Posted at 10.28.2018
Ladies Coupe: A novel in parts narrates the tale of six women who meet purely by chance on a short train journey. It traces the lives of the six women as they travel in the women compartment. The stories they relate help the protagonists Akhilandeswari to find resolutions for the tormenting questions that taunt her and allow her to establish her true identity. The other five women belong to different age groups and classes of the society. Their individual struggle contrary to the myriad repressive forces instills in Akhila a feeling of courage and clarity doing his thing.
The repressive forces in their multiple manifestations as patriarchal attitudes, sexual politics and sexual stereotyping impose a restriction on women's individuality and brings about their marginalization which is effectuated by traditional and cultural institutions. Feminist perspective as a woman centered theory provides approaches for change. As such the feminist principle can be an "uncompromising pledge" and an antidote to all or any types of exploitation and repression of women. The essential goal of feminist perspective, according to Maggie Humm, is "to understand women's oppression in conditions of race, gender, class and sexual preference and how to improve it. " (Maggie, x)
The personality of woman has been sought to be damaged and distorted and her very status as human being has brought right here the overwhelming male - domination. Thus, a female who protests against her depersonalization and annihilation and who walks out of home to live on also to be human are made alert to the futility of her actions. Clearly, the forces of cultural and social inculcations are too strong to be completely overcome. We find the Indian women being torn between individual desires and societal expectations.
In the tradition bound society like our Indian society, it is not a wonder that writers like Anita Nair has reflected such types of repression in her novels. The issue of repression faced by women varies according with their social, cultural and economical status. The tradition bound Indian society considered the very birth of girls a curse and rearing a woman child is more expensive and risky than a male child, so people dreaded the birth of girls.
The girls have to undergo a lot of difficulties in this chauvinistic society, after their difficult entry into this world. Discrimination was shown even in education. People firmly assume that a girl's place is only at home, so these were reluctant to give her education. Even when she was educated, she was trained only in domestic traits. This is because a girl is viewed only as wife and a mother. Therefore, the best idea instituted in her mind, right from her birth was to 'please the male'. This becomes the soul purpose of her life. So, even from her birth the repressive problems are faced by women.
In Ladies Coupe, Anita Nair delineates various women characters and provides a macro picture of women's society. Janaki got married at age eighteen. As a woman of eighteen, she is not matured enough to learn the meaning of marriage and what things to expect of marriage. Janaki accommodates her mind and body to marriage and what it had to offer her in life. She didn't live on her behalf own self; she lived on her behalf husband.
Janaki didn't know very well what to anticipate of marriage. Through her girlhood, marriage was a destination she was being groomed for. She wasn't expected to know what it certainly designed to be married, and neither was she interested in it. It could come to her as it had to her mother. (LC 25)
As a wife in the patriarchal society, Janaki finds her husband a loving and protecting one in the original of her life. She is not matured enough to comprehend her suppressed condition in the patriarchal society. She remembers what of her mother, "He is your husband and you also must accept whatever he does" (LC 25). They have a son and daughter-in-law. They were branded as the 'golden couple' and were exemplary perfect parents. As she got married at an extremely early age, she doesn't even know that she actually is suppressed in the bond of marriage. Only at the age of forty-five, she realized that all her desires are oppressed. But, Janaki resents her husband's overbearing nature over their son and revolts against it. She questions his to control their son and slowly she begins to hate her husband's actions. Janaki could not unlearn what patriarchy had instituted in her. Even the initial revulsion of the physical act initially of her married life, turns into an acceptance of the " pleasures hidden in rituals of togetherness" (26). She is confined in the bondage of an wife, mother and most importantly the woman that patriarchy has moulded into her.
Marriage life is another stage of repression. After marriage, a girl becomes a female and she has various roles to execute. She has to experiment with the roles of a daughter - in - law, wife, mother and mother - in - law. Of all roles mentioned here, the most challenging roles are a woman as daughter-in- law and wife. They could never emerge from tradition. The inborn feminine traits of the traditional never allowed them to mould from tradition. They never opposed or questioned their men folk. Instead, they suppress all their emotions and desires and are being manipulated by the repressive forces. Janaki, an elderly and wise woman, comes out with a meaning of life that all women are inclined to:
I am a female who has always been looked after. First there was my dad and my brothers; then my husband. When my husband is gone, there will be my son, waiting to consider from where his father let off. Women like me conclude being fragile. Our men treat us like princesses. And because of that we look down after women who are strong and that can cope by themselves. I believe for the reason that old cliche that a home was a woman's kingdom. I worked hard to preserve mine and then suddenly 1 day it didn't matter anymore. My home ceased to interest me, none of the beliefs I needed built my entire life around had any meaning. I thought if I were to lose it all, I would cope. If I ever became alone I'd manage perfectly. I had been confident about that. I think I used to be sick and tired of being this fragile creature Now I know that even if I can cope it wouldn't be the same if he wasn't there with me at night. (22-23)
Evelyn Cunningham says that 'the women will be the only oppressed group inside our society that lives in intimate association with the oppressors. ' They even felt glorified in their sufferings, and if any women had rebellious attitude, the people around them curbed that initially itself. Women were brainwashed from their birth to be polite, submissive and obedient. She was likely to be chaste and faithful even when her husband was unfaithful.
It is not only these illiterate home birds who have been afraid to rebel against tyranny and exploitations but even the educated house wives stuck firmly to the original role. Such women despite their education considered suffering in their husband's place was far better than leading a lonely life.
Margaret Shanthi, is one of the top characters in the novel Ladies Coupe novel. She actually is a chemistry teacher by profession is married to Ebenezer Paulraj, the main of the school she worked in. He was a pompous self-opinionated person that successfully destroyed Margaret's self-confidence by bullying her always and then treating her as a house keeper and a cook. She undergoes many physical, mental and spiritual crises. Their marriage had a fairy tale like charm in the beginning which slowly disintegrates when Margaret begins to see the true nature of Ebe. He loved her but she dare haven't any individuality. Margaret primarily is the little girl who says yes to whatever he says and has gone out to please him always. Margaret's husband wanted her to become docile wife. "This is actually the life of the ladies to look after her home, her husband and her children and give them food she has cooked with her own hands" (LC 40). She leads a life of obscurity in a few corner of the home on a regular basis pretending to be satisfied and happy. As Kamala Das says in her poem The Suicide,
I must pose
I must pretend
I must act the role of an happy woman
Happy wife. (227)
She is forced to pursue B. Ed though her real interest is to do Ph. D. Ebe insists and forces her to abort their first child which finally is the last straw for Margaret. She sees through his dual nature of pretentious politeness and inner cruelty. His ridiculous theories, derisive contempt of her way of house keeping and cooking and assortment of defacing books with ugly drawings only intensifies Margaret's hatred. She hates her husband whom she once adorned and worshipped because her dreams were broken and she comes crashing right down to reality, when she is forced to abort her first pregnancy. Gnawed by indecision, guilt and pain, she allows herself to be coerced into it. She sees another side of her husband when after her abortion, seven days later, he says: "I love it when you call me Ebe I like you prefer this unstained and clean I never want you to improve. I'd like you to remain like this your entire life" (LC 111). Whenever she tried to talk about her feelings with her mother she actually is advised in turn: and like I've said many times before, this can be a woman's responsibility to keep the marriage happy. Men have so many pre occupations that they could not have the time or inclination to keep the wheels of a marriage oiled (112).
Ebe became increasingly more over bearing after he becomes the principle of any school. He commences to nag her and discover fault in her house keeping and cooking. She commences to hate him. Margaret's family cannot accept the idea of a divorce and even though she feels stifled in her marriage she continues living with Ebe. Her only consolation is food and she puts on weight. His dual nature, artificial politeness and warmth and inner cruelty; his ego, his defacing books with ugly drawings, his various theories and his continuous derisive contempt of her, make her suffer intensely.
I, Margaret Shanthi did it with the only real desire to have revenge. To erode his self-esteem and shake the very foundations of his being. To rid this world of the creature who if permitted to remain the way he was, slim, lithe and arrogant, would continue steadily to harvest sorrow with a single-minded joy. (LC 96)
Repeatedly discouraged by her mother and the fear of the stigma of divorce, she stops short of openly asking questions that torment her mind and soul: "How about me? Don't I have a right to have any expectations of him? Don't I are hard as he does and even more because I run the house as well. . . " (112).
Liberation is meaningful, if we do not confine women within the bonds of family. The marriage makes women submissive. That is one of the main repressive forces that every woman in the society is facing. Margaret Shanti is a good example of how women are repressed after by male power. The powerlessness is similar to the colonized who fail to see and appreciate their true worth.
Societal expectations far outweigh personal needs and so Shanti negates herself over and over. From an ambitious and brilliant student who would like to chart out a profession on her behalf own, she becomes a dutiful wife to Ebenezer who rouses fear in everyone around him. She silences her aspirations to become what Ebenezer wants her to be. She made a decision to become a teacher instead of working on her decorate. She cut her hair short. She stopped going to church every Sunday, eating bhelpuri outside and lastly agrees to abort her child though she knows that her religion forbids it. As usual, he takes the decisions and "I (Shanti) let his voice smooth away my fears. He was Ebe. My Ebe. He was right. He was always right" (LC 109). Shashi Deshpande, in her novel The Dark Holds No Terror, defines the lopsided gender equation within the context of urban marital relationships.
A wife should always be a few feet behind her husband. If he's an M. A. , you should be a B. A Women's magazines will let you know that marriage should be the same partnership. That's nonsense. Rubbish. No partnership can ever be equal. It will always be unequal, but take care that it is unequal and only your husband. (The Dark Holds No Terror 85)
The belief that existed before and continued to be fresh in the minds of folks was that the man should be the bread winner and woman the home maker in the family. It had been the husband who slogs way at job or business, to give the family a decent approach to life, fully confident that the wife at home would successfully manage the home, also take care of his parents and children, awaiting his return for a conjugal round of dinner. In today's day, the problem becomes different. Women now demand more space, the rights and freedom because they want to emerge from the repressive forces. They aren't prepared to be submissive and meek as their mothers. The problem of violence against women is not new. Ladies in the context of Indian society have been victims of repression, torture, humiliation and exploitation. All were merely trying to get fulfillment by playing the role of a devoted wife and a caring mother. Friedan writes,
For a female, as for 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's thwarted. Women's sexual problems are, in this sense, by-products of the suppression of her basic need to grow and fulfill her potentialities as human being, potentialities that your mystique of feminism fulfillment ignores. (282)
Nair's women have problems with a system of sex - role stereotyping and repression that exist under patriarchal social organizations. Naturally, patriarchy, in its different forms, has tried in lots of ways to repress, debase and humiliate women especially through the images represented in cultural and traditional forms. "She actually is supposed only to listen, never to speak; only to suffer, not to shriek" (42).
In Ladies Coupe, Marikolanthu is the last one to narrate her story. She is a young girl and uneducated who's poorly dressed and lives in a tamed and handled environment. She lives in a noisy psycho-social group and she actually is stressed because of it. Hans Seyle, an endocrinologist says that 'stress is the rate of wear and tear in the torso. ' Her mother works as a cook at the Chettiar household. Her mother stopped her schoolings and allowed only her son's to move for school. Marikolanthu was repeatedly warned by her mother because she was easily impressed by people: ". . . you give your heart too easily, child. They will break it into thousand pieces and leave it on the floor for others to trample into dust" (LC 216). On such occasions she had always teased her mother asking her if the "heart was a glass bangle" (LC 216). But her experience ends in her realization of the value of her mother's words. She says,
But you know what, the heart is a glass bangle. One careless moment which is shattered. We realize that, yet we continue steadily to wear glass bangles. Each time they break, we buy new ones hoping that these will last longer than the others did. How silly we women are. We ought to wear bangles manufactured from granite and turn hearts into the same.
When the girls are been trained in the domestic affairs, the boys are anticipated to keep away from the domestic traits. Much discrimination are shown in the upbringing of children. Inside a male chauvinistic society like India, boys are given an extended rope, while the girls are confined at home. Even girls themselves never minded such discriminations. On the contrary they are simply well contended with the role.
Later Marikolanthu is employed as a domestic helper and also she has to look after Sujata akka's son. She adores that kid but hates her own son Muthu who's born after having a rape face with Murugesan so she resents the birth of her unwanted son. Her life revolves around the Chettiar household. She looks after the households and in the afternoons, she willingly obeys whenever Sujatha akka needs her on her behalf physical fulfillment and whenever the master needs her for the same. When Sujatha akka learns about her husband's affair, she rejects Marikolanthu and throws her out of the house. Marikolanthu leaves Kanchepuram and before that she mortgages her son Muthu for rupees five thousand at her rapist Murugesan's looms. Later, there's a change in her heart when she sees her son lighting the pyre of the dead Murugesan. She decides to care for her son Muthu.
Marikolanthu has to face the strains of life herself. She actually is a victim of repression, a virtual slave, the victim of men, of casteism and of innumerable social injustices. It is that gender bias and oppression of women emerges as a robust theme of the novel. She is being repressed by Murugesan. These devices he uses to control her is rape. She feels defiled and corrupt. She evokes our sympathy when she says,
In the length, I heard the calls. Bogi! Bogi! The sparks would fly as the bonfire was set alight and the night would crackle with the sound of dried logs and twigs getting up. With my past, my future too had been torched alive. (LC 241)
Marikolunthu suffers extreme repression social, familial and financial. It is finally love that brings her on the right track where she will find happiness and fulfillment. Her struggle has been one of hate for herself and accommodating with humiliating relationships thereafter. Her resolve to bring up her child shows her forming directly into a fresh character. The words of Marikolunthu could be quoted as an apt conclusion to the motif of the novel:
Women are strong. Woman can do everything as well as men. Women can do much more. But a female has to seek the vein of strength in herself. It generally does not reveal naturally. (LC 210)
The female body becomes the website of violence regarding the rape of Marikolanthu. Like the violence unleashed by the colonizer on the powerless colonized, she's to handle physical repression and mental torture when left to fend on her behalf. With his brute strength, Murugesan attacks her and she is left helpless. She actually is different from the other women in the coupe because her experience are more painful. The traditional image a girl forms in her mind is to be submissive, committed, docile and tolerant so that she may prove herself a perfect woman not limited to her husband also for her father - in - law, mother - in - law and the other - in - laws.
The Brahmin heroine, Akhila, whose life has been removed from her control, is a spinster, daughter, sister, aunt and the sole provider of her family after the death of her father. Getting sick and tired of these multiple roles, she decides to go on a train journey from family and responsibilities, a journey that will finally make her some other woman. Inside the girls coupe compartment, she meets five other women each of whom has a tale to inform. The stories are all an attempt to answer Akhhila's problematic question. 'Can a female stay single and be happy at exactly the same time?' Akhila asks such a question because she actually is being suppressed by all the members of her family. She has never been allowed to live her own life. She questions her members of the family,
Why shouldn't I live alone? I'm of able mind and body. I can look after myself. I earn reasonably well. Akhila paused when her voice chocked with tears, and asked me what my desires were or what my dreams are? Did anyone of you ever think of me as a female? Someone who has needs and longings like everyone else do? (LC 206)
The protagonist Akhila loses her father at an extremely early age and since that time she's been shouldering the responsibility of the entire family. She served as a clerk in the tax department. When Akhila's father died, the family responsibility falls on her fragile shoulders. The narrator elucidates: "When Akhila's father died, two things happened: Sunday become yet another day of the week and Akhila became the person of the family" (LC 75).
Manning the responsibility of the family begins to repress her desires. Even her mother will not value her desires. They have never asked, "What about you? You've been the top of the family since Appa died. Don't you want a husband, children, a home of your?" (LC 77). Akhila wanted to lead her life with Hari who is younger than herself. But her desires have been repressed by the social norms. Akhila wished for once, someone would see her all together being. "What Akhila most popular on the planet was to be her own person; in a location that was her own. To do as she pleased. To reside in as she chose with neither restraint nor fear of censure" (LC 201).
Akhila's youthful days were spent bringing up her sister Padma and two brothers Narayan and Narsi. These are happily married and settled. She actually is regarded as a bread winner plus they continue steadily to suppress her desires with their needs and demands. Akhila says "Not think you should await your elder sister to get married before you think of the wife and a family?" (LC 77). Her selfish siblings were concerned only about their own well-being. They married and shifted in life without even bothering to think about Akhila's future. Akhila has wasted away her treasured youthful days and when she finally mustered the courage to make a 'difference in life'; she was given a lot of advice by her siblings about the dangers of living alone as a spinster. Her sister Padma needed the financial support of Akhila to run family members. The brothers Narayan and Narsi were worried about society.
Narsi - it's improper for a female to live alone. What will society say? That your loved ones has abandoned you. Besides, you will see a whole lot of questions that will pop up about your reputation. You understand how people put two and two together and produce six. Nalini's family will be scandalized if they hear about this. Have you considered how embarrassing my position will be? (Ladies Coupe 205)
Akhila's brother tried to smoothen her ruffled feathers. He said that he owed his life to his sister. But he too was worried about Akhila's decision to reside alone. He said, "How do you want to cope? This is not a reflection on who you are. How can any woman cope alone? (206). Thus a patriarchal society didn't approve o a woman's decision to live on alone minus the protection of the men of the house, even if indeed they financially depended on the women. Akhila saw the irony of the situation and later developed the succor to overcome such tyrannical systems.
Initially Akhila undertakes the journey to Kanyakumari as a kind of escape. Akhila is placed in a situation of unfamiliarity and dislocation precisely because her struggle for identity should come out more clearly. What she hated most "was devoid of an identity of her own. She was always an extension of somebody else's identity. Chandra's daughter, Narayan's Akka, Priya's aunt she wished for someone would see her all together being.
Akhila undertakes this journey as a kind of escape, a need to disappear completely alone, a sense of excitement of being able to take action all by herself, not having for taking permission, of taking an independent decision. She progresses to see what hasn't been seen, go where she has never gone before. Akhila's journey commences with a feeling of escape: "the smell of an railway platform at night fills Akhila with a feeling of escape" (1).
Always the daughter, the sister, the aunt or the provider, she had virtually no time to actualize herself, until one day she bought for herself a one-day ticket to the seaside town of Kanyakumari. She is gloriously alone for the very first time in her life and is set to liberate from all those things her conservative Tamil Brahmin life had forced on her behalf. Akhila had always "dreamt" of this "eyes looking ahead. Of leaving. Of running away. Of taking out. Of escaping"(1). Akhila hasn't done whatever she desired to, but only what she was expected to do. However now she has a solid need to be free and want to experience the real happiness of freedom. She decides to visit the land's end to produce a new beginning of experiencing the real meaning of freedom. And we are introduced to Akhila as " that sort of a woman (who) does what is expected of her"(1).
In their minds Akhila has ceased to be a woman and had already metamorphosed into a spinster. Akhila is a woman who is throbbing with life, vitality and sexuality. Each one of these are suppressed to cater to the needs of her family. Akhila realizes that matrimony is a patriarchal practice which sanctions men capacity to overpower woman. All of the women characters in Ladies Coupe have been damaged in a single way or other because of patriarchal system. It provides an insight into emotional challenges of each of the ladies overcame in their life. It's the emotional outburst of the deprived women that Akhila has tried to portray. Women hesitate for taking decision independently and they think marriage is the best goal of their life and pleasing their husband is a primary concern of women. Inside the due course, they didn't create identity of their own. The self abnegation of women goes unrecognized in a patriarchal society which causes the self abasement of women's importance in society. A woman in the post independence era knows the discrimination she's to face, the sexual harassment and violence which she explores in the male dominated society.
Nair discusses marital rape perpetrated by the present day Indian male in her novels. The restrictions prevalent in Indian family avoid the Indian girls from youthful love before marriage. Girls are generally not allowed to mix with boys during their adolescence. The girl's feelings aren't shown because they are rarely expressed in real life. It's quite common for those girls in the centre class to express their love or make decisions. As the girls are confined at home the most part with their 'pleasing others' becomes their prime duty at home. Shashi Deshpande rightly judges that, "everything in girl's life, it seemed was shaped compared to that single reason for pleasing a male" (79).
The novel Mistress discusses the sexual violence and the repressive power of Shyam in the marital relationship of Shyam and Radha. This novel revolves around the life span of Radha, Shyam and their morbid marriage against the background of the narratives of Radha's uncle Koman, who's a Kathakali exponent. Her unhappy situation in the ill - matched marriage drives her in to the arms of Chris, an American writer. The novel culminates in Radha finding her own voice and deciding to go against the repressive force of her husband.
The most amazing area of the novel is the characterization of Shyam, which really is a perfect mould of a modern, educated, tech - savvy Indian male who finds it hard to shed his traditional role as a guy. Nair has given Shyam his own voice through his first person narrative and thereby taking the reader straight into his mind. Shyam is a twenty first century male through and through. He is extremely successful in his business, which is his undoing in a sense. He is never reluctant to turn any opportunity into a money making venture. His only failure perhaps is his inability to comprehend his wife and treat her as a person who has a mind for her own. To him, Radha is another possession, which he is pleased with, as he's of his business ventures. He often refers to her as 'My Radha' (90) as though to affirm his ownership.
Simone de Beauvoir speaks relating to this masculine trait in The Second Sex:
Subordinated economically and socially to her husband, the good wife is the man's most treasured treasure. She belongs to him so profoundly that she partakes the same essence as he; she has his name, his gods, and he is responsible for her. He calls her his 'better - half'. He takes pride in his wife as he does in his house, his lands, his flocks, and his wealth or even more; through her he displays his power before the world; she is his measure and his earthly portion. (207)
Shyam's idea of marriage is to keep a fairly wife, enjoy her wishful fancies and make her reliant on him. He does not want an assertive woman as a wife. Radha and Shyam are incompatible in lots of ways and Radha feels suffocated by her marriage. She compares herself to the butterfly that can be taken as among repression.
His arms pins me to the bed. His bed. I believe that for Shyam, I am a possession. A much cherished possession. That's my role in his life. He doesn't want an equal; what he wants is a mistress. Someone to indulge and someone to indulge him with feminine wiles I think of the butterfly I caught and pinned to a board when it was still alive, its wings spread so as to display the markings, oblivious that somewhere within, just a little heart beat, yearning to fly. I am that butterfly now. (Mistress 87)
Feminism voices the new woman's demand to be treated as an equal human being, rather than furniture piece designed for the capability of man. The repression of woman is expressed well in the novels of women writers in all its intensity. Shyam wished to prove that he is the husband and he has complete right over his wife's body whether she welcomes the intrusion or not. Shyam's perpetrate acts of sexual violence leaves a deep scar on Radha, while, he's quite satisfied with what he did with no remorse. He is blind in his pursuit and does not look after Radha's feelings. His only aim is to bring her in order by suppressing her desires and emotions.
The key to happiness in marriage is the ability to endure and continue. But there are many marriages where women are dominated by their husbands, nor find freedom and space in their marital life. There's a new variety of women who is questioning the very institution of marriage and the double standards of judgment put on women and men. Panduranga Rao rightly admires that,
Given the limitations of tradition and its inhibitive influence one cannot but admire the guts of these women who've taken it upon themselves to question and question logically what comes to be accepted as a divine fiat in matters of man-woman relationship and related areas. (Ra0 75)
For Shyam, Radha is his proud possession and the marriage between Shyam and Radha fails to be a marriage of minds or hearts. In place of a knowledge and meaningful relationship that marriage can be, Shyam wants an unequal relationship that could make Radha his proud possession therefore the marriage between Shyam and Radha is not a marriage of minds or hearts. Radha has no expectations from the institutions of marriage. Shyam always does things to maintain his prestige. He says "I am a survivor everyday and in every way. I'm getting better and better" (160). This attitude makes Radha uneasy. She actually is escorted everywhere and has little freedom to do anything on her behalf own. All her desires and feelings were totally repressed. In her relationship with Shyam she feels,
I think that for Shyam, I am a possession. A much cherished possession. That's my role in his life. He doesn't want an equal; what he wants is a mistress. You to definitely indulge and someone to indulge him with feminine wiles. (Mistress 153)
She is blamed always for being disorderly. She never arranged books in the shelf properly. There is a insufficient meaningful communication between them which causes a rift in their relationship. However, Shyam admires Radha atlanta divorce attorneys way and loves her very much. Radha says "Shyam likes to think of me prettying myself for him. He prefers a glossy, silly wife to a homely, practical one. Glossy, silly wives are malleable" (Mistress 61).
She is kept at home just like a bird in the cage struggling to exhibit her talents. When he prevents her from going to the match factory, a clash occurs again between them. Radha is also thwarted from taking tuitions in a primary school. Shyam's domination over her prevents her from making a selection of her own. This sort of domination makes her feel suffocated and she asks him,
Don't I've the right to an opinion? I am your lady. Your wife, would you hear me? Nevertheless, you treat me as though I am a kept woman. A bloody mistress to fulfill your sexual needs and with no rights What is right? Visits to beauty salon and the tailor's? Washing the leaves of the home plants and dusting the curios? This is not how I expected to live my entire life. This is not what I'd like from life (Mistress 73)
According to Radha's father, marriage is merely a convenient contract to lead an appropriate life. It was upon this basis that they were married. Radha is honest and confess her previous relationship to Shyam on the day of their marriage. Though Radha does not know it, her father has given all his property to Shyam in the name of marriage as compensation. Her father offered money to Shyam to marry her. In the name of authority and love Shyam makes Radha his slave and subordinate.
Even Shyam uses rape as a tool to repress her. The pain is so immense that she goes to a quite corner where she warps her arms around herself and cries loudly. Radha is overcome by a sense of helplessness and frustration with the physical repressive force of marital life.
I felt sore and bruised invaded and robbed. Is this rape, I asked myself again and again. I QUICKLY knew I couldn't lie there any longer. THEREFORE I rose and went seeking a quiet corner where I could wrap my arms around myself and cry loudly. (Mistress 89)
Shyam is content with his manly behavior. He believes that women should be produced to feel like women plus they should be handled and put in their place. He says 'My Radha' (65) whenever he discusses her. But Radha tells him that he is wrong in his thinking when he has forces her into submission. She confesses that she can never be his possession and bow to his repressive attitude or his dominating behavior.
When Radha meets Chris, she finds her match because he shares her sensitivity and her taste for art and literature. As Shyam suspects Radha's affair with Chris, he's consumed with jealousy. Shyam knows that he cannot reign over Radha's mind and hence decides to reign over her body. Overcome by frustration and blinding anger, he forces himself on Radha, and offers a conclusion himself.
The resentment I felt for being tolerated rather than loved, the yearning I had fashioned suffered, the loneliness of these years, all fused to become consuming prefer to posses her. To create her mine; To attain within and tear down that film of indifference that coated her eyes every time I took her in my arms (Mistress 163)
James Baker Miller says that people won't give up power. They'll quit else first money, house, wife, children however, not the repressive power. Patriarchy takes different forms, tries out many ways to repress, debase and humiliate women. Shyam's indecent, brutal behavior towards Radha is one such form. He has made marriage a distressing experience for Radha. Various kinds oppression that girls are subjected are portrayed in the novel.
In Mistress, the type of Saadhiya is very important. She belongs to an orthodox Islamic community that takes pride in its pure Arabic stock and jealousy pressures its strain through inbreeding with in the walled settlement of Arabipatnam in coastal Tamilnadu. She actually is trapped in religio-cultural structures that circumscribe her life and limiting her physical as well as mental movements to a miniscule area. The ladies are further walled in by the dark, narrow passages interlacing their homes through which they are allowed to move. They live closed, unhealthy lives, shut out from air, light and world outside.
All men in Arabipatnam visited the beach every day, like they went to the mosque. It was the part of their routine. We were allowed out perhaps once a year. At other times, we knew the sea existd only when the breeze occur at early noon, bringing into our homes a whiff of salt and on hot days a brackish odour, part fish, part decay, part mystery. (Mistress 138)
Saadiya's life with Sethu, who is a Hindu exposes her to another form of repression, that of enforced domesticity. Driven by loneliness and boredom, she seeks refuge in religion and seeks to re enter the structures she had fled from. Struggling to find a resolution within her divided self, she ends her life.
In Mistress, Lalitha is portrayed as a young servant girl raped by her master's son and so subjected to a kind of oppression predicated on class and loss of respectability. She is forced to take prostitution when Koman, who may have a long-standing relationship with her, offers himself marriage, she refuses.
In eco feminist terms, Shyam sees nature or woman as a resource for the benefit of man. Both nature and women represent the generative powers of futility and birth. To Shyam, Radha is feminine but he views her as a passive resource, a decorative asset not only is it a material asset. Shyam thinks of her mentally as "soiled goods" yet she retains considerable value for him in terms of the wealth she owns. He will not credit her with any 'knowledge' and enforces idle domesticity after her, wherein she begins to have problems with what Betty Friedan called "the challenge without man".
Feminists link rape to male aggression, patriarchy and the construction of masculinity in our society. It is not about biology or a momentary loss of control but is a tool of domination in the eroticization of dominance and repression. Regarding Radha and Shyam, the institution of marriage becomes the platform upon that your game of sexuality and power are played out.
The image of marriage as an instrument of patriarchal control and domination is repeated regarding both Saadiya as well as Radha. Saadiya's resistance to oppression leads to death. Radha however doesn't seek to flee. She confronts and struggles.
Nair discusses the act of marital rape in one instance when the protagonist Radha's husband forces himself after her in order to assert his position as her husband, when she actually is attracted to other men. Rape is a sexual act that is seen as a potent tool to over power, control and repress woman. Men have been using sexual violence and rape as a way to wield control over women from time immemorial and across cultures.
In Lessons in Forgetting, Nair has portrayed the indegent status of women in the male dominated society. Meera, who's a 'cook book writer'(2), manages to suppress her feelings thinking that it is more important to be always a good wife than a good writer. Meera is a representative of the urban, middle income woman exposed to liberal western ideas. Meera's husband cares limited to money, status and material comfort.
Giri had made careful plans about where he would be by enough time he was thirty, forty, and forty - five Meera would get this to possible, he knew with certainty. Meera, who exuded upper class - Dom like the L'air du temps she wore. Discreet, elegant and old money. (Lessons in Forgetting 37)
Giri gave importance only to money. Actually, he married Meera on her behalf ancestral property (home). He forces her to sell the home and he wants to get the money running a business.
Then there may be the home. I asked you, begged and pleaded along to sell the house. With the money, I would never have had to work with someone else. I'd have pursued my dream, my chance at happiness but you wouldn't listen (Lessons in Forgetting 59)
He never gives importance to her feelings, ideas and thought. Finally Giri leaves her for younger woman. She actually is left with the responsibility of sustaining her family, she occupies a job as JAK's research assistant. Meera is suppressed at every stage of her life, compromises to conform the role of a perfect Indian woman. He repressed Meera in all the ways he can.
Meera comes out of the bond as a rebel and her response is rejection - the rejection of social standards, values and the traditional life pattern. Her stoic endurance and perseverance supported her in all matters. Living in such an ailment, she had nothing to fall back upon, no shoulder to lean on, and out of her total vacuum she were required to re - create herself and meet the challenges of life.
Smriti, a girl who is subjected to a form of repression predicated on patriarchal attitude and sexual violence. Smriti is the loving daughter of JAK who is a cyclone expert. Nina says "When Smriti was created; you spent all that first night gazing down at the sleeping child Mine. My daughter. My entire life" (69). When he involves know that his daughter has met with a fatal accident, he cannot stop himself from coming to India for his daughter.
When Smriti visited Minjikapuram, she met a female in a healthcare facility who wanted to abort her pregnancy because the foetus is a girl. Within a tradition bound Indian society, rearing a girl child is more costly and risky than a male child so people dreaded the birth of girls. According to Smriti, revealing the sex of the foetus is illegal. Women are repressed, forced and even threatened by their male counter parts to bring them under control.
Do you know what a burden a woman child is? My daughter already has two. Her marriage reaches stake here. If she provides yet another girl child, her husband might even leave her. He has already threatened her. (Lessons in Forgetting 90)
Smriti is against female infanticide. She wished to stop this illegal activity and wanted to do something against it. She probes into the case of Chinnathayi's daughter who died at the nursing home after an abortion. She has been threatened by two men never to poke her nose into things that don't concern her. "You know nothing in our ways. I suggest you to go back. We don't want to cause any trouble. Go back home. Go wherever you want. But get out of here" (Lessons 294). Smriti is least bothered about their threatening and probes into the death of Chinnathayi's daughter. She's found out the existence of a visiting scan doctor who sat in an area with a board outside that read 'Sex of the child will not be revealed here'.
Chinnathayi reported about the death of her daughter and exactly how she was forced into abortion. "My daughter died. She was almost five months pregnant when her doctor asked that she get a scan done It was he who wished to know the sex of the baby" (309). Her husband threatened that if she doesn't undergo an abortion, she'd be his mid wife. "On our way home, my daughter, my daughter asked me easily would be her midwife. Her husband arranged for the baby to be aborted. They didn't tell me. I understand when they brought my daughter's corpse home" (309).
Smriti suffered repression in the form of sexual violence. Chinnathayi refers men as cruel animals and says,
At the mutton shop as they eyed a carcass strung on a hook, the line of goats' heads on a block using their dead, unseeing eyes. Should it be chops or the brain? A very important factor was certain. They wouldn't leave without meat. (Lessons in Forgetting 316)
Chinnathayi couldn't believe what she was seeing. "They were animals, these men. They tore at the girl and it seemed a lot more she screamed, the greater excited they truly became" (317). Even from where she stood she could feel the girl's fear. "It had been the smell of blood" (317) and "Chinnathayi knew that no matter how much the girl pleaded or sought for reprieve, they wouldn't leave her alone. She was their kill" (317).
Smriti struggled too much to escape the sexual violence but she couldn't emerge from the trap. Chinnathayi thought that "nothing had prepared her for this, the pleasure they produced from the girl's fear. She would remember till as soon as she died, the laugh that echoed over the shore as the girl tried to flee plus they rounded her in, knowing there is nothing she could do to flee them, their vile minds and bodies" (317).
Smriti is the victim of repression and the victim of men. Women are physically weak and men are using the physical power to repress woman. Smriti couldn't escape from the wild animals. "the girl tried to shake him off, sought to distance themself, finding the strength to crawl on her hands and feet through the sand. Panting. Heaving. Sobbing. Wanting to escape" (318).
Rape is a sexual act that sometimes appears as a potent tool of men to overpower woman. Fran Hasken says that violence against women is perpetrated "with an astonishing consensus one of the men on the planet" (qtd. in Mohanty 178). Male supremacy, like other political creeds, does not finally reside in physical strength however in the acceptance of any value system which is not biological (millet 27).
In the novel, The Dark Holds No Terror, Shashi Deshpande voices the repression of women characters like Anita Nair. The repression faced by the characters of Nair and Deshpande are more or less similar. AT NIGHT Holds No Terror, Deshpande tells the storyline of Sarita who is a successful pediatrician quietly grappling with the horrifying truth about her husband who turns a rapist every night. His sexual sadism is related to his inability to rise to the amount of his wife professionally. In Mistress, Nair discusses the act of marital rape in a single instance when the protagonist Radha's husband forces himself upon her to be able to say his position as her husband, when she actually is drawn to another man. The characters, namely Manu at night Holds No Terror and Shyam in Mistress, get excited about sexual violence within marital relationships.
The control and abuse of women, creates and maintains women's repression all over the world. Men contain the important decision making positions in every social, political and religious institutions that organize and control society. Through this institutional power, men construct culture, pass laws, and enact policies that serve their interests and present themselves the power to control women in public and private spheres. Voluntary, as well as involuntary, violations of society's man-made rules mark women as tainted and immoral, and bring dishonor to the family.
Patriarchal religions, which mould the majority of the cultures of the world, subordinate women to men. Fundamentalist movements, whether Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Islamic, advocate the repression of women. Womens' interaction with men and boys is closely monitored and restricted and their bodies and hair covered in a way deemed to be modest. For instance, consuming Islamic fundamentalism, women must wear full body coverings, such as chadors and burqas. Punishment for sexual misconduct can be severe, such as Iran, where women can be legally stoned to death. The other form of repression and abuse of women's sexuality is exploitation, where women and girls are used for men's sexual gratification or profit. Women are sexually exploited when they are subjected to incest, rape, sexual harassment, battering, bride trafficking, pornography, and prostitution.
Nair has taken to the fore the problem of marital rape, an instrument of repression which is often not discussed in public areas and which will not necessarily amount to violence under regulations because it is the husband who is the perpetrator. Women have been residing in pain and silence for ages as victims of repression, humiliation, torture, male dominance, sexual violence and exploitation. The theory that rape can be utilized as a tool to repress women reaffirms the fact that the male sexuality has a great influence on the creation of masculine identity. Through these characters, Nair has epitomized the realities of the lives of the Indian women and registered a vociferous protest against the chauvinistic patriarchal society.