Tuesday, September 30, 2008

‘ Javni’--- a critical Appreciation

‘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.

The Portrait of a Lady

A picture perfect portrayal of his grandmother by Khushwant Singh, an eminent writer and a journalist. This story is picked from “The book of Unforgettable Women”.
The story is written in first person and is in biographical mode. It is a perception of his grandmother through his own eyes. Khushwant Singh recalls his grandmother as an eternally old person. She was an extremely religious person. It was difficult for him to believe that once she too was young and pretty like other women. The stories about her childhood games were like fairytales to him. She was short, fat and slightly stooped in stature. Her silvery white hair used to scatter on her wrinkled face. Khushwant Singh remembers her hobbling around the house in spotless white clothes with one hand resting on her waist to balance her stoop and the other busy in telling the beads of her rosary. Her lips constantly moved in inaudible prayers. Possibly she was not beautiful in worldly sense but she looked extremely beautiful with the peacefulness, serenity and the contentment her countenance displayed. 
Khushwant’s relationship with his grandmother went through several changes when he was a small boy. In the first stage Khushwant lived in a village with her as his parents were looking for the opportunity to settle down in the city. In village grandmother took care of all the needs of the child. She was quite active and agile. She woke him up in the morning, got him ready for the school, plastered his wooden slate, prepared his breakfast and escorted him to the school. They fed street dogs with stale chapaties on their way to school which was a great fun for them. She helped him in his lessons also .It was her domain and she was the queen of her kingdom. In this period she was the sole unchallenged guardian, mentor and creator of the child Khushwant. 
The turning point came in their relationship when they came to city to stay with Khushwant’s parents. In city Khushwant joined an English School and started to go to school in a motor bus. Here the role of his grandmother in his bringing up was curtailed a little bit. Now she could not accompany him to the school. Despite taking lot of interest in his studies she could not help him in his lessons because he was learning English, law of gravity, Archimedes’ principle and many more such things which she could not understand and this made her unhappy. She found herself at loss. One more thing which disturbed her a lot was that the kids were not learning about God and scriptures in the school instead they were given music lessons which was not an honorable thing in her opinion. To her music was not meant for gentlefolk. It was meant for beggars and prostitutes only. She highly disapproved this and as she could not change it she was dismayed and withdrew herself to some extent. Perhaps she had realized that in the makeover of the child her role was finished and this very thought saddened her most. 
After finishing school Khushwant went to university. He was given a separate room. The common link of their friendship was snapped. His grandmother confined herself to a self imposed seclusion. She spent most of her time in reciting prayers and by sitting beside her spinning wheel. She rarely talked to anyone. The only recreation for her was in the afternoon when she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows. A kind hearted person, in village she used to feed street dogs, here in city she focused on birds and they too became very friendly with her. This was the phase when she found herself totally isolated and aloof but she braved this isolation with grace and dignity.
Khushwant’s grandmother was a strong person. Whatever she went through in her heart she always restrained herself from demonstrating her emotions. He recalls that when he went abroad for further studies his grandmother was there to see him off on railway station quite calm busy telling the beads of her rosary and reciting prayers as always. When he came back after five years he found her more and more religious and more and more self contained. She spent still more time in prayers and spinning the wheel. Feeding the birds was her only happy pastime. But just the day before her death for the first time she broke this routine and gave up her prayers. That day she sang the songs of the home coming of the warriors on a withered drum along with the ladies of neighborhood in order to celebrate her grandson’s return from abroad. Next morning she got ill. Although the doctor said it was a mild fever and would go away she could foresee that her end was near. She was upset that she omitted her prayers just before the final departure from the world. She did not want to waste any more time talking to anybody. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling the beads till her lips stopped moving and rosary fell from her lifeless fingers. To mourn her death thousands of sparrows flew in and sat scattered around her body in utter silence.They even ignored the breadcrumbs thrown for them by Khushwant’s mother. They only flew away after the corpse was carried away for last rites. 
So this was the charismatic grandmother of Khushwant Singh.


Monday, September 29, 2008

The Lost Child - A critical appreciation

A powerful story by Padma Bhushan Mulk Raj Anand also a recipient of Sahitya Academy Award for his distinguished writings in English language. 
The Lost Child is a universal story written in the perspective of Indian village life. Probably such children and such parents exist in every country and in every society. The most peculiar thing about the story is that throughout the narration the child and the parents are not given any names. The child is the representative of universal childhood and the parents are the true advocates of universal paternity disciplining the child under tight vigilance. But despite all checks and restrictions nothing is of greater importance in the life than the bond of true relationship between a child and his parents.
The Lost Child is all about the thrilling as well as frightful experiences of a small child who accompanies his parents to a village fair on the occasion of spring festival. 
The passage to the fair is full of gaiety, spectacular sceneries and allurements to stimulate the sense organs of any child anywhere in the world. The child is full of excitement, enthusiasm and curiosity. He is very sensitive about the outside world and gets attracted towards everything that comes in his way. All the village folks are dressed in customary colorful dresses and yellow turbans as it is the spring festival and the child is very excited to see such a huge crowd going in one direction busy in merry making, singing, laughing and enjoying every moment of the event.
On the way he gets tempted towards the beautiful toys and meekly pleads his father to buy them for him but father’s cold stare extinguishes his desire and damps his spirit. He is disheartened but very soon he overcomes his disappointment. His eyes are mesmerized when he beholds the scenic beauty of the flowering mustered fields wavering like the ripples of a river with the gust of wind. He gets very curious when he sees the insects coming out of their holes to enjoy the sunshine. The bustling dragonflies with their gauzy purple wings steal his heart. The world of butterflies, bee hives and small insects arouse his curiosity to the core. He runs frivolously to catch them. But his mother’s cautionary call prevents him from getting that pleasure. 
Now he is attracted by the majestic beauty of the grove where an old banyan tree stands sheltering many blossoming trees. The intoxicating perfume of their pollen mingled with soft cool breeze pleases him most and he stands there dumbfounded. A shower of petals falls upon the child and forgetting everything he tries to gather the raining petals. The titillating touch of the soft flowers delights him extremely. The melodious cooing of dove and koel fills his heart with immense pleasure and the sound of flute of a snake charmer hypnotizes him. But his parent’s call pulls him back from his paradise and a little bit disgusted he follows them obediently. His mouth waters for his favorite sweet but his demand goes unheeded. He also suppresses his desire to have the scented garland and colorful balloons as his presumptions regarding the eternal denial of his father for everything based on his past experiences warn him not to yearn for them. Knowing well that his parents will not like him to listen to the coarse music of the flute of the juggler he himself dismisses the idea of stopping there. An under current of disappointment, resentment and frustration runs in the heart of the child as he is denied everything he wants to get. But quite stoically he braves the heartlessness of his parents. After making so many sacrifices he reaches a spot where people are enjoying the ride of a roundabout. Mesmerized he watches the motion of the roundabout intently unaware of the fact that he is separated from his parents. This time the child could not resist his desire to go on the ride. Suppressing all his fears and anticipations he makes a bold request to get on the ride but when he looks back he does not find his parents there to answer him. The child calls them aloud but his calls remain unanswered. He gets confused and panic stricken. In utter bewilderment he runs to and fro to look for them but to no avail. A kind person takes pity on the child and tries to console and comfort him. Just to divert his mind he offers him all of his favorite things he desired most to have previously but all of a sudden they all lose significance for the child. Constantly he goes on crying, ”I want my mother I want my father.” This proves that nothing is of more importance for the child than the protective and caring shelter of his parents. 
The language of the story is very rich. Description of the mustered fields and grove is very poetic and vivid. The writer has a deep insight in the psychology of the child. The power of the story lies in the skillful narration of joys and expectations, the tender feelings and excitements, and the fears and misapprehensions of the child’s mind. The story has the element of pathos throughout its narration. The child wins all the sympathy of the readers when his desires and demands remain unfulfilled and in the end he loses his parents too. He becomes truly a lost child.

Idgah – A Critical Appreciation

Idgah – A Critical Appreciation  
Idgah is a very powerful story written by Munshi Premchand, a well known Hindi Writer . It casts a strong impact on the minds of it’s readers. This story is a must read piece of literature by the readers of all ages. It has been picked from the book “Maansarovar”, a popular collection of stories by the author .  

Hamid , the hero of the story is a small boy of 4-5 years . He has lost his parents in his early childhood. Now his caretaker and guardian is his old grandmother Amina, whom he calls Dadi and with whom he lives in a small village. They are very poor because they have no source of income. Literally hand to mouth, the duo are passing their days in utter poverty . Old Amina tries to fulfill their daily needs doing some needle work for others. Still Hamid is a happy child and is full of love , compassion and hope because his Dadi has told him that very soon his father would return home with lots of money from abroad and his mother would bring many gifs and sweets for him from the house of Allah Mian . Hamid completely trusts his Dadi says and is waiting eagerly for his parents to come back with lots of fortune for them. 

Once on the occasion of Id festival Hamid goes for Idgah along with other children of the village to offer Namaz and then enjoy the tour of the traditional village fair . Poor Hamid doesn’t have new clothes and shoes like other children . Unlike his friends who have enough pocket money to spend on toys, sweets and rides Hamid has only three paise as idi in all to spend which his Dadi could hardly spare. Still he is very happy and full of excitement. 

After offering prayers all the children get busy enjoying various kinds of joyrides like Hindola and Charkhi . But wise Hamid dismisses this wastage of money for momentary pleasure . After enjoying rides all the kids rush to buy colorful clay toys which took away the hearts of viewers when displayed neatly in the shop . Little Hamid is also very much tempted with the exclusive beauty of the toys but his wisdom prevents him to spend his small amount on these perishable items . His friends buy many toys like Bhishti, lawyer, policeman and a milkmaid . But wise Hamid overcame his temptation and turns away from the shop of toys . While roaming in the fair he sees a pincer, a chimta, in a hardware shop . Hamid recalls that without chimta how his Dadi burns her fingers while making chapaties for him . Kind hearted Hamid exhausts his entire idi in buying the chimta for Dadi without any regret that neither he enjoyed any ride nor did he purchase any toy for himself nor he was left with a single paisa to satisfy his hunger while all other children were enjoying all kinds of sweets and eatables right in front of him . The story is an unparallel saga of a small child with extraordinary wisdom and maturity better than any adult .He sacrificed all his share of enjoyment when the need of his Grandma stands before him to be weighed . 

Although Hamid is ridiculed and teased by other boys for his useless purchase, he convinces and silences all his friends with his witty and intelligent arguements that how his chimta is better than their perishable toys and that it can defeat their lawyer or Bhishti or policeman in no time and would last forever while their clay toys would be thrown away in the garbage within couple of hours . In this section of the story the dialogues of the children are very interesting and it is also funny that how all the children start acknowledging the supremacy of Hamid’s chimta and are tempted to exchange their purchase with it .It is a perfect example that Munshi Premchand had a keen insight into child psychology. All the children who were then trying to humiliate and ridicule Hamid now are keen to be friends with him and are satisfied enough if they get the chance to touch his unbeatable and invincible chimta even for once. The most poor and subdued boy of the entire group returns home from the fair most triumphant and victorious like a hero. 

The story has touching end when Hamid gifts the chimta to his Dadi . At first instance Dadi is very much shocked, irritated and annoyed at the stupidity of the boy that instead of eating anything or buying any toy or enjoying any kind of ride all he could find to purchase was this chimta . Initially Hamid gets scared to see the reaction of his Dadi, but when he tells her that he has bought this chimta for her because daily she burns her fingers in making chapaties, Amina is stunned at the sensitivity of the child and is full of regret and repentance at her own outburst. She bursts into tears and blesses him for his kindness . Here the small boy of 4-5 years plays the part of a protecting and comforting adult and the good old Dadi is crying inconsolably like a small child . This is the magical outcome of the story. It is my all time favorite story .