‘ QUEST FOR FEMININE IDENTITY IN MANJU KAPUR`S NOVEL ` HOME`
BY . DR. RAM SHARMA , SENIOR LECTURER IN ENGLISH , J.V.P.G COLLEGE, BARAUT, BAGHPAT, U.P.
Quest for feminine identity is largely a Post-Independence social phenomenon in India, a phenomenon influenced by various changing forces of reality - freedom movement, progressive education, social reforms, increasing contacts with the west, urban growth etc. The emergence of women writers in the last quarter of the 19th century carried with it a double significance. It bore testimony to the birth of a new era of emancipation for the Indian women, an era of increased opportunities and a more dynamic participation in the social and intellectual life of the country ushered in by the great social reorientations which came at the turn of the century. Secondly, it was also a commentary on the rise of individualism in the life and letters of the age, an individualism which is closely associated with the rise of the novel in India in the same way in which it was associated with the rise of the English novel. Feminism emerged as a worldwide movement to secure women's rights on the one hand and love, respect, sympathy and understanding from males on the other. It focused on women's struggle for recognition and survival and made them realize that the time has come when they should stop suffering silently in helplessness.
Gayatri chakravorty Spivak writes in her article "Can, the Subaltern speak?"
"Between patriarchy and imperialism subject constitution and object formation the figure of woman disappears not into a pristine nothingness, but into a violent shuttling which is the displaced figuration of the 'Third - World Woman' caught between tradition and modernization."(p-80)
Simone De Beauvoir has very precisely exposed the condition of woman in her most famous book 'The Second Sex'. Of course, the miserable condition of woman all over the world inspired the women of talent like Virginia Woolf to do something in this field and the result was the emergence of Feminism, a great movement in the western world in 1960. It is a movement for the emancipation of women and their fight for equal rights. The condition of woman is equally miserable in Indian society. The Indian society is basically patriarchal where a woman is given the secondary role.
The modern woman does not find any sense in such self-sacrifice and yearns for self-expression, individuality and self-identity. She is trying to free herself of the dependence syndrome as says Chaman Nahal—
"I define Feminism as a mode of existence in which the woman is free of the dependence syndrome. There is a dependence syndrome, where it is the husband or the father or the community or whether it is a religions group, ethnic group when women free themselves of the dependence syndrome and lead a normal life, my idea of feminism materializes."(p-30)
.Simone de Beauvoir expresses his own views on man - woman nexus --- man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general, where as woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria without reciprocity." (Seldom; 1988 : 534)
A woman is never regarded as an autonomous being since she has always been assigned a subordinate and relative position. "Man can think of himself without woman. She can not think of herself without man. And she is simply what man decrees ---. She appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex.... absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to man and not he with reference to her, she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential." (Seldom, 1988 : 534
Home’ (2006) is the third novel of Manju Kapur. This is a fast
moving story which makes an ordinary middle class family’s life in Delhi. The patriarch of this family is Banwari Lal, a cloth businessman who lives with his family in New Delhi neighbourhood of Karol Bagh. Banwari Lal has two sons and one daughter. Elder is Yashpal, younger is Pyare Lal and daughter’s name is Sunita who is already married to a person named Murli before the beginning of the novel.
Who is married to Murli a person beyond the status of Banwari Lal in views as well as in money. It seems that Sunita likes the boy that’s why she is married to him.
The Banwari Lal family belongs to a class whose skills have been honed over generations to ensure prosperity in the market place. From an early age children are trained to maintain the foundation on which these homes rested. The education they received, the values they imbibed, the alliances they made has everything to do with protecting the steady stream of gold and silver that burnished their lives. Banwari Lal is a believer in the old ways. Men work out of the home, women within. Men carry forward the family line, women enable their mission. His two sons unquestioningly follow their father in business and in life but their wives do not. Neither does his grand daughter who makes choices considered unavailable to the women to the family.
At the beginning of the story Sona Lal and Rupa Gupta both sisters are childless. Sona is the wife of Yashpal who falls in love while Sona with her mother comes from Meerut to match a blouse in preparsion to attend an uncle’s wedding.
Sona’s mother considers that it is necessary for marriageable girls to blossom during such occasions, it being likely that among the guests a boy, or better still his parents, can cast a glance and held it steadily upon her person.
With this in mind, the mother with her daughters is shopping in Karol Bagh determines that her daughters should look their best for every function. Yashpal falls in love and enquires all necessary details. Next morning he puts the address on his father’s hand and says he should go and talk to the family without delay. If he could not marry her he would leave the shop and spend the rest of his life celibate, by the bank of the Ganges.
Banwari Lal consults to a holy man, a Baba and settles the matter. Although Sona’s family is not as rich as Yashpal’s family. In marriage they can offer nothing but their daughter whose heart is golden like her name.
Their marriage is performed. But her mother-in-law is not pleased and she passes taunts. This makes Sona unhappy but Yashpal consoles her saying that when we have children, mother will forget all this. But unfortunately Sona could not conceive for a long time. By this time Pyare Lal is also married to Sushila who gives birth to a boy within one year of the marriage. Sona feels very bad and thinks that it may be the result of her past Karma, Sona keeps fast but it is of no use. During this period Yashpal’s sister burns herself and dies. As the family receive the news, they leave for Bareilly. Here Sona’s mother-in-law mourns, Sona tries to consols her.
‘Sleep now, Maji, sleep you will make yourself ill if you cry like this, and it will not bring her back.
The old woman glared at Sona and spat out, you think sleep is possible? What can you know of a mother’s feelings? All you do is enjoy life, no children, no sorrow, only a husband to dance around you, Sona is already mentally disturb to hear the taunt of her. Her father-in-law comes back with Vicky ten years old. The Boy is pushed towards Sona.
Sona has to take care of Vicky Sona discusses her matters to Rupa and tells that her life has become unbearable ever since Sushila has entered in the house.
‘Ever since that woman has come, my life has been a misery’ (P- 24.) Yashpal feels that Sona is not feeling well so he makes plan to visit a shrine at Chitai, near Almora Though the shrine is small it is famous, the Devi of these hills is said to have miraculous powers.
Rupa & Premnath also joins them. After two mothers Sona discovers that she has conceived. Sona feels it is because of Devi. Later on Sona gives birth to a girl. Nisha is declare as a Mangli. Nisha grows up as a beautiful girl and after Nisha, Sona gives birth to Raju. Now Vickey starts going to shop and there is some relax for Sona. Who does not like Vickey’s activities. By the time Vickey is fifteen and he begins to take interest in Nisha. Nisha cannot understand his intension. Nisha becomes mentally disturbed and nobody could understand why she is not eating, sleeping. So she is sent to Rupa’s Home for a change. Here she has no problem at all. Rupa & her husband Premnath understand all that there is a hand of Vicky behind Nisha’s miserable condition.
Nisha now finds herself in an atmosphere very different from the one she has lived in. As the only child she is the centre of interest, concern and attention. The pattern of Nisha’s next ten years is not set. She passes all week with her aunt and uncle. Premnath teaches her and brings a lot of things. Here Nisha flourishes as the most beautiful girl. On the other hand Vicky passes class X with third Division & Yashpal argues that he should go back to his father. So Banwari Lal with Vickey visits Bareilly but his father refuses to keep him pretending so many reason. Now Banwari Lal thinks about his marriage and performs it with Asha. Soon Asha gives birth to Virat. After a long illness Banwari Lal also dies and the whole burden comes to Yashpal, being the elder one. Nisha also returns her home to accompany her grand mother. Ajay’s marriage takes place a year after his grandfather’s death and after it Vijay Marriage.
The Board results are out Raju in Class X has barely scraped through with a 45 percent overall aggregate.
Nisha was a mangli. A mangli, destined to marry unfortunately, destined for misery, unless a similar mangli could be found, with a similar fate and horoscope. To do this would take time, and during that time perhaps an education? Not too much just a bit & Nisha enters in Durga Bai College for doing English Honours. In College Nisha’s best friend is Pratibha. Soon Nisha meets a boy Suresh who is studying in Khalsa College of Engineering. They become friendly within two or three meetings. Both fall in love and wonder here and there in each other’s company. She now totally changes.
‘Who gave you permission to cut your hair, suddenly you have become so independent, you decide things on your own, where did you find the money, the time, the beauty parlour, where did you find all these things?’ (P- 150)
The academic session is coming to close. Nisha has had a difficult year and now she feels nervous.
‘I can’t meet you, I have to study, I have to get a second division at least’, she told Suresh, ‘Arre yaar, what does it matter? It’s impossible to do badly in English.’ (P-152)
Suresh purchases St. Stephen’s tutorials from Daryaganj at Sunday bazaar and gives to Nisha. Nisha with the help of these notes gets success and gets first division. Nisha and Suresh continue their routine in next year also.
As for Nisha, her uncle’s training has stood her in good stead. With family wedding, she has still been able to obtain a 70 percent in Humanities. The uncle is thanked profusely for the care he has taken of his niece.
By this time Pyare Lal has two daughter-in-law so he feel uncomfortable in the house where there is no seprate bathroom for them. So he consults his brother to reconstruct the home again. Yashpal says nothing at the moment. Her wife also does not like the reconstruction. Yashpal says-
‘It was not his fault. He was the youngest, what could he do by himself? Now he had sons, daughter in law and grand children, now he was a patriarch in his own right.’ (P-170)
So they all moves out of the house Hotel Palace Heights in Karol Bagh. By now Nisha in her third year. Nisha enjoys in company of Suresh. He takes her to the room in Vijay Nagar where he tries to make sexual relation with her but could not successed.
On the way back Nisha remarks if he is so keen to do all this, why does not he make his parents talk to her parents? Let the whole thing be clear.
Towards the end of Nisha’s third year her parents receives a letter from the college authorities. Their daughter is short of attendance, and will not be allowed to sit for exams. Now parents enquires the reason, but Nisha does not tell directly and sents Suresh to meet at the shop. Now all things become clear & Yashpal enquires all things. Finally he declares him unfit for the girl. All day she remaines in the house, a prisoner of her deed, a prisoner of their words. Once she gets a chance to go with her masi Rupa & arrenges to meet him. Here Suresh finally declares that he cannot marry her & leaves her. Nisha’s nights are now ones of restlessness. After three years of thinking that Suresh is her future, Nisha will have adjust to the idea of another man in his place. Later on she badly suffers from eczema. This disease affects her a lot. This period had very important for Nisha’s coming future but it had passed in this fatal eczema.
This condition of Nisha remains same for a long period. Parents have been worrying, daughter getting older by the minute, son’s future blocks because of this, good matches will pass over because of this. One day a proposal comes from a richer branch of Rekha’s family showrooms in Karol Bagh and South Extension. Pyare Lal tells his brother that this type of proposal does not come daily so without any delay he should make up his mind. So they all go to Babaji. Babaji tells
‘I have good news, continued Babaji. The boy and the girl’s horoscopes are perfectly matched. This girl will be good for the family and even Nisha’s future will open after her sister-in-law comes to the house.’ (P-248)
So marriage is performed and Raju & Pooja go for a honeymoon in Europe. They return after one month and Pooja proves quite opposite.
Sona complains to Raju that Pooja is not behaving like a daughter-in-law. Pooja spends no time with the rest of the family, no time with Nisha. Raju responses –
‘Pooja is right : you don’t like her, why did you marry me to her, then? Was I in such a hurry? snapped Raju before returning to his lair, leaving Sona to tearfully narrate the conversation word for bitter word to Nisha and later to Rupa.’ (P-259)
Sona things that her son has become the slave of his wife and is bent on stabing his mother in heart. Condition is getting worse day by day and there is a great dispute among the family.
Pooja goes and comes without anyone’s permission. Parents think that it is very bad for Nisha to remain at home all the time. She should join a school so that she feels better. She starts going to school to teach.
After seven months of the marriage Raju announces that Pooja is pregnant. Soon she gives birth to a boy.
Parents are continuously searching a mangli boy to match for Nisha, but they are not getting success in it. Soon Nisha feds up of the teaching job and plans to start a business. She consults to her father. Yashpal at the time of dinner says to Nisha ‘Beti’ he started, ‘business is not an easy thing’ (P- 291).
I will help you in the beginning, but the responsibility, profit and loss all are yours. In teaching no matter what you do, you get your salary. This is different Nisha starts business and it flourishes day by day. Demands of suits increase in the Market. During this period Yeshpal finds a mangoli boy for Nisha. soon boy and his mother came to see Nisha and pass her. Although boy is a widow and aggres on Nisha’s condition.
‘I cannot give it up’ she confided this was the only thing she could visualise in any marriage, that she had to come to the basement everyday’ (P-303).
Arvinds lives in Daryaganj and have a business there. He accepts that Nisha need not to stop her business and he will hire a room near Karol Bagh so she will not feel any problem to continue it. Only one thing Arvind wants a registry marriage. All agree and the preparison of marriage begins after a long period. They have an eleven ‘o’ clock appointment with the registrar at Tees Hazari. In evening there will be the reception at the Sartaj Hotel. All family members with Nisha reach at Tees Hazari.
Finally they collect in front of a magistrate in the nicest room. Here Arvind and Nisha sign their names in several places. Pooja takes out a box from her hand bag and unnrapes the paper covering to reveal fat white squares of cashew barfi. She firmly holds a piece out to Arvind.
‘Now you are married: She says laughing ‘You should be the first to sweeten the mouth of your bride’.(P-312) .Their marriage performs happily from the court they drive straight to the Sartaj Hotel in Karol Bagh. Here all family and relatives of both side enjoy the reception and bless the couple.
Next morning Arvind takes Nisha to his home & they pass their time happily. Nisha continues her business and comes regularly to see the work of tailors. This routine does not continue for long due to the pregnancy of Nisha. Her mother in-law advises her not to go daily otherwise it will create big problem so Nisha have to stop it. After ten months she gives birth to twins.
One girl and one boy. Nisha feels that God has shown mercy on her and now her duty is over.
Thus novel ends with the naming ceremony of twins and everybody looks happy and satisfied.
1. Manju Kapur, Home [ New Delhi : Random House Publishers , 2006]
2. Simone de Beauvoir , The Second Sex , ed & tr. H.M Parshley [ 1955 : Middlesex : Penguin Books , 1986]