Portrayal of Women in the Novels of Manju Kapur

Negotiatingwomanhood in the Novels of Manju Kapur BY DR. RAM SHARMA, SENIOR LECTURER, DEPT OF ENGLISH, J.V.P.G COLLEGE,BARAUT,BAGHPAT,U.P. – AND -Neelam jain, Principal-M.R.International School Jagadhry Road, Bilaspur Yamuna Nagar, Haryana, Pin-135102

Though the concept of woman as a prime negotiator is as old as mankind itself, for it becomes a sine qua non for her social existence and discharge of responsibilities, yet it gained currency during the Victorian era, which was significant for the spirit of conflict and compromise in political, social, economic and cultural sphere. In politics a woman was raised to the status of heading a state that was to be an empire, in which -the sun did never set’; in social sphere woman came to a compromising position, when Tennyson, the representative poet, went to the extent of saying, -he to command, she to obey’. Since ages woman is in negotiation with her male counterpart as well as our androcentric society. Women are an integral part of human civilization. No society or country can ever progress without an active participation of women in its overall development. Unfortunately, men have always looked down upon women as the weaker sex, as their property and object of pleasure. Down the ages women have been denied existence as a complete and independent human being; they have been given secondary place both in society and family. A large number of women are reconciled to a life of humiliation in the form of gender biased ness while performing the roles of daughters, wives and mothers in a rigidly custom-bound environment they live in. The quandary of women is that they have to endure from birth to death. In the male-dominated structure they have to face prejudice, oppression, slur and abuse, regardless of their physical and mental capability to perform at par with men. . Even in Anushashan Parva it is being said. (All her glorification, all her fulfillment lies in sacrificing her life and happiness for the sake of man in different forms father, husband and the son). The women characters of Manju Kapur do not merely confirm to male expectations or conflict with male world.. Manju Kapur’s heroines negotiate for their independence and a respectable place in society. Manju Kapur’s heroine is mentally advanced in the real sense of the world, whether she is Ida, Rupa, Nisha, Astha or Nina. Manju Kapur understands the importance of adjustments and compromises in a family. Almost all of her female characters: Virmati after marriage, Sona, Nisha, and Astha are negotiating here and there in life to make their own and their family members’ life happy. The harmony in family relationships and their stability also depend on the behaviour and pent-agonic attitude of a woman as a wife, a mother, a sister, and a daughter. Difficult Daughters is a strange story of mother-daughter bonds. Kasturi does not appreciate the freedom that her daughter Virmati demands and craves for. In this way unknowingly, the mother becomes the voice of patriarchy. Later on the same attitude is followed by Virmati also for her daughter; Ida also suffers alone in silence as she is not able to share her complexes with her mother, same had happened with Virmati also twenty years back. The absence of a positive support and sympathy shoulder of her mother leads Virmati to look for sympathy outside the home. Virmati’s daughter Ida says in the beginning line of the novel, -The one thing I had wanted was not to be like my mother.-(Kapur 1) Two pairs of mother-daughter bonds are described in the novel and both are deeply invaded with conflicts and compromises. Virmati wanted that after her death, her body organs should be donated to help the other people who are in need of those organs; actually she thought that in this way she would be valued by someone at least. A few days before her death Virmati said: -I want my body donated. My eyes, my heart, my kidneys, any organ that can be of use. That way someone will value me after I have gone.-(Kapur 1 ) Above said lines of Virmati are enough to reflect her negotiation with this world. Till the end time of her life, she was fighting for her rights to be respected and valued as an independent human being. Virmati’s negotiation doesn’t end even with her death; her negotiation to get some importance is made continued by her daughter, Ida, who has tried to rediscover her mother’s life to give her deserved respect and value. In Difficult Daughters novel we observe the negotiation of women with society as well as with other women also. Sometimes it happens that woman who herself is not able to protest for her rights transfer this failure to her daughter also. Daughters have to carry the impact of their mother’s personality and vision unconsciously. There is no escape for a girl from her mother’s shadow, Usha Kurjekar writes in an article, But the daughter Ida can also have no escape from her mother, just as Virmati the daughter could not have from her mother, Kasturi. Ida, nevertheless, confirms the centrality of her mother which brings about the positive stature of Virmati in the novel. (Kurjekar 233) A lot of adjustments were required from the side of Virmati as the second wife of Harish moreover she suffered a total breakup from her parental family also. Virmati was given a pariah status and faced exclusion from hearth etc which was the sole domain of the Professor’s first wife Ganga. Virmati had strained relations with her mother, daughter, husband’s family and even with her siblings also, whole of her life was a bundle of conflicts and compromises. Virmati’s strict attitude towards Ida and the pressure of high expectations never allowed them to be close enough to understand each other properly: I grew up struggling to be the model daughter. Pressure, pressure to perform day and night. My father liked me looking pretty, neat and well-dressed, with kaajal and a little touch of oil in my sleeked-black hair. But the right appearance was not enough. I had to do well in school, learn classical music, take dance lessons so that I could convert my clumsiness into grace, read all the classics of literature, discuss them intelligently with him, and then exhibit my accomplishments graciously before his assembled guests at parties. (Kapur 279) For Ida, Virmati herself selected a boy, well educated and well settled, but she lost her battle there also as the marriage was proved to be a disastrous. Ida’s husband was a selfish man; Ida always posed to be happy with the boy had chosen by her mother, but at last the real picture came in front; he divorced Ida. A continuous negotiation is an integral part of all these relationships. Our purpose is to explore the negotiation of women in various relationships. . Manju Kapur’s novel Home is a story of three women’s negotiation: Sona, Sona’s daughter Nisha, and Sona’s sister Rupa. A ll women in the story are unhappy for one or the other reason. Sona is beautiful and married to a rich businessman also but unhappy because she is child less even after the ten years of her marriage and forced to take care of Vicky; after ten years she is blessed with a daughter first and then a son also. Rupa is unhappy because of not being beautiful and rich as her sister moreover she is also childless. Rupa has started a small business to improve her economic condition. The third generation is more assertive and wants to negotiates for her rights; Nisha fights for her happiness; As Nisha is an educated girl she has a modern approach towards life and relationships, she falls in love with a boy from low caste and economically also poor; she finds him attractive and good marriage material. Her dreams are badly tattered by her family. Nisha feels very humiliating to sit at home and wait for a proper marriage proposal. She makes her father agreed to support her for an independent business. Nisha’s hard work proves her successful daughter of a successful businessman. Nisha’s business is going on very nicely then why she has accepted a proposal from a middle aged widower? Why marriage is so important for her when she knows she might have to lose her business also; it is her conditioning that goaded her to do so; it is the grip of the spirit of Indian women who needs men to stand beside them like a sheltering tree. She feels incomplete without the company of man. Her thirst for family life compels her to come to terms with man.- (Das 30) Nisha leaves her business contentedly for the shake of her children; it is her own decision only because of the pressure of situation, now she knows she can build it again whenever she wants. It’s not Nisha’s loss, it is only her way of settlement which many women do when they have to bear the liability of their children along with their job, and some times they willingly choose their children and family. This is Nisha’s negotiation, the story of a brave girl who leaves her economic stability but it is not loosing the battle; the battle is being continued for Nisha and for every girl who has the stamina to negotiate for her rights: Manju Kapur in her novel A Married Woman explores few facts which are enough to demystify the married life of a middle class Indian working woman through the character Astha she brings forth the hard realities, anxieties, the depression and the dangers associated with half truths and old myths. Through the personal private lives of these characters writer exposes the tension spread in the two states of a mind. In the novel the protagonist Astha dares to cross the threshold of society by making lesbian relations and its reason is also explored very nicely. Marriage is actually totally different from what it appears in parties and films or described in mythology. Search of fantasy sometimes leads a person for some viable alternative: extra martial affairs and lesbian relations. Whatever woman is snatching from this society for her is only the result of her continuous negotiation with this word and all this brings some deformities in her personality as split personality. The novel A Married Woman is a story of a middle class girl Astha, her parents’ efforts in bringing her up according to the social standards, and her quest of love and freedom as an individual. Ashtha’s father is having modern views and wants to adorn her daughter with good education; he wants to make her fit for future as an independent individual of society where as her mother is more traditional and believes in the vision of shastras, -if parent die without getting their daughter married, they will be condemned to perpetual rebirth?-(Kapur 1) Manju Kapur describes many rituals of the marriage in a very symbolic way: -father waiting to do the kanyadaan, the feel of her hand in the hand- (Kapur 37) as if girl is a thing and now the girl is given to a man to use as he wants her in his house. How nicely Manju Kapur has used our traditions to highlight downtrodden condition of a woman. At the time of havan in marriage -hot air- and smoke- are the words indicating that marriage is a beginning of a harsh journey. Within a few months of marriage Astha’s life is taking shades of dullness as she has to wait for long hour to be a part of Hemant’s company. Astha has joined a school as a teacher; with this Astha’s periphery stretches a little and she has got a chance of interaction with other people also outside the house. Astha is now absorbed in her job of teaching and jobs of family; though an emancipated , educated and modern woman Astha is still grabbed in age old thoughts; as a wife she takes pleasure in serving her husband; she enjoys sitting close to his feet and pulling out his socks when he comes back from office in the evening. Kapur has pointed these details to give us a blow to think that when will we women leave this attitude? Woman is suppressed by man it is true but when will she herself break this old age shackle and makes her free from such mental slaving and conditioning? When will she negotiates with herself? When will she be able to differentiate between love and slavery? . Hemant ruins her dreams as well as all happiness of her life; their life becomes dull and drier, -Hemant wasn’t really listening Astha stopped talking about creative writing as he got up to lock the door.- (Kapur 51) Astha gives birth to a girl Astha’s child provides and emotional support to her; Astha’s life has been enriched by her; Astha feels a self realization through her child. Astha observes changes in Hemant’s attitude towards herself; occasionally she tries conveying this to Hemant who finds nothing wrong in their relationship. On Astha’s demand to give some time to their relationship he replies that he has no time for such games and courting will not be continued forever she knows, -she had lost argument before she had been able to define its parameters. . . But I am not happy, so how can you. . . -You think too much that is the trouble.’-(Kapur 66) In school Astha’s work gets appreciation; school is the only place where her work gets recognition; at home her work is taken for granted; nobody cares for her needs and every body at home has many expectations from her that she feels trapped in all one way relationships. Astha starts painting and writing to give outlet to her suppressed emotions although writing -alleviated the heaviness within her, a heaviness she found hard to deal with.- (Kapur 79) Astha’s relations are not very warm with her mother also; as she wants Astha’s early marriage but Astha didn’t; as she was responsible for the break-up of Astha’s first love relationship also. There relations are still not healthy for her mother is very orthodox and always preferred to discuss all her money matters with Hemant instead of Astha. Astha’s second painting is sold by the Manch in twenty thousand, Astha feels rich and powerful; while shopping in Goa Astha likes an antique silver box which costs five thousand rupees, Hemant refuses to purchase that, -You must be out of your mind; said Hemant. The tone, the refusal both hurts her.-(Kapur 165) Astha meets Peepilika, her lover’s wife; they come closer to fulfill each other’s loneliness. They have developed an emotional as well as physical relationship; a lesbian relationship. Perhaps it is a rebellious act; through such relations Astha consoles herself that she is important for someone at least; this relationship may be considered as revenge from family and society for ignoring her individuality; this is a reply to an unfaithful husband. Through the character Astha Manju Kapur wants to show the urge of a modern woman to break the dependency syndrome of women. She is able to present beautifully her character Astha’s negotiation with this male dominated society . The Immigrant ,Manju Kapur’s this novel is about woman and her changes in her vision and various relationships in this speedily changing world. Nina the protagonist is unmarried till her thirtieth birthday, her relations with her widow mother, her late marriage, her turning from a meek wife to a daring woman, and her valiant absconding of the mechanical relationship with her dentist husband are the main concerns of our study. In short we can say that story takes it force from the various sufferings of a girl who grows into a woman while negotiating with this male dominated world at every step, and unchained her from the age old dependency syndrome of womanhood. Nina also wants to marry and enjoy the life; she feared to think about many spinsters of her college. Nina describes them as -signposts to depressing, lonely futures- (3) Nina’s father was died when she was a small girl studying in school. Mother tolerated a lot of torture from her in-laws in order to educate her daughter as she has no ways of earning to survive she has to bear all negative comments. Nina’s mother belong to the generation of woman who never thinks to be independent living, they always look for support towards husband or his family for that they accepted to slave them. Nina after doing gradation joins a job and called her mother to stay with her. Since the day of Nina`s marriage with Ananda everything is going wrong, we are getting direct hints of some small problems which may compile up in a big problem: Their first meeting after marriage is not successful, problems in getting visa, harassment at airport and now surprising discloser of Ananda’s non-vegetarian habit Nina is waiting what else is waiting for her. Ananda never gives importance to Nina’s feelings he always consider her as a beautiful present or trophy he has brought from India. Nina tries whatever possible from her side to convince her husband to take infertility tests but all her negotiation gives no fruit; she feels lonelier in this unknown country. Nina joins a co-councilor group where she begins to think like an individual not only as Ananda’s wife. Rightly says Ursula K LeGuin, -Nina’s liberation from frustration and solitude begins with a consciousness-raising group of women-bra burners. . .- (LeGuin 1) Nina reads a lot about women and her continuous negotiation with this society, women’s courage, her freedom and integrity etc. According to Nina a woman’s happiness neither is related with materialistic pleasures nor does it depend on fertility or husband’s sexuality. Her future is as vague as on the day of her wedding. Nina joins a course of librarian and falls in love with Anton her one of married colleague. And they have crossed all social boundaries of their married life; as soon as the excitement over Nina feels a little guilty about what she has done but she overcome on her guilt and accepts that this is a normal thing in this country: Two years back when Nina was new in Halifax, her habit of being vegetarian is the way to preserve the tradition of her Indianness. But after having physical relationship with Anton it seems hypocritical to keep vegetarianism for the sake of tradition, and tries non-veg to become an international person. Life is easier now; Nina is no more an outsider or different mentally as well as in habits and ways of living. Nina’s relationship with Anton ends up abruptly when she has realized that she has no importance in Anton’s life.. Nina has a fighter spirit she never gives up in hard times; she is struggler by heart. She decides to continue her negotiation with this society; it is her right to be happy. After the death of her mother, when Nina comes back to Halifax with a heavy heart, she has observed a blonde hair on the pillow, this one hair is enough to explain everything: -the distance, the silence, the ticket for two months- (Kapur 327) Nina has not asked anything about hair and pretends to be normal with Ananda. She accepts the bitter truth of her jarred relationship; if she asks question she has to confess her own crime also. Nina never finds an answer why they betrayed each other. Nina craves for love and a feeling of to be important for someone. She does not want to be a piece of furniture at home to serve a purpose of decoration or used when is required by the owner of house. She no more feels this house as her own house where she has freedom to live a life of her choice. . This is not the first time that she is leaving a loveless relationship: first time she breaks up with Rahul for this reason, second time it was Anton and now Ananda her husband. As a famous saying of Frederick Speakman, -Decision determine destiny- Nina also want to write her destiny herself, in her own handwriting. Nina always comes up as a confrontationist. It has been observed that Manju Kapur’s heroine wants to assert for her rights, she struggles for the respect and importance she deserves but at the same time she is not a heartless feminist, she returns to her roots whenever it is required by her family. These protagonists neither adopt extreme aggressive, revolutionary way, nor they are adhering to the stereotype role; they are balanced personalities who realize their potential and rise as good negotiators. Although all the heroines of Manju Kapur have paid big prices in this negotiation for their individuality: Veermati suffers total break-up from her parental family and she suffers a lot neglect at her husband’s house also, Astha drops her relations with a her very close friend, Nisha have to marry a widower, and Nina has gone through the pain of being raped by her lover as well as she has to chose a life of separation and loneliness but this price is nothing because they prove that they are no more dependent on men. In this negotiation though woman is able to gain some thing but still the horizon is very far and she has to walk miles and miles to reach there. We can say these heroines are providing ray of hope to the coming generation. A day will come when woman’s continuous negotiation would provide a respectable place to her in heart and head of man..

References: Banerji, Mithu C. -Lesbian Passion Forged in a Land of Turmoil- http//www.guardian.co.uk/600ks/2003/feb/23/fiction.features4 Chotai, Nutan. -Changing Faces of Women in Manju Kapur’s Home-, Contemporary Fiction: An Anthology of Female Writers. Ed. Vandana Pathak, Urmila Dabir, Shubha . New Dehli: Sarup & Sons, 2008. Print. Das, Sangeeta, -The Predicament of Women as Reflected in the Works of Contemporary Indian Women Writers-, Indian Women Writers, Ed. R. K. Dhawan. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 2001. P.30. Kapur, Manju. Difficult Daughters. London: Faber and Faber, 1998. —. A Married Woman. New Delhi: India ink, 2007. —. Home. New Delhi: Random House India, 2007. —. The Immigrant. New Delhi: random House India, 2008. Kurjekar, Usha. -Mother-Daughter Relationships in Fasting Feasting and Difficult Daughters-. ed. Vandana Pathak, Urmila Dabir, Shubha Mishra. Contemporary Fiction Anthology of Female Writters. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2008. P.233. LeGuin, Ursula K. -The Guardian-, Saturday 18 April 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/bookshop 1.Anushashan Parva, Chapter 21, Verse 19.