A Cage of Desires by Shuchi Singh Kalra is a chick lit novel which delves into the life of the protagonist Renu, who, by all ways, is reckoned as a burden on the society. On the other hand, she has to deal with acute loneliness despite having a family with two beautiful children and a husband.
Renu is married to Dev for over fifteen years, but their marriage misses the spark of romance and elements of emotional understanding. The story is mainly staged against the middle-class society of Lucknow, a city in North India. Dev works in Sitapur – he stays there and comes home at weekends. Well, people come over Lucknow from there and other small cities, but Dev is doing just the opposite, and this thing pricks Renu. She feels bereaved of her emotional needs. Her husband is quite mediocre by nature; he cares least about her body and other emotional needs. Even if he makes love to her, then there is no passion in it. She is burning inside.
To make her life more miserable, there is an old father-in-law, who keeps a sarcastic vigil on her and treats her like a machine. She reverently calls him Bauji. But life is like this for her. First, it was her parents who separated for their own needs and pretensions. None of them cared enough to take her along with them. She felt isolated, unnecessary. Probably, they always took her as a burden, thus she was put into a hostel. For this woman, life has been a lonely journey. She craves for everything that a woman can ask from god: love, freedom, companionship, and physical satisfaction.
Well, ignoring the depth of a lonely or most hurt woman is not that easy. Every coin has two sides. And here comes, Maya – a ravishing personality known for writing erotic novels. All her novels are bestsellers. People go crazy for her books but the hidden side of this bright writer is that nobody has seen her. Maya is just a pen name. Bauji hates Maya when he caught Renu’s daughter reading her book. But Renu has soft corner for that writer. On one hand, the society loves reading her books clandestinely, and on the other hand, it hates to face her, to involve her in the family. This attitude of the society may remind you of Shobhaa De – people read her books but at the same time criticize her for showing too many intimate scenes in her books.
She is fed up of her life, looking for distractions, escapades, freedom, and love. But she is wrong because she is expecting love and freedom from a very shrewd and vapid husband. He is incapable. And here comes the climax of the novel: that coot Bauji keeps a tenant in one of the above rooms. The tenant is a handsome man of twenty five years old. His name is Arjun. Though the room was meant for a family, since Arjun was ready to pay the hefty rent without any bickering, Bauji allowed him.
The way Arjun looked at her at the first encounter, Renu sensed that she is going to fall for him. He is much younger to her but that’s alright as long as he can love and satisfy her. The other side of the story is that Renu is Maya and nobody from her home knows this secret. From here onwards, the story gets nervy pace and never sees dip till the end.
What will happen to Arjun-Renu’s love story? Will Dev change for Renu? How will Renu face her second face as that of a writer? It is a heady mix of love, lust, greed, betrayal and secrets…read on to find out more.
Shuchi is an experienced writer of chick lit novels and it becomes evident after reading first few pages. The best part of the story is its pace and riveting subplots. Though there are some intense intimate scenes, well they are placed subtly, without disturbing the overall theme and tone of the novel. The characterization of Renu is very apt as per the society of India. It seems as she is not telling her story but concerning the voice of many like her trapped in a cage of desires.
Why a woman has to fight so hard? This excerpt from the book very well sums up her pain and plight.
“He just kept averting his eyes from her. His stony silence told her that he had sailed too far away from the shore. For him, she was no more than a liability – someone he had to fend for because he had promised to. She was a burden.”