In search of identities

DSC06280It’s a Cinderella deferred kind of tale. An arranged marriage and a child intervene before the heroine (Janaki) is finally whisked away by first-and-only-love Prince Charming to that happy ending that signs off most fairy tales and, yes, the usual Mills and Boon candyfloss fare.

Ancient Promises is the story of an affectionate and dutiful daughter, a compassionate but guilty lover, a restless and miserable wife, a helpless and despairing mother – a woman constantly in search of an identity, a woman pursuing her rightful share of happiness.

Its the fascinating story of the protagonist Janaki’s long journey traced through a happy childhood, an unexpected arranged match, a traumatic marriage ending in strife finally culminating with the finding of everlasting love in true fairytale fashion.

Janaki aka Janu is a Malayali Nair born in Kerala but raised and educated in far-away Delhi. She’s totally at home in these ’’alien’’ surroundings but constantly reminded of her roots and values. When she is 16, Janu meets Arjun , the local school cricketing hero and they become friends. Slowly but surely love blossoms but things take a nasty turn when Janu’s parents get wind of her romantic escapades. They whisk her away to native Kerala and arrange for her to marry a groom ’’handpicked by them’’ from the socially respected Maraar family. Janu is confused and unsure of her future with Arjun. Unwilling to hurt her parents, she agrees to the proposal and gets married to Suresh on her 18th birthday. Arjun leaves to the UK where he decides to pursue his college education living with his mother.

Janu enters the typical, traditional matriarchal Maraar household where everyone is fighting for affections and acceptance. Her husband’s family resents her Delhi background and treats her as an outcast excluding her from household activities and discussions. To compound her agonies, her husband Suresh is very aloof and uncaring, more concerned about his business. A few years roll by and the family is still indifferent to Janu who now feels unaccepted and miserable. She hopes that the arrival of a child would change the family’s attitude towards her but when she delivers a mentally challenged baby girl Riya , the misery only piles on. She raises Riya without any help and at the same time pursues her education. Her growing frustration in life worsens with her father’s death. Deciding to take matters into her hands, she applies to study abroad so that she can take Riya there and treat her.

She leaves for Delhi to give a scholarship interview and chances to meet Arjun. Old passions are aroused and the couple realize they still feel deeply for each other. Janu promises to file for divorce to end the miserable marriage, flee with Riya to England and restart a new life with Arjun. But fate has other plans for her as Suresh refuses to part with Riya. Janu is forced to leave for England without her daughter. She arrives in England and spends a year studying and reliving lost moments with Arjun. But Janu is unable to come to grips with the absence of Riya in her life. She leaves England to return to India and fight for custody of her daughter. And as if by magic, Suresh reconciles himself to a divorce, hands over Riya and alls well that ends well.

Jophi Joseph

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