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LIFE AS TRESPASS
THE WEEK|October 25, 2020
LIFE AS TRESPASS
THE BRASS NOTEBOOK: A MEMOIR By DEVAKI JAIN
MANDIRA NAYAR

Published by SPEAKING TIGER Pages 215

There is very little Devaki Jain, 87, has not done. She once drove a Land Rover from London to Kabul, eloped, lived with her lover for a year before they got married, worked with freedom activist Vinoba Bhave and befriended women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. One of the leading economists of her generation, the Oxford-educated Jain’s memoir, The Brass Notebook—a twist on Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook—is worth its weight in gold for younger women, and not just because of her academic accomplishments.

The Brass Notebook begins with a quote from Moroccan feminist writer Fatema Mernissi: “To live is to look outside. To live is to step out. Life is trespassing.” Jain has done plenty of that. The book is a powerful testimony of that wonderfully freeing idea of life being a trespass.

Jain writes engagingly—and incredibly honestly—about her life. Her lessons in gender started young. She was eight when her sister had her first period. Her aunts decided it was important to celebrate her entry into womanhood. “Thus, as the day of her first period arrived she was put into a room where she was completely isolated,’’ writes Jain, who was chosen to live with her for four days. “We were like animals in a zoo.”

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October 25, 2020