Genre: Fable | Type: Novella | Author: Suniti Namjoshi | Year: 1985
Given the current political climate, I was intrigued by the title ‘The Conversations of Cow’. The minute I saw the title, I assumed that this book would be all about the Cow and the politics around current-day India. Then I read that this book was written 36 years back. With that cleared, the book ‘The Conversations of Cow’ is a novella and of the genre fable. A fable is when animals are involved in the story, and they act as humans do, and most often, fables also come with a moral. This fable is a conversation between a feminist lesbian and a Brahimi cow. It was notably one of the first explicit queer literature.
In this novella, Suniti Namjoshi explores the qualms of various relationships of the protagonist, Suniti, an English professor who lived in Canada. The predominant and most obvious relationship with Bhadravati, the Brahmini cow. As the story progresses, the readers are taken through the life of Suniti, which highlights the experience of living in a different country, how she experiences privilege and the central aspect of the book, how she questions her identity. The highs and lows, the push and pull of multiple dynamics, be it with the society, community, relationship, home and the self are summarised in these 130 pages across the spectrums of identity, be it gender, sexuality or privilege.
This novella almost entirely conversational, and we experience it from the protagonist’s point of view. It reveals the inner dialogue, fears and insecurities and overlays with how it spills across outside. It helps the reader understand gender in a profound yet simple way. It can be an empathy drill as the author effortlessly shows what it is to not be a part of the mainstream. There is an emphasis on freedom; what would one do if they are told they can be anything and actually be that way? Who would you want to be? The vulnerability with which Suniti write the story is breathtaking.
The story takes place over 4 segments, and in each part, the conflict shifts, which holds the reader’s attention. But the end, like many things in life, is open-ended. Leaves you filled with empathy, and a whole lot of question fills your mind. The story is written in the first person. The main character being named Suniti, who is also an English professor, makes me wonder if the inspiration behind this story comes from a personal space. In all, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about gender.