There are certain books that will make you bawl because they are so similar to your life and your experiences that it hurts. These books will leave a gaping hole in your chest, days after you finish reading them. Being able to identify with what the author is saying makes you antsy and uncomfortable, but it will make you want to give the author a big hug for understanding you. Because it seems like no one in your life so far has ever understood the chaos, the unease, the dissatisfaction within your chest.
But Nikita Gill does. She’s got that kindred spirit thing going with me and she doesn’t even know I exist!
When I finished reading The Girl and the Goddess, the first thing I did was tell one of my closest friends that I need to gush about it. I need to put it out there into the world the importance of this book, what it had done to me, how important it was to me, and why it was so important. She, being the awesome friend she is, took out the time from her uber-busy schedule and listened to me gush and cry about the book over WhatsApp texts.
And how my fingers flew over the keys as I told her everything there was to tell about why this book was so amazing!
A large part of this review is taken from my chats with Nandini because I don’t think I can express myself in any better a manner than what I did with her. She brings that intellectual out in me and makes me express myself better. So you could say this is as much a thank you post to her for being such a patient listener (because I tend to go off on tangents before finding myself back on the main road) as it is a post about me gushing about The Girl and the Goddess.
Let’s start from the very beginning.
The first ever Nikita Gill book I read was Fierce Fairytales, a book that I love fiercely, if you may. And every book of hers, ever since, has held the same awe, the same love, the same attraction for me because Nikita Gill is consistent. Be it Great Goddesses, Wild Embers, or Your Soul is a River, she knows how to reach into my heart, twist it, and then leave words and feelings in there.
The biggest reason why I LOVE Nikita Gill’s works is because of how much hope I find in them. She builds up that fire within me, telling me that the people around me will try to pull me down because I’m a girl but that I am more than that. And that makes me cry every single time. Because, let me tell you, even though my life hasn’t been bad, it has been a little topsy-turvy because of sexism in ways I don’t want to elaborate upon. So when I found Nikita Gill and her words found a mark within me, it was like a new world opened up where I didn’t have to live in that old darkness. She told me I could be anything. Her words sparked that fire within me that I carry every single day now. (It was at this point that I acknowledged that the memory of her writing was bringing me to tears.)
When I read Fierce Fairytales, it burrowed itself within me to a point where I felt that warmth spread through my blood. Now, it won’t let go, and I wouldn’t have it any other way because of the different perspectives to the long told misogynistic stories that she didn’t just hand me. She threw them at my head and gifted them to me that way. And that was a wake-up call that I didn’t even know I needed. I’ve been so in love with her writing since then because of the sheer strength in her writing, the confidence, the warmth, the ferocity, the love, the understanding – my GOD, I could go on for ages!
So when The Girl and the Goddess came out, I knew it was going to hit me in ways that I wouldn’t even dream of. And that’s exactly what happened when I read it. I finished reading it at around 3 in the AM, and I couldn’t fall asleep for a long time because holy shit, the thoughts, the reminiscing that I did (honestly, not a great idea, but I couldn’t help it), the questions that I asked myself as tears rolled down my cheeks – that was a lot. How was I to go about my daily life now that I felt so exposed and understood?
The Girl and the Goddess is the story of Paro Madera, whose family has been forced to migrate from Kashmir. And while political tensions are a sort of a grim backdrop to the larger picture, there is also the truth about how India (and consequently the world) treats women as Paro comes to see it. Goddesses appear before Paro, tell her stories, and give her lessons and strength. But the lessons that I learned were from Paro’s life itself. And Nikita Gill’s writing lays bare the things that girls, especially in India, have to go through. “Cover your shoulders.” “Don’t stay out till late.” “You’re ugly because you fat.” Paro realizes these and she talks to us about strength and how she wants to be certain things that the world is so dead set on letting her not be.
One of the things that I found so relatable in this book is the way girls are taught not to express emotions. If we show any sign of emotion, we’re labeled ‘sensitive’ and made fun of. It hit way close to him as I’m a supremely sensitive person. There’s a point in this book where she talks about how she has to grow up before her time and she says she wishes she could have as much time as she needed to be a child, just like her brother had. And that broke me a little.
It was at this point that I shared a little about my life with Nandini and she told me I was a strong person. Even now, as I write this, my lips curl up into a wistful smile because I’ve been told all my life that I am way too sensitive and that I need to be strong. So my response to her was, “I wish that were true. But honestly, I feel like I can be. And that’s what Nikita Gill’s books mean to me. Hope to be a better, stronger person.” This is a huge truth if ever there was one.
See, I’m the kind of person who, when she gets angry, will first tear up because she thinks that saying what’s on her mind will hurt the person before her. People think I’m upset at every first chance but I’m more afraid of hurting the person before me. That’s what irks my Dad too. “You’re too sensitive,” he says. But the truth is that my parents taught me to not talk back to people, especially elders, and that’s exactly why I’m bottling it all up and crying. It’s that bottling up of my emotions that’s causing the tears.
Nikita Gill’s books, especially The Girl and the Goddess, teaches me that it’s okay to be fierce, to be angry, to be emotional, to stand up against anything wrong being done to you. She teaches me to FEEL, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing to ever happen to me – that I found Nikita Gill when I did.
I know that everyone interprets every book differently even in microscopic ways, and one of my friends only liked it as against how I said people would love it. But I really want everyone to read the magnificence that is Nikita Gill’s writing and poetry. If you don’t like it, it’s fine, because not everyone likes every book. But if you end up loving it, it’s going to hold up so much of your life, your thoughts on its shoulders that you’ll fall even more in love with it, if that sentence made any sense. And then perhaps, we can gush together about it. 😉
I’ve been stuck in a loop in my life at the moment and The Girl and the Goddess helped me escape, if only for a few hours. And then I cried in part lamentation. But I really want people to read it, even if there’s the minutest possibility that they’ll feel the same relatability that I felt.
So please, please, please pick this phenomenal book up! Please!