Shashi deshpande is one of Indian English writers who depict Indian women life in their real form. Shashi Despande is not only a writer but also an Indian women who won to describe the under currents of Indian society. She was born in Dharwar in 19-8-1938. Her father was a renowned dramatist and Sanskrit scholar, Shriranga. After graduation, she joined for Law. She was a journalist after her studies and that widened her realm of thought. And that gave her a chance to know more about Indian society.
Mulk Raj Anand is known as the beginner of fiction writings in India. Before him there are only a cluster of works of Bengali writers who tried to write beautiful fiction in the place of fictions discuss social problems. The important feature of fiction of writers like R.K.Narayan is nothing but the portrayal of evils of Indian society like untouchability and superstitions, political upheavals and corruptions, brutality towards women in male dominated society. Women face injustice not only from the male counter part but also from the tradition. The history of Indian women writers begins with the works of Toru Dutt. Her works are generally about nature and the loss of her siblings. She was inspired by poets like Keats. After the Second World War, Indian women novelists got a new track to their vision. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Nayantara sahgal and Kamala Markandaya are the chief exponents of women writers of that period. Novelists focused the urban middle class Indian life which is filled with domestic problems. The real renaissance of the Indian Woman began with the Independence. Leaders like Gandhiji inspired women to come out of the four wall .
A search for identity or individuality started with the changing political and social atmosphere in India. Women writers sprout. In 1970’s Shashi Deshpande started writing short stories. But later she concentrated writing fictions. She published several volumes of short stories. She is the author of four children’s books and eight novels. Her first novel “That Long Silence”(1989),The Binding Vine”(1993), A Matter of Time”(1996), The Legacy”(1978), It was Dark”(1986), The Legacy (1978), It was the Nightingale”(1986), “Moving On”(2004) and “3 Novels: A Summer Adventure, The Hidden Treasures, The Only Witness”(2006) are her famous novels. The Intrusion of other stories” (1994), Narayanpur Incident” (1995) are her famous works for children. Shashi Deshpande’s works are all realistic. She prefers first person narrative in her writings. Women novelists like Anita Desai, Bharathi Mukherjee, Shoba De and Namita Gokhale Shashi Deshpande wrote about the Indian women. But her characters are unique because her heroines have the capacity to adjust with the society, they struggle with themselves. In the last century female voice become an inevitable part of literature. In India, women are considered to be the instruments fit for the household chores and no talent and had no talent to turn to literature. A self analysis and a self-probe into the existential of problems of female folk can be seen in her writing
For ‘That Long Silence’ Shashi Deshpande won Sahitya Academi Award. In that novel novelist depicts a haunting tale of dissillusioned women with her marriage and rediscovers herself. In that novel we can find a quest for human self with in the women. Not only in “That long Silence” but in all her works she revolves round the pathetic and heart breaking condition of women in male dominated society. “Roots and Shadows,” her early novel won the Thirumati Rangammal Prize in 1984. That novel projects the inner thoughts of a woman, Indu. In “Binding Vine”, Shashi Deshpande depicts the lives of many human beings especially women. They are from different strata of life but all of them face same problems different dimensions. Shashi Deshpande’s aim is to write about human beings and not merely about women.
Urmila, the central character is not only a wife but also a mother. Recently she lost her girl child Anusha. She was in grief. Her husband Kishore was not with her to share her feelings. She decides to make changes in her life to get relief from the pain. One day in a hospital Urmi met a domestic worker, Sakuntai. She was moved by Shakuntai’s story. Sakuntai’s daughter was in ICU. She was raped brutally. Meantime Kishore’s stepmother hands over some “confidential documents” to Urmi. The document belongs to Kishore’s mother Mira. Realizing others tragedies she try to cope up with her own tragedy, the death of her child Anusha. Not only the death of Anusha but also her absence of her husband and childhood experience made her life an unhappy one eventhough she is from a financially healthy.
Shashi Deshpande’s writing belongs to the third phase of feminism, the female phase. Urmi is really a modern Indian woman because she stretches her hand towards other women like Mira, Sakuntai, Kalpana and Vanna.
Women are considered to be the weaker sex or the fair sex. In a patriarchal society they have no role to play except the role of wife and mother. Considering the whole world, women writers are comparatively less in number. But now they are strong enough to write what they feel and experience. Many writer’s male as well as female have written about race, gender and other socio cultural issues. In west, women writers started writing for women from 18th century.
But feminist movements got prominence in 20th century.There is three phases of feminist writings:
2. Feminist phase
3. Female phase.
In the Feminine phase, the first phase of Feminism, women novelists expressed themselves but they fear or reluctant to even use their real names in books. Their aim was to write but more or less they followed the male writers. But in second phase, Feminist writers got courage to print their names on the space for writer. They criticized and attacked the male and they imitate the male not in name but in other aspects. They wish to be like men and have they energy to raise voice against the oppression. But the writers of Female phase are different. They never tried to imitate men. They identified the female in them even though they open up the problems of women and stretch their hands towards other women where in need of help. Feminist criticism was not inaugurated until late 1960s. A long list of struggles for recognition of women’s cultural roles and achievements, and for women’s social and political rights, marked in books of women writers paved way for a female view of things. Mary Wollstencraft’s “A Vindication of the rights of Women” (1792), John Stuarts Mill’s “The Subjection of Women” (1869), and the American Margaret Fuller’s “Women in the Nineteenth Century” (1845) are some of the writers who inspired or discussed the problems and the society’s attitude to wards women. Feminist writings stand for the social, legal, and cultural freedom and equality of women. Writers like Virginia Wolf discussed the problems of patriarchy. The problems related cultural economic and educational disabilities are the subjects of essays. Writers like Kate Millet point out how men depicts woman in their writings. It’s really a starting for the feministic thinking. Her writings inspired the reading females to think about themselves. Shashi Deshpande depicts how women are treated in society, Indian society.
After the publication of Elaine Shawalter’s works feminist movements realized they must work for themselves. The awakening must start work for them selves; the awakening must start from them. Feminist movements attained a tremendous momentum all over the world in the later half of the twentieth century. Women all over the world intensified their efforts to deconstruct the social creations and gender in the areas of life.
In India, woman writing is one of the widely studied branches of literature. The later half of the twentieth century has witnessed a lot of ideological changes in world literature. This has resulted in high political awareness the world over. And this awareness has ended up in the strife for self assertion on the part of different groups who have been subjected to different forms of subjugation and discrimination over centuries. In west, black feminist writers fought against not only against the suppression from the male counter part but also against the colour discrimination. In India writers wrote against the suppression from the male but also against the tradition. In India everything is described as tradition.
The Binding Vine’ is a refreshing change from the earlier novels of Shashi. “The step forward, achieved in this novel, is the introduction of female bonding, the desire of one woman to help another less fortunate one. Urmila dreams society’s attention to the plight of the rape victim and is determined to get Mira’s poem published. This is a positive development”. Shashi Deshpande also takes a bold step forward in projecting a woman’s biological needs and also raises the question of women’s right over her body which can’t be violated even in marriage.
“The Binding Vine” discusses heroine’s sexuality, her ‘passion’. Exploring working women’s needs of the head heart and further down the anatomy, than her earlier novels.
Friedan view is that :For a women as far as a man, the need for self-fulfillment-autonomy, self-realization, independence, individuality, self-actualization is as important as the sexual need, with as serious consequences when it is avoided. In a sense, female sexual problems are by products of the suppression of woman’s potentialities and talents which the mystique of feminine fulfillment ignores.
Today’s women are deeply aware of their writes and duties, women feel that there is no excuse for keeping the down anymore. Feminine feminists reject man’s freedom and women’s subjection as natural phenomena. They discard male constructed rules of femininity and try to introduce their equality and their individuality. Many writers have come forward to protest and to project and depict the real woman in their works.
Shashi Deshpande is women so she can write women’s experiences that have angered her, roused her strong feelings. Many critics say there is no need to give women writer ‘feminist.’ Shashi Deshpande, Urmila also criticized the urban higher middle class for the hypocrisy and insensitivity.
In ‘Binding Vine’, Urmila, the protagonist is a college lecturer. In novel Urmila is Urmi. She is not radical but she try to live her own. Through her eyes we can see different types of Indian woman around her. Urmi is married to a navel officer, Kishore. She is capable of looking after her family with her job in the absence of her husband. In the opening of the novel we find Urmi is grieving over the death of her one–year-old daughter Anusha. Vanna, friend and sister-in-law of Urmi pacify her. Vanna says:
“Anything, just speak, don’t keep it bottled up with in you. Why don’t you cry, Urmi? It’s unnatural not to cry.”
It’s a pain at the loss of her child and her dreams also shattered when Anu died. Urmi say: “we dream - much more for our daughter than we do for our sons, we want to give them the world we dreamt of for ourselves.”(124) the real feminist in her came out through her words. No one got the life they dreamt in this world. Comparing to men, women are more unfortunate than men. Freedom is not the denial of the rules and regulations of society but acquiring what they supposed to get. They are controlled by the society and family.
Urmi is full of grief not only because she lost her child but also the absence of her husband at this juncture of life. Not only a women but also men desire for the presence of their loving ones at the time of agony or happiness. But here Urmi’s desires are shattered and she tried to suppress everything. Even she feels to die. After her long silence she realizes that there is no room for agony. Urmila is not illiterate or poor but she finds a meaningless in marriage. Urmi says the parting if Kishore is like death to her. The absence of Kishore contributed frustration and loneliness to her life but she intelligently overcome those problems like any modern women do. She took stern decision to stand strong and live for her boy child, Karthik. She believes she can manage everything. Her inner mind assures her that she is smart and she holds strong that inner courage to live her own. In the fast growing world there is no time to stop. Urmi try to adjust with the laws. Shashi Deshpande’s middle class female protagonist depicts her role fate in male-dominated Indian society.
IDENTIFYING SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Shashi Deshpande picturizes the women life in India through female characters like Vanna, Mira, Sakuntai and Kalpana. Urmila meet Sakuntai, a domestic worker when she visits a hospital. Vanna works there as a medical social worker. The novel starts with darkness, revolt and at the end reconciliation. The story of Sakuntai is heart breaking for Urmila.
Sakuntai is a poor woman work hard for their family. Fate was cruel towards her. Sakuntai’s husband leaves her in her father’s home soon after their marriage. He went in search for livelihood in Bombay. She waited him for months. But he never returned. Then Sakuntai joins him and soon realized that he was lazy and irresponsible. They have three children. Avoiding them all her husband married another woman. Sakuntai and children stayed with their relatives but that was horrible. Sakuntai took the job of domestic servent and leading that till now.
Sakuntai’s daughter is now in ICU. She was raped by someone. Sakuntai blames her own daughter for this incident.Urmila gets angry when the mother seems blame it was her daughter’s fault. Rape has always been a horrible act over women by the male merely on the strength of animal force. Kalpana is a college going girl but her main urge is not only going to college but much more than that because they are from the lower strata of the society. Even though Urmi tries to help Sakuntai, Urmi find it’s difficult to reach the silenced subaltern. Shakuntai says that women like Urmilla will not understand the problems of the down trodden people like Sakuntala.
We can see there is a gap between the upper class, middle class and the lower class. But in the case of women the problems seems to be same but in a different name. Whatever happens it is the woman who suffers. Sakuntala says to doctor that don’t tell to the police about the rape. Most of the Indian mothers would react in a similar way as they are concerned about their daughter’s marriage. The novelist has evocatively laid bare Sakuntala’s agony, anger, helplessness and fear. Sakuntala’s character is presented in a realistic and naturalistic way so that leaves a sense of déjà vu in the minds of readers.
The society finds fault with the raped girl just like Sakuntai done. Rape is not only the rape of body but also rape of mind as well. The rapist feel victory after the rape makes things worse. Urmila, the protagonist comes to the shocking revelation that society wish to close rape case files and the rapist is able to free from acquisition. The general attitude towards the rape case is:
“Okay, she was raped. But publicizing it isn’t going to do anyone good. It’s going to mean trouble for everyone the girl, her family.”(88-89)
Society is not at all interested to sympathize or empathize with the victim but plainly say that with out a woman’s willingness no one can rape a woman.
Sakuntai is an uneducated woman is a reality but she is a mother also. Urmi realizes that even the mother doesn’t want a case to be registered. Sakuntai says:
“You people are trying to blacken my daughter’s name…..don’t tell anyone. I’ll never be able to hold up my head again, who’ll marry the girls, we’re decent people……even if it’s true, keep it to yourself, doctor, don’t let anyone know of it. I have another daughter, what will become of her?”(58-59)
Sakuntai is the embodiment of helplessness and the gendered subaltern. The illiteracy, insecurity and crushing poverty are problems of the woman Sakunthala. She fear the society. She believes she can’t live with the burden of “shame” which her daughter brought home. When Urmi tells her that Kalpana was hurt, she was injured and wronged by men and she is not responsible for anything happened to her, Sakuntai failed to understand the logic behind her words. As a suppressed woman she tells, “But sometimes, I think the only thing that can help Kalpana now is death.” Shashi Despande depicts the Indian woman who lived in the clutches of oppression and suppression.
Urmila is the person who worked for the poor girl, Kalpana. Media highlighted the problem as news of masala to their audience. Including the media’s approach, author discloses the vision of media towards these kinds of problems. For the society it’s subject to talk in free time, just to add some flavor to their session. Media gave popularity to issues like this and after all abandon those victims in an inhuman manner. The popularity never gave anything to the victim but it worsens condition. Shashi Deshpande depicts the story of raped girl who though innocent and young is considered guilty by Indian society she is a female. Shashi Deshpande’s aim is to criticize the society through Urmi. She is not against the society but against the unacceptable view points of society. Shashi Despande is plainly introduces her voice against society through her characters.
EXPLOITATION IN THE NAME OF TRADITION AND MARRIAGE
Tradition is belief or practice transmitted from generation to generation. In India, patriarchy is the prevalent system. Male dominates in society. Woman is not allowed to fit for independence according to the unwritten laws of tradition. Women have no role or identity. She is just a wife and mother. In a sense tradition never allowed her to stand free. A woman can only live in the shadow of man. Out dated beliefs and practices must be discarded. If there is no change, there we can find degradation, degeneration and stagnation. World is always changing. According to the changes of society automatically outdated values must change. But in India the process is very slow. The roots of patriarchy are still so strong. Tradition demands an Indian Hindu woman should be the embodiment of the legend characters Sita, Ahalya or Savitri. Those characters are known for their exceptional devotion to their husbands. The popular media even now highlight and expose those women.
“The Binding Vine” explores important problems of our times. Deshpande’s characters may be independent to some extent but are firmly bound by the shackles of tradition. Traditional Indian society follows the precepts of Manu (Manusmrithi). Manusmrithi does not grant a separate identity apart from which she has a daughter, a wife, a sister or a mother.
Mira, Urmi’s mother-in-law and Kishore’s mother had died in child birth after four years of marriage and she was a woman stick to tradition. She was a traditional Indian wife. She looked after her husband. She never disobeys him. But Mira disliked him strongly. She was like a slave to him. Mira lived as an instrument for his sexual gratification. Rape is violence and it becomes worse when it occurs within the sanctity of wedlock. Mira’s poems are all about this cruelty. Mira wrote poems in secrecy. She never published but kept in her box. Her poems are her suppressed feelings and agonies.
But tell me friend,
Did Laxmi too twist brocade tassels?
Round her finger and tremble,
Fearing the coming of dark-clouded engulfing night.
She wishes to free from the rules of tradition or the clutches of un fare marriage. Mira never received any understanding or empathy from her husband. Society considers marriage is a means security as it provides them safety from other men. But in Mira’s case her own husband gave a feeling of insecurity. Mira has no right over her body. She is considered as an emotionless person.
One of the primary projects of modern feminism has been to restore women’s bodies, appropriated long ago by a patriarchal culture, to them. Because the female body is the most exploited target of male aggression, women have learned to fear or even to hate their bodies. Consequently, women often think of their bodies as a form or fragmented a pattern evident in Shashi Despande’s Mira. To confront the body is to confront not only an individual’s abuse but also the abuse of women’s enslavement. This abuse represents for women a reminder of her degradation and her consignment to an inferior status. As a subject to repeated rapes in marriage women tries to ignore and to annihilate her body. Mira not hate her body but inner she was a revolutionary. She tried to express her emotions through the lines of her own poems, her secret agonies.
Shashi Deshpande expresses the intensity of oppression through the wounded women Mira. Mira is a in her poems writes: “I feel the quickening in my womb, he moves, why do I call the child He?”(149) it is not because of the love of boy child but the words are the result of her experience. She can not think her child facing the same problem which she faced in her life not only as a wife but also as a woman.
The education which she got offers a means of escape from the oppression and the loneliness. Writing is a means of finding freedom for Mira. In Alice Walker’s “Color Purple” also we can find a character like Mira, Celie, who find freedom in writing. Writing is not only a self expression but also freeing the captive imagination. Mira wrote poems about her own life. Her suppressed anger and agony expressed through her poems.
Mira’s writings are not encouraged but she wrote for her own sake. The young poet, Venu asks her why she writes poems. According to him, poetry is not mean to women but men. Shashi Deshpande’s other characters like Indu and Jaya are writers and like Mira they depict their life in writing. Urmila is really surprised to see the male hypocracy that female is not allowed to express her self. Mira never find an identity through a network of female relationships which Celie gets in “The Color Purple”. Urmi, the person who identified the agonies of Mira was not yet born when Mira passed away. Urmila realizes that what has happened to Kalpana happened to her mother-in-law Mira. Sakunthala’s sister, Sulu was a sweet natured person. But after her marriage she is full of fears. From her experience is a clear picture how marriage can shatter the self confidence of a person and transform a smart girl into a fearful and nervous woman. Out of her fear she asks Kalpana to marry her own husband. Wife is a slave to Prabhakar. Sulu’s husband Prabakar was a father figure for Kalpana. But he rapes her brutally. Prabakar is a male who consider women as a slave to man. It’s the duty of a women writer to disclose the problems of females facing in society.
Urmila is determined to publish the poem of her mother-in-law,Mira instead of thinking about what Vanna, her skceptical friend and her mother the solicitous Inni feel if she published those poems. Vanna fear those poems will bring disgrace to their family. Even though Urmi’s husband is away from her is happy about being married to Kishore, the naval officer. In Urmi we can find the Indian women who accept society’s norms. But, on the other hand she is a person who recognizes that a woman can help other women.
Akka, Kishore’s step-mother was a silent person who daren’t to express what she feels. She fears the male dominated patriarchal society. Mira dare to write about the sexual abuse of her husband but Akka is a person with out voice. She is a person who suppresses everything in her for others. Even though, Indian women are subjected to domination by their husband from what Inni reveals to Urmi in replay to her unvoiced accusation against her parents for having left her to be brought up by her grand parents at Ranidurg. Inni pours out all the anguish of women who was helpless before the dictates of her husband.
SISTERHOOD IN BINDING VINE
Sashi Deshpande is not an avowed feminist, though she occupies a significant place among the contemporary women novelists who concern themselves with the problems of women and their quest for identity and self discovery. In “TheBinding Vine,” Urmila is a self discovered person, discovers the society around her. Through that discovery she discovers herself. Here, protagonist, Urmila is a modern educated woman. She finds women crushed under the weight of a male-dominated and tradition bond society. Shashi Deshpande’s focuses her attention to the world of women or the struggle of women in the context of modern Indian society.
Urmila discovers the problems women face in the society. She is the product of third wave of feminism. Even though she is not a feminist she identified agonies of others. Urmila is one who interacts with society. She is a college lecturer. But she is aware of problems in Indian women world. Her relationship with Sakuntai gave a new perspective to her world of thought and she discovers the limitation and taboos of her own society and identifies herself. Urmi is rebellious and courageous. She tried to file case against the culprit. The honest portrayal of Urmi’ sufferings and other women sufferings, disappointments and frustrations make the novel a feminist work.
Finding the courage to speak is a major theme of the novel. Urmila is presented as a person courageous enough to speak against the limitations of the society. Urmila, a person work for the suppressed and her attitude is like a feminist. But she is not a person who nonetheless, does not display any radical attitude towards the institution, Marriage. She argues with Dr.Baskar that marriage is a necessity and that for women like Sakuntai.
Vanna is Urmi’s friend and sister-in-law. Urmi shares everything with Vanna.After marriage Vanna changed very much. She is like a servant to her husband. Urmi never understood why Vanna fear her husband and for whose sake she act as a good girl before him. Urmi encourages Vanna to assert herself and stop behaving like a doormat. Even though there are Vanna’s, Mira, Kalpana’s and Sakuntala’s there are Urmi’s too. Urmi stretch her hand towards other women to break free from the masculine prohibition against speech and to join a community of women, thus freeing from the subjugation brutality or the clutches of tradition. But Vanna, her friend love to live with in the limits of marriage and tradition. Love of her husband is important for her than anything. There is no protest in the life of Vanna, even though she was a social worker. She is a social worker who can’t brake up the norms of society because she is born to that and used to. Vanna always refrain “Hrish says” irritates Urmi because she is different in her thoughts. But later the same Vanna accepts the reality and she fear is her husband knows she is alive or not. Urmila gave her a power to think differently and she realizes her or identity existence which is separate from other people. She accepts she can think and act her own. There is no force from the part of Urmi but her involvement in others matters compel other women to think differently and act differently. In all over world, the oppressed never realize they are oppressed or suppressed until they realize what has freedom. Like that Vanna got the idea of individuality from Urmi.
Urmi is not against the system of marriage but she feel a lack of confidence when she thinking of the lives of Vanna, Mira and Sulu. Shashi Deshpande is critical about the marriage system and it’s depicted through the lives of the characters. According to Urmi those marriages are really cold-blooded affairs. They took place with out the consent of the girl. Those experiences of women shows girl become the slave to not only the husband’s but also his families. Even though Vanna is an educated women she was not capable of speak against the words of her husband. That means she fail to express her ideas, her wishes etc. There is a strong wish in Vanna to give birth to a boy. But after the birth of two girls her husband asked her to stop giving birth to one more. Why she wish to get baby boy? It is not because of a natural love for a child but she wish she must have son whom can live free. Urmila understand the problems of Vanna and gave a good company to her, the first favour a capable woman can offer to her fellow beings. Urmila is a person who bought up with out much bounds and she enjoyed the freedom to think and act. She is capable of taking decisions. And that decision taking help her to stand stern with Sakuntai and Kalpana even though her family not supported her. In “That Long Silence,” Shashi Deshpande makes it clear that women have to fight their own battles. Jaya proclaims for the battle. But she is not courageous enough to Urmi to take decision and step into the battle field. The self discovered or identified woman in Urmi is in the battle field to fight for the oppressed and suppressed women. She is an Indian feminist who strike for equality or individuality.
Urmila, a person who never overstep the boundaries chalked out in marriage because she is accustomed to the customs of society. She tried to work for others with in the boundaries. She is the real modern Indian woman who exploited her opportunities.
Gender is a reality and gender based discrimination is also a reality. Gender is the most important factor which decides a human being life or fate. Our experiences are always related to our gender. The term feminism is a not always means the same .It may change according to the society or different kinds of people. In common feminism means equality but in Indian society equality is a rare thing. There may be rules and regulations to protect equality but the mind set up of people can’t change any law. Just like any other women writers of India, Shashi Deshpande is also a product of new education system. Higher education has given Indian women a deep insight into human psyche and a clear critical perspective to reexamine tradition in India. Not only the writer but also the central character Urmi is also an educated woman from a middle class family. Shashi Deshpande says that women are really vine and there must have some tree of love to bind. They are all human beings and no one can’t live alone there must be some one or something to love. Even though there is no marriage in a life he will find some other way to make his life meaningful. But most of the characters in “The Binding Vine” are married and they are asked to live with their life. But the marriage becomes a meaningless act when it pushes a woman to frustration and darkness.
Women’s marginalization is not a new thing. But to speak out and act against that is a difficult task because that’s deeply rooted. Here Shashi Deshpande discussed the double marginalization through patriarchy and imperialistic ideologies. Shashi Deshpande’s characters struggle to defy traditional, patriarchal norms of society, and attempts to realize and preserve their identity not only as a woman but also as a human being. The frustrations of females are depicted in a realistic way not just to read and throw the book away but to awaken the Indian society, the Indian woman.
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