‘Javni’, a heartrending story by Raja Rao whose writings are ranked as finest of Indian works in English.
‘Javni’ is the tale of a poor and illiterate woman who belongs to a low caste of washer man in the remote village of Karnataka. She serves as a domestic help in the house of a revenue inspector. There are three main characters in the story, Ramappa, the narrator of the story, Sita, his sister and the mistress of Javni and Javni, the main protagonist of the story. The most striking thing in the story is that all the three characters in the story are very human, genuine, loving and caring still there is much scope of inhumanity, cruelty, and pathos that churns the hearts of the readers and compels them to review their ideologies whether they need some corrections.
Javni is a middle aged woman of 40 years whose personal life is a tale of unending miseries and sorrows. Her husband dies untimely due to the snakebite and after his death Javni is exposed to the uttermost hardships of life to face bravely. After her husband’s death Javni’s in laws insult her and turn her out of their house. Javni seeks shelter in her brother’s house where even more abuses, insults and miseries are waiting for her to greet. Javni’s brother’s wife never allows her children to go near Javni because she considers her a cursed woman and she fears that she would cast some spell on her children and may bewitch them. But the youngest boy loves Javni a lot and she too is deeply attached with him. She always saves her money and eatables whatever she gets from Sita to share with him as she does not have her own siblings.
Javni is full of love for everyone around her. She is a simpleton by heart. She is a lively person and always enjoys in the juicy gossips of village folks. She keeps her mistress Sita amused by telling her the stories of the entire village. She is extremely religious and also believes in ghosts and evil spirits. She madly adores Ramappa. She is charmed by his handsomeness and thinks him to be an incarnation of some God. This is the height of devotion Javni has for her masters. She feels proud that she has the opportunity to serve a high caste Brahmin family who belongs to the upper most strata of the society. For Javni being a revenue inspector is the ultimate job for anyone and even for Ramappa she cannot think that he can be other than a revenue inspector in future. Javni evokes sympathy and respect for her forbearance, simplicity and large heartedness. She always prays Goddess Talkamma for well being and prosperity of everyone around her even for her in laws who always looked upon her with great hatred and disrespect.
‘Javni’ is a great story which hits strongly on the caste system prevalent in the society of those times. Ramappa is the chief instrument in the story who hits on the vice of caste system very effectively. He is a kind, sympathetic, educated and compassionate person with a liberal and progressive outlook. He is infuriated and deeply hurt by the inhuman behavior of his sister when he finds that Sita has made Javni eat her food in the dark byre amidst the foul smelling cows and their filth only because she belongs to a low caste and therefore cannot eat inside the house. Although Sita is very kind and friendly with Javni and loves her a lot but still she is very much bound to the religious bonds and traditions prevalent in the society and has no courage to defy them. The unfortunate incident drives Sita and Ramappa to a heated argument and finally Sita bursts in the pool of tears and Ramappa retires to the garden highly ashamed and disgusted. In utter desperation and dismay tearfully he wonders when will the Conch of Knowledge would blow and when will the God would come to end this misery and ignorance.
Ramappa is highly touched by Javni’s unadulterated adoration, dedication and devotion for her masters. She bears no malice for anyone in her heart. Javni’s faithfulness for her masters is so genuine and unalloyed that without slightest hesitation she willingly agrees to give her entire savings to Ramappa. Her generosity steals his heart. He is deeply shocked to know that how low she is paid off for her strenuous work. Ramappa’s respect for Javni can be easily felt when he asks Javni to adopt him as her son. He honestly wants to serve her and give her all the comforts as a son. Javni is dumbfounded by the blasphemous statement of Ramappa. She is frightened because being a Brahmin Ramappa is a chosen one and the twice born. He is not meant for work. The very thought of adopting Ramappa as her son is very perplexing for Javni because Ramappa is a God for Javni and how she can adopt a God? Scared Javni prays Goddess Talkamma to forgive Ramappa for his childishness. The story ends with the final adieu of the revenue inspector’s family when they leave the village forever leaving Javni crying inconsolably on the other side of the river.
The story is relevant in modern times also as this kind of caste system is still prevalent in some parts of rural India and the Blowing of the Conch of Knowledge is very much awaited there.