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A STUDY OF AGONY AND PAIN OF WOMEN IN THE SOCIETY THEME IN THE NOVELS OFNAYANTARA SAHGAL

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The present study was aimed on exclusive focus onSahgal's major concern in her novels i.e. theme of agony and pain of women in thesociety.I have tried my best to make it clear that NayantaraSahgal's journey as a woman writer starts from the
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  IRJMSH Vol 8 Issue 1 [Year 2017 ] ISSN 2277  –  9809 (0nline) 2348  – 9359 (Print) International Research Journal of Management Sociology & Humanity ( IRJMSH ) Page 431 www.irjmsh.com    A STUDY OF AGONY AND PAIN OF WOMEN IN THE SOCIETY THEME IN THE NOVELS OFNAYANTARA SAHGAL Dr. Vijay Kumar Chawla, (030013) M.A.{Eng}, M. Phil[Eng}, PhD{Eng} vijaychawla95@gmail.com Abstract:  The present study was aimed on exclus̎ve focus onSa̍gal‘s  major concern in her novels i.e. theme of agony and pain of women in thesociety.I have tried my best to make it clear that  NayantaraSa̍gal‘s journey as a woman wr̎ter starts from t̍e searc̍ for self̍ood and reac̍es ̎ts culmination in the attainment of it. She has a humanitarian dislike of suffering and inequality. She is sensitive to the suffering of Indian women and champions their cause. Almost in all her novels, Sahgal has gone deep into the female psyche. She is able to go deep into the psyche of her female characters and study them with sympathy and understanding. As a woman novelist, Sahgal recognizes that her primary obligation is that of advocating the emancipation of women. Sahgal is deeply concerned with the failure of marital relationships, the loneliness of l̎v̎ng and pr̎vate terrors. Sa̍gal‘s women c̍aracters suffer because t̍ey refuse to submerge their individuality and cling to their personal identity at all costs. Sahgal shows women suffering in marriage-life and then deciding to come out of the suffocating bondage by preferring divorce. She depicts her women deciding to opt for divorce rather than live a stifling life of injustice and agony. Her novels portray women trampled and oppressed because of their dependence upon men and the harrowing experience they have to face in their struggle to come out of the bondage and stand on t̍e̎r own feet. In ̍er novels, woman suffers not only by man‘s act of p̍ys̎cal violence, but she is often emotionally hurt and crippled through his arrogance, cynicism and indifference. Loneliness, suffering and frustration in marriage sometimes cause disintegration and make women rebellious. Key Words: Agony, Pain, Society, Nayantara Sahgal. A keen observation of the position of woman in our patriarchal society brings to the fore, the pathetic condition of their being. Woman who has been compared to the creator, woman who has been deified, woman who has been at the centre of all human existence has sadly and surreptitiously been robbed of her own identity. In her role as a mother she has taken pride, in her role as a daughter she has privileged, but while trying to give perfect performance in these roles somewhere down the line she has forgotten her own self. Man has used her, exploited her, taken her support to climb the ladder of success but at the end of it all discarded her shamelessly.  IRJMSH Vol 8 Issue 1 [Year 2017 ] ISSN 2277  –  9809 (0nline) 2348  – 9359 (Print) International Research Journal of Management Sociology & Humanity ( IRJMSH ) Page 432 www.irjmsh.com   If woman g̎ves ̎n to t̍e demands of ̍er man ̎t‘s because s̍e loves ̍̎m and ̎s emot̎onally attached to him. Women are born as free as men, but they are not allowed to remain free for long. In fact, fem̎n̎sts assert t̍at women are made by soc̎ety. It‘s a person t̍at takes b̎rt̍ but soc̎ety w̎t̍ ̎ts snarled up v̎ews of v̎rtue and morals makes woman out of t̍em: ― One is not born but rather becomes a woman. It is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.” 1  In fact, this is one of the ills of patriarchal society. Right from her birth the so called feminine virtues and graces are so instilled in her that she forgets that she has an independent identity as a person. For man his will is law but for woman there are certain pre-ordained moulds into which she has to fit herself or else she is crushed and finished.   The concern of feminism is the need of society where women have been colonized by men on account of sexuality. Nayantara Sahgal unravels the maxim of freedom in the context of feminism of Indian Sensibility. She has many disturbing questions to deal with, the agony and pain of women in her novels. Her novels show her deep concern for the emancipation of women; she wants them to become aware of their existence as individuals. Though most of her women are portrayed as wives, mothers and daughters, her views regarding feminism find illustration through these domesti cated c̍aracters. A professed fem̎n̎st NayantaraSa̍gal‘s journey as a woman writer starts from the search for selfhood and reaches its culmination in the attainment of it. She has a humanitarian dislike of suffering and inequality. She is sensitive to the suffering of Indian women and champions their cause: “If Galsworthy was the champion of the poor, Nayantara Sahgal is the champion of the much wronged Hindu womanhood.”  2 A Time to be Happy  being the first novel presents only a draft of what Sahgal was to eluc̎date ̎n ̍er later works. T̍oug̍ t̍e world descr̎bed ̎n Sa̍gal‘s f̎rst novel ̎s not t̍e dream world for women, yet most of the women characters seem to take to it like fish takes to water. Maya however, is a misfit in this world and dares to search for a world of her own. Though she practices restraints, she is yet far ahead of her times. Hence she faces opposition not only from her husband but also from his family. Lakshmi, though a woman, does not have any sympathy for her. She does not understand her aspirations and is rather bewildered at her madness: “It‟s not a laughing matter, she scolded. Don‟t  you think it is tactless of her? ………   Why can‟t she join a music circle or a literary society or something he‟ll approve of?” 3  Women like Lakshmi believe that the existence of a wife must necessarily be subordinate that of her husband. If she does not complement her husband in his pursuits, she must be crazy. Sahgal is all sympathy for women who are married into backgrounds different from their own. Maya comes from a home full of laughter and joy and companionship. She needs  IRJMSH Vol 8 Issue 1 [Year 2017 ] ISSN 2277  –  9809 (0nline) 2348  – 9359 (Print) International Research Journal of Management Sociology & Humanity ( IRJMSH ) Page 433 www.irjmsh.com   Har̎s̍‘s support to settle down ̎n ̍er new env̎ronment; ̎nstead s̍e ̎s met w̎t̍ ̎nd̎fference which makes her wilt away: “Married life had deprived her of the joyous atmosphere of that f  ull bustling home without providing her with the warmth she sought. Eventually, I (narrator) suppose, she ceased to expect it- believed even, that she did not want it.” 4 Gender-bias which is at the root of all women-sufferings leads to infanticide of female-foetus in present times. In times of PrabhaMathur, though such facility was not available, men used to indulge in bigamy or even polygamy in order to become proud father of sons. This bias against female child was not an evil encouraged by men, most of the time women subscribed to this view. Prabha goes to the extent of permitting Harilal to marry again so that he may beget a son. She tells the narrator: “I was so unhappy when she was born………….. t  hat‟s why he married again and not because he does not care  for me.” 5 Prabha seems to be representing the lot of headless women who exist but do not seem to live. Like the ranee of Vijaygarh „ Mistaken Identity ‟ , she was given away in marriage at the tender age of fifteen but unlike the ranee she adjusted so well to her husband that she does not find anything wrong about his marrying again for a son. Early marriage was a means to crush a women‘s soul even before s̍e ̍ad become consc̎ous of ̎ts ex̎stence. T̍̎s was cons̎dered to be the best guarantee for a happy marriage : ― For any young and inexperienced girl given in marriage to a man of my husband‟s good and considerate ways, it was the only thing in life. And do you know why? Because all life was ahead to be discovered.” 6 Prab̍a‘s case ̎s an ex empl̎f̎cat̎on of t̍̎s. S̍e ̎s so devoted to ̍er ̍usband t̍at s̍e does not attend ̍er daug̍ter‘s marr̎age lest s̍e may ‗embarrass ̍̎m‘. T̍us most of t̍e t̎me ̎t ̎s women‘s lack of gumpt̎on, lethargy and reluctance to disturb the surface harmony of their homes, which is responsible for their suffering. This Time of Morning    presents var̎ous faces of women‘s oppress̎on. Women are oppressed not only in their role of wife but also that of daughter and the hands of oppressors stretch to their work places as well. Ras̍m̎ ̎s d̎s̎llus̎oned w̎t̍ ̍er ̍usband Dal̎p. Dal̎p‘s influence on her personality has been a negative one. Staying with him robbed her of her vitality. Rakesh is the first to note this change: “Through all the years he had known her she had possessed brightness that had distinguished her in a crowd. …………….    Now she looked displaced.” 7   Ras̍m̎ t̍en, ̎s a v̎ct̎m of wrong marr̎age t̍at ̍ad ‗made ̍er a mot̍ trapped ̎n cement.‘ T̍e quest̎on t̍en ̎s, Is Dal̎p to blame? If ̎t ̎s Dal̎p‘s fault w̍y t̍en, ̍er own  mother Mira feels Rashmi is a fool to leave Dalip? Unknowingly and unwillingly women like Mira v̎ct̎m̎ze t̍e ‗  New Woman‟   in her search for freedom. Instead of leading her sympathetic shoulder to Rashmi she is horrified and at a loss to understand:  IRJMSH Vol 8 Issue 1 [Year 2017 ] ISSN 2277  –  9809 (0nline) 2348  – 9359 (Print) International Research Journal of Management Sociology & Humanity ( IRJMSH ) Page 434 www.irjmsh.com   “What reasons under heaven could sever the marriage bond? Women stayed married……… under every conceivable circumstance.”  8   Ras̍m̎‘s f̎rm dec̎s̎on to leave Dal̎p comes from an awareness of a frustrat̎ng exper̎ence, w̍̎le M̎ra‘s comfort̎ng secur̎ty ̍as ̎nsulated her against all odds and it has rendered ̍er unsympat̍et̎c to t̍e problem t̍at new women l̎ke Ras̍m̎ m̎g̍t face. T̍us ̎t‘s not always men who victimize women, sometimes even women show apathy. In her novel This Time of Morning  in the character of Nita she ‗explores t̍e place of woman ̎n Ind̎an soc̎ety‘. N̎ta‘s fat̍er Mr. Narang ̎s fond of danc̎ng, dr̎nk̎ng and play̎ng  br̎dge. M̎ddle aged as ̍e ̎s, ̍e ̍as a rov̎ng eye. Fat̍er of a young g̎rl, ̍e st̎ll can‘t res̎st t̍e temptation of ogling at lovely women. But as far as his daughter Nita is concerned, he somehow, sticks to the Victorian culture. There is a definite set of rules, that Nita is expected to adhere to. Mrs. Narang proudly says, “We don‟t allow Nita to go out alone. Her father would not hear of it. ” 9 Men have this convenient idea that no matter however hideous their moral lapse, their honour still remains quite intact, but a single slip from their women folk puts their honour at stake. That is why they indulge in all pleasures whereas their women have to remain deprived of even t̍e s̎mple and ̎nnocent joys of l̎fe. T̍̎s s̍ould be seen ̎n t̍e l̎g̍t of Ms. Sa̍gal‘s remarks in her article, ―Women: persons or possess̎ons?‖― When I heard someone remark, „we never allow daughters to go out‟ or „I can‟t do t  hat, my husband would not like it, it sounded a very peculiar, alien jargon. As if, I thought, women were property not persons.”  10  Nita wants to live life on her own terms, but all such efforts are defeated by her  parent‘s cons̎derat̎ons. S̍e ̍ates t̍e idea of marrying Vijay and even the thought of physical  prox̎m̎ty w̎t̍ V̎jay ̎n a lonely room f̎lls ̍er w̎t̍ terror. N̎ta‘s c̍aracter becomes a med̎um for Sahgal to present a satire on the so called sophisticated society, which does not much mind if in the name of modernity its women drink and smoke but all hell breaks loose if they dare to decide whom they want to marry. This Time of Morning  is full of such victims of the system. Uma Mitra is another victim of conventions. A nineteen year old, chirpy girl is married to a somber, responsible, bureaucrat thirty three years of age. Arjun is a caring husband but he does know how to be mad in love. The youthful love that Uma wants is beyond Arjun. Uma needs constant attention whereas Arjun is more devoted to his work than he could ever to be his wife. Failing to fulfill her desires within marriage, Uma becomes a sex freak. In fact she is the victim of a social system which leaves no scope for individual freedom. Sahgal herself says that through Uma she wants to show that: „a woman is not allowed to be a woman in orthodox thinking.”  11  Leela becomes a victim of society. She is a modest Hindu girl from Banaras. She had never learnt to cope with freedom, as she was never given any. In Radcliffe she becomes as free as a bird. She becomes pregnant and commits suicide out of shame. Her case is an exemplification of what the delusion and misuse of freedom can do. Leela died because, “She  IRJMSH Vol 8 Issue 1 [Year 2017 ] ISSN 2277  –  9809 (0nline) 2348  – 9359 (Print) International Research Journal of Management Sociology & Humanity ( IRJMSH ) Page 435 www.irjmsh.com   had been girl and a sheltered one and Banaras was no preparation for America.”  12 If Leela died it is again the orthodox society which is to give her opportunity to learn to protect herself for all untoward situations. Secondly, if a woman becomes pregnant outside marriage she has to face humiliation whereas the man who is an equal partner in the sin is not even questioned. Men have fun at the cost of women and always shrink away from the responsibility. A life full of promises must not be sacrificed at the altar of false h onour. T̍e Leela‘s ̎n our soc̎ety must be g̎ven a chance to live. Sa̍gal‘s next novel Storm in Chandigarh   ̍as one suc̍ v̎ct̎m Saroj. Saroj‘s husband Inder has a sadistic approach and uses chastity as a weapon against Saroj. He hates her for her pre-marital lapse, and at the same time revels in it for its gives him the right to feel righteous and aggrieved. In fact, this is simply a pretext on his part. If nothing of the kind had happened, he would have still thought of something to torture and torment Saroj. Inder is himself enjoying the bliss of two worlds, that of Saroj and Mara, but he keeps raking the past of Saroj, simply to humiliate her. The conservation that goes on between them, throws light on the grimness of the situation: “And then, there must have been others. There were not others. ………………………………   You should be ashamed of what you did. Aren‟t you?”  13  On one hand, he keeps pointing his suspicious finger at Saroj, for her one mistake in the past, and on the other hand if Mara even hints at the possibility of an extramarital relation between Saroj and Vishal, he bursts with indignation: “That kind of remark disgusts me. The thinking behind it disgusts me. ………………….   There‟s no shame now -a-days, no barriers. Everything is taken lightly. And women t  alk and behave like men.”  14 This may sound reasonable to many, but considering the fact that it comes from a man who is remorseless enough to get involved with another woman; this sounds preposterous. This, then, is the double standard which Saroj has to be bear with. Inder is deeply involved with Mara, but ̍e s̎mply can‘t ̎mag̎ne ̍̎s w̎fe‘s ̎nvolvement w̎t̍ anyone. T̍e psyc̍ology be̍̎nd this is that men are free to indulge their fancies but women must at all cost practice restraints. Inder is not only involved with Mara, but he has also had many sexual experiences before marriage, “He had been precocious and successful in sex, rousting collecting experience where he found it.”  15  
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