Unknowing Kamla

KK Varma’s book fails to deliver its story

Wafa Isfahany April 09, 2016
KK Varma’s book fails to deliver its story.


The disadvantage of reading the back cover of a book before you read the complete story is that you see what the author reads like. The more progressed the writer seems the more maturity of thought and expression you expect them to deliver, setting the bar high. But what does one say about a book that is meant to inform more than entertain and yet does neither. K K Varma’s Life and Times of Unborn Kamla tells India’s darkest secrets through the eyes of an exceedingly passionate storyteller.

The story begins with Kammo, a young girl in Nepal who is wedded to a man hailing from Himachal Pradesh. But her ‘marriage’ to this man is a joyless occasion. As she leaves her hometown with her husband she soon realises the full extent of her plight. She is a bought-up bride, there to please all the men in the family. Soon, Kammo becomes pregnant with baby Kamla but is unaware if the dad is her husband or his father. As society would have it, she is forced to abort the child and there lies the anti-climax of the story: “Kamla is not born.” Even if the readers may be willing to forgive Varma’s inconsistent pattern of writing, the abrupt end of the first chapter would leave them confused about their emotions for Kammo.

Dreaming of a place called home

The rest of the book reads like a failed attempt at trying to tie the thread back to the title of the book. The Life and times of unborn Kamla is a mesh of information and various personal accounts. Varma, it seems, was unable to decide how best to structure the copious amounts of information he was eager to share. It is as we say, sometimes when there is a flood of information you do not know what to say first, what to say last and what not to say seven chapters over.

Even though, it is evident that Varma wanted to string our chords of empathy sometimes the more emphatic you are the more you take away from the story. In fact, by recounting multiple cases of bought-up brides and their struggles makes the readers lose the empathy Varma was able to ignite in the reader. It would have been more riveting if the story had more details and greater depth.

By the time you get to the end of the book you are left thinking every new chapter has the same story except with a fancy title and different characters. Varma displays an incoherence of thoughts, both in the structure and composition. The overuse of the line “the unborn Kamlas,” seems as if every time Varma used it he wanted to recall our emotions about Kamla. But his simplicity of expression went unchecked and the colloquial string of words gave a very distinct sense of an everyday life conversation.

Credit, however, must be given where it is due as the writer does a good job where description is concerned. In the few scattered parts where the writer narrated cases of bought-up brides, he was able to illustrate the stories quite vividly. If Varma were to try his hand at fictional writing he would do a good job. But for a book that reads like an extended research paper there is no place for fiction, especially not the type that Varma deploys. Personal experiences tend to lend a quality to an argument when numbers fall inadequate. An opinion Varma too holds, tacit in his plentiful use of it or rather an overuse of it. Perhaps, the author may have fallen short of words to send his message across.

Title: Life and Times of Unborn Kamla

Author: KK Varma

Pages: 169

Publisher: Palimpsest Publishing House

ISBN: 9788192226668

Price: $18

The writer is an undergraduate student with an interest in religion and philosophy. She tweets @WafaIsfahany 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2016.

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