CHENNAI: The evening was infused with exuberant energy, thanks to Uthara Unnikrishnan’s melodious voice. The standing ovations, teary-eyed cheers, and joy in rooting for Mala Mahesh at the Hyatt Regency on Saturday as she released her latest book, Padma, mirrored everyone’s pleasure on receiving an honest and intriguing work of literature.
Padma offers an intimate portrait of womanhood in India and is against the taboos related to infertility. “It is the narrative of two willful women who, separated by time, negotiate their feminine identities, fight patriarchal forces, face criminal allegations, and resurrect ancient scars — all with the goal of realising their innermost desires,” described Mala. Classical vocalist Aruna Sairam, who was a chief guest at the event, was all praises for the author. “It takes a woman to know a woman. Mala did an excellent job because she has a great understanding of women,” she said.
Speaking about the inspiration behind the book, Mala said, “My grandmother shared some real life incidents on the issue of infertility, about how women were treated badly and looked down upon by their family members because they were unable to give birth to a child. Both of us felt that it is unfair to blame a woman for something beyond her control. As I researched further, I understood that the issue is still relevant and a woman’s worth is still judged on her capacity to bear children. I imagined the pain and isolation those women go through and wrote a story on how this situation could impact a woman’s feelings, psyche, and family.”
Mandolin U Rajesh, filmmakers Rajiv Menon and Lata Menon, Dr Mayil Vahanan, singers P Unnikrishnan and Aruna Sairam launched the book and shared their thoughts on Mala’s work. “IVF treatment induces a lot of trauma. All these moments are dealt with in the book with solid psychological backing and personal research,” expressed Rajiv. “It is difficult to stay invested in an idea for too long and Mala did a great job in telling not one but two stories. I think there is definitely a film in her book,” he added. Aruna went on to remark,”We all have reasons to live as human beings — to protect ourselves, to form intimate bonds, to keep learning, to receive acclamation. All of these reasons are reflected in Padma and Naina’s journey in the book.”
Mala is a writer and also works with her husband in their shipping and logistics company, Transworld Group Singapore. Padma is Mala’s first literary fiction and it took eleven years for her to complete the book. “My mother woke up at 6 am every day and dedicated hours for this book religiously. According to me, Padma is a phenomenal read. I am not saying this because I am her daughter but as a psychologist and a woman. It has immense amount of empathy in it,” shared Mithila, a clinical psychologist and Mala’s daughter.
Mala hopes to provide awareness to readers on the preconceived notions on infertility. “I hope my book creates empathy,” she concludes.