Kerala, 1900. Wealth, beauty, and intellect-sixteen-year-old Padma hasit all. Her husband worships her, her mother-in-law adores her, and everyone else looks up to her. Yet she continues to be deprived of the one thing her soul aches for: children. Desperate for an heir, her husband succumbs to familial pressures and agrees to a second marriage that turns her life upside down.
Mumbai, present day. Naina loves her life the way it is- an exciting career in advertising, married to the love of her life, and they’ve just decided to start a family. Sounds perfect? Except, it isn’t. Naina soon discovers she cannot give her husband what he wants. Determined, they put their hopes on In vitro fertilization (IVF). But this is only the beginning of the storm that will soon rip Naina’s life apart.
Two wilful women, separated by the chasm of time, negotiate their feminine identities, struggle against patriarchal forces, face accusations of crime, and resurgence of old wounds–all in pursuit of fulfilling their innermost desires.
Powerful and unflinching, Padma offers an intimate portrait of womanhood in India that will captivate you from the very first page.
About the Author
Mala was born and brought up in Mumbai. In 1999, she moved to Singapore where she lives with her husband, two children, and Labrador, Magic She published a book in the early 2000s, titled History of Painting for Young Readers, and contributed the column ‘Art Beat’ for Young World – the children’s supplement of the Hindu newspaper. She also contributed to company
newsletters and promotional materials.
Padma is her second novel, and her first literary fiction. Mala works with her husband in their shipping and logistics company, Transworld Group Singapore. Her other interests include event planning – both commercially as well as for charity. She enjoys walking, cycling, dancing, and golf – and is very particular about living a healthy and fit life.
Q & A with the author Mala Mahesh
What made you write this book now?
I wrote the first draft for this book long back but had been busy with work and other priorities. Around May 2020, I restarted this book again with a new focus to complete the writing and editing to get it ready for publishing.
Why did this subject matter interest you?
My grandmother told me about some true-life incidents on the issue of infertility. From those times to now, a woman’s worth is judged on their capacity to bear children. They were blamed and shamed for something beyond their control. Between the couple, the problem could lie with the man, but they would refuse to accept that fact. I felt it was unfair to pin the blame on women for this condition and wrote a story on how this situation could impact a woman’s feelings, psyche, and family.
Why did you choose two women so many years apart?
The taboo surrounding infertility is as prevalent now as it was before. I felt using two different time periods would make the story relevant through its comparisons from then to now.
Why is this issue still touchy?
Perhaps because it’s not really understood. People feel embarrassed or uncomfortable to talk about their body and its problems, especially in front of others. For generations, society believes that childbirth comes naturally to woman. Hence, there’s a feeling that you’re not good enough because you can’t do what comes easily to your family and friends.
Is it lack of thinking or understanding?
I would say it is lack of understanding. Many people do not realize difficulties surrounding childbirth are rather common. Also, these issues are not the result of certain lifestyle choices that a woman or man has made.
How does it affect modern women?
Since not many people openly speak about this topic, women with this problem suffer alone. Their loneliness and sense ofshame, which is unjustified, is a heavy burden to carry.
Do you offer a solution?
Often such problems are caused by preconceived notions, laced in patriarchy. Therefore, a straightforward solution seems elusive. I feel it would perhaps help to be honest with yourself, as to what you really want? Then communicate it with your partner, family, or friends or if you feel comfortable, speak to a therapist. It could help in easing the loneliness and self-doubt. This is purely my view.
How can this problem be overcome?
To have a child or not, is a very personal decision. There’s no right or wrong answer. The best way to overcome this problem is communication and support from family and society without judgement.
Did anyone else help you with bringing out this book?
I’m lucky to have the support and guidance from my husband Mahesh, my children Mithila and Murli, and my son-in-law Ajay. Certain terms and content in my book had to be checked and verified for accuracy. I’m grateful to Mithila, a clinical psychologist, Murli, a lawyer- intraining, and my sister-in-law Sumitra, a medical doctor, for their valuable advice. I have received input from a few close friends on traditional Kerala architecture, as well as feedback on the structure and pace of my story.