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'''Mohsin Hamid and Anita Desai'''014:59, 1 September 2010

'''Mohsin Hamid and Anita Desai'''

A Telugu proverb says: "Bringing up a girl is like watering the plant in your neighbor’s garden." Bitter but true. The condition of women in the countries like India and Pakistan can be best understood in the light of this proverb. The women in these countries, whether they are based in rural or urban areas, face multiple forms of violence, including sexual violence, domestic abuse, burning and disfiguring through acids, beating and threatening, honor killings, custodial abuse and torture, dowry-related violence, rape, female genital mutilation. India and Pakistan are very sensitive nations, where people, not only take pride in strictly adhering to the religious values but, are ready to sacrifice their loved belongings for the glory and sanctity. Both the nations have accorded a highly venerated social position of women. They acknowledge the rights and privileges of the women in society. A woman is equally important member of society. The woman plays a vital role in building the society on healthier and stronger foundations. All these matters are true but exist merely on the papers. The present research paper is divided into two facets. One explores the sacrifice of Indian women through the study of Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day, while another probes the issue of suffering of Pakistani women through the study of Mohsin Hamid’s debute novel, Moth Smoke. Moth Smoke, a masterly novel by Mohsin Hamid portrays the situation of woman in Pakistan. It aggressively talks about the way of looking at the fair sex. In the very opening of the novel, the sight of man to look at the woman is discussed. “Mumtaz is watching me and I look away because she is beautiful and I don’t want to stare.” Woman is treated merely for her pink cheeks, juicy lips and beautiful breasts. The paragon of sacrifice and endurance is always disvalued and disallowed from her freedom in Pakistan. Mumtaz, the most important female character of the novel drinks, gambles and sleeps with her husband’s best friend, Daru. By looking in light of the Islam, these all are the sins and crimes. As an Islamic woman Mumtaz can be penalized but, it is more important to view her through an eye of human rather than moralist. In chapter 3 of Moth Smoke the suffering of woman is presented: “At our age, my hirsute chum, all women care about cash. And my bank account is hairy enough for a harem.” “Such refinement,” Mumtaz says, handing me a scotch, nicely watered and iced. “Are all Lahori men like him?” “Certainly not”, I tell her. “Be careful, Daru,” Ozi says, accepting his glass from Mumtaz. “She is trying to divide us.”(Hamid, 13) The conversation clearly reflects what man believes about woman. From the very beginning she is disvalued for her sacrifices and blamed to separate men. In the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, both Sita and Draupadi, are excused for inspiring the battles. But the way they sacrifice, is over looked. The novel reveals the same social scenario of Pakistan. Mumtaz, a mouthpiece of Pakistani women, surrenders life to her husbands for his happiness and in rewards; she receives no love, no care nor faith. Woman, for man has been just a product of bones and flesh, which he can use while enjoying the sex. The novel displays how cunningly man ties woman. Mumtaz is free but mere materially. She is allowed to smoke and drink but, not for free breathing. Her insane drinking is due to her disability of living consciously. She is tired by living in the cage of her husband’s thoughts. The way, man scares at woman is piercingly offered in the novel. The Black Burqa doesn’t simply symbolize the cover of her face but it is a disallowance to her spirit, will and freedom of expression. It personifies that she is prohibited to view the world from her own sight. Marriage is bond of love, care and faith but for Mumtaz is sheer a prison. She looses her autonomy. The docile woman in Pakistan is treated animally. She wishes to fly but her wings are sliced. She aspires to be virgin but she is seduced emotionally. The character is diplomat of the sacrifice. The novel scolds the poor handling of the submissive sex. The Pakistani society has different standards for man and woman. A man moves anywhere in accordance of his wish and desire but a woman can’t. The boundary is not for man but for woman. Woman in Pakistan fears for infamy. Mumtaz of Moth Smoke is an evident of the scarification of woman in Pakistan. She demonstrates that a lady is just born to be ruled, rapped and ruined. Chapter 5 of the novel illustrates woman’s plight. Mumtaz goes to Heera Mandi to have an interview with the head of the prostitute. The talk between Mumtaz and Dilaram shows the dark side of Woman’s condition: “How did you come to begin learning?” Mumtaz asks, slowly taking out a mini cassette recorder. Dilaram laughs solidly, her body rippling. “It’s quit a funny story really. I was a pretty girl, like this one here.” … “The landlord of our area asked me to come his house. I refused, so he threatened to kill my family. When I went, he raped me.” Mumtaz shuts her eyes. Dilaram chuckles “I was so skinny. Not like a woman at all.” “He paid you?” Mumtaz’s voice is so soft I can barely hear her. “No”. “Then what happened?” “He kept making me come. He let his sons rape me. And sometimes his friends. One of them was from city. He gave me a silver bracelet.” “Why?” “He said it was a gift. Then I became pregnant.” She laughs. “Imagine, my mother was also pregnant at the time.” “So what did you do?” “The landlord told me the man from the city wanted to take me to Lahore to marry me. I didn’t believe him. But the villagers told me it was the only way to recover my honor, so I went.” “Did he marry you?” “No. He took me to hakim who ended my pregnancy. Then he told me he had bought me from the landlord for fifty rupees. He said I would have to give him fifty rupees if I wanted to go back to my village.” “But you didn’t have the money.” Dilaram chuckles “He brought me to Heera Mandi and made me have sex with men until he had his fifty rupees.”… “Then did he let you go?” “No. He told me the villagers would not accept me back because I had lost my honor. I believed him.” (Hamid, 50) The novelist represents Dilaram as a spokesperson to speak out the way women suffers in Pakistan. Mumtaz produces a baby even though she does not want. She feels to be neglected after the birth of her child. She sacrifices her wishes and wills and thinks of her husband’s happiness. But when she needs his company and support, she finds herself to be alone. Chapter 10 is the core part of the novel that talks about the endurance and sacrifice of Pakistani women. The chapter is titled “The wife and mother”. Mumtaz, to fulfill the desire of her husband and to care her child, forfeit her own life. It talks about the significant role of Mumtaz’s sacrifice. The way she expresses her agony to Daru, even we feel pity and ashamed of Pakistani customs and tendency. She expresses: I had always been a condom person, but since I was regular and we had both tested negative, Ozi and I switched to the rhythm method. Which can be almost as reliable as the pills. Almost. I told Ozi about it sadly, because I’d decided to have an abortion. But he was ecstatic. I’d never seen him so happy. He told me I had to think about it for a week. And he did something I still haven’t forgiven him for: he told his mother. She flew out to New York immediately, bringing gifts and advice. … I resigned my self to it. Or maybe I saw it as a kind of martyrdom. Sacrificing myself for something noble: for love, my man, the species. I don’t think I realized how frightened I was until the third trimester, when the nightmares started. Nightmares inspired by the Discovery Channel. Visions of being eaten alive by larvae, like some poor animal stung by an insect and made into a host for its eggs. Ozi, my friends, even people at work asked me why I looked so upset. But I could hardly tell them. Most mothers grow when they’re pregnant. I sweated.” The tyranny of Ozi compels to Mumtaz starts a double life. She was very faithful for four years of marriage. To express her ideas, she starts writing with pseudo name. The extreme tyranny of male to female is presented when Mumtaz has to start living double life. She decides to start working as an investigation journalist called Zulfikar Manto. Thus, The women in Pakistan have been constantly complaining of having being isolated from the mainstream of society. Women feel disillusioned on being maltreated by the male-oriented set up in Pakistan. They strongly claim that if they are given a chance, they can contribute more positively towards the development of all social aspects. If we ponder over the definition, Mathew Arnold, one of the eminent poets and critics of English Literature defines Literature as the mirror of the society. The definition with regards to the novel Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai, is very contextual. The novel reflects the social facts of Indian society and Indian culture in a true sense. Anita Desai has portrayed each character in a genuine way and according to the Indian mentality and Indian thinking. In Indian culture, the role of woman is of sacrifice and devotion for others. This is hypocrisy of Indian culture or an evil or whatsoever, but Indian woman has to suffer a lot behind this curtain of sacrifice. It is depicted from the characters of great Indian Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata i.e. Sita and Draupadi to the character of Bimla of the novel Clear Light of Day. Indian Literary female characters have been portrayed in such a way that their role is only of sacrifice, which again shows the mentality of male dominated society of India. The character of Bimla is been put as a typical Indian woman, who is born for sacrifice her entire life to her family. Bimla is the nurse for her mentally retarded brother Baba and also she has nurtured her family and taken care of her little ones after the death of her parents. Her brother, Raja, is eldest among the four children of Das family, and should take care of them, but because of his irresponsibility, he left alone his family in Delhi and left the place for Hyderabad. Tara, the youngest daughter of the family, married with Bakul and left the place. Aunt Mira, who was taking care of Baba, dies due to her animal drinking habit. So, Bim has to take care of Baba, who is totally dependent over other and a parasite. Bim has sacrificed her whole life for her family. She does not marry because it would be a barrier for her responsibilities. But sometimes the pathos of her sacrifice cannot be controlled by her and burst into statements in the novel when she tells to Tara that “ After you married, and Raja went to Hyderabad, and Mira-masi died, I still had Baba.”(Desai,37) So, this shows her pathos as well as her devotion towards her family. Raja, the eldest brother, has left her alone with Baba, because he knew that the responsibility of Baba is a burden for his own progress and he also knew that Bim would not left Baba alone, as she is an Indian woman, inculcated the virtue of sacrifice. Bim is a very bright and enough competent, as she is the lecturer of a college in Delhi. She was a dynamic student of her school of her time. So, she can get proposals for marriage by any good person, whom she wants. But she has refused to do so and chosen a life of a spinster and thus she has sacrificed her marriage life and desire to get marry and even sex. She possesses each emotions and desires including sex which a normal woman possesses. But she has not fulfilled them for the sake of her family responsibilities. Some of the lines of the novel shows her unconscious longing of sex on seeing Baba lying asleep: She felt an immense, almost irresistible yearning to lie down beside him on the bed, stretch out limb to limb, silent and immobile together. She felt that they must be the same length, that his slightness would fit in beside her size that his concavities would mould together with her convexities. (Desai, 165) If we talk about her marriage then Dr. Biswas, who is a doctor by profession and a wealthy person wanted to marry her. But due to her family responsibility, she refuses such a giant proposal of marriage, and sacrificed her marriage dreams. As Dr. Biswas also says when she refuses his marriage proposal that, “Now I understand why you do not wish to marry. You have dedicated your life to other – to your sick brother and your aged aunt and your little brother who will be dependent on you all his life. You have sacrificed your life for them.” (Desai, 97 ) The novelist has elaborated the outcomes of sacrifice of women i.e., suffering through the other female characters like Aunt Mira and Tara. Aunt Mira is a widow but still virgin due to the early death of her husband. Her husband went abroad immediately after the marriage and he died there because of cold. As the consequence, Mira had to suffer a lot because of the Indian customs and she has also sacrificed a lot, in fact her whole life. If we talk about Tara, then Bakul has married her because he thought that she would donate her whole life and she will obey him, she will sacrifice her life to him and Tara actually does the same and contents his expectations. So, it reveals the typical mentality of male dominance of Indian society. The Indian society and Indian culture suck everything under the pen name of sacrifice for hypocrisy. Indian woman devotes her entire life to worship her family and other relations, but they, on the other side, use them as puppets and do anything deliberately to accomplish their own goals, like Raja has done with Bim. At the end, Bim forgives each mistake of Raja and exonerates him, which glorifies not only the character of Bim but also the entire psyche of Indian women. This is the supreme sacrifice on the part of Bim. Bim forgets everything even though they all proved mosquitoes for her, “They had come like mosquitoes – Tara and Bakul, and behind them the Misras, and somewhere in the distance Raja and Benazir – only to torment her and, mosquito-like, sip her blood.”(Desai, 153) In orthodox Indian and Pakistani societies, women are responsible for maintaining the family honor. To ensure that they do not dishonor their families, society limits women's mobility, places restrictions on their behavior and activities, and permits them only limited contact with the opposite sex. This is not only the saga of the characters of these novels but these things are happening to each and every women of both the countries, somewhere under the name of sacrifice or somewhere under the name of devotion, faithfulness, loyalty and so on. Today, the scenario of outer world is changed. But the inner world, the psyche as well as customs are not changed yet. More than 70% of the people of India and Pakistan are living village life, and the episode is continued there under customs and taboos or rules and regulations of religion or superstitions and so on. And this dark sphere of Indian as well as Pakistani societies may not vanish until we arise and awake. “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live." Mohammad Ali Jinnah, 1944 (taken from the US Library of Congress report "Pakistan - A Country Study")


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Works Sited:: Desai, Anita. Clear Light of the Day. New Delhi: Penguin Books,1998. Hamid, Mohsin. Moth Smoke. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2000. Iyengar, Srinivas. Indian Writing in English. New Delhi: Sterling Publisher.1997 http://www.global-sisterhood-network.org/content/view/2231/59/ http://www.wikipedia.com/womeninfiction/

Pareshgauswami (talk)14:55, 1 September 2010