Saturday, 9 May 2009

A Role-reversing tale of the conspicuous sari in the Occident

Mukherjee’s tale of the role-reversing life style led by an Indian woman in the large city, not only is an eye opener to the male dominating society, but a fresh grasp of air filled with hope and equality to the ever existing marginalized minority also known as women. “In my red silk sari I’m conspicuous.”(p. 25), such bold statements from the author allows the reader from the start to enter the world as seen through the eyes of a woman, that knows her status in the world, yet is not complaining, instead holds her head up high and faces the difficulties with pride. This rarely described behavior was to me a candle light amid the thousand of street lights of the male domineering city. Mukherjee did a splendid job in welcoming her readers to the reality, in which she doesn’t nag and beg for pity, her character makes the differences she wishes to see, and that is what I believed made this short story a phenomenal accomplishment and a greatly influential mind feeding experience.

The heroine of the story depicts clearly and harshly the experience an immigrant faces in the new and alien place. “First, you don’t exist. Then you’re invisible. Then you’re funny. Then you’re disgusting.”(p. 26), quotations such as this one attacks with clarity the feelings that most keep locked inside and which even more people feel but are unable to turn into words. Her direct and honest, humane and merciless narration pinpoints the difficulties. But she is not the victim, quiet the opposite, the protagonist is an identity, that fights, that faces the reality and strikes back. We notice that Mukherjee’s story revolves and is fully narrated by a woman, who is not dependant on a man, in fact, the protagonist’s husband is the one who depends fully and in a sarcastically child-like manner needs and begs for her. This idea is clearly shown in the line on page 33 : “Tell me you need me. Panna, please tell me again.”

We notice that it is not only Panna’s husband who is placed beneath the critical microscope of a woman in the modern city, but other men are depicted as the women have been for so many years in literature. “Like many men in this country, he seems to me a displaced child, or even a woman, looking for something that passed him by, or for something that he can never have.”(p. 30). Quotations such as this one further prove the point that the male-dominating and constantly restated idea is one that should be looked at more closely, and after doing just that, Mukherjee proves to the readers that in fact it is the men who seem helpless and lost, unaware due to their egos of the state in which they are, parading their masculinity in an attempt to hide their insecurities and pain.

Despite all the qualities and strengths that Mukherjee gives her protagonist, we notice that Panna still is not completely comfortable in her shoes. The many echoes of the memory and nostalgia for the past plays a significant role in the story. To me personally, this is not a weakness, but a strength. At the end of the day, Panna is a woman, and her sentimental and feminine qualities must be present to complete her identity. By allowing the readers to see this side of Panna, Mukherjee places her on a pedestal of a complete woman in the big city, not fully conforming to the needs of the city, but battling all the opposing forces without having to let go of her true self. This was one the things that I found to be especially rewarding and worth of praise.

In conclusion, I would like to state that after completing this piece, not only have I found an incredibly interesting author whose works I will definitely make sure to look forward to reading in the near future, but also allowed me as a student of literature and a firm believer in the equality of the sexes to notice that there are some very strong and capable, witty and assertive literary activist, proving to the world that change happens only when we stay true to ourselves and take all the action we want to see into our own two hands and make it happen.

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