It is a tradition for members of the Society of Women Writers NSW to send their published books to the Editor of Women’s Ink (Judith O’Connor),for review. I was honoured to have my poetry collection Fire on Water reviewed by Judith in the Winter Edition. Now I have been invited to review Ramah Juta’s book One Woman’s Journey Published in the Summer Edition Women’s Ink November 2018
A REVIEW BY COLLEEN KEATING
Women’s history has been almost invisible. Up till this century, the stories of women were seldom included. Virginia Woolf opened doors for women by telling her stories – she helped women to get in touch with the impact of being marginalised, exploited, and invisible. She said “As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world”
So it was with delight I received Ramah Juta’s book ‘One Woman’s Journey’ for review.
The King Protea filling the cover with its soft pink-grey petals caught my attention. This incredible flower from South Africa is an apt symbol , its name coming from one of the gods of the sea. Ramah’s story captures the reader. Through her personal story of grit and resilience, she weaves the history of a disturbing and inspiring time – the final upheaval of India, and Gandhi, the British indentured Indians to Africa, ‘Passenger-Indians’ to South Africa, Indian brides, apartheid and the hope of Mandela on the horizon, finally migration to Australia.
J. K. Rowling says : “ There is always room for story that can transport people to another place” And Ramah transports the reader of her journey with rich detail.
As a young Indian bride in South Africa she writes of her mid-wife,
‘A deep vertical furrow ran down the centre of her forehead. Wrinkles fanned out from the corners of her eyes and curved on to her cheeks. A good set of teeth was stained from chewing betel leaf. Prominent veins snaked their way down her forearms to her hands. She smiled, held my hand in her rough work-worn palms.’
We are present in India, in her formative years and also in South Africa with her sensual descriptions of colours, sounds, smells and tastes.
“ . . the green of the mango contrasting against the reddish, yellow oil. The smell of the spices lingered in the air for nearly a week.”
“I took a big sharp knife and cut the formidable fruit. i peeled its free knobbly skin , cut it into cubes with gravy, frying the onions in oil, adding tomatoes, spices, ginger and garlic. Then i added the jackfruit and let it simmer. Kripa guzzled it down.”
“Chaya flitted around in the kitchen plying him (Taroon) with fluffy dokra which he gorged with dollops of tongue tingling tamarind chutney”
I always find cultural and religious words add colour to a story and ‘One Woman’s Journey’ is no exception. The glossary at the back is valuable.
Raman quotes Khalil Gibran,
‘The entire earth is my homeland and the human family is my clan’
And this is as it is. With the slow transformation of the closed world of the family as the younger generations embrace a wider world – yet a rich chameleon of culture and religious ways are still embedded deeply in the psyche. An important reminder that new arrivals must never be discouraged from being their unique selves as they embrace the land of the bight red King Protea, the Waratah .
Colleen Keating is a published and award-winning poet.