Understanding the modern woman in 'Tokhon Golper Tore'
Tokhon Golper Tore (Pendulum Publishers, 2022) is Rifat Anjum Pia's debut collection even though she has been writing for quite a few years now. Rifat Anjum is an excellent reader and observer—two essential attributes of a good writer. The stories in this collection reflect preparation, perseverance, and the enthusiasm of a new writer. Along with these, the overall book also shows the thoughtfulness of a skilled narrator.
Two significant aspects I noticed across the seven stories of the collection are: first, they are written from the perspectives of women and are about women. Second, all the central characters are lonely women, much like male characters of a Satyajit Ray story.
The protagonists of Rifat Anjum's stories come from all walks of life. For example, the lonely elderly widow, a young female student living in a hostel, two married friends, one of whom works and the other is busy with her household, an old woman in the village, a young mother in a small town, and a girl suffering from depression—all of them represent the various aspects of real women struggling through everyday life.
"Meyad Phurano Naam", her first story, is about Nahida—a woman of 55 who wants to see the Taj Mahal. She has missed much in her life and her desire to see the Taj Mahal comes to represent that. However, a conservative society that does not appreciate widowed women to have their own dreams causes friction for her at every step. Rifat Anjum has depicted the thoughts and feelings of the elderly lady in such a convincing way that we, along with Nahida, wonder should life continue to cheat her this way?
The second story, titled, "Amar Achin Ami" is my favourite from the collection. There is more than one narrative here—one, about an artist named Samiur Rahman and his wife, Sumona. Another is about Mitu's obsession with Samiur and how, eventually, her infatuation subsides. A third plotline, that of Mitu and Kayes, depicts how they navigate through different challenges in their relationship. The story also explores the friendship between the "good girl" Mitu and the "bad girl" Himi. These frictions make Mitu realise how little she knows about herself.
Syed Manzoorul Islam notes in the introduction to the book, "Anjum's prose is fluid and her narration spontaneous." Furthermore, her stories reflect the complexities of modern life from a woman's perspective and she is very open and honest about her subject-matters. Some sentences can make one rethink the traditional women's role: "Big girl, don't you know your own body yet?" and "Nishi felt as if the fetus had committed suicide before they could tear it…"
Rifat Anjum's gaze is that of a woman, not of what society perceives as a "good girl". Her compassion is for women of all creeds and classes, and allows the readers to understand the fast paced world from the eyes of a modern woman.
Tokhon Golper Tore is a rather small book, its pages crisp and the printing quality excellent. It also feels good to hold the book in hand and the publisher, Rumman Tashfique, deserves praise for that. Another interesting aspect of this publication—both the author and her publisher—are young women. Together, they have produced a collection that is indicative of a new world.
Khandker Swanan Shahriar is the Managing Director of Keymakers Consulting Ltd.