The party ended with conversation about women in books, and democracy.
Renu spoke about a book called Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. The story revolves around Sultana, a Saudi Arabian princess, who is immensely wealthy but is a prisoner in a gilded cage. The story has been told anonymously and recorded by Jean Sasson. For Renu, the trilogy is not as heart wrenching as A Thousand Splendid Suns but she still thinks that the book has great aspirations and talks about some very important issues like women’s rights. Where Sultana lives, young girls are forced to marry men five times their age and victims of unreasonable punishments. Baraa believes that while the discriminatory practices of Saudi Arabia are well-known, not all Arabic speaking nations are the same and Arabian history has been forgotten too easily. Anurag mentioned how the ideas that people have about anything, including women’s rights, is governed by the society we live in. In China, for instance, it is not surprising when women technicians come home to fix the air-conditioning. In India, this would still raise eyebrows.
Keeping with the woman-inspired book series theme, I’ve been reading one of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, the first one of the series My Brilliant Friend. The story is a translation and focuses on the friendship of two women spanning four books. It is hard for you not to order the subsequent parts of the series as the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila is absorbing, filled with the conflicts and rivalries of any close friendship. Simultaneously, Elena’s circle of friends reveal the socio-political milieu of Italy during the 1950s.
Abhaya spoke about Democracy: A Very Short Introduction, a short account of democracy published by Oxford University Press. The book speaks about the origins of democracy from ancient Greece and Rome. While democracy entails the concept of liberty, there are no specific duties associated with it, except or jury duty in the US. So participation, which is a defining feature of democracy, is not an absolute necessity. Another contradiction is how in some situations human rights limit democratic claims. It is a good idea to understand democracy, Abhaya said and he quoted: “Man’s inclination to justice makes democracy possible, but it is our capacity for injustice that makes it necessary.”
And with that we wound up the BYOB Party. The next stop was the food.