We’ve read books about Everyman. Now Kiran Nagarkar gives us Everywoman in his new novel

The eponymous character in the Sahitya Akademi-winning novelist’s ‘Jasoda’ is marked by her fortitude.

“I’m closing shop,” the grocer told Jasoda. “There’s no business left in the village. I’m lucky if I get a customer or two a day.’

“Buy the vessels. They are solid brass and copper vessels which belonged to my grandmother.”

The grocer shook his head. “Go home, Jasoda. I’m not a pawnbroker.”

“Please, I’ll take whatever you give.”

“What will I do with your old brass and copper when I’m going to join my cousin’s business in Jodhpur?”

“Then lend me money. I’ll pay you whatever interest you charge.”

“I closed down the moneylending operation six months ago. I took the villagers’ farms as security and burnt my fingers. This land is worthless. The drought could go on forever.”

Jasoda ferreted inside the copper water pot. Almost her whole forearm disappeared but she couldn’t find what she was looking for. She tilted the vessel and there was the sound of something sliding down. She brought out a packet wrapped in cloth and laid it on the counter.

“What’s this?” the grocer asked. “Even if it’s gold bricks, I don’t want them.”

Jasoda untied a knot and stood the family gods up one by one.

“What will I do with them? I have family deities of my own,” the grocer said as he examined the brass, copper and bell-metal images. “Take them back. They belong in your house.”

Jasoda packed the gods, arranged the vessels one inside the other, placed them on her head and carried the last three in her hands. She walked away casually but it was still a tightrope walk with that load balanced on her head. She must have gone fifteen metres when the grocer called out to her. She stood still a moment, then slowly turned around and walked back.


The grocer couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether to talk or not. “Nothing, nothing.”

Jasoda did not move.

“It’s nothing really. I heard Poonam had a baby.”

“You heard right.”

“I believe you were the midwife?”

“I was.”

“Was it a boy or girl?”

“A girl.”

“Just wondering, that’s all.”

“May I leave then?”

“Yes, of course. You think I’m the father of the child?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“But is it possible?”

Jasoda looked at him a long time. “It’s possible.”

“I’ll take the Narayan.”

Jasoda bent on her knees without altering the vertical line of her backbone. When the copper water pot came to rest on the ground, she lowered the vessels from her other hand and then deposited the pile resting on her head on to the ground. She handed over to the grocer the bell-metal image of Lord Vishnu sleeping on the infinite coils of the serpent Shesha.

“Anything else?”

The grocer measured three kilos of bajra and two of lentils and emptied them into two of Jasoda’s tote bags.

“Barely eight months since I threw her out. The child’s got to be mine. What’s the name of the girl?”

“Gauri, I think.”

“Will you vouch for it that the child is mine?”

“To whom shall I vouch?”

“What do you mean?” The grocer looked puzzled. “To whoever. To the villagers. To the world.”

“But you won’t even be here.”

“Even then. Besides, I’ll be back when the drought’s over.”

“Do you think you could let me have a bit more of the bajra and lentils?”

The grocer poured an extra kilo of bajra and lentils into the bag.

“And may I have some salt, chilli and turmeric powder, please?”

“Don’t overdo it, Jasoda. You are getting greedy.”

“It’s a fine image of the Lord. Vishnuji always brings luck.”

“A fat lot of luck he’s brought you.”

The grocer spooned out the turmeric, salt and chilli onto separate pages of an old, used notebook and folded them into little packets. “Will you?”

“Yes, I’ll tell them it’s your baby and not the tailor’s.”

Four days had passed and the water tanker had still not come. Jasoda had been frugal with the food but more than a third of the grocer’s munificence was already gone.

There was no question of going back to him, as she was well aware that his moment of weakness was past. Besides, the grocer had already got rid of most of his stocks of grains, oils and spices since he was leaving Kantagiri very soon. She had sent Himmat all by himself to Jalta that morning to find out if they had any news of the tanker. She was relieved to hear that it hadn’t already come and gone but nobody in Jalta had any idea about when, or if, it would turn up.

It was a couple of days since she had kept everything ready for departure. The axle of the cart was not evenly balanced and kept dragging to the left. She had planed it down a little at a time for fear of overcompensating and by merely switching the weight and the drag pattern. The wheel and axle joint had been oiled and she had laid a plank and a thin mattress for her mother-in-law to lie on. She had little choice but to be ruthless about what to take. The condition of Lakhan, the remaining ox, was precarious. He was gaunt and for months now had had a suppurating skin infection that would not go away. Malnutrition had killed his appetite and he looked ready to die. But he could still stand and that was what mattered. Most of the livestock, barring the cows, within a radius of fifty miles, had either been eaten by their owners or had died of starvation.

No one spoke of it but it was generally known that some of the cows too had been converted into meals.

Jasoda had to make sure that if Lakhan died on the way, the children would be able to carry the utensils and the water while she carried the old lady. The cow, which had not given milk for years now, she would leave behind with the priest. Let him decide what to do with her.

The tanker arrived three days later. She filled up seven pots. But there was hardly any food left.

Excerpted with permission from Jasoda, Kiran Nagarkar, Harper Collins India.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

The ordeal of choosing the right data pack for your connectivity needs

"Your data has been activated." <10 seconds later> "You have crossed your data limit."

The internet is an amazing space where you can watch a donkey playing football while simultaneously looking up whether the mole on your elbow is a symptom of a terminal diseases. It’s as busy as it’s big with at least 2.96 billion pages in the indexed web and over 40,000 Google search queries processed every second. If you have access to this vast expanse of information through your mobile, then you’re probably on something known as a data plan.

However, data plans or data packs are a lot like prescription pills. You need to go through a barrage of perplexing words to understand what they really do. Not to mention the call from the telecom company rattling on at 400 words per minute about a life-changing data pack which is as undecipherable as reading a doctor’s handwriting on the prescription. On top of it all, most data packs expect you to solve complex algorithms on permutations to figure out which one is the right one.


Even the most sophisticated and evolved beings of the digital era would agree that choosing a data pack is a lot like getting stuck on a seesaw, struggling to find the right balance between getting the most out of your data and not paying for more than you need. Running out of data is frustrating, but losing the data that you paid for but couldn’t use during a busy month is outright infuriating. Shouldn’t your unused data be rolled over to the next month?

You peruse the advice available online on how to go about choosing the right data pack, most of which talks about understanding your own data usage. Armed with wisdom, you escape to your mind palace, Sherlock style, and review your access to Wifi zones, the size of the websites you regularly visit, the number of emails you send and receive, even the number of cat videos you watch. You somehow manage to figure out your daily usage which you multiply by 30 and there it is. All you need to do now is find the appropriate data pack.

Promptly ignoring the above calculations, you fall for unlimited data plans with an “all you can eat” buffet style data offering. You immediately text a code to the telecom company to activate this portal to unlimited video calls, selfies, instastories, snapchats – sky is the limit. You tell all your friends and colleagues about the genius new plan you have and how you’ve been watching funny sloth videos on YouTube all day, well, because you CAN!


Alas, after a day of reign, you realise that your phone has run out of data. Anyone who has suffered the terms and conditions of unlimited data packs knows the importance of reading the fine print before committing yourself to one. Some plans place limits on video quality to 480p on mobile phones, some limit the speed after reaching a mark mentioned in the fine print. Is it too much to ask for a plan that lets us binge on our favourite shows on Amazon Prime, unconditionally?

You find yourself stuck in an endless loop of estimating your data usage, figuring out how you crossed your data limit and arguing with customer care about your sky-high phone bill. Exasperated, you somehow muster up the strength to do it all over again and decide to browse for more data packs. Regrettably, the website wont load on your mobile because of expired data.


Getting the right data plan shouldn’t be this complicated a decision. Instead of getting confused by the numerous offers, focus on your usage and guide yourself out of the maze by having a clear idea of what you want. And if all you want is to enjoy unlimited calls with friends and uninterrupted Snapchat, then you know exactly what to look for in a plan.


The Airtel Postpaid at Rs. 499 comes closest to a plan that is up front with its offerings, making it easy to choose exactly what you need. One of the best-selling Airtel Postpaid plans, the Rs. 499 pack offers 40 GB 3G/4G data that you can carry forward to the next bill cycle if unused. The pack also offers a one year subscription to Amazon Prime on the Airtel TV app.

So, next time, don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Click here to find a plan that’s right for you.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel and not by the Scroll editorial team.