Thursday, 10 April 2008

HOW TO COOK YOUR DAUGHTER, by Jessica Hendra

"When he was finished writing for the day, Daddy turned off his typewriter, stood from his desk, and held out his hand. The veins shone greenish-blue against the pale whiteness of his skin. They seemed like huge, protruding pipes just under his flesh. When I looked closely, I thought I could see his blood pumping through them. I would take his hand and run my little fingers over the back of it, exploring the bumpy map. Then we would go down the office stairs together and out into the night.

The two of us walked in the fields or the woods around the house, exploring fallen trees, stopping to spy quietly on deer or rabbits. He'd tell me stories about the spirits that lived in the woods. I'd hold his hand tightly, reassured by those bumps on the back. They proved he was alive. They proved he was my dad. And as long as he was with me, nothing horrible could happen - to me or to him."
*
"I remembered my life backward, from the last time I had confronted my father at Aunt Celia's, back to my teenage years, when he slipped me some coke the night he told me he was leaving my mother. Back to the days when I first started bingeing and purging. Back to the night just before I turned seven. Back to the piece he had written for the Lampoon just a few months before. He had called it 'How to Cook Your Daughter', and it started this way: A recurrent problem facing the gourmet who wishes to prepare this excellent dish is the difficulty he experiences in obtaining a daughter. .. People so often ask, How do I tell when my daughter is ready for the table? Well, there's always some little variation, but generally the exact age falls somewhere between the fifth and sixth birthdays .. "
*
Picked this up at Bangalore Book Fair last year. It's the biggest book fair in town, held annually at the Palace Grounds (yes - for those of you outside India - a real palace, belonging to the ex-Maharaja of Mysore, and vast amount of grounds where various events get held, and there's never any problem parking).

Bangalore Book Fair is massive and not to be taken lightly. I wear comfortable shoes, carry a bottle of water, my trusty portable trolley, and make sure I have a good breakfast. It can take me a whole day to get through from one end to the other. I love it.

So why am I telling you all this? Probably because it's easier to talk about the fair than about this book (which cost me the princely sum of Rs. 150 - more than I usually pay for my second-hand treasures).

I have shelves full of books at home. A lot of them are on child abuse. And some of the child abuse books are memoirs by adult survivors. But here's the thing. I never read the memoirs, just buy them and keep them.

Today, though, I decided to read this one, and I sat and read the whole thing through in about four hours. I have a headache now. I'm not sure if it's from bad reading posture, or from what I read; perhaps both.

I'm supposed to say something about it, but I'm not sure what I want to say. So I'll just say this: it's a good book. It's more than a survivor getting herself some healing by telling her story, it's also a good story, a good read. All the same, I'm disturbed after reading it, although in a way I'm glad I did read it. I'm not sure if I'm going to have scary dreams tonight, or if I'll have to sleep with the night light on, or if I'll see and hear things I know aren't real any more.

Well, I'll worry about that closer to bedtime. Meanwhile, I've done what any sensible survivor does after triggering herself silly over someone else's story. I've ordered a cheese and pepperoni pizza with a Coke on the side. And it's just arrived.

1 comment:

IRIS said...

I hope you enjoyed the pizza and slept tight:-)