‘Timepass : The Memoirs of Protima Bedi’
You can pen your thoughts on why you think a story was well written, on the strength and weaknesses of its characters, how it ended or should have ended and why you liked or disliked a particular book. But how do you review a life, that too one that was lived without any inhibitions?
Protima Bedi – mention the name and the adjective that comes to mind is controversial. Unconventional is a middle name that would have suited her to perfection, some might say. As you read her memoirs, however, you wonder whether it was her life that was removed from conventions or was it her brutal honesty that made her stand apart.
The book is said to be ‘derived from her unfinished autobiography, journals and her letters to family, friends and lovers’ and it does provide a peek into her childhood and the rather colorful life that she has led. The first part is mostly centered around her childhood – you get a glimpse of probably why she turned out to be the insecure person that she was – and her various relationships including her marriage to the gloriously good looking Kabir Bedi. The second half of the book is about ‘Nrityagram’ and how she was turning towards spirituality towards her end.
Called a ‘Kali’ for being dark and maybe ferocious like ‘Kaali-ma’, she grew up with a huge complex about her looks. Maybe it was this subconscious feeling that drew her to the several men in her life. As she herself admits, even her marriage seems to have been to prove a point , that she could get someone as good looking and as sought after as Bedi.
Most of what she has written about has been known to the public, I am sure. There are famous names, some called out as such and some with pet names. More than her story what struck me the most is the fact that, in spite of being called unorthodox or unconventional, how like any other woman she was. Yes, she did live life on her own terms, or at least seems to have done so. But, a feeling of guilt pervades her all through – whether she has done enough for a cheating husband, if she has given enough of herself for her children, how only she was responsible for bringing up the kids, how she felt solely responsible for her son’s untimely death and so on. The tendency that is stuck on to a woman as natural, the feeling that she is the one who is ultimately responsible for the well being of her family and kids seems to have been strongly ingrained in her, like any other ordinary Indian woman.
The second half shows us a totally different persona where she goes all out to achieve her dream of ‘Nrityagram’, how she created it almost from nothing. Yes , her name would have helped her in opening some doors, but nothing came easy to her. You get the essence of her self in one of the conversations with her daughter where she is accused of always ‘running away’ from things and people. She responds that she is actually running towards a different thing all the time. And I guess that is what made her the person of grit and determination that she was. I loved her for the whole hearted passion with which she approached everything in her life, it was either 100% or nothing.
And yes, the book has a copy of that grainy picture of her running nude, though not in Juhu, according to her.
Verdict : If you are averse to masala and would see only that, this is best avoided. However, if you are someone who is interested in the person and the ‘why’s instead of the ‘how’s and ‘who’s , you will enjoy it.
4/5 for the person that she was, 2/5 from a literary perspective