The first part of the story unfolds in Goa. Angela remembers her father’s cousin arriving from Bombay. He’s almost her father’s age. The girl, only 8, is fond of him. One day he undresses her. She’s perplexed. Next time, he does it again. She mustn’t report it or he’ll do the same to her mother. He leaves. He may not be aware of it but the reader knows that he has left behind him a tortured soul. Angela’s tragic fate is narrated in “Loving to Hate” by Ranjita Bunwaree (Star Publications, New Delhi, 2006, 71 pages).
After her primary education, she helps in her father’s bar. He strongly objects to her wearing a long skirt and advises her to wear a small dress. He’s “happy in his heart that his clients were attracted to his bar because of Angela’s presence” (page 6). The uncle exploits the girl physically while the father uses her charms (“a sensuous young girl”, page 5) to draw clients. Exploitation by family members immediately strikes the reader hard. We also have half-drunk clients putting their hands on her. Ironically, the father pretends not to notice.
Family members ought to have been the first to protect the girl from evil sources but here, there’s a role reversal, and we find them taking advantage of her. We meet sexually-driven adults to whom nothing matters more than immediate gratification and money. We’re expected to see the family as rotten. Family members and the clients are depicted as being sick in their minds. We don’t see the girl receiving affection and care. Lust is what she experiences. We feel resentment for the adults for their lack of moral values.
Later Angela takes up a job in a bank. The Manager, with 2 kids, makes lewd comments and plays on her vulnerability (she badly needs the job, her mother being ill). He abuses her sexually. We’re told that “her mind was getting filled with all the hatred, disgust towards a man who constantly made her a victim of her helplessness”, p 21). The problem is that the writer describes how the character feels but we don’t see that hatred and that disgust. It’s a major stylistic flaw.
She’s torn between exploitation and her desire to live peacefully. As a plaything, she feels “like a dead person carrying a body which did not belong to her, because she had to allow a monster to abuse it”, p 32).
Every woman has the right to be treated decently in her workplace. Angela isn’t. The author hints that the workplace is as filthy as home for Angela and that no place is really safe for a woman. The Manager is “mean”, “animal-like”, and “lecherous”. In his eyes, she’s a plate of food. She wishes to have power and money to control everybody and everything instead of being controlled. She’ll run away only to get caught in the web of the mafia in Greece.
The author wants us to see how difficult, not to say impossible, it is for girls/women when men take an unhealthy interest in them. In a predominantly men’s world, women are often mere objects. We also see the capacity of men to demolish a woman. Fortunately, not every male is wicked. Diljit Singh, her friend, helps her to escape.
The narrative is fast-paced. However, too engrossed in telling her story – what happens next – the author doesn’t give herself adequate time to delve into the emotional and psychological states of a rape victim. Characterisation would have been sharper and better-defined if she had. As it is, Angela is superficially depicted.
The second half of the novella is Angela’s involvement in the murky world of drugs. It’s far-fetched. We’re at a loss to figure out what the author is exactly aiming at. We suddenly find the protagonist in the role of a Don. The author could more profitably have cut down on this unconvincing part to focus on the woman’s inner journey. What happens in the mind of a sexually-assaulted woman? An exploration of this aspect would have made her portrayal vivid and credible.
Despair, humiliation, feelings of betrayal, horror, shame, anger, frustration… What does she think of men who make themselves so cheap and opportunistic? How does she cope in her everyday life with all those overwhelming, negative feelings? Escape is too easy a solution. Angela’s emotional turmoil and psychological trauma go largely une