Contextualizing Ayah's abduction: patterns of violence against women in Sidhwa's Cracking India.
The 1947 Partition of British India British India
The part of the Indian subcontinent under direct British administration until India's independence in 1947. into two independent nations (India and Pakistan) was accompanied by communal violence unspeakable in its brutality and ferocity, leading Mushirul Hasan Professor Mushirul Hasan is an historian and present Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University at Delhi He has a M. A. from Aligarh Muslim University, 1969, and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, 1977). to label it a "bloody vivisection vivisection (vĭv'ĭsĕk`shən), dissection of living animals for experimental purposes. The use of the term in recent years has been expanded to include all experimentation on living animals, rather than just dissection alone. " (The Partition Omnibus xii). One of the profound ironies of the period is that while a rhetoric and ideology of non-violence prevailed in the political push for freedom from colonial rule, a bloodbath accompanied the actual attainment of this goal. (1) In the months immediately preceding and following the creation of "free" nation-states, untold numbers of murders, kidnappings, rapes and arsons were committed by ordinary citizens of all the major religious groups (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) caught up in the turmoil. Many historians have documented the horrors that unfolded, often, like G. D. Khosla in Stern Reckoning, with painstaking thoroughness. It is certainly true that communal violence was not unprecedented in sub-continental society, (2) but the fact of impending Partition and subsequently, its reality, unleashed a maelstrom Maelstrom, whirlpool, Norway: see Moskenstraumen. that was so horrific that some aspects of its history have been occluded. (3) There is substantial evidence that many instances of religious violence were orchestrated by politically organized groups; however, there is also plenty of evidence that some of the violence was also "spontaneous," where individuals, incited into group-think, perpetrated opportunistic acts of aggression, sometimes unleashing escalating cycles of retribution. How did people who lived together for centuries (albeit sometimes uneasily) turn upon one another; how did average people become murderers, kidnappers, rapists and arsonists?
Bapsi Sidhwa's novel Cracking India Cracking India, (1991, U.S., 1992, India; originally published as Ice Candy Man, 1988, England) is a novel by author Bapsi Sidhwa. Plot summary
Told through the eyes of young Lenny Sethna (a young Parsi girl afflicted with polio who lives in Lahore), , which has garnered considerable attention as a trenchant portrayal of the violence surrounding the Partition, can profitably be explored as an examination of this issue, for it depicts a broad cross-section of Lahore society both before and after the city became a part of Pakistan. This approach to the novel, one that treats it as a quasi-historical register, necessitates an acknowledgment of arguments about Partition historiography. In recent years, historians have directed attention to the shortcomings of treating the grand narrative of the state's central, bureaucratic archive as the definitive History of the event. As scholars such as Gyanendra Pandey have shown, the "concentration on high politics" (65) has to be supplemented or even supplanted by a focus on the everyday experiences of the people who lived through the "History." (4) Urvashi Butalia's seminal compilation of oral histories has proven to be both influential and instructive. The impulse to document people's lives is, of course, the primary impulse behind literary narratives (fiction and/or autobiography) like Cracking India. Though fictive fic·tive
1. Of, relating to, or able to engage in imaginative invention.
2. Of, relating to, or being fiction; fictional.
3. Not genuine; sham. , we can approach it as akin to documentary material, provided we are mindful of its status as fictional representation, and attend to its narratological nuances. Jill Didur has written persuasively on this subject in her essay "Fragments of the Imagination," cautioning us about the need for "tracking the epistemological assumptions about representation embedded" in literary texts. (5) In the analysis that follows, I treat Cracking India as a piece of fiction that seeks to represent the psychological and social realities of a specific place at a specific time (Lahore ca. 1942-1948), and am attentive to the representational strategies that allow the text to accrue meaning.
Deploying a child-narrator, Lenny Sethi, the novel's plot focuses on Lenny's Hindu nanny or Ayah a·yah
A native maid or nursemaid in India.
[Hindi y (referred to as Shanta twice in the novel), (6) her abduction by a mob led by one of her (spurned spurn
v. spurned, spurn·ing, spurns
1. To reject disdainfully or contemptuously; scorn. See Synonyms at refuse1.
2. To kick at or tread on disdainfully.
v. ) Muslim suitors, Ice-candy-man, and her eventual escape from his clutches. The Ayah's story is paradigmatic See paradigm. : like her, thousands of women were abducted and/or raped by men of the "enemy" community during the chaotic months before and after Partition, Scholarship on the novel has repeatedly, and justifiably, focused on the figure of the Ayah, analyzing the ways she inhabits the subaltern subject position and how her abduction and recovery participate in the contested ideologies of Partition history. (7) While the centrality and symbolic power of Ayah's story is indubitable in·du·bi·ta·ble
Too apparent to be doubted; unquestionable.
in·dubi·ta·bly adv. , it is worth noting that the novel's canvas is expansive, affording us a multilayered view of Lahore society. Lenny herself is a child of privilege, born into an upper-middle class Parsi family and is thus a doubly "neutral" narrator NARRATOR. A pleader who draws narrs serviens narrator, a sergeant at law. Fleta, 1. 2, c. 37. Obsolete. , by virtue of her age and ethno-religious affiliation. "While her perspective is that of the upper-class child, her attachment, both physical and mental, to her Ayah allows her (and the reader) access to the working-class world of cooks, gardeners, masseurs and ice-cream sellers. Thus, the novel belies its own opening statement that Lenny's "world is compressed" (11) for Lenny roams well beyond the boundaries of her own Parsi family and community. Indeed, the plot repeatedly allows her forays outside the "affluent fringes of Lahore" (11), going so far, on a couple of occasions, to visit, with the family cook, a village forty miles outside Lahore, removing her from the "elevated world of chairs, tables and toilet seats" (67). (8) Lenny engages socially with a wide variety of people, and one striking motif is the pervasiveness of sexual predation predation
Form of food getting in which one animal, the predator, eats an animal of another species, the prey, immediately after killing it or, in some cases, while it is still alive. Most predators are generalists; they eat a variety of prey species. and violence. If we attend to the patterns evident in the numerous events that cumulatively depict Lenny's life, we note just how many of them are marked by physical or psychological aggression motivated by male sexual dominance. The novel suggests that Punjabi society, even in a state of pre-Partition "normalcy," relatively untinged by communal conflict, was suffused with violence, particularly that directed against women, and thus what occurred during the Partition was not an aberration but merely a re-contextualization or a re-calibration of an already familiar phenomenon.
Sudhir Kakar, perhaps the most well known psychoanalyst in India today, has noted the connection between social mores and sexual violence in his book The Colours of Violence:
The chief reason for the preponderance of specifically sexual violence in the Partition riots in the north is that, as compared to many other parts of the country, the undivided Punjab was (and continues to be) a rather violent society. Its high murder rate is only one indication of a cultural endorsement of the use of physical force to attain socially approved ends such as the defence of one's land or of personal or family honour. There is now empirical evidence to suggest that the greater the legitimation of violence in some approved areas of life, the more is the likelihood that force will also be used in other spheres where it may not be approved. In this so-called cultural spillover effect there is a strong association between the level of nonsexual violence and rape, rape being partly a spillover from cultural norms condoning violent behavior in other area of life. (38)
Kakar's analysis dovetails neatly with the patriarchal world that Sidhwa depicts, a world in which male aggression, especially against women, is ubiquitous. The novel's title refers to a rupture, and Partition certainly ruptured both political constructs (cleaving British India to form India and Pakistan), and families and communities (migrations, murders, and mayhem). Yet the ruptures are belied by the continuities evident in the patterns of violence inscribed in the text. This essay, then, will focus attention on a number of narrative threads in the novel that portray a routine acceptance of various kinds of casual, almost banal violence, and suggest that these episodes indirectly show that the Ayah's (paradigmatic) abduction is one point (though admittedly the most prominent one) in a continuum. While other analyses of the novel have accurately reflected the Ayah's centrality, my essay will show how the lives of other women in the novel depict a pattern of victimization victimization Social medicine The abuse of the disenfranchised–eg, those underage, elderly, ♀, mentally retarded, illegal aliens, or other, by coercing them into illegal activities–eg, drug trade, pornography, prostitution. . My contention is that while the main plot of the Ayah's story focuses attention on the abductions of women as the symbolic epicenter of communal violence, other ancillary episodes, especially involving women, show how the sexual objectification and exploitation of women was an accepted, almost routine element in the society. At the novel's outset, the Ayah is a sexually empowered woman, deploying her sensuality to rule over a circle of religiously-diverse suitors. Even as Sidhwa celebrates this sensuality, she implies, through the Ayah's fate and through that of the other women in the novel, that sexual violence is a pervasive presence in these women's lives. It is precisely the pervasiveness and habitual acceptance of sexual violence that eventually leads to the proliferation of violent acts enacted on the bodies of women; the turbulence of 1947-47 re-labels or re-calibrates rape and other acts of domestic violence against women as acts of "communal" aggression.
Violence Against Women: Papoo's Story
Early in the novel, we are introduced to Papoo, the sweeper's daughter who lives with her family in the servants' quarters behind the Sethi bungalow. A little older than Lenny, (9) Papoo draws attention, at first, to the ways class differences affect the treatments meted out to the girl child. While the polio-stricken Lenny is doted on, Papoo lives a life of deprivation, a life all too routine for most subcontinental girls. We find out that her mother Muccho routinely "maltreats her daughter" (21); she is hospitalized for two weeks after a presumed beating by her mother results in a concussion. The underlying cause of Muccho's wrath is never explicitly identified, but one concludes that Papoo is subject to abuse simply because she is a girl, and thus a liability to the family In a subsequent episode, we see Muccho's anger explode at her errant daughter for shirking household chores: "Bitch! Haramzadi! May you die" (54). "Yanking cruelly" at her hair, Muccho hurls further abuse, calling the child, "Haram For the municipality of Haram, see .
For the technical Islamic legal meaning, see .
The Arabic term ḥaram has a meaning of "sanctuary" or "holy site" in Islam. Khor! Slut! Work-shirker!" She "pounds her daughter with her fists and with swift vicious kicks" (54). Despite her mothers ill-treatment, Papoo has spunk and displays a remarkable resilience. Lenny comments that Papoo, "unlike other servants' children ... is not browbeaten into early submission" (56). The aforementioned beating (seemingly) knocks out Papoo; as the other servants present chastise chas·tise
tr.v. chas·tised, chas·tis·ing, chas·tis·es
1. To punish, as by beating. See Synonyms at punish.
2. To criticize severely; rebuke.
3. Archaic To purify. Muccho for her harsh treatment of her daughter, she relents a little and tries to pour water into her daughter's mouth to revive her. Papoo, who had actually been pretending to be unconscious, spits the water back in her mothers face, and jumps up making "mocking sounds and gestures" (55). This episode thus marks Papoo as a "strong and high-spirited" young girl, one not easily cowed by authority (56). But as Lenny notes, her fighting temperament and madcap antics will be short-lived. Though "it is not easy to break her body," she will be broken in "subtler" ways (56).
The rebellious Papoo is "broken" when her family marries her off to an unappetizing older man. Papoo initially resists, "enact[ing] tempestuous tem·pes·tu·ous
1. Of, relating to, or resembling a tempest: tempestuous gales.
2. Tumultuous; stormy: a tempestuous relationship. tantrums of protestation PROTESTATION. An asseveration made by taking God to witness. A protestation is a form of asseveration which approaches very nearly to an oath. Wolff, Inst. Sec. 375. ," but is eventually restored to a "precarious semblance of docility" (197). When Lenny arrives at the "celebration," she finds the young bride lying in a "crumpled heap of scarlet and gold clothes" (197) and when Lenny tries to wake her up, she appears to be drunk. Later, Muccho shakes her awake, calling her "ufeemi" [an opium-addict], and Lenny realizes that Papoo "has in fact been drugged" (200). She is married off to a dwarf, (10) "a dark, middle-aged man with a pockmark-pitted face" and a roving eye. Lenny is left "imagining the shock, and the grotesque possibilities awaiting Papoo" (199). The story of Papoo's coercion into marriage reflects accurately the misfortunes of millions of sub-continental girls routinely married off before the legal age of consent. It also draws attention to ways sub-continental society in general connived at the subjugation Subjugation
king to whom God sold Israelites. [O.T.: Judges 3:8]
consigned to servitude in retribution for trickery. [O.T.: Joshua 9:22–27]
curses him and progeny to servitude. [O. of women, affording societal consent to sexual enslavement en·slave
tr.v. en·slaved, en·slav·ing, en·slaves
To make into or as if into a slave.
en·slavement n. . It is especially ironic that Papoo's mother is the primary agent of her daughter's plight. Though "the grotesque possibilities" that Papoo will have to endure are left to the readers' imaginations, we assume the worst; in all likelihood, she will have to endure continuing violence, possibly sexual now, not just physical. No voices are raised in protest against the coercion of a young girl; indeed, the marriage is attended and celebrated by the extended family and the community at large. Papoo's rebellious spirit is ground into subservience and conformity.
After her marriage, Papoo disappears from the narrative; her story, however, is only one strand of the composite picture of women's lives that Sidhwa paints in the novel. It is precisely the systemic and pervasive disregard for female consent that enables and leads logically to the abductions of women during the Partition violence. Thus, if our initial introduction to Papoo encourages a class-based comparison between her and Lenny, her marriage calls attention to the parallels between her fate and Ayah's. It is no coincidence that the chapter devoted to Papoo's wedding directly follows the Ayah's abduction. Both Papoo and the Ayah are victims of a system that essentially legitimizes sexual predation. Both Ice-candy-man and Papoo's husband are versions of the same male impulse to exercise control over women, a control executed through societal consent. While we can certainly view the abduction of the Ayah through a political prism and see it as an ideologically freighted event with communal implications (a minority Hindu kidnapped by a Muslim mob), it is also at another level a mote (reMOTE) A wireless receiver/transmitter that is typically combined with a sensor of some type to create a remote sensor. Some motes are designed to be incredibly small so that they can be deployed by the hundreds or even thousands for various applications (see smart dust). routine opportunistic sex-crime. (11) The mob is overtly instigated by her former suitor SUITOR. One who is a party to a suit or action in court. One who is a party to an action. In its ancient sense, suitor meant one Who was bound to attend the county court, also, one who formed part of the secta. (q.v.) , Ice-candy-man, and the narrative leaves open the possibility that he is motivated as much, if not more, by his need to possess the woman who has rejected his advances as he is by a desire to take "revenge" on Hindus. (12)
The Ayah's post-abduction story, unfolding in fragmentary fashion once she is traced by Lenny's mother and Godmother, complicates the ostensible Apparent; visible; exhibited.
Ostensible authority is power that a principal, either by design or through the absence of ordinary care, permits others to believe his or her agent possesses. ideological freight of her initial abduction (woman essentialized as "Hindu," abducted by a Muslim mob and raped repeatedly over a period of several months). (13) Whereas Papoo is coerced into marriage while she is drugged, Ayah is, presumably pre·sum·a·ble
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster. , coerced into accepting Ice-candy man as husband once the kidnapping and tapes have left her no option. In the course of a conversation between Ice-candy-man and Godmother, it becomes clear that after the Ayah's abduction in February 1948, the Sethi family tracks her down, and when they have "arranged to have her sent to Amritsar" where she has family (262), Ice-candy-man marries her in May, and installs her as a "dancing girl" in Lahore's red-light district. Ice-candy-man "change[s] from a chest-thrusting paan-spitting and strutting goonda [thug] into a spitless poet" (257); he assumes the "role of the misused lover so dear to Urdu poets" (274). Spouting spout·ing
n. Chiefly Pennsylvania & New Jersey
See gutter. See Regional Note at gutter.
a. erotic verse, Ice-candy-man claims descent from the "Kotha [a high-class brothel] ... the cradle of royal bastards" (258), and distinguishes between common prostitutes and the "dancing girls" associated with "old families from distinguished homes" (259):
We protect our women. We marry our girls ourselves. No one dare lay a finger on them! They are artists and performers ... beautiful princesses who command fancy prices for their singing and dancing skills! (259)
When Godmother challenges this rhetoric of "protection," which elides the violence by which Ayah was made one of "our women," Ice-candy-man, resorting to the language of the love-lorn, declares that he would "do anything to undo the wrong done to her [Ayah] ..., that no one has touched her since [their] nikah Nikah, or nikkah, (Arabic: النكاح ), is the contract between a bride and bridegroom and part of an Islamic marriage, a strong covenant (mithaqun Ghalithun) as expressed in Qur'an [marriage]," and that he "can't exist without her" (262).
The Ayah's post-abduction story, I suggest, re-calibrates the ideological terrain that is her body. While she presumably has to convert to marry Ice-candy-man (she is re-named Mumtaz), his sexual control over her is more a story of a man's desire to subjugate sub·ju·gate
tr.v. sub·ju·gat·ed, sub·ju·gat·ing, sub·ju·gates
1. To bring under control; conquer. See Synonyms at defeat.
2. To make subservient; enslave. a woman than one of religious-communal identity politics. When Godmother and Lenny finally meet Ayah/Shanta/Mumtaz, she declares that she is "not alive" (274), and begs them to "get [her] away from" her husband (275). Lennys reaction to the Ayah's plea is intriguing in its psychological complexity:
When I think of Ayah I think she must get away from the monster who has killed her spirit and mutilated her "angel's" voice. And when I look at Ice-candy-man's naked humility and grief I see him as undeserving of his beloved's heartless disdain. ... While Ayah is haunted by her past, Ice-candy-man is haunted by his future; and his macabre future already appears to be stamped on his face. (276 emphasis mine)
Notice that Lenny does not think of Ayah's captivity in the context of communal conflict; deploying the idiom of "lover/beloved" she processes it as a romantic relationship. She seems to evince e·vince
tr.v. e·vinced, e·vinc·ing, e·vinc·es
To show or demonstrate clearly; manifest: evince distaste by grimacing. sympathy for Ice-candy-man, though she labels him a "monster." It leads the reader to ask: why is Lenny's reaction so ambivalent? Do we assume that Lenny is too young to really understand what the Ice-candy-man has done? (14) Is she so naive that she is taken in by the rhetoric of the spurned, romantic lover? I would like to argue that Lenny, pre-pubescent at this time (1948), is conditioned by her own sexual experience into thinking that predatory male behavior is normative, and thus worthy of sympathy. This becomes clear when we examine the contours of Lenny's relationship with Cousin.
Violence Against Women: Lenny's Relationship with Cousin
As mentioned earlier, the novel leaves unrecorded Papoo's initiation into sexual knowledge; we can only guess at her tribulations as a wife and possible sex slave. In contrast, the novel, as a coming-of-age story, documents Lenny's growing awareness of others' and her own sexuality. To some extent, Cracking India traces Lenny's fall into knowledge--about religious difference, about class, about sectarian violence, and above all, about sex. From early in the novel, she is aware of Ayah being the cynosure cy·no·sure
1. An object that serves as a focal point of attention and admiration.
2. Something that serves to guide. of the male gaze, the object of the male grope, and is perhaps in love with Ayah herself. (15) But when it comes to sexual experience, Lenny's tutor is her hyper-sexed Cousin. (16) Nursing a crush on Lenny (230, 244), Cousin goes to great lengths to get Lenny to respond to his amorous am·o·rous
1. Strongly attracted or disposed to love, especially sexual love.
2. Indicative of love or sexual desire: an amorous glance.
3. overtures. Once the kidnapped Ayah's whereabouts are located to Lahore's red-light district of Hira Mandi [literally, Diamond Market], it is Cousin who brings the news, and explains to a still-naive Lenny what this means: "There are no real diamonds there, silly. The girls are the diamonds. The men pay them to dance and sing ... and to do things with their bodies. It's the worlds oldest profession" (252). To elucidate somatically to an uncomprehending Lenny, Cousin proceeds to demonstrate: "Ever ready to illuminate, teach and show me things, Cousin squeezes my breasts and lifts my dress and grabs my elasticized e·las·ti·cized
Made with strands or inserts of elastic: slacks with an elasticized waistband.
Adj. 1. cotton knickers." Lenny resists at first, but then Cousin "succeeds in knickering" her, and "putting his hand there, trembles and trembles" (253). We can write off Cousin's behavior in this scene as adolescent fumbling, but a subsequent episode brings up a more disturbing picture. Lenny one-ups her Cousin by being the one who, accompanied by Godmother, gets to visit Ayah at Hira Mandi. The voyeur voy·eur
1. A person who derives sexual gratification from observing the naked bodies or sexual acts of others, especially from a secret vantage point.
2. An obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects. in Cousin wants to know "everything" that happened, and when Lenny has no salacious details, he says, "You would have seen a lot more if you'd gone there after dark" (277). When Lenny asks for a clarification about what she would have seen, the following exchange ensues:
"Girls dancing and singing--and amorous poets. And you would have been raped." What's that? (I never learn, do I?) "I'll show you someday," says Cousin giving me a queer look. (277-78 emphasis mine)
What is peculiar about Cousin's hypothetical fantasy is not (just) that Lenny would have witnessed "a rape" but that she herself would have been subject to the experience. His sexual fantasy sexual fantasy Psychology Private mental imagery associated with explicitly erotic feelings, accompanied by physiologic response to sexual arousal. See Sexual desire. is predatory, turning adolescent experimentation into an exercise of violent power. And when Lenny asks for terminological clarification about rape, he promises, chillingly, to "show [her] someday." As Cousin reveals to Lenny all he knows about the world of prostitutes and pimps, (17) he brings her into a world of sexual knowledge where sexual violence appears the norm, where sexual exploitation is garbed in the fake aesthetics of entertainment. It is thus not surprising then that Lenny's sympathies, as I noted earlier, are pulled in opposite directions when she finds Ayah in thrall to Ice-candy-man. While she recognizes that Ayah has lost all her radiance and animation (272), she is all too willing to overlook the sinister quality of the Ice-candy-man's proprietary predation. The novel thus implicitly presents a society that subtly indoctrinates its men and women to entwine sex with violence and to accept male sexual dominance as the natural status quo [Latin, The existing state of things at any given date.] Status quo ante bellum means the state of things before the war. The status quo to be preserved by a preliminary injunction is the last actual, peaceable, uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy. .
Violence Against Women: Lenny's Mother's Story
As mentioned earlier, the Sethi family belongs to the privileged upperclass in pre-Partition India, mixing socially with other affluent Indians and with representatives of the British ruling class, like the Inspector General of Police An Inspector General of Police (IGP) is a high ranking police officer of the Indian Police Service, Sri Lanka Police or Royal Malaysian Police (Polis Di-Raja Malaysia) cadre. He is usually in charge of an administrative police zone in a state. (69-74). Seemingly the powerful matriarch, Mrs. Sethi has a retinue of servants to take care of her children and her household. But behind the closed doors of the marital bedroom, she is under her husband's thumb, and has to wheedle whee·dle
v. whee·dled, whee·dling, whee·dles
1. To persuade or attempt to persuade by flattery or guile; cajole.
2. her husband to get enough money for household expenses (76-78). (18) This particular instance of Mrs. Sethi cajoling money out of a reluctant husband is treated in a fairly light-hearted way, but the indignity in·dig·ni·ty
n. pl. in·dig·ni·ties
1. Humiliating, degrading, or abusive treatment.
2. A source of offense, as to a person's pride or sense of dignity; an affront.
3. visited upon her as a subservient female is inescapable. Her relationship with her husband progresses (or regresses) to the realm of outright abuse later in the narrative. Ironically, the revelation of her status as a battered woman comes in the context of her activism on behalf of abducted women.
Reaping the benefits of class, and of being a member of the "neutral" Parsi community, Mrs. Sethi engages in humanitarian efforts to assist women who have been victimized by Partition violence. She participates in efforts to help Hindu and Sikh families cross the border safely to India, and to "recover" and shelter kidnapped women. (19) As Lahore erupts into communal violence, Mrs. Sethi oversees the housing of abducted women in a house abandoned by a departed Hindu family. She even employs one of the "rescued" refugees from a "camp for fallen women" (226), a woman named Hamida, to replace the abducted Ayah as the children's nanny. While she is an empowered figure out in public, behind closed doors, Mrs. Sethi is herself an abused woman. Lenny's fragmentary understanding of her parents' marital discord is worth quoting at length:
And closer, and as upsetting, the caged voices of our parents fighting in their bedroom. Mother crying, wheedling, Father's terse, brash indecipherable sentences. Terrifying thumps. I know they quarrel mostly about money. But there are other things they fight about that are not clear to me. Sometimes 1 hear Mother say, "No, Jana; I won't let you go! I won't let you go to her!" Sounds of a scuffle. Father goes anyway. Where does he go in the middle of the night? To whom? Why ... when Mother loves him so? Although Father has never raised his hands to us, one day I surprise Mother at her bath and see the bruises on her body. (224)
Mrs. Sethi protests her husband's infidelity ("I won't let you go to her"), and presumably pays the price for her outspokenness.
In an episode featuring a conflict between Mrs. Sethi and the cook, Imam Din, the narrative explores the ways the violence against women (both the monumental, historical variety and the humdrum domestic type) has a ripple effect ripple effect Epidemiology See Signal event. . When Imam Din catches a billa, a tomcat, sneaking into the kitchen (236-37), he threatens violence against the offending "one-eared monster" (237). A chorus of voices (Hamida, Lenny, Yousaf) urge him to go easy on the intruder. When Mrs. Sethi walks in on the scene, she has just returned home from one of her rescue missions. She berates Imam Din: "Let her [my italics] go at once!" screams Mother ... she cannot see the cat's gender--it is secreted behind the door--but the rest of us know it's a him" (237). She tries to restrain Imam Din by grabbing his shirt, and when she fails, she proceeds to hit him with a fly-swatter. Eventually he disarms her, and she shames him for "tormenting a small cat" (238). It is apparent from the episode that Mrs. Sethi, consumed vicariously with the psychological traumas of the brutalized women she works to rescue, and her own at home, jumps to the conclusion that the cat is female, and feels compelled to defend it against a violent male. Imam Din's threats against the cat function to trigger her protective instincts, and she displaces her anger at the male perpetrators of violence--including, presumably, her husband--onto an available offending male, who, as an underling, an employee of the household, can be beaten, whereas she cannot retaliate against her husband. (20) As I have noted earlier, Imam Din is something of a sexual predator himself, a groper and pedophile pedophile Forensic psychiatry A person with pedophilia; there are an estimated 500,000 pedophiles in the world. See Child prostitution, Megan's law, Pedophilia. who enjoys a little bit of "masti" (57). It is unclear whether Mrs. Sethi is aware of his questionable behavior; however, the reader's knowledge of Imam Din's lechery lech·er·y
n. pl. lech·er·ies
1. Excessive indulgence in sexual activity; lewdness.
2. A lecherous act.
lechery accentuates our appreciation of the circulation of gendered violence.
Imam Din is deeply offended, not just because he has been hit by a woman, but because he has faced the ignominy IGNOMINY. Public disgrace, infamy, reproach, dishonor. Ignominy is the opposite of esteem. Wolff, Sec. 145. See Infamy. of being hit by a fly-swatter. He complains to Mr. Sethi later in the day, but before the household patriarch can respond, Mrs. Sethi intervenes, and makes light of Imam Din's grievances: "Stop sniveling sniv·el
intr.v. sniv·eled or sniv·elled, sniv·el·ing or sniv·el·ling, sniv·els
1. To sniffle.
2. To complain or whine tearfully.
3. To run at the nose.
1. ... Go in, someone, and get him bangles. If he whines like a woman he must wear bangles" (239). Mrs. Sethi diffuses a potential escalation of the conflict by reminding the cook that he can avert being (further) feminized by avoiding a stereotypical female response (sniveling); in effect, she underplays the implications of the aggressive, "masculine" behavior that she herself has displayed. To keep herself in her husband's good graces--we have to assume that she has every reason to suppress and deny her anger against her own husband--she makes herself into the quintessential non-threatening woman. As a sheepish Imam Din walks off, Lenny notes that "Mother laughs and clings to Father" (239). This episode marks something of a reconciliation between the feuding couple who are not on speaking terms as Mr. Sethi, not castigating his wife, speaks directly to her, "addressing her instead of the four walls, furniture, ceiling," and opines that Imam Din is upset because he was hit by a fly-swatter, and that he would have been more tolerant of a beating with a stick (239). Thus it is clear that Mrs. Sethi leads a dual existence: while she rescues women from the clutches of other predatory males, she has to don the helpless feminine persona to maintain her status as a wife. She has only circulated, displaced and passed on the violence done to her and other women, not put a stop to it.
The circulation of violence in a gendered context also surfaces in Lenny's description of some of the backyard games the servants engage in. Early in the novel, Lenny describes a "game" routinely enacted in the "servants' yard" (53); all the servants, including Yousaf, the odd-job man, Moti the sweeper, his daughter Papoo, Imam Din, the cook, and Lenny (accompanied by Ayah), engage in a "high-spirited gambol" (54); they attempt to disrobe Hari, the Hindu gardener:
But we play to rules. Hari plays the jester--and he and I and they know he will not be hurt or denuded. His dhoti might come apart partially--perhaps expose a flash of black buttock to spice the sport--but this happens only rarely. (54)
The reader gets the impression that Hari is the butt of these physical games not just because he is diminutive--"everybody towers over the gardener" (53)--but also because as a gardener, he is low down in the hierarchy of power among the servant group. In the early manifestations of the game, group identity is not religiously inflected.
A second instance of this disrobing game is enacted as communal tensions are heightened by the prospect of Partition. On this occasion, Lenny registers her discomfort by saying that "it doesn't seem quite right to toy with a man's dhoti dho·ti also dhoo·tie
n. pl. dho·tis also dhoo·ties
1. A loincloth worn by Hindu men in India.
2. The cotton fabric used for such loincloths. when it is so cold" (125). It is worth pausing over Hari's attire: clad in a dhoti (a long piece of fabric wrapped around the lower part of the body), and a "mauve lady's cardigan (Mother's hand-me-down)" (126), Hari is feminized in appearance. This time around, the romp is not so good-natured, as the battle between Hari and Yousaf (a Muslim) becomes subtly tinged by their contesting religious affiliations. Lenny feels a "great swell of fear for Hari, and a surge of loathing for his bodhi [a tuft tuft (tuft) a small clump or cluster; a coil.
n part of the toothbrush head, refers to the small, individual clusters of bristles that proceed from a single opening. of hair left at the back of a shaven head to designate a Hindu man's caste affiliation]. Why must he persist in growing it? And flaunt flaunt
v. flaunt·ed, flaunt·ing, flaunts
1. To exhibit ostentatiously or shamelessly: flaunts his knowledge. See Synonyms at show.
2. his Hinduism?" (126). This complex emotional mix of fear and loathing fear and loathing - (Hunter S. Thompson) A state inspired by the prospect of dealing with certain real-world systems and standards that are totally brain-damaged but ubiquitous - Intel 8086s, COBOL, EBCDIC, or any IBM machine except the Rios (also known as the RS/6000). assumes a "violent and cruel shape" as Lenny enters the fray. Unlike the previous occasion, this time, the "gambol" becomes more vicious, and Hari's dhoti and his shirt and cardigan are ripped off: "Like a withered tree frozen in the winter landscape Hari stands isolated in the bleak center of our violence [my emphasis]: prickly with goose bumps, sooty soot·y
adj. soot·i·er, soot·i·est
1. Covered with or as if with soot.
2. Blackish or dusky in color.
3. Of or producing soot. genitals on display" (126). The appearance of the "sooty genitals" confirms his masculinity, and belies the vulnerability implicit in a figure sporting two markers of victimhood--a bodhi and a lady's cardigan.
The echo of these two instances of the "let's disrobe Hari" game is heard in the episode describing the raid on the Sethi household, which culminates in Ayah's abduction. The mob first targets Hari who has converted for self-preservation and is now called Himat Ali. Interestingly, Hari is wearing, not a dhoti (a garment of a Hindu man), but a shalwar Noun 1. shalwar - a pair of light loose trousers with a tight fit around the ankles; worn by women from the Indian subcontinent (usually with a kameez)
salwar , in accordance with his newly-embraced Muslim identity. The narrative implies that the Muslim mob's threat of disrobing Hari/Himat Ali to determine whether he is somatically a (circumcised) Muslim is another version of the gantlet of servants who disrobe him to prove that he is a man. He is asked to "undo his shalwar" and prove that he is a "proper [i.e. circumcised] Muslim" (192). Fortunately for Hari/Himat Ali, the cook Imam Din vouches for his conversion and circumcision circumcision (sûr'kəmsĭzh`ən), operation to remove the foreskin covering the glans of the penis. It dates back to prehistoric times and was widespread throughout the Middle East as a religious rite before it was introduced among the , and this fact is seconded by the barber who performed the anatomical adjustment. He is then made to recite the kalma [Muslim prayer] to the satisfaction of the mob to prove the efficacy of his conversion. Kavita Daiya has analyzed this episode with acuity, showing how "this transaction dramatizes not only the somatic somatic /so·mat·ic/ (so-mat´ik)
1. pertaining to or characteristic of the soma or body.
2. pertaining to the body wall in contrast to the viscera.
adj. intimacy of ethnic identity but also its very production" (225). Though Hari, alias Himat Ali, is able to avert the humiliation of having to take off his shalwar to prove his newly-embraced religious identity, the episode resonates with the reader because it echoes earlier instances yard-games where the servants play a "game" that subjects Hari to the humiliation of disrobing. Interestingly, Hari, as a male, is "fortunate" in that he can resort to circumcision as a somatic imprint of his conversion. A woman, on the other hand, has no such recourse.
Violence Against Women: Sexual Harassment sexual harassment, in law, verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, aimed at a particular person or group of people, especially in the workplace or in academic or other institutional settings, that is actionable, as in tort or under equal-opportunity statutes. as Tactic
These episodes involving violence directed at servants (Imam Din and Hari), feminized and rendered powerless in various ways, create a pattern that is reflected in other episodes which feature the power-plays of sexual harassment as an unremarkable aspect of public life. As plans for the Partition take hold, Lenny becomes "aware of religious differences" (101); but even as people are "crammed into narrow religious slot[s]" (102), for a period of time, the bonds of friendship supersede To obliterate, replace, make void, or useless.
Supersede means to take the place of, as by reason of superior worth or right. A recently enacted statute that repeals an older law is said to supersede the prior legislation. religious group identity. Thus the Muslim Ice-candy-man aids the Sikh Sher Singh in evicting some tenants who refuse to vacate To annul, set aside, or render void; to surrender possession or occupancy.
The term vacate has two common usages in the law. With respect to real property, to vacate the premises means to give up possession of the property and leave the area totally devoid of contents. their rental quarters (130). This episode presenting Sher Singh's problems with his tenants is a part of routine life in Lahore. Already construing the world through the religious lens, Sher Singh is at first skeptical of Ice-candy-man's offer to help: "You're a Mussulman. ... The tenants are Mussalmans ... Why should you help a Sikh?" (131). Ice-candy-man asserts that he privileges the tie of friendship above all: "So what if you're a Sikh? I'm first a friend to my friends" (131). He then goes on to describe how the ejection of the unwanted tenants is effected. Along with a group of men, he and Sher Singh expose themselves, showing their "dangling ding-dongs" (132) to the women of the house. Thus Muslim and Sikh men are united in launching a sexual harassment scheme against women. The controlled exposure of genitals to frighten and harass women, a gendered power-play, is a contrast to the "games" targeting the feminized Hari, where the objective is to expose his genitals.
Recounting the "hulla-golla" [hubbub] that ensues, Ice-candy-man remarks: "the women screamed and cursed. You'd have thought we'd raped them" (132). His comments imply a curious disjunction disjunction /dis·junc·tion/ (-junk´shun)
1. the act or state of being disjoined.
2. in genetics, the moving apart of bivalent chromosomes at the first anaphase of meiosis. in logic. On the one hand, he is perfectly aware that this hostile, sexually aggressive sexually aggressive adjective Relating to potentially violent behavior focused on gratification of sexual drives, regardless of the desire for participation on the part of the partner. See Sexually dangerous. gesture (exposing genitalia genitalia /gen·i·ta·lia/ (jen?i-tal´e-ah) [L.] the reproductive organs.
ambiguous genitalia ) is designed precisely to outrage the women, and impugn im·pugn
tr.v. im·pugned, im·pugn·ing, im·pugns
To attack as false or questionable; challenge in argument: impugn a political opponent's record. the "manhood" of the males in the family for being unable to "protect" their women. Its desired result, the ousting of the tenants, is dependent on all parties understanding the gesture for what it is--sexual harassment. But he also seems to be implying that sexual harassment is, in and of itself, too innocuous an act to merit the kind of reaction the women have; their reaction would have been understandable if they had been raped. On the one hand, we can argue that the Ice-candy-man is being disingenuous. On the other, it is worth noting that he represents a (decidedly) male perspective which seeks to dismiss sexual harassment as harmless, not as an act that defines the power dynamics between the genders, a power dynamic wherein sexual harassment and rape are points along a spectrum of violence against women.
This use of sexual harassment as a tactic of removing unwanted tenants mutates into an instance of ethno-religious cleansing when reprised in post-Partition Lahore. Now in the newly created Pakistan, rendered unsafe for non-Muslims, it is Sher Singh's family that is subject to sexual harassment and has to flee. Ice-candy-man, always somewhat edgy in his behavior, is transformed into an active participant in communal violence after the women of his family are mutilated and slaughtered on a train as they are fleeing to Pakistan (159). Ice-candy-man's earlier language privileging the bonds of friendship above that of religious commonality is reversed as he reports on Sher Singh's family's fate, acknowledging that he "was among the [Muslim] men who exposed themselves" to these Sikh women (166):
There's natural justice for you. ... You remember how he got rid of his Muslim tenants? Well, the tenants had their own back! Exposed themselves to his womenfolk! They went a bit further ... played with one of Sher Singh's sisters ... Nothing serious--but her husband turned ugly ... He was killed in the scuffle. Well, they had to leave Lahore sooner or later ... After what one hears of Sikh atrocities it's better they left sooner! The refugees are clamoring for revenge! (166)
Again, note Ice-candy-man's language--the sexual threat is described as a game; the men "played" with one of the women. These two episodes, featuring identical sexual harassment tactics, one pre- and the other post-Partition, highlight the continuities between sexual mores and attitudes. The fact of Partition turns what was an apolitical a·po·lit·i·cal
1. Having no interest in or association with politics.
2. Having no political relevance or importance: claimed that the President's upcoming trip was purely apolitical. act (removing tenants) into a politically-inflected one (removing tenants for ethno-religious cleansing). Thus violence is sometimes re-calibrated by religion or class, but the targeting of women remains a constant.
Coda: Godmother, the Empowered Woman
Even as representations of disempowered women, subject to male sexual predation, proliferate in the novel, the character of Lenny's Godmother emerges as a countervailing force. Unstinting in her affection for Lenny, she rules imperiously im·pe·ri·ous
1. Arrogantly domineering or overbearing. See Synonyms at dictatorial.
2. Urgent; pressing.
3. Obsolete Regal; imperial. over "her docile old husband and her slavesister" (11). (21) The second half of the novel, which focuses on the Ayah's "recovery," is dominated by the (fairy) Godmother who is all-powerful in her role as rescuer. Lenny recalls: "The long and diverse reach of Godmother's tentacular ten·ta·cle
1. Zoology An elongated flexible unsegmented extension, as one of those surrounding the mouth or oral cavity of the squid, used for feeling, grasping, or locomotion.
2. arm is clearly evident. She set an entire conglomerate in motion ... and singlehandedly engendered the social and moral climate of retribution and justice required to rehabilitate our fallen Ayah" (285). As noted earlier, she not only facilitates Ayah's (dubious) flight from Hira Mandi, she also emerges the clear victor in the rhetorical battle with Ice-candy man, castigating him as a "shameless badmash" [hooligan or criminal] (260). Her virtual omnipotence om·nip·o·tent
Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force; all-powerful. See Usage Note at infinite.
1. One having unlimited power or authority: the bureaucratic omnipotents. notwithstanding, Godmother is put in her place by her henpecked Oldhusband in an exchange that reminds us of the undercurrent of male sexual aggression that runs through the book. At Godmother's house, a social afternoon discussion focuses on the eyes of various women (Lenny's squint squint: see strabismus. , her mother's "sweet chinky chink 1
A narrow opening, such as a crack or fissure.
tr.v. chinked, chink·ing, chinks
1. To make narrow openings in.
2. To fill narrow openings in. little eyes," and Rosy-Peter's American mother's green eyes), The visitor Dr. Mody laments the departure of the American woman: "Another set of green eyes gone! ... I'd follow them to the ends of the earth To the Ends of the Earth is a trilogy of novels by William Golding, consisting of Rites of Passage (1980), Close Quarters (1987), and Fire Down Below (1989). " (180). Oldhusband responds to this romantic sentiment with the following outburst: "What's all this business about eyes! eyes! eyes! ... You can't poke the damn thing into their eyes!" (180). Even as the interlocutors (Slavesister, Dr. Mody, two visiting medical students, Lenny) are stunned, Godmother avers that her husband is "quite right." While the exchange is somewhat comic, it reminds us forcefully how even the most seemingly non-aggressive man (Oldhusband), who habitually defers to his wife, has simmering inside him the sexual aggressor sexual aggressor Sexology A person who comes on real strong in social situations (if you know what I mean) and is after you know what , a man for whom women's eyes are only worth remarking on if they were part of the sexual calculus, a man who thinks only about where he can or cannot place his penis.
In examining the lives of Papoo, Lenny, Mrs. Sethi and Godmother, we can see the ubiquity of violent acts (or contemplated acts), often sexual in nature, directed at women. Cutting across class lines, Sidhwa's representative canvas alerts us to the fact that the brutality directed at women in the context of Partition was hardly surprising. The social world limned in the pages of Cracking India is replete with gendered violence, and while the numbers of women kidnapped and/or raped around the time of the Partition can seem extraordinary, the prevailing cultural attitudes, which permitted and connived at sexual violence, go a long way in explaining why women's bodies became a contested site for battles over religion and nation.
(1) Gyanendra Pandey has suggested in Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India that in essence there are three different conceptions of "partition": the demand for rite creation of Pakistan as a homeland of Muslim; the splitting up of the provinces of Punjab and Bengal; and the physical migration of populations attended by mayhem (21-44).
(2) For example, Suranjan Das's work charts the history of communal violence in Bengal and shows how riots, which were primarily class-based in the early part of the twentieth century, became more overtly communal by the 1930s.
(3) As Urvashi Butalia, Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin have argued, certain dimensions of the violence, especially the prevalence of so-called "honor" killings of women, have not been readily acknowledged. In addition to "choosing" suicide to save themselves from being abducted or raped, many women submitted to being murdered by males in their families. See the chapter "Honorably Dead" in Menon and Bhasin's book, and the chapters "Women" and "Honor" in Butalia's book. On the issue of silence and the difficulty in recovering women's voices, see Jill Didur's article "At a Loss for Words: Reading the Silence in Partition Narratives."
(4) See especially Chapters 3 and 4 of Pandey's book ("Historians' History" and "The Evidence of the Historian").
(5) The quotation is from paragraph 3. See also Ian Talbot's "Literature and the Human Drama of the 1947 Partition."
(6) Lenny initially provides her name and age, referring to her as "Shanta, my eighteen-year-old ayah ..." (21). Later, Ice-Candy Man refers to her as "Shanta bibi" (38). All subsequent references to the novel will be noted parenthetically par·en·thet·i·cal
adj. also par·en·thet·ic
1. Set off within or as if within parentheses; qualifying or explanatory: a parenthetical remark.
2. Using or containing parentheses. . Several articles have drawn attention to the fact that the narrative's suppression of her name, and the equation of her identity with her profession, is an unhappy in stance of essentializing her identity. Hai, for example, asserting, mistakenly, that "she is named only once as Shanta" says that she is always called "Ayah," as if she were "no more than her function" (390). In that context, it's worth noting that the narrative similarly refers to the Ayah's two most prominent suitors, Ice-candy-man and Masseur masseur /mas·seur/ (mah-sur´) [Fr.]
1. a man who performs massage.
2. an instrument for performing massage. , also by their professions. So if identities are being essentialized, its basis is class, not gender. Indeed, the novel was first published with the title Ice-Candy-Man, and as Sidhwa has attested in an interview with Julie Rajan, the title was changed at the publisher's behest.
(7) A number of scholars, including Jill Didur, Deepika Bahri, Ambreen Hai have written incisively about Cracking India, focusing on issues such as the targeting by men of women's bodies and the lack of testimonial writing about gender violence.
(8) The idea that the parents of a pre-pubescent upper-class girl would allow her to visit, un-chaperoned, the cook's village--and stay there overnight on more than one occasion--seems a tad unrealistic. The visits are particularly odd because the narrative hints that the cook, Imam Din, engages in sexually inappropriate behavior with children, which the Ayah knows about (57-59). Indeed, she has an altercation with Imam Din and Lenny guesses that "Imam Din must have attempted with some part of his anatomy the seduction Ice-candy-man conducts with his toes" (59). Of course Lenny's trips into the rural hinterland are narratologically invaluable because they allow the reader access to dramatic change in political atmosphere in a rural area as communal tensions take hold. A village where Sikhs and Muslim peasants had farmed amicably for generations is slowly infiltrated by militant Sikhs (Akalis), who eventually carry out a massacre of the Muslim peasants. This event is narrated by Ranna, Imam Din's great-grandson, who survives the attack (207-20).
(9) Papoo is four years older than Lenny: "I am seven now, so Papoo must be eleven" (103).
(10) At first Lenny mistakes the groom for a boy: "Judging from his height, Tota Ram must be Papoo's age--about eleven or twelve" (198).
(11) Kavita Daiya has argued that the Ayah's abduction and rape by a former suitor "complicates and contests anthropological explanations of Partition's sexual violence as being about patriarchal communal honor" (222).
(12) Ice-candy-man is depicted as a somewhat chameleon-like opportunist op·por·tun·ist
One who takes advantage of any opportunity to achieve an end, often with no regard for principles or consequences.
op who turns violent once the women of his family are massacred on a train traveling west to Lahore from Gurdaspur: "I lose my senses when I think of the mutilated bodies of that train from Gurdaspur ... that night I went mad ... I lobbed grenades through the windows of Hindus and Sikhs I'd known all my life! I hated their guts .,. I want to kill someone for each of the breasts they cut off the Muslim women" (166). Yet there is no evidence that he reifies the Ayah as "Hindu." If anything, the novel shows him to be a desperate lover, willing to do anything to gain the object of desire. The narrative records the subtle rivalry between Masseur and Ice-candy-man to win Ayah's affections. As Ayah begins to intimate her preference for Masseur, the "undercurrent of hostility between" the two men, turns into "acrimony ac·ri·mo·ny
Bitter, sharp animosity, especially as exhibited in speech or behavior.
[Latin crim " as Ice-candy-man, on one occasion, "openly expresse[s] his jealousy of Masseur" (134). When Masseur body turns up in a gunnysack on the street, it is not clear who is responsible for his murder. After all, Masseur is a Muslim, and in post-Partition Lahore, dominated by Muslim mobs, the death of a Muslim man is intriguing. It is interesting that the body shows up near the Sethi residence. While Hari/Himat Ali, who (along with Lenny) finds the body, assumes that Masseur is a victim of communal violence, the reader wonders whether ice-candy-man may have taken advantage of the situation to eliminate his rival (185-86).
(13) In her evaluation of the data recorded about abducted women, Butalia has noted how complicated the motives of the perpetrators were. Sometimes the impulse was primarily economic: "So many women were picked up by men of the same village ... because abductors often knew the circumstances of the women they were picking up, they would take away older women, widows, or those whose husbands had been killed, for their property. They would then ask to become their 'sons'--a short-cut to the quick acquisition of property" (107).
(14) Deepika Bahri has written about the need to recover the voices of traumatized women; Jill Didur, in "Lifting the Veil?," takes issue with this position and de bates Bahri's analysis of Lenny's cognitive abilities and its limits.
(15) When the Masseur declares that he will marry Ayah and protect her, Ayah replies, "I'm already yours." This elicits a jealous response from Lenny, who cries, "Don't you dare marry him! ... You'll leave me ... Don't leave me" (168). Ambreen Hai analyzes the contours of the Lenny-Ayah relationship, arguing that "Ayah is at once Lenny's double and her antithesis" (396).
(16) In an interview with Preeti Singh, Sidhwa has asserted that the character of Cousin is not based on personal experience: "I had to create some distance between the child Lenny and myself as a child. I made her a much more confident and feisty child. Also, this child is informed by my adult consciousness. So a lot of me is there, but other bits are purely imaginative. For instance, the relation ship between Lenny and her male cousin--I had no such cousin."
(17) We can assume that some of Cousin's knowledge is derived from conversations with his cook (253).
(18) Didur writes persuasively about Lenny's "education" about the dynamics of her parents' marital relations in "Cracking the Nation" (54-57). Ambreen Hai describes Lenny's parents as "enjoying conjugal Pertaining or relating to marriage; suitable or applicable to married people.
Conjugal rights are those that are considered to be part and parcel of the state of matrimony, such as love, sex, companionship, and support. sexuality" (401); I would argue that the narrative makes it clear that the marital relations in the Sethi bedroom display a huge imbalance of power, and Mrs. Sethi preserves her position by playing the role of the submissive, playful wife.
(19) Lenny's Godmother explains: "Mummy and your aunt rescue kidnapped women. When they find them, they send them back to their families or to the Recovered Women's Camps" (251).
(20) When Ambreen Hai declares that the Ayah "becomes the sole representative figure of female violation in this text" (390), she is surely misreading the case. She says, further, that "class difference seems to allow Sidhwa to take liberties, to render with some prurience pru·ri·ent
1. Inordinately interested in matters of sex; lascivious.
a. Characterized by an inordinate interest in sex: prurient thoughts.
b. a vision of available female sexuality that she will forbid herself in applying to women of a higher class" (395). Certainly, Hai has a point in that Mrs. Sethi is not sexually violated, and her status as battered wife pales in comparison to the physical and psychological trauma visited upon women like the lower-class Ayah, or her replacement Hamida. Still, it is worth noting that Sidhwa portrays Mrs. Sethi as a battered wife, whose behavior is molded to some degree by the abuse she suffers. Sidhwa's point, surely, is that a majority of women are subject to male aggression and violence, and the narrative records instances of such behavior in varying degrees.
(21) Lenny never explains why exactly Godmorher's sister is "Slavesister"; we have to assume it is because, as a member of Godmother's household, she is subject to Godmother's imperiousness im·pe·ri·ous
1. Arrogantly domineering or overbearing. See Synonyms at dictatorial.
2. Urgent; pressing.
3. Obsolete Regal; imperial. , and lives under her sister's thumb.
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