kinda person judging a fellow human being for what they did for a living. Well, we are no strangers to how sex workers are looked upon in our society and somehow everyone from any ranks of the society can judge them. ‘Mistress Of Melodies’ comments on the same and why people feels a certain sort of animosity towards sex workers. 

Aren’t we selling a part of ourselves where we are working? If yes, then why do feel disgust towards people who are selling their bodies? Ask yourself. In Mistress Of Melodies we come across stories of six women- 
Chhaya– a widow who remarries but her new husband dupes her, 
Basana– who lives the best and the worst of her life after entering the world of prostitution as a teenager,
Hasina baiji– who auctions her daughter to the one who puts the highest bid but lives to regret it, 
Tagar– who is abandoned when pregnant and is forced to enter this world to fend for herself and then leaves it and gives love another chance, 
Fatima– who sells her body to feed herself and her child
And, Gauhar Jaan– a songstress who invariably draws men towards her but yearns for true love.

These six women might be different from each other, in their circumstances and conditions but what they do have in common is the will to live. The way the author captures the essence of their lives and desires is other worldly. The book is the best example of parallel narratives taking center stage.
The foreword titled- ‘Zone of Purity in the River of Flesh’ written by Muzaffar Ali is impeccable. It sets the right tone for what is to follow and somehow prepares you for what follows. I wish more people read this book and understand the trials and tribulations of courtesans’ lives and what they go through on an everyday basis.

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