Victimization of Women in Society with Regard to Anita Nair, S Ladiescoupe
The undeserved dilemma of modern woman is a recurrent theme of the novels of Bharati, a widely acclaimed author and winner of the National Book critics’ award. She considered her works, a celebration of her emotion that she brings out of her heart. She has depicted very minutely the condition of Asian immigrants in North America, with particular attention to the changes taking place in South Asian women in a new world. She presents all her characters a survivors against the brutalities and violence that surrounded them.
A threat that runs through all the novels of Mukherjee is of religious, racial, sexual and economic class difference. Bharati expresses the “the inner expropriation of cultural identity”. Pre-natal reminiscence is the fountain head of the Indian tradition. Encounter between India, England and USA ends in an inter cultural accommodation. The two integral parts of reality are fixity and change. The blending of being and becoming attracts the attention of novelists. Nativity and nationality meet face to face challenging immigrant sensibility and expatriate predicament.
Monolithic cultural identity is dissolved in the process of cultural mutation. Thus this is evident in the novel against the background of Tara Lata’s recollection of childhood memory of previous birth and cross cultural pollination. A British becoming an Indian is a matter of attention while at the same time an Indian turning a snobbish British is equally an important subject matter for our concern. The philosophical import of the title, “From Being to Becoming,” is actually gleaned from the ritual incidents and personages.
Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher stated that nothing remains static and so everything is in a state of change or constant transition. This phenomenon is nothing but a movement across cultures. The troublesome question is about the possibility of the life of the mind which transcends space and time. What is native becomes alien and what is alien becomes native. The issue is not so much connected with external space-time framework. But it has lot to do with our inner life. For example, Mishtigunj and Mist Mahal are the creations of John Mist.
These places had become the home of ecumenical accommodation. It has turned in to a place which supports Christian unity. The Shoonder Bon village worshipped John Mist as an avatar. Helping the poor, feeding the hungry ones, elevating the life of the depressed, creating schools, building houses, hospitals, supplying the money, the necessary wherewithal, and shaping the body and soul of Shoonder Bon Home are the admirable heroic activities. All his heroic activities had endowed John Mist with the status of divine incarnation.
By temperament he was Vedantic and by outlook he was Vedic. Experiences are always universal and they tend to move on in a parallel line. A man born in England getting fully rooted and absorbed in the life of Shoonder Bon village in East can be described as a phenomenon continent. Though the inhabitation is in a specific culture modern like cross-cultural pollination and acculturation are not sufficient to psychoanalyze the life of a soul. The Tree Bride is a powerful depiction of pre-independence India bringing two continents into contact with each other.
East and West are traditionally conceived as terms of contrast, but this novel differs from this time-honored way of treating East and West. Shattering and solidifying of cultural boundaries are the two sub-conscious streams pervading the novel. John Mist serves as an example for the first category while Virgil Treadwell is shown as an instance for second category as he happens to be an East India Company official and a commissioner with an Anglophile and Edwardian bent of mind looking to formal, external decorum and spectability as norms of good behavior.
But the novelist is preoccupied with mysticism and transformation of consciousness. Therefore anectodes, precedents and succeedents are only matter of chronology, history and geography. Human beings are irrespective of time, place and age. Anti-British and pro-British elements are attitudes which are incidental and largely history. The novelist does not spare her satirical pen where the British rule in India is concerned. Brahmo Samaj, a revival Indian Renaissance Movement, comes under severe scrutiny in the novelist’s hands.
It can be clearly seen that the artist shows her inward respect over Jaikrishna Gangooly, the great grandfather of Tara, and his daughter, the Tree Bride. They also respected the Gangooly family for it is more attached to Arya Samaj which came as a corrective to Brahmo Samaj. The first movement endorses the philosophy of liberal, scientific Westernization while the second accepts the same phenomenon with a great deal of reservation. The business of Bharati Mukherjee is to be true to the facts of life. She acknowledges the fact that the British lifted India from the deep slumber of decadence.
At the same time the novelist mounts a frontal attack on the British strategy of perpetrating the foreign rule through religious divisions. “It is easy for an English-educated, middle-class Indian (or Pakistani or Bangladesh) to fall in line with colonial prejudice. Thirty thousand British bureaucrats and “factors” were able to rule ten thousand times more Indians by dividing Muslims from Hindus, Persian Zoroastrians from Muslims, Sikhs from Hindus, and nearly everyone, including Hindus, from castes like lazy Brahmins and money-grubbing banias”. 44) It shows that the need of the British empire could be better fulfilled by the Indians than by the English men. Macaulay’s limited psychoanalysis of the situation was right as far as his administrative framework was involved. But he failed to see the spontaneous mystical influence of each culture over the other. The novel contains two layers of unfolding its theme. One layer is obviously concerned with the consequences resulting from the setting up of the East India Company. To a historian, the other layer remains obscure and somewhat non-logical.
But the novelist takes immense care to distribute the emphasis in an equable manner for the purpose of achieving cultural comprehensiveness in the historical-cum-artist portrayal of personages. Macaulay saw culture and civilization in the mass as a consolidated unified framework. That is after all a nineteenth-century Benthamite utilitarian rationale. It is the justification or rationalization of relating to the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. A mass tendency validates an individual wishing after some cultural fallback. Man in the mass is metaphorically dead.
Only the individual who does not align himself with the mass tendency is alive. Every culture is in a state of being and becoming and what is far more important is that one emerges into the other. There is always an interplay between the two. The reason is that every society is subject to mutation and change. No culture has come to stay like a consolidated stone. History events and the march of time leave no society and culture untouched. The richness of any antiquity is never lost in the exposure of any historical, social and cultural metamorphosis.
The novel brings out this idea of absorption and assimilation: In my mind, the history of the British in India is a story of adventure gone bad, where the thrill of new encounters, the lure of transformation…started drying up…Maybe there is a limit to the human capacity for wonder or the ability to absorb the truly alien without trying to reduce its dimensions and tame its excess. (48) It is clear that the stand of outside time is true and enduring . Simultaneously some other mysterious element enters time to put life through a process of transmutation. Frequently at such moments cultural upheavals occur.
One such movement is the encounter between England and India in the wake of the setting up of the East India Company as the nucleus and the wing of the British Empire. The powerful depiction of the scenes and a comprehensive portrayal of significant characters enables us to come to terms with the psycho-social implications of what they stand for and where the repercussions lead to. A head-on collision between the sociology of the society and the psychology of the individuals is perceptible. Demonstrably Eliot’s theory of past influencing the present and the present equally modifying the past is at work in the novel.
A discussion taking place in San Francisco among Tara and Bish,Yash Khanna and Victoria Khanna is related to a memorable historical event in Shoonder Bon village (in East Bengal). The information so secured about this past is more by coincidence. The restlessnes of Tara’s spirit and the probability involved in her rumbling upon some material link the present with the past. It is the matter of sheer chance. Nevertheless it has value. Victoria Khanna’s grandfather was Virgil Treadwell. As he was in Indian Civil Service, he was posted as a district commissioner in Bengal in 1930.
The Six containing old ledgers of grandfather is a historical record about him. Victoria Khanna informs Tara about these materials. An impetus from the research into the past history Tara Lat Gangooly is the outcome of Tara’s inner prompting of her reminiscent prevision of a remote historical record of Mishtigunj which presents a parallel equivalent to an idealist view of a world of unalloyed joy and bliss. The random availability of record by sheer coincidence or accident from the hand of Victoria Khanna leads to the fulfillment of such a goal of study and investigation.
Mist Nama is a powerful poetic depiction of a rich rewriting of the ancient Indian Vedic history by a British-turned Hindoo, John Mist. The question, “Who contributes” is as much important as the question “What is contributed. ” John Mist is the creator of an ideal social order. Mist-Nama is a practical rendering of a life-vision. A British Hindu stood for the Hindu-Moslem unity. His governing philosophy in the language of the novelist was the harmonious combination of the ‘two’ of everything and it meant occupation and employment for both Hindus and Moslems in an equitable proportion.
He conducted hectic commerce and business enterprises and whatever he earned, he shared with all. A profit-making East India Company British ship dropped a legacy making sailor-turned savior, John Mist. There were many Indians who became pseudo-British by their outward forms of Westernization like Virgil Treadwell. At the same time there were many British like John Mist, David Llewellyn and Coughlin Nigel who became true Indian Hindoos by their inner transformation of being. Imitation must contain an element of creative transformation; otherwise it can turn into mere form and decorum ending in an emptiness of being.
The context for the discussion of the relationship between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ is demonstrably evident here. The truth to be established is that’ being’ and’ becoming’ are not the usual dichotomies but they are two indivisible sides of the same coin. Tara and John Mist appear as immigrants. Immigrancy is equated with loss of something and a search for true “something. ” Tradition and convention describe nativity as something which is independent upon space, time, history and geography. This is a monolithic vision of culture and nativity. Nativity is therefore defined as a belonging to a culture and sharing oneness with it.
But Bharati Mukherjee establishes another view that nativity is independent of all factors and it is more connected with inner being and less with spontaneous factors. A search for realization of inner being is conserved by the novelist as nativity. The idea of birthplace being conserved as nativity is different from the idea of describing nativity as sharing oneness with the inner being which is independent of spacing the framework. The drama is that being turns into becoming and being from becoming turns into being. The novelist holds two views which are not contradictory as each other.
John Mist says: “having come nowhere, he had everywhere to go. Having had nothing, he has had everything and anything at his disposal. ” (27) Elsewhere the novelist says that where one inherits nothing, he is entitled to everything. Freedom of immigrancy and liberty of any form of absorption put the being and the becoming in a process of creative interplay. Mukherjee acknowledges the fact that life is an unpredictable mystery:“We have been trained to think of Mishtigunj as home in ways that our adopted homes, Calcutta and California, must never be.
Ancestors come and to, but one’s native village, one’s desh, is immutable. (29)” Tara realizes her native home as Mishtigunj in a state of immigrancy. But the home of John Mist is the same Indian village. Tara and John Mist realized their nativity in different ways where ‘being’ and’ becoming’ move and merge into each other. John Mist is the creator of Indian Mishtigunj and he is a British who discovers his sweet home in this village. Tara, an Indian immigrant in San Francisco, discovers home in the British created legendary village, Who is an immigrant? Who is a native?
These questions get simultaneously juxtaposed. Home if therefore or it needs to be defined where one’s being is. In comparison with Tara and John Mist, Virgil Treadwell is less a better human being in spite of his being absorbed in the new phenomenon called Eurasianism. He could plot along with the British and spy on Tara Lata Gangooly’s house. These facts have deprived him of his inner being. His Eurasianism corrupted his nobility, introducing falsity. He sold his soul and made his profit whereas John Mist gave away his profit to people and he discovered his soul in his sacrifice.
Bharati Mukherjee says that when the British like Virgil Treadwell spoke of profit John Mist thought in terms of leaving legacy. Therefore the concept of total objectivity of culture dies-down in the birth of polyvalent cultural subjectivity. Tara, Virgil Treadwell and John Mist are varying examples of the new proposition. With John Mist loss of objectivity (British culture) ends in discovery of subjectivity. Here the words’ loss’ and ‘gain’ and ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’ and’ being’ and ‘becoming’ are more connected with subconscious realization of one’s inner being.
In the case of Virgil Treadwell, British gain meant Indian loss whereas conversely in the case of John Mist’s British loss meant Indian gain. The novelist uses very sensational generalizations to illustrate this truth:“All the could-have-beens and should-have-beens of history, the best of the East meeting the best of the West, etc. , etc. , shrink from grandeur to petty profit-taking. (48) The question ‘Who conquered whom’ melts into insignificance: “history is written by victors, but in the case of India, it’s not always clear who won, is it? 90) It is that both the victor (West) and the vanquished (East) mutually enriched the sensibility of the two cultures. It is a strange divine coincidence that John Mist’s creation of the “Mist-Nama” and “Mishtigunj” is along a line which the ancient tradition of India endorses. The discovery of such a wonderful treasure is made possible by the research work of an Indian immigrant in America, Tara. Both John Mist and Tara are in a way immigrants. The philosophical axiom is that cultures are not fixed entities like “quantity. Naturally ‘being’ and’ becoming’ are not static. The mutations have repercussions. Though the word ‘being’ created a misleading picture of fixity and permanence, it has the character of fabric. The British conquest of India forms the context of the new in which these issues are raised indirectly. The history of Mishtigunj created by British Hindu John Mist puts obstacles in the way of glibly accepting the two categories ‘being’ and ‘becoming’. What determines history is not its concern with outward form but the ‘inner implications’ is which it unconsciously creates.
It is this history which has created a martyr, John Mist. Tara Lata Gangooly represents the best of the East and her predecessor John Mist represents both the best of the East and the best of the West. Characters like Virgil Treadwell are more concerned with the British form and decorum than with the essence of life. Both John Mist and Tara Lata Gangooly live at a deeper level while men like Virgil Treadwell move on a superficial plane. There are many places where Virgil Treadwell is compared to Churchill and Nixon and he is satirized subtly.
Both John Mist and Tara Lata died a martyr’s death. The former was hanged in 1880 on a charge of disobedience of the British Colonial venture and the latter died in a prison in 1943 on the same charges of treason, sedition and disobedience. These events and situations by themselves are utterly insignificant. But the effect and impact they leave have a lasting value. It is this fact which enable the readers arrives at a philosophical link between being and becoming both is that the reality of life permits a movement between being and becoming.
Liking John Mist, Tara Lata, Virgil and their life styles lead the leader draw an intelligent interference events and circumstances keeps them in a state of transition and transformation. It is a great achievement on the part of the novelist to aim at an imaginative-historical reconstruction of Mishtigunj. Bharathi Mukherjee is not a thoughless immigrant. Her loyalty to the essence of life gives her a new responsibility to rephrase the issue of the contact and correlation between being and becoming.