Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

Liberation from tradition 

Synopsis of Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth: Pretty as a peacock, twelve-year-old Leela had been spoiled all her life. She doesn't care for school and barely marks the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine.

Leela's whole life changes, though, when her husband dies. She's now expected to behave like a proper widow: shaving her head and trading her jewel-toned saris for rough, earth-colored ones. Leela is considered unlucky now, and will have to stay confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew. When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers Leela lessons at home. For the first time, despite her confinement, Leela opens her eyes to the changing world around her. India is suffering from a severe drought, and farmers are unable to pay taxes to the British. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, who starts a political movement and practices satyagraha—non-violent protest against the colonists as well as the caste system. The quiet strength of satyagraha may liberate her country. Could she use the same path to liberate herself?

My take

Tradition is good. But it can change the course of lives. Set in the time of Gandhi, the parallel story of Leela who is widowed at age 12, underscores that tradition needs to be challenged for life to continue -- not in misery but with hope for a better future.

"Keeping corner" shows the Indian tradition that when a husband dies, the wife must be confined in the house for year. For a lifetime, she must live as an outcast as a "raand" or widow. Life cannot go on for a widow.

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