Book Review: Eating Wasps by Anita Nair

Rating: 4/5

“The ancients, the scriptures, all of them tell you that life is simple. That we complicate it with our thoughts, our desires, our hopes for ourselves, our need to immortalise ourselves even while we breathe.”

To me, this seems to be the essence of Eating Wasps.

While reading the book, I kept wondering by the resort by the Nila river sounded familiar. Only later did I remember that the resort had originally appeared in her book, Mistress. I had read the book four years ago, but a quick reading of the blurb brought back the details of the story. I remember discussing with my colleagues how I hadn’t come across such a tastefully depiction of adultery. I was impressed by the detailed description of dance, too.

Eating Wasps is overwhelming–a whole gamut of open-ended stories about women and their struggles. I wish each had been brought to some sort of conclusion–like Sreelakshmi’s story–even though it was unfortunate that she chose to end her life instead of soldiering on.

It is through Sreelakshmi’s spirit, residing in her fossilized index finger bone, that we are introduced to the lives of the other women. I found Brinda Patil’s story to be of particular interest. Why would she give up when her badminton career was at its peak? The question is never fully answered. We get an insight into the lives of gifted children who have to shove their childhood aside for the sake of their sport.

Najma’s story is one of immense strength wherein she gets acid thrown in her face because she refuses to wear the hijab–and to accept her stalker’s offer of marriage. Incredibly, she returns to the scene of the crime–the train compartment–with her scarred face and ensures that the passengers who denied the knowledge of the crime could see the consequences of their actions.

Molly and Theresa’s story is a fascinating look into how sibling rivalry and religious fanaticism can drive one to madness. The painful story of Lilian “Pussy Mouth” is a reality check about the dangers of oversharing on social media.

Nair has drawn apt comparisons between three social media platforms and village life:

” Facebook was no more than a village well where daily updates were shared and Instagram was the bathing spot in the river where either you looked or were looked at. As for Twitter, it was no more than an extension of the tea shop where men gathered more for news and debate rather than for the tea and parippu vada. The only difference between then and now was that men and women bathed together, and men fetched water from the well while women sat on the narrow benches in the tea shop with their knees crossed and discussed politics and world affairs. “

The common thread in all these tales is how society, be it men, women, or one’s own family, is quick to denounce and shame a woman who is unwilling to play by the rules. Men feel the need to teach women their “place.”

The book is peppered with Malayalam words to lend it an authentic flavor, but I don’t understand the language and a glossary at the end of the book would have been helpful.

I felt a sense of incompleteness and discontent after reading the book. I am still looking for answers. But there are plenty of life truths for the reader to chew upon. Let that sustain you.

You can get a copy of the book here.


One response to “Book Review: Eating Wasps by Anita Nair”

  1. Interesting description of social media. I would never look at FB, Insta or Twitter, that way. But why the name? Eating Wasps? I have read Anita Nair before but this book seems different.

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