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Then, something moved and twisted and began to scream, and she saw that her mother held in her hands a creature with life and voice. Pulling a handful of soft leaves from a nearby bush, her mother wiped the child and, lifting the small curved knife she carried at her waist when they collected herbs, cut the cord that tied the baby to her. Eventually, holding the child in the crook of her arm, her mother stood up and walked towards the river. Wading knee deep into the water, she lowered the child to the soft lapping swell, holding her there, caressing her tenderly all the while with her one free hand.

Sita watched her float away, held briefly upon the rippling surface of the river before she sank slowly from sight, eyes open, a startled expression on her small face, uttering no cry of protest. Her mother continued to stand in the water, her back towards Sita, unmoving.

Sacred Waters

At last she turned and Sita remembered her body, slack and flat beneath the old sari, emptied of its burden. She turned to look up at the sky and the sinking sun, and Sita saw the anguish in her face. She called out again, unable to understand what was happening.


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Then her mother was beside her, taking her hand, pulling her homewards. Sita stared at the river, awash with the light of the sky, the soft lap of waves cuffing the bank. The murky water had closed over her sister as if she had never been. It was a swift flowing river with a treacherous current, used by those too poor to properly cremate their dead. The fish in the river were large and plump from an excess of pickings on half-burned bodies.

In the house they kept a picture of the goddess Durga, riding upon a tiger. Sita liked this picture, as much for the tawny tiger as the radiant goddess. Orphaned as a child and widowed at thirteen, Sita has always known the shame of being born female in Indian society. Her life constrained and shaped by the men around her, she could not be more different from her daughter, Amita, a headstrong university professor determined to live life on her own terms.

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To ask other readers questions about Sacred Waters , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. May 01, A. Kulshreshth rated it really liked it. Sita is the veteran Rani who has turned into a recluse as she brings up her daughter Amita, a professor of gender studies, who does not know much about what her mother went through in the way years.

Sacred Waters stands out for bringing together a lot of history and social commentary together. While the stories of Sita and Amita unfold, and Amita begins to understand what her mother has been through, there is a lot of ground this novel covers - the ideals that RJR stood for, the contrasting and terrible suppression of women in India then and now there are some pointers to female foeticide in modern times , and some I think lesser but still complex challenges still facing women in Singapore.

It is impressive that all this comes through without any pedantic writing.


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  6. There are some truly touching descriptions of the changes Sita has to go through as she trains with the RJR. The retreat from Bangkok, when Subhash Bose risked his life several times to make sure the Ranis were returned to their homes, is a story that needed to feature in a novel, and I am glad it finally did. I thought the one action military action that Sita participates in — which is clearly a case of the writer using artistic license — was less than convincing.

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    All these are minor nit-picks; this is a book that deserves much more fame than it seems to be getting. View all 3 comments. Jul 14, Clare Mitchell Coyle rated it really liked it. Really interesting about an aspect of Indian history I did not know about. Heartbreaking, the thought of all those baby girls being killed.