dopehri is the first novel by Pankaj Kapur – film and theatre personality. It has been translated from the Hindustani by Rahul Soni. The novel is dedicated to all those who forgot themselves in the passing of time and age and relationships. This 95 pages of novel, beautifully encapsulate the emotional trepidations of a 65-year elderly widow, Amma Bi, who lives a lonely life in her deserted haveli in Lucknow. In the first part of the novel, every afternoon, at precisely three o’clock, she hears the sound of unknown footsteps. Every afternoon she peeps out but there is no one. Later towards the end of the novel, the author reveals that it was “her own loneliness” that was scaring her.
In the second half of the novel, Amma Bi, the protagonist around whom the novel revolves, is in a state of frenzy and growing panic, Amma Bi considers moving to old age home, before finally moving on the third phase i.e. taking in a lodger named, Sabiha.
In the third part of the novel, with Sabiha’s arrival, everything in Amma bi’s life change? Her presence fills her lonely life with love and laughter. Jumman – Amma Bi’s domestic help is transformed as a person as well.
When Sabiha finds herself in trouble, Amma Bi must draw on her hidden reserves of skill and empathy to resolve the situation. In the process of helping the girl, Amma Bi finds her true identity, her worth as an individual and not as a begum of the haveli or wife of her husband and mother of her kids. She found happiness in her loneliness. She found a way to utilise her time and add a feel-good factor and purpose to her existence.
Simple free-flowing language and a gripping narrative make it an interesting read. It evokes a sense of empathetic responsibility that children should have towards their old parents. The novel highlights how determining your self-worth no matter what age, can kick in a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. It is an evocative work of charm, wry humour and quiet power, a story that will make readers fall in love with.