Panty – Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay

Panty is a translation of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s 2006 short story Panty O Annyano Galpo. It follows the story of an unnamed protagonist as she tries to negotiate life and love in contemporary India. At the beginning, there is an explanation from the translator, Arunava Sinha, of what the untranslated word ‘mon’ means, which is a nice touch as it is sometimes overlooked how words do not always have direct translations between languages. The story sets out the mystery and situation well within the first few pages and follows a very unusual plotline throughout which opens lots of questions and suspense. One example of this oddity is the numbering of the chapters, which do not seem to follow a linear sequence, nor bear any relevance to the chapter which they introduce.

One of the major strong points of the text is Bandyopadhyay’s discussion of several major global issues. Although her text is set in India, the issues she discusses are relevant worldwide. These subjects include homelessness, domestic abuse, sexual relations, and pollution. The thing that I love about the story is how unbelievably real it is. Whilst at times, it makes reading rather uncomfortable, difficult and tense, it is incredible. There are moments so shocking, violent and full of hurt that it is impossible to be unmoved while reading.

The text’s wonder is accentuated even further by Bandyopadhyay’s writing. She creates some gorgeous descriptions, and her writing is infused with a sense of futility that is so sad to read. Her use of imagery of darkness is so clever, as she uses it for a variety of different purposes to create different meanings and point out the important details in the story. Her ending, in particular, is incredibly powerful. She really knows how to utilise her talent to suit her purpose.

In summation, apart from the sexism, which I am fairly certain was not included in a sarcastic way, I liked reading this book. It does take a while before the barrage of questions the text raises begin to be answered, which is a little frustrating, but personally I think that it is worth the wait. There is such emotion that this book evokes, that I really think it is worth a read.

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