Sunday, September 6, 2009
Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
In 1941 in India girls didn't usually have much choice about their futures. Most girls enter an arranged marriage and spend their lives serving their husbands. But Vidya's father is a doctor who has encouraged his daughter to go to college and make her own life. India is in turmoil as they try to gain their independence from England. Vidya's father supports the cause of independence and has been working secretly to help injured protestors. When he and Vidya are caught in a protest she leaves the car and runs into the crowd to join them. Her father, trying to catch her, is beaten by the police and suffers extensive brain damage. Since he is now unable to support the family they have no choice but to move in with her grandfather and other relatives who have a much more traditional view of what Vidya should be doing with her life. Her only salvation from the hard work she is directed to do by her mean aunts is when she is allowed to go upstairs to the library in the house and read. She becomes more involved in the politics in her country while forming a relationship with a young man who also uses the library and encourages Vidya to develop her intelligence.