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Chapter -2

FEMINISM IN MANJU
KAPUR’S NOVELS

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CHAPTER – II

FEMINISM IN MANJU KAPUR’S NOVELS

2.1 Feministic Vision

Feminism is the persuasion that all people should be treated equally heedless of
religion, gender and sexes. It also includes the idea that a person’s gender does not define
his/her value and who he/she is. Being a woman or a man should not put a person at an
overall disadvantage. It is based on the high evaluation of women as human beings and
rejects the assignment of roles based on gender.

Feminists generally may vary in their opinion towards the females. Their prime
aim is to focus on the burning issues of women in the male dominated society. They have
been trying their best to improve the status of women in the society. Some of the feminists
firmly believe in individual change whereas the rest of believe collective efforts of the
women. Feminists are also against the freedom which women are getting in society is
required to be structured or a revolutionary transformation of structure of the society is
required. Feminists always get benefit of our strength by collective efforts and mutual
supports, despite the fact that we have made all the efforts. Feminist recognize that it is not
only women who have been oppressed; we therefore support liberation from oppression of
every kind, such as racism, class privilege, and discrimination against homosexuals.

Feminism, then, represents as intellectual, ethical, and political position that can
be espoused by women or men. It provides a major justification for the development of the
women’s studies and makes explicit its most fundamental assumption. (Women studies can

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be understood as the academic manifestation of feminism.) It is outgrowth of a realization
that we know little about women, and its purpose is to provide a means of replacing
ignorance with knowledge. As the scholarly discipline of feminism, women’s studies
receive support from feminist commitment outside that academic community and provide
knowledge and activities to help women’s efforts both, inside and outside the academy.

Manju Kapur presents the women of the 1940’s, where they had no voice to assert
their rights, most important the voices of the protagonist. To claim the rights of economic
independence, she raises the voice against male chauvinism. Manju Kapur makes the
woman a cult figure that fights against social and joint family restriction and constraints
laid by the patriarchy in the tradition. As far as women are concerned, in Indian culture and
heritage, individualism, quest for identity, protests and concepts of rebelliousness have
often remained alien ideas. For their rights, women are not supposed to raise voices against
injustice or customs, rituals and superstition. In the patriarchal system women have to
merely exist. Women have to be obedient, quiet, submissive and passive not claiming any
of their rights neither as women nor as a human being. As a post colonial writer Manju
Kapur has significantly contributed to the progression of Indian fiction. She innately
realizes the position of women in the patriarchal society and deals with the problems of
women.

The day will come when men will recognize woman as he


peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation.
Then, and not until then, will be there be the perfect
comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall
result in the highest development of the race. Susan B.
Anthony (Anthony:1897, 4).

In the conservative society, for a woman, the home has been considered the only
area of activity where she is supposed to find satisfaction in performing her duties in
different roles , mother, sister, daughter and daughter-in-law. For her to desire to go beyond
the limits of home is considered to be wrong as it is her place or duty. The home is really

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an interior space and a persona in itself. The threshold restricts a woman’s physical and
mental world which marks her boundaries.

The women seem to be the personification of new women who have been carrying
the burden of embarrassment since ages and wants to be free now. She clearly exhibits the
difficult situation of women who carry the problem of being female as well as the added
responsibility of being mothers to their own sex. In the age old tradition, marriage is
regarded as the ultimate goal and destiny from which no women can escape. And in a male
dominated society Manju Kapur succeeds in bringing the real picture of women.

In the Image of Women Mary Ann Fergusson says;

One peculiarly of the images of women throughout


history is that social stereotypes have been reinforced by
archetypes (Fergusson: 1993, p.4).

In all times woman has been depicted as ‘a mother, a wife, a mistress or an object
of attraction and their roles have been defined in relationship to male counterpart.
Depictions of women as achievers or leaders have been comparatively few’ (Bhat, pix).
Even these extraordinary portrayals of power and strength are also evident in the qualities
of women which appear to disregard the lives of the ordinary people.

2.2 Feministic Vision: Difficult Daughters, A Married Woman, Home and


The Immigrant

Manju Kapur’s first novel Difficult Daughters published in 1998 and located
primarily in India of the 1940s speaks with great authorities and narrative rhetoric of the
ideas of Freedom). This essay focuses on a number of features and views of Difficult
Daughters. The key theme of Difficult Daughters is the quest for control over ones fate. It
refers to the independence aspired to and acquired by a nation though in two sections. i.e.
India and Pakistan. The freedom desire by a woman and a member of the free nation,

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Virmati the protagonist seeks human relations that will permit her to be herself and to
pursue, the degree of control over her life which as literate woman she knows that she
merits. This novel is the story of three generation of woman-Kasturi, Virmati and Ida. My
research concentration and focus are the life journey of Virmati, the heroine towards a free
life; Kasturi is a traditional woman who wants her children to follow the age old traditions
of religious rituals. During Kasturi’s formal schooling it was never forgotten that marriage
was her destiny. After she graduated, her education continued at home. Her mother tried to
ensure her of future happiness by impeccable nature of her daughter’s qualifications. She
was going to please her-in-laws. (kapur, 58). Ida, the daughter of Virmati is asked to follow
and adjust to the age old traditions of the family, which she shuns and exercises her own
freedom in a much more rebellious way than her mother.

Born in 1940 in Punjab, the daughter of a father of visionary ideas and a traditional
mother Kasturi, who has given birth to eleven siblings she desires to a freer life than that
offered her by those around her. This expectations is doomed to failure, thanks to the in
comp. Misconception (incomprehension) she gets frown her own family and that of the
man she marries- but also thanks to her own follies, for no one compelled her to marry to
become his wife, and she was free not to make the choice she does. A typical arranged
marriage is offered to Virmati, like any other sub-continental woman. She opposes against
the wishes of the family to the lasting shame of her family above all her mother. She
insisted her right to be educated; she leaves home to study in Lahore. Hereby, she falls in
love with a teacher who resides in Amritsar and who is known as ‘the professor’, a married
man. She comes in contact with him as her parent’s tenant. After a number of unpleasant
changes that occurred daring the development of her life including a period at a school as
Principal in a small Himalayan state, she ultimately marries the man she thinks she love,
and comes back to Amritsar to be with her love. But he refuses to abandon his first wife
and the results for Virmati are severe indeed; she ends up being isolated and degraded by
her own family and her husband. Ida Virmatis only daughter is the mouthpiece, who tries
to reconstruct her mother’s life story against the background of the freedom movement of
the 1940s to the present day experiences and influences.

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To an extent, Virmatis case may be seen as representative up but not entirely. In
the social movements, it is famous that woman participated in the freedom struggle. Whole
heartedly this led up to independence and subsequent partition. Dora sales Salvador in her
Spanish translation emphasized Manju Kapur’s reference of woman as a force fought
shoulder to shoulder with her make counterparts wishes or desires an equal opportunity us
in all fields. ‘Difficult Daughters’ is a story not only of Virmati but of other ‘Difficult
Daughters’ who feared better than Virmati in their similar struggles for freedom in their
lives. The focus of the story is that, we are faced with a woman who struggles but falls by
the wayside. Her case is less representative but still symbolic, we may come across other
woman whose relative success points a way to the future.

Beyond doubt, the happiest and the most attractive period in Virmati’s life is that
which she spends in Nahan, the capital of Sirmaur, the small Himalaya state by the
Maharaja which gives her shelter for a brief period as the headmistress of a girls school.
Presently Sirmaur is now a part of federal state of Himachal Pradesh. It is where she
achieves the greatest degree of control over her life: There are rules she has to obey
breaking then certainly brings her down, but she is able to work in an ordered set up, her
performance gives her an earned venerate and regal. Though in modern literature, we can
witness a single woman or a widowed woman, as teacher or headmistress, but Virmati’s
destiny at this point of her life, is that she has to be cautiously discharge her duties entirely
by her own self. She has complete ability to make her own decisions about what to do
rather than being influenced by someone else, as she has no family near her. For the first
time she is all on her own to live, Vitginia, Woolfs famous ‘A Room of one’s own and yet
she falls’ Now she feels a need of man, but she fails to make a right choice going back to
a relationship that had already brought her pain and sufferings.

The Secrets visits of her lover professor are known to the employers, as a result of
this she is compelled to quit the job. During the retrospect, the life Nehan period appears
as one of the Vtopian movement in Virmati’s miserable and suffering life. This
apprehension of a distant Utopia is stronger if the 21 st century reader recalls that there are
happenings and incidents from past changes that took place dariny the time of Maharaja’s.
There were, more than 500 princely states of Pre-Independence and pre-Partition India,

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Varying different sizes, miniscule state or territory like sirmaur. The novelist Kapur states:
‘Nahen, clean and prosperous was ruled by an extremely enlightened royal couple (182).
It is often thought that all Maharaja’s are retrogrades sarcastic and exploitative like the
Nawab of Bahawalpur. (Who has been strongly.) What she finds gains from Nahen, is a
certain life style- employment in an remote but well organized mini state, and
psychological and mental relief.

She still had another option open to her. That is an opening she sees, but which she
ultimately fails to obtain she could have gene to Shantiniketan, a location of modern Indian
spiritual place in west Bengal where, thanks to the good office of Rabindranath Tagore,
education and instructions succeeded under the propitious of the great poets, liberal
philosophy; the seat of Vishwabharti, the foundation of established by Rabindranath
Tagore himself, where women were accepted as a matter of principal as participate in the
education process.

Thoughts of the professor (Kept her mind busy) Harish visits Virmati in Lahore and
enjoy their life. She, gets pregnant she goes to Amritsar to get a gold bangle from her father
only to sell it for her abortion. Prof. Harish enjoys with her but neither should he as the
responsibility nor the abortion. This dressing incident hurts Virmati more and decides not
to have any further relationship with prof., the place that she produces with her employers
to prevent open (Scandal) the immorality, but which also portrayed a real possibility for
Virmati. Had Virmati completed the journey which she never finished, she could have
remolded her life there: she could have net new people, maintained her freedom, at the very
least she could have found new opportunities. However, she has to change the train in
Delhi, and the long waiting time opens up a trap that she falls into; she comes in contact
with a companion for friend in the capital who is also a friend to the professor. The ray of
hope of spiritual awakening, of a renewed autonomy, fades into the distance.

Married life with the professor turned out to be a disaster for Virmati. She lost
confidence under the antagonistic store (looks) of the professor’s first wife Ganga, and his
mother whom she has to live. She loses all sense of individuality: the continuation of has
higher education in the degree of philosophy, without much (zeal), sees no more dreams of

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freedom gradually, her individual past dissipates and becomes all the more loser
importance In spite of all this Virmati in the passage of her life came across other women,
who like her desired to a different life, and who when she returns back after her studies all
the members of the family have gone to Kanpur because of communal strife. After some
time she gets pregnant again and blessed with a girl child named Ida, the narrator. The
name Ida implies a new state of consciousness, a fresh beginning (Prasad, 163).

Though her life, Virmati is educated with the potential of being economically
independent. She is a guiding light for the women of the times. The major far moil which
erupted of her life springs from her craving for the professor. She felt out of place, an
outcaste amogst all these women. She thought of Harish who loved her. She must be
satisfied with that. These larger spaces were not for her. She felt an impostor sitting in the
hall. Again, scenes from her private life came unbidden before her eyes (Kapur, 144). No
other area of conflict is visible as far as Virmati is concerned.

The female characters that portrayed in Difficult Daughter like Shakespeare cousin
and Swarnalata, her roommate in Lahore represent the militant female type that occurs in
Indian literature. The reference of Shakuntala, the Indian reader atones recognizes the
heroine of Kalidasa’s great classical Sanskrit drama. The young girl who deserted by her
husband king Dushyant, finally, gets recognition of her rightful place. We should not forget
many women who took part in the freedom struggle and the gentian Satyagraha movement:
noteworthy literary evidence to them is Kanthapura, Raja Rao’s novel of 1938 which tells
the story through a female narration. Daisy the ultimate character of R.K. Narayana’s The
Painter of Signs chooses to remain loner, or Malti Trivedi, the progressive, activist of
ViKram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, appears curious.

Lata: the convergence of names between Seth’s ‘Lata’ and Kapur’s ‘Swarnalata’ is
an another possibility of intersexuality achieved success better than she did. In Virmati’s
stretched family, Shakuntala, her cousin seen from the, beginning, as a model of the
modern or ‘liberated’ women. Even after her marriage, she studies, teaches and actively
participates in the political- Gandhian movement. She keeps a strong hold on her freedom
and her freedom of action and thought, marriage is not the only thing in life. The war, the

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Satyagraha movement because of all these things women are coming out of their houses-
gossiping, family feuds, and at last going to jail. Thus, Shakuntala becomes a centre of
attraction for Virmati: ‘Virmati listened … drawn towards Shakuntala, to one whose
responsibilities went beyond a husband and children’ (17). She shares her liberated views
and life style with a group of friends whose activities she elaborately tells her cousin: We
travel, entertain ourselves in the evening, follow each others work, read papers, attend
seminars. One of them is even going abroad for higher studies. Later, on Swarna Lata
Virmati encounters a woman who leads a similar life style; her friend, an ultra-committed
activist, takes her to a meeting of the Punjab women’s student conference where she shines
as an orator: ‘Heavy applause broke out as Swarna finished speaking’ (145). Swarnalata
carries on her political activity even after her marriage, expressing herself on the matter to
Virmati as follows:

“We have plenty of married women working with us. I’m married, aren’t I?” (252).
A parallel distinction between the careers of Shakuntala and swarna can be drawn, although
the criteria needs to be achieved. It is the only occasion when they meet, their views do not
merge. As Manju Kapur asserts:

Ultimately, the choice of political activities does not


please Virmati, as she herself become aware. I am not
like these women. They are using their minds,
organizing, participating in conferences, being politically
active, while my time is spent being in love (Kapur: 1998,
142).

Further Manju Kapur narrates that:

She chooses her own path which leads to the professor


where as Swarna does not tread on the path led by
Virmati, a with whom she finally compelled to break off
her contacts: ‘And Swarna dropped out of her life’
(Kapur: 1998, 252).

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The life of Shakuntala and Swarnalata are much more successful, both symbolically
well educated, politicize and women with liberal views whereas, Virmati’s life is wretched.
The Psychological obliterate of Virmati at the hands of her own family and her husband
should not be treated as mercy inevitable. Virmati’s destiny is no doubt the most
representative of the Indian women even if they are literate, Kapur’s novel points out to
the other avenues, exiting which are by no means simple and lucid.

The heroine of Difficult Daughters, Virmati is the eldest of the siblings totaling
eleven in all. She is under the pressure of familial responsibility from a young age. She lost
her childhood in serving and carrying her younger ones, never giving up her studies inspite
of all these hardships. She is born to a typical traditional family which is immersed in
following the old tradition of giving their daughters in marriage after receiving a basic
qualification of keeping after the house. Due to her desire for higher education there are
many ups and downs she has to face. But she makes up her mind as Manju Kapur narrates:

She too had to go to Lahore, even if she had to fight her


mother who was practically over (Kapur: 1998, 17).

She has to face of hostilities after her unsuccessful attempt in her education.
Virmati’s family members particularly her mother Kasturi forces her to get married but she
seeks to have her own identity and experience the independence just like her cousin
Shakuntala. Once her cousin Shakuntala visits her house and gives a motivational talk of
woman’s freedom and the freedom she is experiencing being a woman. After this visit,
Virmati’s life style completely changes and she begins to think about the possibility of
being something other than a wife. An endless debate aroused between ‘education against
marriage’. Everyone ignores her. Virmati wants to make her English proficient, which her
mother considers it as futile. According to her mother Kasturi, the responsibility of looking
after one’s family is husband and children are the most significant duties than the education
or anything else. Virmati fails to convince her mother and she gets herself engaged to an
irrigation engineer Inderjeet. Virmati desired to take up responsibilities other than
becoming a mere wife and mother.

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May be here was the club to her unhappiness. It was
useless looking for answer inside the home. One had to
took outside. To education, freedom and the bright lights
of Lahore college (Kapur: 1998, 15).

Virmati opines that:

My parents are unwilling to send me to Lahore to study


further, but when a girl has been educated so far, it is
foolish to not pursue the subject, and I am so far
determined that nothing should stop me. What (Kapur:
1998, 122).

To continue her education, she has to struggle a lot, after her engagement with
inderjeet. She joins the college to do B.A. where she falls in love with the professor. The
professor is a already married man and lives in Virmati’s parent’s house as a tenant.
Virmati’s love for the professor was more cheerful and cherished their inderjeet. She was
getting herself entrapped in professor’s love. She makes a distinction between her finance
and the professor, ultimately rejects to marry Inderjeet and proposes her mother:

Let Indumati marry. Give her the khes you are making.
I don’t want and bedding, poet and pans, nothing?
(Kapur: 1998, 55).

She is thrown away in the god own when Lala Diwanchand, her grandfather
becomes aware Virmati’s affair with the professor. She feels frustrated in her own house
when she becomes aware of the pregnancy of professor’s first wife Ganga. She decides to
start her studies further. She writes a letter to the professor (Harish):

I am going to Lahore to do my B.T.I want to be a teacher


like you and shakuntalaBehenji (Kapur: 1998, 99).

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Here the life journey of ‘a new woman’ begins, who does not want, “to be a rubber
doll for others to move as they willed (85).” She finally decides to cut off her all
relationship with Harish the professor, and burns down all his love letters.

Virmati never respects and agree with the age old tradition but she persuades Ida to
follow the age old tradition and fit and adjust herself in the family. In her effort to keep her
under control, Ida transforms’ into a woman of rebellious nature who is left alone with no
issues, ‘engulfed in melancholy, depression and despair’. The new generation wants to
challenge and disobey its predecessor, and struggle against the psychological state of
influence. Virmati defied Kasturi’s doctrines; Ida could not take up Virmati’s. In the end
Ida says:

This book weaves a connection between my mother and


me, each word-brick in a mansion I made with my head
and my heart. Now live in it Mama and leave me, be. Do
not haunt me any more (Kumar: 2001, 108).

Thus, Ida wanted to bury the ghosts of her mother’s past and move ahead in her life
peacefully.

Manju kapur herself has declared that:

The conflict between mother and daughter is inevitable


in all ages. I suppose I was a difficult daughter myself.
The conflict carries on through generation because
mother’s wants their daughters to be safe. We want them
to make the right choices. My mother wanted me to be
happily married; I want my daughters to have good jobs
(Bala and Chandra: 1999, 107).

Finally, the novel evokes some matters that affecting the issues of women in a male
ruled society were laws for women are legislated by men in the social setup and a husband
stands tall as a ‘sheltering tree’. Under whose shade and guidance, woman has to prove her

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abilities through her endurance. The novelist Manju Kapur has justified this through the
portrayal of Virmati with an idea that…

The emergence of feminist idea and feminist politics


depends and the understanding that, in all societies
which divide the sexes into differing cultural, economic
or political spheres, women are less valued than men.
Feminism also depends on the premise that women can
consciously and collectively change their social place
(Green: 1991, 2).

To sum up we would quote Gur Pyari Jindal that:

It would be a mistake to devalue Virmati’s struggle


because she failed, for what mattered is that she tried to
brake that patriarchal would and she had an inner urge
for independent existence and in the forties it was her
great achievement (Gurpyari: 2003, 4.3).

For right of education, right of choosing her mate in life and economic
independence, like a modern woman Viramati has a great courage to rebel fight against the
male dominated society. Virmati is looked upon as a change’ in the society inspiring every
Indian girl who wishes to decide their own future and declines to be treated like material
things. And her voice symbolizes, the freedom the female yearns foe. In Virmati, one can
see the development of ‘new woman who is sensible, self evaluating, educated and desiring
to shape a life for herself. Virmati’s longing for creating self identity is:

a value charged, almost a charismatic term, with its


secured achievement regarded as equivalent to personal
salvation (Wrong: 1970, 77).

And her search for individuality is:

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a spiritual odyssey of the modern man who has lost his
social and spiritual mornings and who is anxious to seek
his roots (Pathak: 1999, 52).

In order to achieve freedom women seek marriage as an option to the bondage


created by the family. In A Married Woman the central character Astha desires a role of
wife with a hope of achieves freedom. She is the only child of her bureaucrat father and
her mother a god-fearing and traditional woman. Her childhood is full of happiness. In her
teen she falls in love with NDA cadet Bunty her love with Bunty can be considered as
infatuation she likes him very much;

“day and night the through of him kept her insides


churning; she was unable to eat, sleep or study” (Kapur:
2002, 8)

and write letter which was ultimately stopped due to her parents’ complaint to Bunty’s
parents. A month later again she falls in love with Rohan with whom she goes on ride in
his car and enjoys personal moments of touching and fending. Astha feels herself as a
trivial in comparing her life with Rohan. She regards her father as a mener bureaucrat who
has never studied abroad and his:

…sole possession was 180 square Yards in the wilderness


beyond the Jamuna (Kapur: 2002, 29).

She feels dejected and begins to detest Rohan, whom she considers spineless to
admit his love, and her love with Rohan ends as he leaves for his further studies at Oxford.
She is a victim of male passion. Rohan does not realize her emotional disturbance. When
Astha was in her second year of study in English literature, her mother begins to find suitor
in the matrimonial pages. During her mother’s conversation with Astha father, she speaks
that:

There is a time for everything, went on the mother. The


girl is blossoming now. When the fruit is ripe, it has to be

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picked. Later she might get into the wrong company and
we will be left wringing our hands. If she marries at this
age, she will have no problem adjusting. We are not so
young that we can afford to wait (Kapur: 2002, 20).

An alliance comes for Astha and her Denis to meet the stranger she does not like
her parents’ choice of her suitor and feels uncomfortable and totally she is collapsed in
such a way that even after the suitor left she remains in the bathroom.

Another suitor, a US returned business man with an MBA seeks an alliance with
Astha. At first she objects but when her father reveals that the boy is the only son and both
his sisters are married, to which she agrees. In her mother’s opinion he is clearly a good,
family minded boy who does not believe in dowry system. Astha shows greater interest
when she learns about Hemant as a foreign educated MBA. Astha’s engagement gets over
and they both start dating. She is married on an auspicious day. In the earlier days of her
marriage, she is thrilled by the magic of their conjugal life. Hemant loves her deeply and
tells her that he is happy because he wanted to marry ‘an innocent, unspoiled, simple girl’
(41). And it is fulfilled because he regards that Astha is a virgin. But Astha asks herself
whether ‘Had she been a virgin?’ (41). She decides to stop thinking about the past and to
live in the present. She is immensely satisfied with physical union with her husband and
mental satisfaction with her poem and sketches, which is appreciated and applauded by her
husband, she brims with self-confidence.

However, she does not neglect her familial duties as a good wife and daughter in
law. She pleases by her duties, deeply imbibed roots of submission enduringly and devotion
to the family. In her childhood she has seen her mother doing the same which she also does,
Conjugal relations seems to be the sole purpose of her married life. As the days passed by,
Astha has not imagined that sex could be such a, wonderful happenings. She says that:

I haven’t really lived, thought Astha, till now I did not


know what life was all about. She felt a woman of the

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world, the world that was covered with the film of her
desire and the fluids of their sex (Kapur: 2002, 46).

Astha finds completion in her role of an ideal wife and ideal daughter-in-law. All
is well and fells proud to be an important part of the family to share all the problems and
the possible solutions. Her marital life blossoms, and feels her husband is the best person
in the world. So much so that she keeps conceding her desire that:

…..she longed to dissolve herself in him, longed to be the


sips of water he drank, longed to be the morsels of food
he swallowed (Kapur:2002, 46).

A typical Indian girl for whom, a marriage, happens to be the greatest achievement
in her life. Though, her academic accomplishment had been average throughout her
educational career. Astha takes up a job of teaching at a school; she enjoys the financial
freedom and security that came along with an acknowledgement and esteem for her work
which gives a boost to her individuality.

Astha has everything a woman needs a dutiful husband, children and a nice
neighbor-hood in the heart of Delhi. All she needs is to assert her individuality finds
expression through the medium of painting and writing poetry that she makes. Now, Art is
the sole of refuge for her. She struggles put for word her thoughts, emotions and ideas an
canvas and poetry. Astha and Hemant’s do well, the marriage progresses into the expected
pattern. They are blessed with two children – a girl and Anuradha and a boy, Himanshu.
When Astha was pregnant with her first child, then her mother-in-law blessed them to have
a boy child. On this occasion, Hemant deplores and says:

In America there is no difference between boys and girls.


How can this country anywhere if we go on treating our
women this way? (Kapur, 2002, 57).

Hemant’s wish for a girl child is fulfilled. After the birth of a daughter
Anurdhdha, Hemant insisted on giving his daughter a Sunday bath. As he had been

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educated abroad and had seen how couple equally shoulders the responsibility in bringing
up their child. “He insisted on doing this, ideas about fatherhood are so antiquated in India.”
(p.60). Hemant’s desire to have a son and his urge that he would not stop until he has one
male; child makes Astha restless, disturbed awkward. “She cannot father her man” (p.61).
Luckily the second child is male. Now her family is complete. Soon after Astha’s blissful
life receives a blow because:

Between Anuradha’s birth and Himanshu’s, Hemant


changed from being an all – American father to being an
all Indian one (Kapur: 2002, 70).

Hemant declined to help with the upbringing of Himanshu. He had started a T.V.
manufacturing unit in Astha’s name in Noida, he has to travel abroad four times a year.
This makes Astha to cope up the single hardly with her – children, job, house, and toys
with the idea of resigning but does not do so.

……She too had changed from. Being a woman, who


only wanted love, to a woman who valued independence,
Besides there was the pleasure of interacting with minds
instead of means (Kapur: 2002, 72).

Now, she begins to get apache until the doctor advice and operation of nose. She
remains in hospital for four days and during her period of stay, Hemant cares her lovingly
and caringly. Returning from hospital she realizes that her children spend more time with
their grand- parents than with her. She feels lonely, and she complaints to Hemant but in
vain because he too feels faces loneliness saying that she has no time for him but devotes
time for her children and work. Hemant says:

It is all your imagination. When don’t you have me? You


are the one who keep wanting to stay at home with
children, or your school work, or your books when I want
to go to the club (Kapur: 2002, 79).

51
Astha slowly takes up to writing and poetry and this relieves the heaviness within her.
Manju Kapur’s sympathy with Astha can be seen in the following lines:

She wrote about gardens and flowers, the silent dark


faces of gardeners tending plants and never getting
credit. She wrote about love, rejection, desire and
longing. The language was oblique, but it was her own
experience endless replayed” (Kapur: 2002, 79).

Which Hemant thinks is emotional out pouring as


“positively nearotic” (Kapur: 2002, 81). She gives up
writing and starts sketching and drawing after all
“nobody could put two and two together about
painting…. (Kapur: 2002, 87).

Astha’s feeling of loneliness and marginal existence intensifies further when has
own mother after her father’s death decides to sell her property owned by father and hands
over that money to Hemant to be safely in vested for his children Anuradha and Himanshu.
Her mother does it because Hemant has proved his managerial acumen both during his
service and business, where as her daughter Astha never proved her merit either before the
marriage or after that. Moreover:

the sad thing was that she herself would have felt nervous
handing a large sum (Kapur: 2002, 7).

Now Astha, devotes more time to her school, poetry and in painting in order to
curb her hurt feelings. No one raises or publicly announce personal feelings. Astha silently
surrenders and submits to the will of her parents. But when her husband Hemant criticizes
her views on paintings and poetry, she turns into a protagonist and writes a poem:

The eventful release from pain

52
In the tearing relentless separation

From those in habit loved

Can come so slowly

It seems there will never be a day

Of final peace and tranquility (Kapur:


2002, 180).

In this poem, Hemant views her emotions as an attack on male-chauvinism. After


his comment, Astha gives up writing and continues with her sketching. Several times
Hemant reminds Astha of her duties responsibilities towards family more than other
responsibilities Astha devotes more time to her school rather than to her family. With the
passage of time fate takes a curious turn when Aizaz, a theater personality, who is lecturer
in history, organizing street plays to strengthen communal harmony in the country, enters
into her life: he at the same time is an expert at the weaker nerves of the women.

She distinguishes Hemant with Pipee and arrives to the conclusion that it is good
to remain under a male dominance rather than her own gender. She deserts Pipee for
Hemant and for the union of a happy family. Here, she thinks like a married woman. Manju
Kapur has described it well in her novel:

Mechanically she changed, brushed her teeth, put cream


on, got into her side of the bed, pulled the sheet up, and
turning to the very edge lay absolutely still. Motion of
any kind was painful to her. Her mind, heart and body
felt numb …… it continued like this for days. She felt
stretched thin, thin across the globe (Kapur: 2002, 307).

Astha could not decide upon her mind between family and Pipeelika. She is divided
between the two choices. Manju Kapur deliberates on the turbulence which goes in Astha’s
mind in the background against the aftershocks of Hindu-Muslim riots over the matter of
Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. In this respect, Sudarshan remarks:

53
Sense of commitment to her marriage comes in the way f
open protest and rebellion. The grieving widow of the
Muslim professor and Astha finds confront in each
other’s arms. The description of their expression for each
other goes beyond the literary inhibitions, which are
quite unnerving and passionate. It leads the reader
nowhere as both the women go their own ways, since they
cannot have a future together (Sharma: 2013, 50).

He at once begins to shower praises on her script, poetry and painting she thinks
that he is the only one who really understands and values her. Wakde Ishwar remarks, in
this regad, she feels somewhat suffocated, exploited and unnoticed at home. It is Aijaz’s
trust which motivates her to think out of the house. He makes her think about the ongoing
socio-political activities which become her future interest (Wakde, 2). She loves looking
at him on the stage, glances him secretly. On an occasion a touch on her knee surged waves
of sensation and romance in her and she thought,

what did it mean, did he like her, did he want to have an


affair with her, why had she been so started by his hand
on her knee, why hadn’t she responded, but she was a
married woman, with two children----- (Kapur: 2002,
114).

And yet another modern woman Peepilika, who defies tradition, a Hindu works in
an NGO, is also highly impressed with the personality of Aizaz like other women. Their
likeness and closeness strengthen the passion for each other in spite of strong opposition
from their families, get married. The commitment, and the dedication of Aizaz to create
public awareness and to reconstruct the communal unity and brotherhood which led him to
his death.

When Aizaz dies she cannot stop her tears and sentiments. Hemant watching her,
immediately become furious and lost his temper.

54
Why are you crying? He demanded. What was he to you?
Some murderers trap and burn a whole theater group in
a van and you ask me why I am crying? ‘This kind of
thing happens all the times; I don’t see you wasting your
tears.’ ‘I can’t weep for the whole world only when it
means something to me. May be I am deficient, but I
knew him, he was always working foe everybody’s good,
even the children loved him. And he has been burnt to
death. Isn’t that reason enough?’ she sobbed rocking to
and fro with rage and grief.’ (Kapur: 2002, 139)

This is preceded by long processions, stikes and dharanas called Sampradayakta


Mukti Manch. Astha becomes politically active when the Masjid is brought down; she
attends the meeting called by the Manch. She dedicates herself to a purpose beyond her
familial responsibilities. It is during these activities that she comes across Peepilika (pipee).
She earns Rs thirty thousand when an exhibition of her paintings is organized by the
Manch. Herself respect self dependence is greatly hurt, when her husband dissuades her to
purchase an antic silver box. During their stay at Goa, he frowns upon when she mentions
about the money she earned. His superiority attitude, arrogance, excellent wisdom and lack
of interest in her accomplishments totally freeze in her the passage of an ecstasy of the
married life her grief estranged her further. Both the women Astha and Peepilika come
closer to each other due to the common cause, they are facing. They know each other, feel
for each other and start even a lesbian relation. Simone de Beauvior relates this kind of
relationship with one’s own gender as lesbians:

Homosexuality, however, does not always seems to be an


entirely satisfactory solution when a woman is
dominating personality is concerned. Since she seeks self-
affirmation, it is displeasing for her not to realize wholly
her feminine possibilities; heterosexual relations seem to
her at once belittling and enriching; in repudiating the

55
limitations implied by her sex, it appears that she limits
herself in another way (Beauvior:1983, 431).

Manju Kapur also focuses on the lesbian relationship in her novels. Compulsory
Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence (1980) is an easy by Adrienne Rich challenges the
naturalization of heterosexuality pointing out that heterosexuality is not ‘natural’ or innate
but in fact, it is an institution designed to perpetuate male social and economic privilege
and obviously, a construction. Further Rich opines that all relationships between women,
have some lesbian element; for example, mothers and daughters, women who work
together and women who nurse each other. In Indian society homosexuality is mostly a
forbidden subject. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code makes sex with persons of same
gender punishable by law. In India sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly. Our
society does not even acknowledge that women can be attracted to women. In Indian
society lesbianism was not at all acceptable to social structure. There was not much
discussion about lesbianism in India. Hardly few literature books are found which deal
with the theme of lesbianism in India. However in the recent years, attitudes towards
homosexuality have shifted slightly. In particular, there have been more depictions and
discussions of homosexuality in the Indian news media and by Bollywood. Their claims
that lesbian acts are ‘foreign’ to Hindu culture, and therefore regarded as ‘filthy’, are
flawed. In many Hindu temples there are sculptures of lesbian couples and lesbian sex and
many ancient paintings depicting lesbian sex. Khajuraho temples are the best examples of
lesbian depiction. In the famous classic of Hindu erotica, Kamasutra there is a clear
mention of lesbianism. A significant question is whether lesbianism is natural, and why at
all such sexual behavior? The answer is to be found more in female psyche than in her
body. Physicality is not everything in lesbian relationship but the physicality is part of the
greater emotional relationship. Here to surrender the ego is much important, it is somewhat
easy to surrender before one’s own sex than to the male who always rules, exploits and
dominates the female. The main principle of feminism is the opposition to male dominance
and patriarchy which finds expression in lesbian behavior. Lesbian feminists argue that the
real solution to the problem of patriarchy is lesbianism, for it rejects all forms of patriarchy.

56
For her feministic vision Manju Kapur is very famous in the field of literature. Her
novels denounce the Indian women’s socio-cultural predicament caused by their
entrapment in male dominant, patriarchal society. Her heroines mostly educated and
middle class wives of India face struggle -for freedom, space of their own; for search of
identity, for equality with men. Their suffering and suffocation in family and marital bonds
is clearly reflected in her novels. Manju Kapur herself confesses that:

I am interested in the lives of women whether in the


political arena or in the domestic spaces. One of the main
preoccupation in all my books is how women manage to
negotiate both the inner and outer spaces in their lives
what sacrifices do they have to make in order to keep the
home fires burning and at what cost to their personal
lives do they find some kind of fulfillment outside the
home (Kumar: 2006, 1).

In her novel, A Married Woman such feminist views are exposed. Astha, the
heroine of the novel finds some kind of ‘fulfillment outside the home’ by establishing a
lesbian relationship with Pipeelika. Astha, A Married Woman (2002) has everything -
children, a dutiful loving husband, middle class status and comfortable surroundings. Yet,
she feels lacking something in her life. When she performs her duties as a married woman
she feels lack of something.

Astha was brought up properly, as befits a woman, with


large supplements of fear (Agrawal: 2013, 7).

Her likes and interests are not considered by her parents and nurtured her as per
social norms to be fit for a girl. Because of their over care and over expectations she could
not blossom fully which crushed her individual personality. Astha rebelliously forms two
love affairs, moreover, enjoys physical relationship despite her parent’s efforts to confine
her to the boundary of tradition and culture. She is caged by her middle class values and
she accepts her fate and goes for an arranged marriage with a foreign returned man Hemant,

57
who belongs to a bureaucrat family. After marriage, Astha settle down in Vashan Bihar,
the posh colony of New Delhi. Within few months of marriage, Astha feels dullness around
her as she has to wait for long hours to be a part of Hemant’s company. She sinks in the
role of a wife, daughter and mother. To become independent she joins a school and her job
brings a change in her life and she involves into the external affairs and comes to know
about the boundaries and limitations around her. From the very beginning Astha has a
strong desire for sex and physical relationship and Hemant does not seem to be aware of
this fact. She is disillusioned with Hemant’s love for her. She is always under pressure of
work and suffocated with her responsibilities to meet everybody’s need. She realizes her
subordinate position in her husband’s house. Manju Kapur writes:

Her subservient position struck her. She had no


business kneeling, taking off his shoes, pulling off
his socks, feeling ecstatic about the smell of his
feet (Kumar: 2006, 68).

Astha expects to pass the time with her husband Hemant but he always comes late
and complains about his boss and expresses his dissatisfaction with everything. Not only
this but also he never helps his wife to up bring their children. To expand his business he
has to travel abroad for many times. At that time Astha feels lonely in the house and she
has to handle all the matter inside the home and outside the home. With her two children
and school job Astha remains busy. Hemant also starts his own factory and quit the job
which makes him all the more busy and distant. To express her anguish and alienation
gradually Astha turns to writing poetry but Hemant thinks the poems as ‘‘positively
neurotic’’ which might reflect to people that Astha is unhappy. She gives up writing and
begins painting, but her work is hindered by so many things. When her mother hands over
her money to Hemant to be safely invested for his children Astha’s feeling of alienation
and subordination intensifies.

In her school, after a period of time, Astha meets Aijaz, a history lecturer and
founder of Street Theatre Group. Aijaz is a man who motivates and awakens Astha’s social
spirit and socializes her thinking. He encourages her to write the script on the burning

58
issues of Babri Masjid and Ram Janamabhoomi to be dramatized in school. She is
appreciated for her talent by Aijaz but her husband never appreciates her talent. Wakde
Ishwar states:

She feels somewhat suffocated, exploited and


unnoticed at home. It is Aijaz’s trust which
motivates her to think out of the house. He makes
her think about the ongoing socio-political
activities which become her future interest
(Wakde: 2011, 3).

After meeting Aijaz, Astha constantly compares her husband with him. After her
comparison she has found that Aijaz is better than her husband because Aijaz always helps
her, favours her in difficult situations and appreciates her for what she does. Hemant
blames her of mismanagement, incapability and wastefulness. Aijaz’s death makes much
difference to Astha. She feels loneliness everywhere she feels that she has lost everything
in her life. Day and night she craves for sympathy but no one is there to offer her sympathy.
She finds no more meaning with her husband. Further his snorting and impenetrability
irritated her during the night. Judging the male impression of woman, she thinks that A
Married Woman is an object of mind fucking. To keep her mind active she joins social
groups. Astha torn between her feelings for Aijaz and her desire to do something to save
the nation from further senseless killings; agrees to paint for the Manch and gets involved
in activities of Manch. It is during one of her activities related to Manch she went to
Ayodhya leaving her home and responsibilities and here she meets Pipeelika, the widow
of Aijaz, who stands for a rebel feminist and works for NGO in Delhi. Out of women’s
oppression and emotional starvation Kapur has made Astha and Pipeelika to turn into
lesbians for their self fulfillment and posing challenge to male chauvinism. Pipeelika, a
widow is a lonely woman and Astha is made to feel lonely because of her business husband,
who neither pay much attention nor spend any time with family. Manju Kapur has made
lesbianism a powerful component for the satisfaction of woman’s emotional urge and
sexual pleasure. Being a postmodern woman both Astha and Pipeelika rebel against the
inequality, injustice and discrimination meted at domestic and social sphere, in traditional

59
socio-economic culture of patriarchy system. By turning herself to lesbianism Astha
challenges male chauvinism of her husband as well as she satisfies emotions of
womanhood in her lesbian relationship with Pipeelika. To analyse the lesbian aspect of the
novel, Simone de Beauvoir defines a lesbian:

Homosexuality can be a way for woman to flee her


condition or a way to assume it…
‘‘Homosexuality for woman is one attempt among
others to reconcile her autonomy with the
passivity of her flesh. And if nature is invoked, it
could be said that every woman is naturally
homosexual. The lesbian is characterized simply
by her refusal of the male and her preference for
feminine flesh (Beauvoir: 1983, 431).

She further cites two categories of lesbians:

According to Jones and Hesnard, lesbians mostly


fall into two categories: ‘masculine lesbians’, who
‘try to act like men’, and ‘feminine’ ones, ‘who are
afraid of men’. It is a fact that one can, on the
whole, observe two tendencies in homosexual
women; some refuse passivity, while others choose
to lose themselves passively in feminine arms
(Beauvoir: 1983, 432).

Simone (1983) opines that female who are maltreated and neglected by the society
usually perform the active role. In order to compensate her inferiority she adds virile
qualities in her mode of behavior. Sexuality is not necessarily a focus or reason for
sustaining a lesbian relationship. Support and sensitivity of a friend are more likely to be
cited as reasons for keeping a relationship together. Pipeelika comes to the category of
masculine lesbian, who wants to possess Astha completely. She drags Astha into

60
relationship just because there are differences between the husband and the wife. She en-
cash and exploit the self-centered motive finding the opportunity of Astha feeling lonely.
When Pipee visits Astha’s home for the first time Astha reveals her heart to her and Pipee
putting her hand on Astha’s and pressing it gently replies that:

It’s all right, you are not alone, we all experience


it in one way or another’’, said Pipee putting her
hand on Astha’s and pressing it gently (Kapur:
2002, 217).

Went back to her home Pipee thinks of Astha:

I want to know her better, at least she does not


remind of Aijaz. Her house is quite near mine,
that is convenient, I wonder if she realizes she is
attractive. Her marriage sounds horrible. I am
sure her husband is a jerk (Kapur: 2002, 218).

To spend time together, both of them began to meet often and often. Hemant
disapproves his wife’s new interest and Astha start to lie at home to be away with Pipee
and one day Pipee asks Astha that has she ever been in a relationship with a woman? Astha
felt uneasy and did not answer. Pipee gets Astha realize about her unhappiness. Pipee tells
Astha, her own relationship with a girl named Samira. She met her in school and continued
in college, on and off for three years. Pipee tells, Samira seduced her and then she herself
fell in love, triumphed in that power. Pipee describes their relationship as:

It was so different from being with a man,


though I am sure it can be (Kapur: 2002,
220).

Manju Kapur has given acute description of the relationship:

61
They were sitting in Pipee’s flat drinking beer
before an early lunch. Pipee had made
arrangements to go to work late and now she
pulled Astha by the hand and led her to the
bathroom mirror…Then she felt Pippe’s hands in
her hair, her clip undone, her hands framing the
oval of her face. Lightly from behind she traced
her eyebrows with her fingers, her nose, her
cheeks and mouth…(Kapur: 2002, 221).

Through the above description Manju Kapur perfectly expresses the behaviour of
lesbian girls. Pipee shows her sexual interest in Astha and Astha never opposes her which
shows her desire for the sex from the same gender. One day, in Astha’s house, in her
bedroom:

Pipee stretched out her palm for Astha’s hand.


Gently she held it, fingering her thumb nail.
Round and round the stubby nail Pipee’s finger
went, lightly tracing the pink part, the white part,
the skin part. Astha looked at their two hands
together and inched a little closer to the woman
on her bed. Pipee took a firmer grip of the hand
in hers, and turned it over, stroking the back of it,
gently siding her rings off, and putting them on to
her own fingers, maneuvering her bangles off and
slipping them on to her own more narrow wrist
(Kapur: 2002, 222).

Manju Kapur shows the climax in the following words:

Slowly Pipee put her arms around her. She could


feel her hands on narrowness of her back, on the

62
beginning spread of her lips. Gently she undid her
blouse hooks, and her bra, looking at her face as
she did so and slowly she continued, feeling her
back with her palm, coming round up towards
her breast, feeling their softness, especially where
the nipples were, feeling them again and again, in
no hurry to reach any conclusion. They were
enclosed in a circle of silence, the only sound, the
sound of their breaths, close together and mingled
(Kapur: 2002, 230 -231).

Manju Kapur describes Astha’s intense longing for Pipee’s company. Astha’s
meeting with Pipee increases day by day. She feels uneasiness when she cannot meet Pipee.
She calls Pipee at least five times in a day. She starts to fantasize about touching her,
imagined her hair between her fingers, her skin beneath her own, her hands on the back of
her neck. Afterwards Astha felt, strange making love to a woman and getting used to it.
For Astha her relation with Pipee is strange and awkward. Her intimacy and closeness with
Pipee is beyond expression. She shares every intense feeling, her past and present with
Pipee. Astha often found herself wishing despairingly she could live each day twice, once
with Pipee and once on the ordinary plane. Pipee instigates, encourage and direct Astha to
lead her own independent life away from her home and husband. It is on Pipee’s insistence
Astha goes with her to gay and lesbian film festival on weekend leaving behind Hemant.
It is again on Pipee’s insistence Astha goes on Ekta Yatra from south to north for three
weeks leaving behind home and children. Hemant loses his temper. Pipeelika commands
over Astha and questions her relationship with her husband. Astha should break all her ties
and bondage with her family. Pipeelika offers her to live with her. Astha found herself split
between her roles of wife, mother and lover. She is sandwiched in between her desire for
freedom and her duty towards her family. Astha realizes that any relationship, even that
between a woman and another woman, becomes demanding after a length of time. Pipee
wants Astha totally committed to her but Astha wants to sail in both boats, keeping these
two important parts of her life separate from each other.

63
Astha is on the verge of losing her conventional marriage with Hemant. But
suddenly Pipee is offered scholarship from American University to do research and the
relationship gets break. Meanwhile Hemant also develops a chest pain due to the burden
of his work and Astha’s attention is diverted towards him. She took proper care of
Hemant’s health, diet and exercise. She feels sorry for him and wants to help him live.
Though Astha has sought lesbianism to take revenge upon society, its tradition particularly
upon her indifferent husband, emotionally she cannot get free from her marital home. Even
when she is with Pipee she is always worried about her children. Her whole world revolves
around her family. Of course Astha has crossed the traditional boundary of woman
throughout her life, but this time in her relationship with Pipee she does not want to cross
the boundary. In all her life she has come across various relationships and has matured
through manifold experiences. Astha has realized that, Pipee is leading her own life in her
own way with her going abroad for her PhD. It is Pipee who needs a full time partner.
Though both love each other it will be Astha’s life which gets affected if she chooses to be
with Pipee. Moreover, Astha has realized that, ‘somewhere he (Hemant) still had the power
to affect her.’ This time Astha’s decision of return to her family and not to abandon it is
not forced upon her, it is her own decision which she as a mature woman chooses.

She feels so close and intimate with Pipee that she discloses everything, her past as
well as her present. It is clearly evident in these lines:

She had shared parts of herself she had never shared


before. She felt complete with her (Kapur: 2006, 243).

It is shown in the words of Nidhish Kumar Singh that:

Whatever Astha has shared with her diary in her


adolescent age, she felt I hesitated to share that with her
mother, she felt too hesitated to share that with her
husband, Hemant. But, when she opens all the secrets of
her life, towards Pipee, there is not a single mark of
hesitation between them (Singh, 2013: 24).

64
This new love affair with Peepilika becomes the reason for new clashes with
Hemant. She is very serious of the relationship with Peepilika. And take seriously whatever
Pipee says. They both live under the illusion of marrying themselves free from male
servitude but when their independence is weighed on the scale of moral values and
sustenance of family peace and harmony they are void. Astha never tolerates or takes any
adverse. Comments from Hemant for her friend Pipee rather it irritates her: She refused to
engage with him on any issue, he was capable of nothing but the very crudest
understanding. She realized the whole to Pipee who said that men were so pathetic, so
fucked up themselves, they only understand the physical, and in this way she felt soothed
(p. 219). Inspite of her having many issues, she tries to peep out of the marital home/ affairs
into illicit relations with Pipee. She also realizes the national issues and participates on
Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid affairs keeping aside her family cause. She completely
neglects her familial duties entirely. Her husband Hemant tries to convince her but in vain.
On asking her, she tells Hemant that she is going to demonstrate outside Rashtrapati
Bhavan, Hemant tries to make her remember the sacred obligations:

You seem to forget that your place as a decent family


woman is in the home, and not on the streets. You also
forget that this is New Year’s Eve and we are going out
(Kapur: 2006, 172).

The entire family is disturbed. Everyone in the house is spell bound. Being mother
of Anuraddha and Himanshu, she wishes to be freed from family caring. Her mother in law
issues directions which is not liked by Astha, mother in law she says:

You know I never try and stop you from doing anything
even when you neglect the children and are busy in your
painting and meetings, I do not say anything. I am not
the type to interfere. I am glad my daughter in law does
not feel she has to sit at home till I have the use of my
hands and feel I will help you, but it is my duty to point
that you are going too far(Kapur: 2006, 187).

65
As Ashok kumar says:

Manju Kapur has exposed a woman’s passion with love


and lesbianism, an incompatible marriage and ensuring
annoyance. With passion to revolutionize the Indian
male sensitivity, she describes the traumas of her female
protagonists from which from which they suffer and
perish in from their triumph. She is stunned at the
intensification of fundamentalism and the augment of
religious zealous to uplift and elevate the country by a
crusade and establish paranoia evil as a historical
necessity (Kumar: 2010, 165).

The fact is Astha is overwhelmed impressed by Pipee, she obeys all he directions
and acts to her wishes. Pipee makes her understand that she is capable of leading fuller
lives away from home she has the potential and can never go wrong. Pipe’s lesbian
relationship with other women Neeraj and Sameera, her demanding passion and her past
associations dissatisfies her expectations .Astha is in dilemma a serious thought arise in
her mind whether to stay in the sheltered existence given by a family and tradition or should
she run for freedom, independence and unthinkable love. She tells Pipee:

I love you, you know how much you mean to me,


I try and prove it every moment we have together,
but I can’t. May be I should not have looked for
happiness, but I couldn’t help myself. I suppose
you think I should not be in a relationship, but I
had not foreseen…… (Kapur: 2002, 242).

She has crossed all the limits of traditions of a married woman. She is on the verge
of losing her own identity. She only desired some kind of respite from her husband and
now she is losing everything. In this respect Simone De Beauvoir remarks:

66
In marrying, woman gets some share in the world
as her own, legal guarantees protect her against
capricious action by man; but she becomes his
vassal. He is the economic head of the joint
enterprise, and hence he represents it in the view
of society. She takes his name, she belongs to his
religion, his class, his circle; she joints his family,
she becomes his half ….. she gives him her person,
virginity and a rigorous fidelity being required.
She loses some of the rights legally belonging to
the unmarried woman (Beauvoir: 1983, 449).

For Kapur, Radha Chakravarthy has rightly observes that:

Gender - issues are central to Kapur’s worldview


in the lines of the female figures; we encounter
questions about marriage, motherhood, women’s
education, women’s work in and out of the home,
the body, sexuality, the different forms of violence
against women ranging from emotional blackmail
to dowry death and sexual abuse (Chakravarthy:
2006, 53).

Home is a simple story of a middle class joint family, doing business in cloth in
the busy Karol Bagh area of Delhi. The story of Home begins with a comparison between
Sona and Rupa’s life. Sona is mesmerizingly beautiful whereas Rupa is plain and dark.
Sona is just a high school pass whereas Rupa is a graduate in Arts. Sona married to
Banwarilal’s family, a cloth merchant, whereas Rupa is married to a junior government
officer of less effect. Sunita, the only daughter of Banwarilal was married off with Murali
in Bareilly when she was eighteen due to

67
the dowry asked for had been negligible and the
boy, when Banwarilal went to visit him, had
seemed decent enough (Kapur: 2006, 5).

The decision of Sunita’s marriage was taken after consulting Babaji and
horoscope. The marriage turned out to be failure because Murali became a drunkard and
asked Sunita often about dowry, Sunita’s failure to convey this. Message to her father led
to an accident in her kitchen and resulting into her death. After hearing the news father
Banwarilal and son Yashpal went for the cremation where as the young brother Pyarelal
took care of the business and the women stayed at home as was appropriate. Even after
realizing an excruciating situation, the Banwarilal is not willing to learn from their earlier
mistake got into the corrupt and malicious cycle of dowry. Later in the novel, Ajay, Vijay
and Raju’s marriages were arranged and with careful and great attentions. Here, in the case
of Vijay,

The girl had been seen, the boy had been seen, the
prices agreed upon, now the only thing left for the
young people to meet each other (Kapur: 2006,
159).

The story then shift to the lives of Banwarilal and son’s- Yashpal and Pyarelal and
their families especially the lives of Yashpal and his wife Sona. In a patriarchal family, a
young bride’s prestige or place in her husband’s home is based on her capability to
conceive and give birth to a male child. Sona when fails to conceive for ten years, her place
in the family was extremely miserable. She is suppressed to the extent of giving up her
own individuality. Mother in law’s expressions suggested that:

The daughter-in-law had no right to exist, and if


she had to live, why in their house? Only when the
men came home at night was there the semblance
of a caring family (Kapur: 2006, 11).

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To make things difficult, Sushila the second daughter-in-law had no difficulty in
conceiving and gave birth to two sons. This led Sona to fast and do numerous rites and
rituals. Eventually she conceive to deliver a female child Nisha and then a male child Raju.
It is a general notion in patriarchal families that their girls are liabilities and once they are
given in gets ever from their shoulders. The girls’ future solely rests in her husband’s house,
where her destiny for happiness or grief lay. The girl’s link with the paternal home is cut
off as in the case of Banwarilal and his daughter Sunita. With the demise of Sunita, her son
returns to the family as an object of pity and concern. So, he was put in care with Sona. For
the sake of Banwarilal, his sons and their wives accept him without any objection. The
boundary lines are clearly drawn and Vicky, though lives in the house, is an outsider,
cleverly, carefully and systematically kept apart because he is their (sister’s) son.

When he was seventeen, Vicky fails in education; he is not coaxed like in the case
of Raju but is sent to work in the shop. When he was just nineteen, they married him to
Asha, a poor girl from Bareilly, to clear their conscience. They lived in a congested small
room; bathroom on the barsati and life was horrible for this couple. Vicky’s wife Asha is
marginalized when she turns out to be an unpaid servant of the family. They both worked
hard from morning to night, they are neither paid nor treated equally. When Asha is
impregnated, not much fanfare is made over it and the grandson of the family arrives
unnoticed ‘she got nothing beyond a silk saree’ (Kapur: 2006, 103).

Asha is fully aware of her marginalized status, eroding, tries to instill sense into
Vicky. She provokes him to demand his fair share forcing ‘his uncle’s and grandfather to
recognizes his years of unrewarded toil’ (Kapur: 2002, 106). His just and genuine request
to give him an opportunity to prove his worth turns out to be futile. In the later part of the
novel, Nisha, the granddaughter of Banwarilal born to his elder son Yashpal and Sona, gets
a chance to prove herself - something unusual in the patriarchal household. But for Vicky,
that cannot be permitted or even thought of as a possibility, as he is sister’s son. He is a
character, hated by all the family members and he is regarded as ungrateful. When he once
again asks for his share, so that he could leave, the patriarch merely says:

69
You are my daughter’s child. You are our own
blood but Vicky knew that blood lines from the
female side can only whisper (Kapur: 2006, 110).

However, they were forced to pay ten lakhs rupees to get rid off Vicky out of
their house and live after the death the patriarch Banwarilal. He was considered ‘ a leech’,
a tainted person’, ‘ a black crow’, and ‘ a vulture pecking at whomever he could’.(p.66)
Nisha a mangli is the grand child of Banwarilal. She is instructed not to go out in the sun
and play with the boys in the street she being a girl must take care of her complexion. This
is a prerequisite condition for marriage. Vicky is seventeen years now, estranged and
neglected right from the beginning in this house, is destined to be the black sheep of the
family add this ill influences remains unknown even- when he sexually exploits the
innocent and harmless child Nisha. One day when Nisha wanted to play chess with Vicky,
unknowingly he touches her soft thighs. Enchanted by the delicate and softness of her body,
he touches her genitals. The very next moment he hands her, his erect organ into her soft
and dedicate hands. She is aghast looking at the black erected tool. she displays sufficient
hints to the acts but, nobody in the joint family achieved to identify it. She is finally sent
to her aunt Rupa’s house where she grows without any exploitation. She is loved,
encouraged and nurtured. Nisha regularly visits her home every weekends, she is at ease
and comfortable at her aunt’s house. The primary concern of Nisha is to learn and she
shows a flair for education. Her uncle and aunt attend to her wants and inspire her which
is not done by her own parents. She is just a girl and what is she to do with education for,
finally she has to be safe in her home and look after her elders.

The novelist Manju Kapur skillfully portrays the character of Nisha from her
childhood and how gender plays an important role in her development. Gender
discrimination begins very early in her childhood with regards to her complexion. She gets
lots of gifts in gold and silver during her naming ceremony and Manju Kapur clearly points
out ‘with this gold, Nisha’s dowry was begun’ (p.40). She was not allowed to play with the
boys in the sun as that would make her ‘dirty and black’. She was later, coaxed to stay at
home saying her pretty dress will be spoiled. The child however, pacifies to uphold her
clothes and complexion, by playing board games with her grandmother.

70
When Nisha returns home, to console her old ailing grandmother after the demise
of her grandfather, she is awakened to the reality, the blunt reality of the woman’s world.
Her own mother Sona murmurs her sister Rupa for ‘negligent upbringing’ of Nisha. Inspite
of Nisha excellence in studies she is completely ignorant of the ‘traditional values’,
domesticity and service to the elders. In an angry debate with Rupa, Sona says:

This is the life of women: to look after her home,


her husband, and her children and give them food
she has cooked with her own hands (Kapur: 2006,
126).

Sona furious at her own daughter says ‘she is useless, absolutely useless’ just
because she does not know how to cook. She is termed as a ‘spoilt princess’ (p.126). When
she fails to cut ginger like match sticks, Sona wanted. Nisha to be ‘groomed in the traditions
of Banwarilal’s household’ (p.,92). Nisha was shocked to know that, ‘her mother’s idea of
a daughter was one who helped her every time anybody ate’ (p.126). To Sona ‘cooking and
marriage’ are important than ‘education for woman’. Sona compels Nisha to do fasts and
read ‘the Vat Savitri Katha’ as she closes the book, these are tears in her eye as she feels
that she too, like Savitri, has sacrificed her life for the family. She concludes by telling
Nisha, ‘this is what you must be like’ (p.133).

Nisha grows as a rebel and is caught in the web of her emancipation with
education, which education assures and tradition, followed by the family. She shortens her
hair and is accepted as she looks. She prepares herself for the extreme consequences of the
girls in her class, girls with swishing, open hair, wavy, curly, blow-dried or hanging
straight, framing faces with fringes, flicks, or stray tendrils (p.148). Nisha’s under-standing
of her personal work, pure mind, and feelings of the heart in connection with marriage is
against the traditional patriarchal values.

Suresh, her love, who has firmly assured of marrying her against all odds, betrays
her at the time of crisis. It is mentioned, he is pressurized by ‘force, money and threats’ by
her family. She then faces the growth of a skin condition that exhibits her suppressed

71
mental agony and makes her body unbeautiful (ugly), endangering her marriage prospects.
Her feeling of desperation, loneliness triggers in her entrepreneurship. Gradually, she is
confined to the pressures of marriage and motherhood. Thus, gender has its impact on
Nisha’s individuality and ultimately reaches a stage where her sense of freedom is
hopelessly and mercilessly shattered along with her potentials in the name of virtues.

Manju Kapur forcefully portrays that if women fall a victim to the rules laid down
by the society, it also draws the man into the same pit throttling their individuality out of
them. Men and also expected to behave and act in ways befitting their gender, stereotype.
Heartbroken and frustrated Nisha bows to the pressure of the family to accept a groom of
their choice. Nisha’s thoughtfulness reflects the notion that women are supposed to take
active role in making an ideal family. According to the views of Dr. Ajay Kumar and
Nitasha Bajaj:

Life never ends with death, it moves on beyond


mortality; parents, children and grand children
continue to live in future with their parents in
them. The novelist poses a lot of questions and
challenges which are commonly encountered in a
joint family system and are usually kept under the
hidden stories to protect family honour and name,
a lot of manipulation goes behind the curtains
while maintaining the superficial pretence of a big
happy family (Sharma Ajay, 118-119).

Her first proposal fails because of her past love affair with Suresh, the second one
fails because the boy turns out to be a eunuch. She is considered as an evil influence by all
her sisters in law and she is not allowed to mingle with their children. She feels herself as
an outcast and untouchable in her own house. During the recess time, a teacher displays
her embroidered suit made by her sister at home. Suddenly Nisha’s mind came up with an
idea. She cajoled her father to help her set a business of readymade ladies garments. This
new idea takes the family into a unique opportunity to showcase readymade garments

72
because the women in their family have entered into business venture. Nisha’s aunt does
have pickle business. But she is from a different family. After thoughtful consideration and
deliberation she is helped in starting a business in the rented basement of their apartment.
She displays her managing capabilities and her business flourishes. In the mean while she
gets another proposal from a widower. She accepts for the proposal only on one condition
that she may be allowed to continue her business. She wants to keep her individuality and
independence. Her condition is accepted and simple marriage is solemnized as per Nisha’s
wishes, as is only a compromise for her.

On her first night, she finds no zeal in her husband. He gestures her to his side of
bed, he puts off light and utters nothing. Nisha is surprised because it in her first marriage
and she is a virgin so far, going to sleep. But her wait ends in passionless mechanical sex
from her husband as only a task. He never discloses his emotional feelings for her. She is
amazed, and thinks what sort of a marriage is this.

Why did he have to marry if he was to treat his


wife to indifferent looks, she thought, sweeping
aside the tenderness he showed at night--- if he felt
so little for her, she should go home to her tailor,
why enact this force here? (Kapur: 2006, 329).

Like any other modern woman ambitious to spread her wings beyond her traditional
boundary of a lady, she also expects a larger space in her husband’s heart and mind then
what she receives. Her husband Arvind is not sensible enough to realize it. During night
she becomes more assertive to demand her rightful rights. She says:

If you are never going to talk or share things with


me, why don’t you take me back to my mother’s
house? You have done your duty, married and
made me pregnant. When the body in born you
can collect it (Kapur: 2006, 330).

73
Market being dosed the next day, Arvind takes Nisha for an outing and took lunch
in a hotel. Both of them made some compromises. After her marriage of ten months, Nisha
gave birth to twins- a boy and a girl. She enjoys the blissful married life. Nisha’s story of
a failed love affair, her struggle for freeing herself from the traditional bondages, her
desperation and finally getting tuned into the traditional mode of life, Manju Kapur has
shown that it is too much for a tender and delicate girl to go against the values of family
life. It would be inappropriate if we do not mention Rupa and Premnath. When Rupa fails
to conceive, they accept their plight and she begins a pickle business and does well with
the help of Yashpal. They both stand apart and emerges a victorious class above the
mundane realities of gender. She is sensible when she advises her sister who was childless
to consult a doctor rather than spend time in Pooja and rituals. Rupa and her husband
Premnath enjoy a happy and blissful married life, owing to their educations. They pass on
this vital reality, faithfully to the next generation - Nisha.

It is through education, sense and reason that Nisha emerges as a new woman in
Rupamasi’s home, for the first time in her life. She enjoys the pleasure of being equal in
power or more than the other boys in her home. Through the passage of time, even though
she is suppressed of her nobility and individuality, her feminist sensibility has not been
quenched and she rises as a successful business woman, and goes beyond unimaginable
boundaries making a place and position for her. Her return to marriage, wifehood, and
motherhood could not be properly balanced along with a robust girl and a ‘fragile boy’-
her duty being over- the struggle for autonomy and separate identify remains an unfinished
object.

Manju Kapur is able to throw light on the lives of men and women, who live and
struggle under the age old oppressive mechanisms of a closed society.

Women suffered economically and socio- cultural


disadvantages, in the same way the men also
suffered from expressing their originality. They
are mere puppets in the hands of society to play
as it pleases. Both are deprived of their

74
aspirations to their individuality and self- reliance
( Warake: 2010, 269).

Most of the characters have been confirmed to this background, Rupa and Premnath
rise above the age old gender discrimination and Nisha keeps a balance between
modernism and traditionalism by being ‘clam, composed, and complete’ (Pradhan, p.119).
She is able to achieve to an extent the prerequisites for women’s freedom, put forward by
Simon De Beauvoir ‘economic independence and liberation from orthodox traditions of
society’ (Beauvoir, p.126). She has destroyed the persisting myth and has tried to lay a new
social order which is pleasant to the physical, social and mental well- being of women P.C.
Pradhan observes that Nisha along with other female protagonists of Manju Kapur,

Challenge the existing socio- cultural patriarchal


system. In the social milieu they are educated,
modern, intelligent, bold and assertive. Even
though they try to transcend the social hierarchy
of demolishing it, they undergo serious,
psychological traumas in the absence of an
alternative, planned feminist ideology that may
give them freedom, security and peace of mind…
(they) ultimately return to the traditional mode of
life, most probably thinking that home in where
they may get peace and space (Pradhan : 2009,
108).

Shobana Bhattacharji claims that:

There is no hand wringing over the status of


women issues; simply a cool- therefore powerful-
marshalling of how people talk what they, allow a
girl to do or not to do, the social and economic
area she is permitted and how these need not

75
imprison her, yet she can take no compassion for
granted nor presume that it will be translated into
practical help (Bhattacharji: 2006, 19

Manju Kapur’s fourth novel The Immigrant (2008), clearly presents our country
India in the difficult aspect of globalization with far greater importance than in any of her
earlier novels. In G.S. Sharadchandra’s opinion, he expresses the sense of alienation of the
Immigrant as:

I leaped from one life to another, and in between


nothing but vacuum… we remain at large distant
and clothed by our separate worlds. He know that
the bonds we share while growing up do not unite
us anymore… in this new worlds, immigrants,
struggling to find their place in an alien
landscape, nothing some gains but also incurring
deep emotional loses (Kapur: 2010, 7).

The main character Nina is an English lecturer at Miranda House, New Delhi. She
along with her widowed mother lives in one room apartment. She is financially
independent yet the peculiar Indian mindset and conditioning of regarding a daughter as
burden a liability, responsibility of the mother makes Nina’s life cumbersome. Her mother
was her only support as she has lost her father at a young age in her life. Nina wanted to
make her mother happy so, even though if she does not like yet sometimes comply by all
her wishes. She even makes a visit to the astrologer to consult about her marriage. She at a
mature age of 30 has less hope of finding a match, yet nourishes a dim hope of a better
future. Nina receives a marriage proposal from an NRI who by profession is a dentist
practices and settled Canada. Nina’s mother was so happy. In one of the articles of Dr.
Ashok Kumar while analyzing the values of Indians and westerns, he remarks:

When we analyse Nina’s characters in the light of


Indian traditions, we may conclude it calling it a

76
triumph of feminism. But considering the
character of Nina in the light of western social and
moral conduct we can pass it as a normal conduct
nothing to cheer up. The feminist theory is
dependent upon certain set of social and cultural
traditions (Kumar: 2010, 68-69).

That she prayed for the materialization of this alliance. After a short courtship,
through the exchange of letters and after much skepticism as to why an Indian with a
Canadian citizenship and having led seven years of life is Canada was ‘looking India for a
wife’ (p.57), and after much thought Nina finally surrender to the rosy pictures, her finance
Ananda offered to her ‘life abroad’ then Ananda promised her such a future, laced with
choices, edged with beautiful snowflakes that glittered through the distance promising at
the very minimum change, novelty, excitement’(p.78). She agreed to migrate:

To join legions of women who crossed the sea to


marry men leaving in unseen lands (Kapur: 2010,
78).

Normally it was the northern that left their home – lands and migrated to Asia,
Australia and Canada in the 19 th century.

In the 20th century it was the Asian women’s


turn. The immigrant man needed a bride who
would surround him with familiar traditions,
habits, and attitudes, whose reward was the
prosperity of the West and a freedom often not
available to her at home (Kapur: 2010, 78).

A pompous marriage was solemnized Ananda’s Canadian friend Gary and his wife,
Sue attended the marriage his maternal uncle, with his Canadian wife and children, he put
there all in five star hotels and he too moved to the Oberoi hotel for their honeymoon after
their marriage. Nina worries about the hotel expenses:

77
She knew NRI’s did stay in such hotels, but
anxiety about money had been her companion
since infancy, and it asserted itself on every
possible occasion. Ananda on the other hand was
flush with dollar confidence. His ability to spend
in India (unmatched by any such extravagance in
Canada) had to be savored fully (Kapur: 2010,
89).

Two days later Ananda left for Canada leaving his newly wedded wife Nina to join
him later after getting her visa. Three months passed she got her visa and prepared to cross
the ocean. She got her first bitter experience of her being immigrant when she reaches
Toronto at the immigration clearance counter she is asked to step aside.

She waits, queuing for entry into Canada look


away, the coloured ones have pity In their eyes
(Kapur: 2010, 105).

The women at the immigration look each page of her passport suspiciously. Nina’s
claim that she has married a Canadian citizen is required to be verified despite the paper
works. The color of her skin shouts volumes in the small room. She feels at the verge:

She is all alone with a woman who makes no eye


contact, for whom she is less than a human.
Suppose they found a way to kill her that would
be one less unwanted immigrant (Kapur: 2010,
106).

The immigration woman officer asks her all sorts of frivolous questions that make
her feel edge.

Rage fills her, why are people so silent about the


humiliation they faced in the west? She was a

78
teacher at a university, yet this woman, probably
high school pass, can imprison her in a cell like
room, scare her and condemn her. Though she
was addressed as ma’am, no respect is conveyed’
(Kapur: 2010, 106).

Nina had been used to respect. It came with her class, education, her account, her
clothes. ‘Here, a different yardstick is used to judge her’ (Kapur: 210, 106).

This is the first bitter experience in a foreign land. The country which is showcased
as a ‘liberal haven’ is after all racist where a person is judged by the color of his/her skin.
She feels humiliated, soiled, accused of trying to take something not rightfully her’s. She
does not like her introduction to the new world’ (p.107). Her humiliation is drowned in the
glitter of the shops, the cleanliness of the country and sense of pride of ownership that
sparkled in Ananda’s eyes. ‘See, how clean how spacious’ he said performing the
introduction,

Even the air sparkles. Ah! “He closed his eyes in


rapture (Kapur: 2010, 110).

Then Halifax spread before them, gleaming in the sun, small and sweet, ‘Like it?’
asked Ananda, turning to her and laughing. He knew he was presenting something of value,
civilized, ordered and therefore beautiful (Kapur: 2010, 110). Her ‘new home’ was a tiny
apartment consisting of a tiny corridor with a little kitchen at its end, two rooms and a
bathroom.

Now life, is incomplete contrast with the Indian ways, there is sense of freedom,
freedom from the watchful eyes of the family members, neighbors, domestic helps.

No servant’s landlord, landlady, neighbour or


mother was there to see. After years of night and
day protection against the eyes of the world it felt

79
strange to abandon the shield that had defended
her modesty (Kapur: 2010, 113).

In the beginning the loneliness is pleasing but soon it turns out to be boredom with
no one to talk to, no one share with the common pleasures occurring each day in life. It
ever more difficult for a wife when after someday:

Books are powerless to distract, when house and


its convenience can no longer completely charm
or compensate. Then, she realizes she is as
immigrant for life (Kapur: 2010, 122).

Nina passes through similar experiences. Homesickness sets in, and she feels
abandoned and deserted. To overcome the loneliness and boredom, she yearns for a child
but is unable to conceive. She tried to persuade her husband to accompany her to a doctor
for a checkup, but could not persuade him. She got her examined and finds everything to
be normal on her part. Loneliness drives her to books which she borrows from a library.
Here she gets a part time job and comes across a group of women who vow to become
confident and co- councilors to establish a feeling of sister- hood. Ananda fears his
exposure of his physical inadequacies secretly visits California and returns after two weeks
of training with newly equipped techniques of overcoming his inadequacies. Nina feels
hurt and irritated at her husband for keeping his visit and purpose, a secret from her. The
idea of using a surrogate partner dismays her, but her husband Ananda feels excited. The
training he has received got in California, has brought a new life in his sexual life. He felt,
‘there was a sexual world waiting to be conquered’ (p.201). From the time he had come to
Canada he had felt strangely attracted to the white women who were totally free of any
inhabitation regarding their body. He admired the ease with which they remained so oneself
conscious of their bodies even when they were so much uncovered’ (p.38). ‘Sex is no great
issue in the west, here it’s no big deal, but in your culture it must be different,’ Sue said to
him one day when she was with him for a date. ‘Sex did not mean commitment’ (p.36).
And ‘nobody’ owned ‘ anybody’ (p.39). This created an unending opportunity but Ananda

80
had remained without any girlfriend all these years. Now he wanted to test himself in a
wider arena, but he had to make sure his wife never got to know’ (p.201)

Now Nina’s obsession to become pregnant and mother a child changed. She longed
for self dependence. Co-counseling helped her to know her situation and take a decision.
She finalized her mind to take a library degree. Later, she got admission and a fee waiver.
For the next this was her first step towards autonomy.’ As Simone De Beauvoir says:

These two elements maintenance and progression


are implied in any living activity, and for a man
marriage permits precisely a happy synthesis of
the two. In his occupation and his political life he
encounters change and progress, he senses his
extension through time and universe; and when
he is tired of such roaming, he gets himself a
home, he settled down, and and has an anchorage
in the world. At evening he restores his soul in the
home where his wife looks after his children and
guards the things of the past that she has amassed.
But she has no other job than to maintain and
provide for everyday life in an orderly way; she
perpetuates the spices without change, she
ensures that even the rhythm of days and the
continuity of home, seeing to it that the doors are
locked. But she is allowed no direct influence
upon the world; she reach out beyond herself
towards the social group only through her
husband as intermediary (Beauvoir: 1983, 449-
450).

For the next two years Nina felt the comfort of being part of a student body, no
longer the outsider one of many bound to gather by a huge, squat, grey institutional building

81
……’ (p.244). ‘It was now she, who left for the university before Ananda and came home
late. She often searched for lines of complain on Ananda’s face but found none. She
remained oblivious of the sexual experimentation which Ananda was carrying on secretly
with his secretary. Library school brought great excitement into Nina’s life. She found
everybody nice and friendly, but Anton became her special friend.

Here in Canada, men and women often


connected on platonic level, and it was such an
immigrant like thing to be disturbed by some
man who paid her attention (Kapur: 2010, 249).

During her studies,

a trip to national archives, national library


necessitated Nina to take the trip was pleasurable,
but exhausting exercise. On the last day, they got
together to celebrate in a pub. Joining in the fun,
Nina too held a cigarette between her fingers and
had drinks. She felt daring. It was easy here,
drinking, smoking, asserting something, probably
her sexuality (Kapur: 2010, 258).

Nina thought of herself being wise, adventurous and experiencing the difference,
she let go of herself permitting Anton take her arms and put it around his waist, doing the
same with his own, fitting her against the contours of his body. They look like the zillions
of couples she had seen walking around the university campus. Through months of library
science, she had gazed covertly at these couples, and now, in appearance at least, she was
one of them (p.258). Anton though married had no inhabitations of committing adultery
and believed in the maxims ‘Nobody owns anybody’ (p.258). Nina felt life pulsating and
lived as she felt, ‘who can feel guilty about living? Judging from the evidence and sexual
therapy center, every citizen in North America regarded good sex as their inalienable right.

82
It was her right too’ (p.260). It is rightly discussed by Dr. Ashok Kumar in one of his article
regarding good sex:

Sexes is an important aspect of life but in Kapur’s


The Immigrant the female protagonists is bent
upon in out maneuvering the male counterpart.
Nina has sex with his boy friend Rahul. After
marriage, she finds her husband sexually
dysfunctional. She then remembers Rahul
(Kumar: 2010, 65).

She had a sense of her own, for the first time, entirely different from other people,
autonomous, independent, so, strange that the sex did not make her feel guilty, not beyond
the initial shock. (p.260). She breaks the social custom, by eating flesh for the first time.
When she first landed in Halifax, she remained true to her upbringing by not eating meat.
‘ In Halifax her vegetarianism was treated respectfully, as part of her beliefs, but she felt
false every time she concurred with the picture, of herself as a traditional, devout Hindu.
Really, what did she care about a religion she never practiced? After, she had sex with
Anton, it seemed especially hypocritical to hang on to vegetable’ (p.266). ‘So it was down
with all taboos she agreed to Ananda’s offer to taste trout which he was preparing. His
assurance that she won’t regret this decision of her’s and life would become easier for he
now on echoed in her ears. Though she knew it was not for convenience that she had
decided to switch over but to a sense of fragmentation and distress. That weekend Nina
tasked everything one by one, red meat, flesh, mammals, cow ‘ (p.267). ‘And Ananda
looked over with relief promising himself that he would have her eating sirloin steak and
loving it’ (p.267). According to Ananda non- vegetarianism is a step towards becoming a
Canadian national, following the saying; when in home do as the Romans do’ as his guiding
and inspiring principle. He wanted to leave behind the customs and traditions of his native
land, for the complete integration with his life in Canada. Drinking liquor was the first step
as the demolition of taboos, imposed on Indians by their parents from very early childhood.
Next was meat eating and each break was justified with reasonable arguments; ‘How long
could one hang on to caste taboo, for whom and for what?’ (p.32). ‘How much his caste

83
mean to him? How did one’s identify depend on what he ate?’ (p.35). In Ananda’s view
when anyone come to a new country, he had to come whole heartedly, or else life would
be miserable. So, he gave up his Indianness by accepting new name, habits, dress, food etc.
And with each he felt more liberated. His wife Nina experienced such liberation when she
broke the severe caste/religion taboo. ‘That Monday Nina walked to the library, fish and
beef indelibly part of her being. Feeling less Indian has its advantages. There were more
possibilities in the world she could be open to. Her body was her own and that included
her digestive system and her vagina’. (p.268) ‘ But the same rationalization failed when
she were to fail Gayatri, her(?) (p.266) Nina could not have brought her selves to hold
Gayatri’s hand, stare into her eyes and lie, even by oversight. Even thought she herself had
heard many stories of affairs, joyous flings and sorrowful betrayals, but now when it was
her turn to reveal one such story, she chose the easy way out and prefabricated (p.271). She
left the group when she visits, after a gap of two years she avoided meeting her dearest
friend Zenobia. Zenobia came into her thought like an unfulfilled obligation. Her life in
Canada made her feel flawed, as though she lacked integrity. A married woman can never
accommodate any other woman in the life of any other woman in the life of her husband.
Nina has not asked anything about the yellow hairs and feigns to be normal with her
husband Ananda. In one of the article Neelam points out the position of Nina and remarks:

She accepts the bitter truths of her jarred


relationship; if she asks question she has to
confess her own crime also. Nina ever finds an
answer why they betrayed each other. Nina
craves for love of to be important for someone.
She doesnot 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 own choice (Ms.
Neelam: 2013, 138).

84
With the discovery of ‘Yellow hair’ Nina realized she could no longer consider
Ananda as her anchor, or Anton as her lover, who had forced upon himself on her, using
her for its own pleasures. She rid of all the bonds that could have held her, took a job and
moved on leaving behind Halifax her husband and all memories behind. She thought of all
those of all those who had been nice to her, way farers on the path, nothing permanent, but
interacting with them had made them stretch easier colleagues HRI, the women’s group
that encouraged her to be angry and assertive. Beth, Gayatri, Library school; The Sense of
community was there, warming but temporary- everything temporary. (p.330) For Nina as
an immigrant, there was no going back…..

She too was heading towards fresh territories, a


different set of circumstances, and a floating
resident of the Western world. When one is
reinventing oneself, anywhere could be home
(Kapur: 2010, 330).

Immigration precisely, calls for spontaneous integration of the mind adaptation


to the foreign ethos without shedding of our own selves. For Ananda and Nina, their
displacement was not only geographical and mentally too.

85
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- - -, Home New Delhi: Random House India, 2006; London: Faber and Faber, 2006.

- - -, The Immigrant, New Delhi: Random House India, 2010.

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