The Elephant in the Womb
The trend of metamorphosis, when Bollywood actors turn writers, never goes out of fashion. But, Kalki Koechlin is not just a name to stand in this queue. Her carefully- created identity sarpasses the strict boundary of just being a “bollywood actor” and roams in the realm of being an activist, a live-drama performer, an unconventional and award winning actor, and recently, a writer.
“The Elephant in the Womb: Declarations of a Sudden Mother” is a book about the giant experience of the actor in her pregnancy days. Koechlin, 37, used to maintain a diary to jot down her musings, rants, poetry, and cravings while carrying a new life within her. All these experiences are beautifully and boldly expressed in her memoir which is a combination of essays and think-pieces. Valeriya Polyanychko’s brilliant and wacky illustrations made the book a collectable item for the caricature-lover readers. The book is not medical guidance of pregnancy, rather it is about the giant experience, expectations, and pressure of motherhood. Koechlin, in her familiar ‘real and raw’ way, tears off the glorious myths about motherhood. The book brings these elephants marching out of the room: the taboos, the forbidden topics, the pains, the hush-hush words about a woman’s body. The book is put together in the postpartum period, so the narrative covers newer experiences like breastfeeding, postpartum sex on the one hand, on the other it reflects, pregnancy journal and doodles. The chapter of Guy Hershberg, Kalki’s partner and an Israeli classical musician, involves monkeys and dragons. It subtly points out the difference of perspective and roles between a mother and a father.
Though this is a book on motherhood, everyone can read it. Kalki’s sense of humour, her candid observations and the Ukrainian artist Valeriya Plyanychko’s profound illustrations together make the reading experience memorable. In an interview she has added, “Partly, it is a book for new mums and something I wish people would gift to a new mum, but it is also a book everyone surrounding a mother (and that’s pretty much all of us!) should read. After all, we were all brought into the world by a mother, and we ought to be more curious about that whole life-giving process”. Kalki let us peep behind the glorious veil of motherhood and give us the chance to discover the oscillating self of a woman between “awe of this new self” and “the other side…you want your life back”.