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Deciphering Human Nature

Renee Ranchan’s debut novel is a collection of short stories, which deal with the sphere of domestic politics and class differences

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Renee Ranchan is a Delhi-based columnist who has earlier published a book of poems ‘Untwine The Wind’. Ranchan’s debut novel is a collection of short stories, which deal with the sphere of domestic politics and class differences. Her characters include women praying for sons, memsahibs overburdened with servant problems, and servants who are star-struck with television soaps. In her stories, women do the housework and men work in offices; where women work, they are teachers in convent schools who fantasise about male colleagues while at work.

The first story in the collection of six is about arranged marriages and mother-in-law and daughter-in-law power struggles. There is son preference, men are spineless, and women aspire to reinforce the cycle of abuse and exploitation. Story 2 is about a village boy who finds himself a domestic servant in an urban middle-class home. Story 4 is also about class divide: a memsahib who lives in a villa has nothing else to do but sort problems between servants, and when that is not enough, domestic problems of the servants.

The stories are set in a contemporary urban north Indian milieu. Some passing references to Chandni Chowk, Moti Mahal's butter chicken, and getaways to Shimla, make it seem the setting is likely Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon and around.

The author is fascinated with class: rural-urban, rich-poor, but the treatment is caricatured at best. On the downside, the convoluted stories go in multiple tangents and sometimes lose the plot. Her women love to drink and smoke but are regressive stereotypes otherwise.

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book review Renee Ranchan To Each With Love fiction

Sumita Thapar

The reviewer is a communication for development consultant specialising in gender, women's rights and public health

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