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Balancing Act Paperback – October 15, 2009
Balancing Act is a newly published work of fiction by architect and author Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy that demonstrates the challenge many stay-at-home-mothers particularly ones with feminist sensibilities face when reconciling their identities with the conflicting demands and desires of motherhood and working outside of the home. Although the topic being explored is not a new one, Meera uses her professional training to craft a work that offers a distinct vantage point through which to view this particular struggle. Building the self isn't so different than building a literal, physical structure, and everything constructed needs a solid foundation from which to grow. Read full interview on Bitch magazine site --Mandy Van Deven, Bitch Magazine --Mandy Van Deven, Bitch Magazine blog
First time author, Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy's book Balancing Act amalgamates architecture, feminism, motherhood, and supernatural elements into what can be only be called an intelligent work of fiction. -- --mybangalore blog
It could be the song on anyone s lips. It could be the restless tapping of anyone s feet. It could be the story of any woman. That s the first impression you get when you read the blurb of Balancing Act by Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy. A story about the travails of a young mother by a young mother who has in all probability gone through those travails herself. Nothing unusual in a writer s world, you think. You give it a shot anyway, to compare notes and take a voyeuristic peek into what could be your neighbour s life. Tara Mistri is an architect whose practice has evolved from raising skyscrapers to raising children. Her home is filled with clutter that is only matched by the clutter in her head. Her days are filled with the babble of her children, her clothes smell like cookies and she chooses to spend her nights listening to the rhythm of their gentle breathing. Her maternal instincts to nurture her toddlers is rivalled by her passion for architecture. To illustrate this conflict more lucidly, or perhaps to paint the protagonist in a more righteous light in the eyes of a conformist society, the author has created a vicious alter ego-like character, Yakshi. She berates her for being a stay-at-home mom and goads her into getting a real job. The Yakshi s words seem to take on significance when Tara enviously observes her suburban neighbours having successful jobs and children. Then, there are the other stay-at-home moms like her, who almost glorify the need to be a full-time mother. For good measure, her muddled up mind is introduced to feminism as well. Tara tries to decipher feminism and her own identity crisis through a rather bizarre process of baking. Not bread, but bricks, with even more bizarre messages on them. She surreptitiously leaves them in strategic places which make sense only to her befuddled mind. This is not the only association with architecture, however. The entire story is told through allegories to architecture; a structure, if you will, for the narrative. Of course, all this do not really a plot make, so Tara is offered a job as well. Her path towards deciding whether to accept it or not is truly the journey she takes towards making her peace with herself. So, if you re thinking this story is only about an unfulfilled mother, there s a romantic angle coming your way. While Tara goes through the process of figuring out which of her needs need to be fulfilled, her husband, the perfect mate, struggles to have his needs met as well. In a classic case of guilt turning outward, she suspects her husband of having an affair with her best friend. Anyway, all s well that ends well in the marital bed. It s heartening to see how this first time author has managed to keep the focus, with elements of motherhood, romance and architecture converging in smooth lines into a single point of harmony, lending some credit to the title. There is no digression or wastage of thoughts or words, in true Louis Kahn style. Form and function, space and order, blend perfectly with parks and playthings in this neat little ode to motherhood. By now you must have guessed that the author is an architect herself. Her quasi-feminist leanings are also evident from the fact that she has two last names. The narrative is much like The Salk Institute by architect Louis Kahn that Tara is in awe of. A work of clean, contemporary architecture where function dictates style, understated details work towards maximum efficiency, where less is more, and ornate gives way to order. While it would be a stretch to call it awe-inspiring, it most definitely is an inspired piece of work, except for the title, perhaps. Also visible is a rare sensitivity that is not often seen in books or buildings that cater to the practical, everyday workings of life. Making it seem not so everyday after all. --Express Buzz, Kalpana Komal, Aug. 15, 2010
Walking the fine line - a review by Melanie P Kumar, Deccan Herald, June 13, 2010 This maiden novel by Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy is sure to strike an instant chord with working women who have been forced to give up successful careers to mind home and babies. The author devises original ways to describe Tara Mistri, the protagonist, feminimom or mominist and goes on to detail the life of this stay-at-home mom and frustrated architect a baker of biscuits and maker of bricks. The book makes for an easy read, as Meera fleshes out her lead character with the insecurities and uncertainties of her humdrum existence. These are the emotions that prompt Tara to get on to the Internet and apply for jobs in architectural firms. The anticipation of waiting for an interview call and the fear of not getting one, are handled well. Tara idolises the architect, Louis I Kahn, and dreams of a tour around his creation the Salk Institute even as she hopes to replicate its clean lines and perfect symmetry in her own life. This is easier said than done, as the demands of taking care of two children and cleaning up after them has her using her set squares and scales to scrape plasticine off the carpet. The first half of the book is all about Tara trying to figure out what she wants from her life whilst the latter part goes on to explore whether she really wants what she thinks she does. Godbole uses the original concept of a Yakshi, who acts as Tara s alter-ego, flitting in and out of her life and goading her to do more with it. As the book nears completion, the Yakshi appears no longer and perhaps the assumption is that the protagonist is at peace with herself and her choices. The use of quotes by famous architects like Buckminster Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright at the beginning of every chapter add charm to the story. Also, the almost reverential description of the lines of the Salk Institute, when Mistri gets her first opportunity to visit, is educative. But at other times, the architectural details that the author delves into can become too much of a good thing. But, Krishnamurthy who is herself an architect can perhaps be excused these musings in her first, presumably semi-autobiographical novel. The dilemma and insecurities of a New Age Mum and the build-up to the final decision are competently handled. The shared confidences and the discovery that the grass is not always green on the other side are as insightful as the celebration of the joys of motherhood and parenting. Nowhere does Tara Mistri regret her status of motherhood even whilst she wrestles with her need to go back to the workplace to garner a sense of self-worth. But the novel seems to fall short in exploring the husband-wife relationship, which one looks out for, as the pages are turned. Opting for a Mills and Boon kind of misunderstanding and the ensuing resolution is a trifle disappointing. Meera s strength is in her writing style, which is both lyrical and a sensual experience: And yet, here I was, breaking slowly under the load while the known structure of my unreal world was falling down, a piece at a time. Overall, a good read. --Deccan Herald Book Review
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Top Customer Reviews
But Balancing Act is much more than an architect/mother writing about an architect/mother. The protagonist's inner dialog is a constant commentary on her daily life, wishes, ambitions, and most of all her loves and fears. This is a story about a strong woman, a feminist, who loves her family and quite obviously loves motherhood _and_ architecture. There are wonderful touches: cocktail party inanities we have all experienced, "it's complicated" friendships, pushy friends and acquaintances who never seem to listen, offhand comments not meant to hurt but do so anyway.
I would recommend this book to anyone. You don't have to be an architect to appreciate the insightful architectural criticism. You don't have to be a mother to appreciate the immensity of the choice between full-time motherhood and career. You just have to be someone who enjoys a good story, richly told, fully fleshed out, full of realistic characters saying realistic things, and, if you're like me, someone who enjoys not knowing until the end how it turns out.
Thank you, Meera, for a delightful first novel.
Tara has a handsome and successful husband, a beautiful home, devoted friends, and two adorable and adoring children. But she's still haunted by the might-have-beens of her earlier life as a promising young architect. She's occasionally visited by a yakshi, a Hindu fertility spirit with feminist sensibilities. With yakshi urging her to resume her career, and mounting resentment toward friends who seem to regard her as no more than a perfect housewife, Tara sends out her resumé and lands an interview with an architecture firm. But Tara learns that going back to work isn't necessarily the answer to her dilemma, or the way to find balance and satisfaction in her life.
Architecture is central to the novel, both as Tara's chosen field and as a metphor for creating balance and structure in one's life. Tara is obsessed with the Salk Institute in nearby La Jolla, designed by the Estonian-born architect Louis Kahn. The Salk becomes Tara's icon as she attempts to construct a coherent life for herself as a feminist, an artist, and a mother. It seems to represent both balance and contradiction, the inspiring and the pedestrian, the ordered and the chaotic--the material of both art and life. In the novel, the Salk is likened both to a monastic cloister and the sort of building that might contain dentists' offices. It's both transcendent and mundane, like life.
The book is teeming with ideas, and the author's intellect is apparent on every page, but the novel not merely cerebral. Every detail of Tara's life as mother is beautifully and authentically rendered. You can hear the laughter of the children on the playground, see the Cheerios and juice boxes, feel the urgency as Tara rushes to turn off the television before Barney comes on. Every detail of Tara's world rings true.
After our paths diverged in the late 1980s, Meera went on to Columbia and the University of Virginia, to work as an architect and a new life as a stay-at-home mother and writer. I went to Brown University, was employed briefly as a professor of classics, and became a stay-at-home father and writer. I'm happy our lives finally converged again in this wonderful novel.
The language flows smoothly. The affection for the children comes dripping through. The dilemma faced by almost every married woman who is also a mother is depicted beautifully. I loved the touches of reality and humor( to give some random examples the topics that get discussed in a cocktail reception, the questions children ask and other interruptions from the back of a car, the net outcome of taking up a job being that with no financial gain one exchanges the interesting task of looking after one's own children for humdrum architecture-related tasks and so on ). A fascinating debut!-- S. Ramamoorthi
I read the book in one sitting - and I enjoyed it immensely.-- P.R. Parthasarathy
Super excellent book. It is just FANTASTIC. I found the book very interesting and informative,and enjoyed reading it immensely. -- Meena Kasbekar