Quest for Identity in the Novels of Shashi Deshpande Essay

QUEST FOR IDENTITY IN THE NOVELS OF SHASHI DESHPANDE The Indian socio-culture system has never given, if we take into account the history ,both past and present ,due and responsible place to woman. Her roles in the family organization, consolidation of social norms and cultural tenets have always been neglected. The orthodox myths as well as folklorical assumption, we believe in, have controlled not our. The traditional Indian society and cultural tenets have enslaved woman from time immemorial till date.

The Indian society in its legends and scriptures and even in the actual life never gave space to woman so that she can have her honour, her identity and opportunity to play equal roles in all the spheres of life ,in the family and society and in building of the cultural edifice. The self of woman, her desires and aspiration have been imprisioned by imposing the traditional notions on them. She is a colonized woman by culture fetters and shackles the superiority complex of male domiance. The traditional picture Indian woman is grave and pathetic in the society. She undergoes arduous journey in her life.

When born in a family she belongs to her father, after marriage she is supposed to belong to her husband and in old age, she depends on the grown up male child. She is always a dependent. As N. D. R. Chandra has pointed out, “Indian woman’s identity is one that is usually connected to and defined by the socical and cultural norms of a practicable structure”1. She has been fettered physically as well as psychologically by the conventions and limitations supported by the culture, rooted in the mind of the individual and the memory of the society and surprised by the patriarchal temperament.

Indian woman has been marginalized by denying her right in family property, family affairs etc. Shashi Deshpande has up literature as medium to assert woman’s voice freely and courageously in her novels and short stories. Deshpande’s women protagonists are drawn from the middle class. They are “sensitive, intelligent, educated and career oriented. She endeavours to establish woman as an individual who is free from the traditional constraints and redefines her identiy in tune with the changed social ambience of the modern time. Shashi Deshpande has seen the subdued and slave women living in the society since ages, uncared and least respected.

She makes her arise, awake and find freedom for her development and stability in all her novels. She says, “For women the situation is more complex by the fact that they have been told they are weak, they are made to believe in their weakness . And often they learn to hide their own strength, because a woman’s strength seems to weaken a man. ”2 (1) SARITA AND INDU GO AGAINST TRADITION Sarita, in THE DARK HOLDS NO TERROR, is a well educated and economically independent woman, in search of identity. Her struggle leads her to discover the hidden strength in herself as well as in other human beings.

She reviews her relations with her parents and her husband. It is the story of a marriage on the verge of breakdown and of a woman who has been made acutely conscious of her gender since childhood. She undergoes’ the arduous journey into herself and learn to free herself of guilt, shame, humiliation and she is also initiated into the mystry of human existence. As Sarbjit Sandhu says, “Saru is brought up in a traditional atmosphere but the education she receives make her a changed person with a rebellious attitude towards tradition.

As an educated young woman, she does not accept anything without reason. ” Sarita neither surrenders to nor escapes from the problems she is confronted with but with great strength accept the challenges of her own protege. She is humble and modest, very sensitive but lacking in lacking in self confidence. As a middle class woman, she is aware of her own limitations and tries to stay within them. By breaking away from the rigid traditional norms, she goes against matriarchal bondages and tries to find out a new environment where the mother and the father cannot impose her will on her.

Saru dislikes her paternal home and her rage leads her to discover forces in other persons, which could give her new strength and encouragement in her private life that is of her own. During the study of medicine Saru felt satisfies with love and affection that came from the close emotional contact. That was the only source of satisfaction for. After marriage she was happy with her husband and children. But success became a boon for her. Saru is a successful doctor during the daytime and a ‘terrified trapped animal’ at night in the company of her husband.

This traumatic experience necessitates her to crave for freedom from domineering influences. She wishes to become a free individual and wants to have an identity of her own with a purpose in life. She says, “My life is my own” and endeavors to shape it as she likes. INDU is an educated, intelligent and highly sensitive woman. She wants to become independent and complete in herself. She brushes aside all age old beliefs and superstions prevalent in society. She is a woman who “attempts to assert individuality and realize her freedom. ” (2) QUEST FOR IDENTITY SINCE CHILDHOOD OF SARITA AND INDU @ Sarita visits her father after a gap of fifteen years, on hearing through a friend about her mother’s death. She wants to visits her father’s house which she had left when she was a young woman. She now returns to her paternal house as an established doctor and mother of two children out of an urge to escape from the disastrous life she is passing through. She appears to be confused, dull, almost thoughtless and recluse. At her paternal house, she gets a chance to think over her relationships with her husband, her dead brother, Dhruva, and her dead mother.

Her earliest memories are those, which speak about the gender discrimination shown by her mothe in favour of her brother. she is not shown paternal love that is given him in her presnce in the family. Her mother’s discriminatory behaviour makes her feel unloved and unwanted, imbibing a sense of alienation and estrangement. Saru has had an insecure childhood and she is unable to tolerate the special preference shown towards her brother. She feels jealous of her brother when he gets all the paternal care and attention obliterating her personality in the family set up.

Saru’s mother, who believes a girl to be a liability and a boy asset, sense of insecurity in her daughter’s mind. She is always considered a burden to be eased or a problem to be solved or a responsibility to be dispensed with by all means. Dhruva’s birthdays were celebrated with much fun-fare and performance of religious rites, while her birthdays were barely acknowledged and forgotten. This disparity of treatment makes her to think that her birth is a only matter of displeasure for her mother. She is made up of gender inferiority which developes in a kind of revolt.

Saru laments, “But of my birth mother had said once……….. ”It rained heavily the day you were born. It was terrible. ” And somehow, it seemed to be that it was my birth that was terrible for her , not the rains. ” (169) The preference for boys over girls can be observed in most Indian homes and is with the Indian psyche. Saru’s mother strong preference for her brother drives her to a sence of restlessness and alienation. The partisan attitude of her parents has a devasting effect on Saru. She becomes rebellious in nature. She is haunt by the thought that she is responsible for his death.

Even her mother finds her guilty when she says, “You killed your brother. ” After her brother’s death the condition of her mind deteriorated from bad to worse and life became more desperate to Saru. Her mind is filled with deep and indelible scars her mother constantly reminds her for the dead son and rejects her presence. This sense of rejection adolescent Saru’s mind with feeling of hatred towards her mother. In Saru’s care, the parents’ discriminatory behaviour and the traditional orthodox view are responsible for anger and disgust in her mind. Saru’s hatred gets intensified.

As she attains puberty, she retains the onset of her womanhood. She talks to herself: “If you are a woman, I don’t want to a one. ” Saru developes hatred towards the traditional practices during her impressionable years which leads her to psychological insecurity in her mind. She begins to express her feelings through the act of defiance, which spring from her resentment against her mother as a young girl. She rebels against her mother by going to Bombay to study medicine. She, who has lacked love in her life, finds a saviour in Manohar, her husband.

In medical college she leads to romance with Manohar. Saru once again defies her mother to marry with a man of her taste. @@ Indu finds Akka ,her surrogate mother, dominent and even the family as hindrande in achieving her goal of attaining her goal of attaining independence completeness Indu has brought up under Akka’s authority and control. But she always questions her authority and wants to set herself free and independent. Indu, from very a very tender age has always hated Akka for her narrow mindness. She resents against her for not going to the hospital.

Indu rebels against the suffocating authority of Akka and the oppressive atmosphere of the family when she finds that she has no choice but to submit and accept the condition imposed on her. Right from the childhood, Indu has been advised by the elderly women menbers of the family to inculcate in the feminine qualities as the only way to survive in the male dominated family. As Siaddharth Sharma has pointed out , ‘’She had become aware of the preailing injustice in society since her childhood. No effort was spared to introdoctrinate her to play the role of a meek and submissive daaghter, wife and mother. 4 but Indu has her own dreamsand promisises. Indu resents, “ As a child, they had told me I must be obedient and unquestioning. As a girl they told me I must be meek and submissive. Why? I had asked. because you are a female, you must accept everything, even defeat, with grace because you are a girl they had said. ” ( 3) REBEL AGAINST TRADITION Saru goes against her mother and studies medical. She got married with a outcaste man. Indu rebels against the narrow conventions and more particularly, the tyrannical authority Akka on matter of education, love and marriage.

Defying the traditional role she is expected to play, Indu seeks fulfillment in education and career. In fact, Indu has rejected her womanhood as she was conscious of her feminity. The onset of puberty perpelxes her and makes her conscious of her own body. When she studies in the college, Akka does not allow her to meet the boys and develop friendship with them. Indu leaves her home full of hatred for family, for Akka specially and swears not to come again. She rebels against Akka’s authority, world and her vaules. She marries Jayant and enters another home to be independent and complete.

UNSATISFIED MARRIED LIFE OF SARITA AND INDU Soon Sarita realizes that happiness is illusory and she is left with memories which are weighted with grief. Her economic independence makes Manu thoughly insecure and this casts a shadow on their married life. Her new identity brought change in Manu’s behaviour. He feels ignored of people in his own eyes and it is here that his ego is hurt. the rise in social and financial status grows in respect and recognition as a career woman and her profession satisfies her. But the satisfaction in profession brought grief in her personal life.

His ego is hurt by her profession and steady rise in status. Though he is normal by day, he turns treacherous rapiest at night and tries to assert his masculinity through sexual assult upon Saru. She hates Manu’s pretentious attitude . her understanding is that Manu needs a woman who is subservient and obedient. Her dream of finding happiness in marriage has shattered. She begins to hate this man-woman relationship, which is based on and attration and not affection. Gradually, the changes takes place her attitude towards Manu and her marital life .

Unable to bear barbarismof her husband, she revolts and returns to her father to seek refuge and longes for security and emotional attachment. She wants her father to support her and feeling raised against Manu’s brutality. Saru tells about Manu’s brutality and expressed her helplessness. She says, ‘I couldn’t fight back. I could’t shout or cry…. .. I could do nothing, I just endure’ She thinks that her visit to her father’s house is a kind of escape from sadist husand and her loveless marriage. Her suffering are her own, unnoticed by any other person and she endure them with silence and courage.

But her father advices her to face the situation. In her first meeting with Jayanat, she falls in love with him. She has received the feeling of solidity and certainty from him. In married life, Indu wants to be more assertive and autonomous. She desires for the things apparently intended to please him. She expresses her love for Jayant which has no limits. But she realizes that she is in no way different from others. She finds that she has lost identity as a person in the process of becoming a wife, surrendered to Jayant.

She willingly submits to the demands of married life and shape herself up to the dictates and expectations of her husband. She admits that the fault is hers own and not of her husband. As A Hariprasanna says, “ Her marriage, she finds is robbing her of her identity as a person apart and separate from her husband feeling entrapped yet unable to come out of her entanglements. Her realization that she too, is being mould into the very image of woman she tried to break away from worries her. ”

The paradox of the situation is that Indu is not completely happy with Jayant, but at the same time, she cannot live without him. She speaks about her own incompleteness when she says, “This is my real sorrow. That I can never be complete in myself. Until I have met Jayantn had not known it…. that there was, somewhere outside, a part of me without which I remained incomplete. Then I met Jayant and lost the ability to be alone. ” The concept of the ideal woman as represented by her aunts and other tradition and female relatives does not offer any promise to her.

The idea of an ideal woman which does not have an independent identity and woman who shed ‘I’ and loses her identity to her husband made her nervous. But she realizes that with her marriage with Jayant she has infact confirmed to be the notion of the ideal woman. Indu, who considers herself independent and intelligent, who is proud of her logical and rational thinking has become, after marriage, a submissive Indian woman whose identity is only an extention of her husband’s. She feels that she has abused her body’s sanctity by marrying. Jayant no different from an average Indian male.

She knows that Jayant has ‘desexualized her by refusing to accept her sexual personality and indirectly molded her identity according to his prescription. ’ She thought that marriage would bring her freedom, but to her great shock and surprise, she found that Jayant had not only expected her to submit but had taken her submission for granted and she also, without being aware of it, submitted herself to him gradually in the name of love and wife. She found that it was not love but an adjustment. Her being the love marriage, she did not want to give an impression to her parents that she had committed a mistake.

On the contrary, she wants to prove her success and sense of pleasure. Indu learns that love has no place in the world. On the contrary, she sees only deceit, treachery and hypocrisy in the time-tangled love. She realizes that the name of love it is body, a source of sexual gratification that is prefered by the partner. Marriage demands enormous sacrifice from woman and in that sacrifice from woman; she cannot express herself that she is totally free and extra-matrial relationship. Indu’s quest for meaning for self and successful life has detrailed her life.

As P. Bhatnagar says’ “She was bewildered to find that her desire to assert herself had drawn her from affection to hypocrisy. And this destroyed her certainty, her confidence, her assurance. ”6 (4) INTROSPECTION OF SARITA AND INDU Saru realizes that she has to accept all these selves- daughter, sister, mother as they are, for she wants to accept all these slaves to become whole again and confrontation with disintegrating elements would never make that possible. She began to understand thing as she finds that the dark is not terrible.

As realization dawns upon she becomes aware that neither secluded life nor the ‘walls of silence’ shall be of any help to her. Therefore, for Saru there is realization that marriage is no guarantee for happiness. but gaining the identity as a woman a new Sarita is identified to whom the past was always receding and there was no future. Towards the end of the novel, however, Saru receives a letter about Manu’s arrival. Initially, she feels indifferent and thinks that perhaps Manu might turn away, tried after knocking at the door. She tells her father,” And, Oh, Baba, if Manu comes, tell him to wait.

I will be back as soon as I can” she prepares herself to confront not to escape from it. She enters the world with calm and courage. Maria Mies says: “The non-conforming conduct of the women is the consequence of an external necessity but of changed consciousness. They are not satisfied with the rhetoric of the equality between man and woman , but want to see that the right to an individual life and the right to development of their individual capabilities are realized in their own lives. This is exactly true of Saru who is the representative of middle class working woman in modern India. She rebels against tradition, but ultimately tries to compromise with the present reality. Saru lives in traditional society but with new awaking to understand the current situation. Saru passes from the illusion to reality, from frustration to compromise. She makes an ultimate attempt to reconcile herself. Saru, at the end, is ready to have a life outside the family and face the hard realities of life. Saru desires to liberate herself from the shackles of tradition.

She experience her right to reveal her individual capabilities. She realizes her femine self through identity and self-assertion. She avoids facing the moment of confrontation now and keeps away from extreams and takes a practical view of the circumtances and wait for the solutions to take its own turn. She is neither the typical western liberated woman nor an orthodox one in her search for identity. Realization of self and failure forces Indu returnes to her place and stays with Akka till the house is disposed off. During the stay, she starts introspectig deeply over her past life, her secret passion and sexual exploration.

It is here that she realizes where her roots are, what her freedom is and what her moral responsibility is. Her relationship is complex in actual situations and her different roles are the results of context. There is reconciliation in her submission. She realizes that it would be an act of wisdom and pragmatic concern to keep the traditional family ties without losing her individuality. With the relization that she loves and she needs Jayant, she decides to go back to him with the understanding that she is not influenced by him in the matter of her carrer.

She wants to restart her life, built on the foundation of honesty. She decides to be herself and her relationship with Jayant. She does not want to be like the other ones whose feeling and demands are suppressed. She achieves freedom and does what she thinks she should be doiing. CONCLUSION Saru is the representative of middle-class working woman in modern India. she rebels against tradition, but ultimately tries to compromise with the present reality. Saru lives in traditional society but with new awaking to understand the current situation.

Saru passes from the illusion to reality, from frustration to compromise. She makes an ultimate attempt to reconcile herself. Saru,at the end, is ready to have a life outside the family and face the hard realities of life. She desires to liberate herself from the shackles of tradition. She realizes her feminine self through identity and self-asertion. She avoids facing the moment of confrontation now and keeps away from extreams and takes a practical view of circumtances and waits for the solutions to take its own turn.

She is neither the typical western nor an woman nor an orthodox one in her search for identity. Indu ,also, comes out her emotional upheavel and decides to lead a meaningful life with her husband. Finally Indu emerges as independent woman. She returns ‘home to Jayant’. Indu achieves what she has been aiming for personal freedom, completeness and integrity within herself. Indu’s quest for selfhood is now fullfilled. She realizes her roots and affirms her individuality. She sees a fresh light in life. she has learnt to see not only her life full of possibilities for success and grace, but the very meaning of itself.


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