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Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 03/22/23 6:29 AM

Book review: Table for One by Sumaa Tekur

TABLE FOR ONE by Sumaa Tekur. Hay House.

The tagline for this book reads: a solo living manual for the curious Indian woman. As manuals go, it is direct, (very) helpful and packed with information a woman about to live solo could parse to her benefit.

The one outstanding quality of Tekur`s writing is her honesty. Table for One is written in the first-person voice, and it is a voice that tells you in clear tones all the ups and downs of solo living, absolutely no holds barred. She talks of balancing stillness and chaos, and the reader is both moved and inspired.

So, in case a single woman about to embark on living her own is looking for undiluted validation in this book, it’s a mixed bag she`s going to get. Tekur makes clear the vulnerabilities of living solo like dealing with loneliness, acquiring abilities for yourself starting from opening a tight lid of a bottle to managing your own money, coping with that ubiquitous nosy- as- hell neighbour. She spills the deets on cooking for one, navigating both mental and physical spaces that open up; on how the occasional pang for the safety net of a partner will crop up but also tells you how to deal with it.

However, all through the book there rings a note of joyful ebullience. Because Tekur gets off the shoud i/shouldn’t I fence early enough in the book, and from then on, even her cautionary tales carry the unwritten line: but it`s all worth it! I mean, take the acknowledgements page: For every woman who wishes to break free. Enough said, right?

A quiet confidence in oneself

But no, not nearly enough. Tekur takes the `curious Indian woman` through all the phases of solo living. Arriving at that momentous decision is not acting upon a whim, she cautions, ruing the lack of role models. Sometimes a woman decides not to marry. Other women have been cast in caregiving roles for well past their prime, and now just want to settle down. Yet others lose their partners and companions and face the prospect of now living alone. Basically, every woman faces the prospect of a life lived solo sooner or later. Tekur attempts to  help her shore up for that time.

The two points repeatedly touched upon in the book is  something of a double whammy: one, that women living alone are regarded with an admix of pity, suspicion. Two, that solo living requires you to become comfortable with the silence around you, comfortable enough to settle in and actually revel in it. Both points are presented to the reader free of frills. The nosy neighbour can actually be offensive, hurtful, even noxious. The neighbourhood shopkeeper could well serve everyone else before coming to the lone woman standing there patiently for ages. Some men could construe the woman`s single status (with a home, too!) as an invitation and begin to pile on. Thus, ingressions into the solo woman`s privacy come in all forms and ways.

Living alone is an enriching experience but also provides a great reality check of mortality, says Tekur, adding that living solo is a learned experience. She  characteristically parses the topic down to its bones, and offers bulleted points for those interested to incorporate into their lives. She suggests you invest in yourself, build a relationship with yourself, take on all your fears head-on.  She suggests you take complete charge of your own security. She offers you many a tip to stock your solo armoury with. She suggests that you stand up for yourself, that one simple tip which always works. That you draw firm boundary lines and adhere to them; that you don’t for a minute regret the time you spend daydreaming or chilling; she warns that even the work-life balance takes  on a different hue for the woman living solo. And she keeps underlining the importance of being in charge of your own life.

And sooner or later, the reader realises this isn’t a manual only for women about to embark on solo living. It is a book every woman about to break free of all the chains that bind her, needs to read. Says Tekur: if every woman in the world made elbow room for her own freedom in small and big ways, it could punch a billion holes in the veil of control to allow the light through to reach one-half of the population. Now if that doesn`t resonate with all women everywhere, what will?

This ran in the Sunday Express Magazine of 9 April 2023.


Related Links:

Book review: The Inner Light by Sumaa Tekur





copebook for women living sololiving soloSumaa TekurTable for OneThe New Sunday Express MagazineTNIEwomen living alone

Sheila Kumar • March 22, 2023

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