The High Priestess Never Marries by Sharanya Manivannan

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I had heard of Manivannan first from her column ‘The Venus flytrap’ in The New Indian Express. When I got to know that she has a collection of short stories out and its title was ‘The High Priestess Never Marries’, I instantly wanted to buy it because as a woman I have always thought, ‘Is a girl only born to just get married one day?’ Luckily this story of hers is published online in ‘Out of Print’. It is one of my favourites from the collection.

There is a mystic feel to the book. Sharanya weaves mythology, celestial bodies, superstitions, rituals, love, longing, desire into powerful stories. The women in her stories live. Their life is palpable from their romantic relationships. They make choices. They have desires. They dream. They admire nature. They are poetic. The language Sharanya uses is rich with metaphor. I admit I have never heard or read some of the words she uses.

Some lines from the book can be framed, picking a few here:

‘You always want what you don’t want, don’t you? Not even what you can’t have or shouldn’t want, but simply do not want. Every single time.’
-Greed and the Gandhi quartet

‘Emotional geography collects like plaque: a little carelessness and it’s there before you know it.’
-Corvus

‘there was one man who seemed to discover the eloquence of kissing the hand, because the way he then took mine and did the same suggested unfamiliarity, wonder, the simplicity of imitation. I would later grieve thinking about the other women he would confer the same upon, this tenderness I had given him. As though anything in any of us is truly new, unclaimed.’
-Corvus

I was delighted to find out that ‘Corvus’, one of the stories in the collection was previously published at Jaggery, the journal I work for now (fiction).

This book is truly feminist in a sense that the characters own themselves. Even their weaknesses. There is a feeling of transit in the stories. We are all in transit, borrowing, imbibing and shedding habits from people we meet in life. The bold prose can come across as shocking because of the ‘moral’ lessons imbibed in us girls and in that sense this book is liberating. A woman is not supposed to desire and even if she does, not to be verbal about it. This reminds me of a line from the movie ‘Cracks’. Miss G says ‘The most important thing in life is desire.’

The women in this collection of stories are human. Thank you for this wonderful book Sharanya. These women can create a revolution and the men privileged to be a part of their lives.

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