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The calf became an orphan

Robert J. Zydenbos

Tempora mutantur

Kannada authors and cultural change

Texte intégral

  • 1 Basavaṇṇa's vacana no. 820 (tr. Zvelebil 1984: 102).

Standing things shall fall,
that which moves shall stay.
- Basavaṇṇa1

15.1 In the preceding chapters we have already seen how the complex modernization of Indian society plays an important role in works which deal mainly with other themes. There are several examples from Indian history of rebellion against the caste system, all of which ultimately failed; but in contemporary writing we see the protest assume a somewhat new form, with new arguments. Very much the same can be said about the works we have discussed which deal with the position of women in Indian society. 'Modernization', to be understood as the simultaneous and interrelated intellectual, social, political, economic, scientific and technological change which is taking place in India today, is largely the result of contact with the Western world. Contact with Western ideas has not only made this change possible: the introduction of certain innovations necessitated the introduction of others as well, as a sort of cultural chain reaction. Also, increasing familiarity with developments abroad became a catalyst for Indian authors to reflect on their own situation.

2As we have seen earlier, traditional Indian culture was perceived - both by Indians as well as by foreign observers - to be basically 'religious'. In previous chapters I have already remarked on the particular hermeneutic difficulties that are involved in this statement. 'Indianness' was seen as a state of culture that is in agreement with dharma; hence it followed that 'non-Indianness' had to be in disagreement with dharma, i.e. it is 'irreligious'. This is indeed a basic consideration in Bhyrappa's Tabbaliyu nīnāde magane when the author condemns the American woman's outlook on life. If 'modem' is also perceived as 'non-Indian', then two sets of associations arise: old-religious-Indian versus modem-irreligious-foreign. Indeed we see these associations made in Kannada fiction, either explicitly or implicitly.

  • 2 Jaspers 1960: 118-9.

3As the German philosopher Karl Jaspers has written, the civilization that has been produced by the West, with the appearance of a technological mentality is gradually becoming the civilization of the world. Already in the West, the coming of technological civilization meant the greatest break yet in the history of its cultural development, but there it was at least a part of the continuity of the world in which it was created. "Nothing can continue in its old form. The great cultured nations of India and East Asia now stand with us before the same fundamental question. They must change in the world of technical civilization, with its sociological demands and consequences, or perish2 In India the confrontation with this different civilization results in culture shock as well as 'future shock', to use A. Toffler's term.

4In the present chapter we will discuss in detail some works which concentrate on this comprehensive cultural change.

55.2 It may surprise the reader that the city with the largest number of Kannada speakers is not in Karnataka, but is Bombay, in Maharashtra state, to the north of Karnataka, where they are a minority. For the population of northern Karnataka Bombay is the nearby big city with employment opportunities, just as Bangalore is for the Tamilians in northwestern Tamilnadu. With such a sizable Kannadaspeaking community, it should not come as a surprise that Bombay also has noteworthy literary activity in Kannada: the late poet Gangadhara Chittal lived there, and now it still is the home of important writers of fiction like Yashwanth Chittal and Vyasaraya Ballala.

6Yashwanth Chittal (Yaśavanta Cittāla 1928b) is one of the most conscious stylists of the Navya school. In spite of his great literary craftsmanship and thoughtfulness, which is expressed in numerous stories, novels and essays, recognition has come to him somewhat slowly. The reason for this may simply be that though he was born in North Canara district (which provides the setting of several of his writings) he has spent most of his adult life outside Karnataka. This may seem silly, but given the current state of affairs in the Kannada literary world, where importance is given to showing one's face and lobbying for oneself, it is plausible. The Sahitya Akademi has appropriately granted him the award he deserved.

7In the fourteenth or fifteenth century there lived a famous scholar named Mallinātha, who wrote commentaries on the major works of Kalidasa, who is by popular consent considered the greatest poet in the Sanskrit language. In Yashwant Chittal's story Mallinātha we see the protagonist, an orthodox village pundit, wax eloquent about a work of modem literature which he has borrowed from his neighbor - without really understanding what it is.

85.3 Yashwanth Chittal: Mallinātha

9The protagonist, Uggā Bhaṭṭa, complains to his acquaintance Śīnappa that morals have deteriorated in their village after the coming of Captain Gangoḷḷi, a retired army officer who has decided to settle down and spend his retirement in the peaceful setting of his native village. Just recently, Bhaṭṭa complains, people performed the pādapūje ('worship of the feet', a ritual reflecting great respect for a religious leader) to a local swami who visited them, and now all morality and religion have been washed away and the very same people go to Gangoḷḷi's house for the daily tea party; also, Gangoḷḷi's caste is mined since he married a woman from some ridiculous caste who sits on the veranda, talks with men and plays cards. Bhaṭṭa prides himself on not having gone there, though Gangoḷḷi's house is next to his, and avoiding Gangoḷḷi when apparently he wants a chat and comes towards the well when Bhaṭṭa is drawing water for performing his worship-after all, there is nothing greater than caste and morality (pp. 192-3). Śinappa somewhat curtly leaves him and goes to Gangoḷḷi's house.

10Gangoḷḷi had renovated his ancestral village home, wanted to live there in peace and forget his war experiences, but had not given up his military ways. He eats his meals at a table on the veranda, has a dog that looks like a wolf, his daughters dress up like Punjabis, and he and his wife go for evening walks hand in hand on the beach, all this to the great amusement of the villagers (p. 193). Hence their old acquaintances kept away from them, and they spent their time playing rummy, reading newspapers, stories and novels and going for walks. But after a while Gangoḷḷi made some new acquaintances, and every evening some seven or eight of them gathered at his house and played cards, drank tea, ate some snacks, chewed betel and smoked cigarettes. Now this group has become a sort of élite in the village, and membership of the group has come to be considered a matter of distinction (p.194). Though Bhaṭṭa is not interested in playing cards or having tea idly at Gangoḷḷi's house, it does irritate him that he, the excellent Brahmin and village voice of authority on matters of religion, has no entry to where Śinappa can enter, and he wants to change this situation.

11Bhaṭṭa does not avoid speaking with Gangoḷḷi the next time he goes to draw water; Gangoḷḷi invites him for a chat and apologizes for not having invited him earlier, since he feared that this would offend Bhaṭṭa's maḍivantike (notion of the need of remaining ritually pure). They talk about literature, Bhaṭṭa expresses the wish to borrow some books from Gangoḷḷi, and the latter recommends the writings of Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar, who according to him is the greatest humorist in Kannada (p. 197).

12Bhaṭṭa returns the next day to borrow a book while Gangoḷḷi and his wife are absorbed in a crossword puzzle; he takes a book by Iyengar and Gangoḷḷi's daughter notes down in a notebook that he has borrowed it. He goes home and is soon immersed in reading the book, which is a great adventure for him, after having read only the religious literature which was collected by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Now and then he laughs out loud strangely. His wife asks what he is reading, and she becomes angry that at his age he has given up reading the Bhāgavata and other puranas in favour of stuff like this. Bhaṭṭa however silences her by saying that it is a book by Iyengar, the greatest humorist in Kannada, and he pities his wife for her literary ignorance (p. 200). But actually, he does not quite follow the language of the book, nor does he appreciate the style of writing, and he finds it hard to continue his reading. Yet he continues acting as if he finds the stories highly amusing, because

he did not have the courage to admit that he did not like the stories... "So they call this kind of dirty story humorous! Oh, the fate of these modern people!!" he said and threw the book in a comer. "Obscene! No, this military heretic called the dirty descriptions of love play of mere youngsters humour, the non-believer! Yuck!!" he said and closed his eyes (p. 201).

13The next day Śinappa passes by again on his way to Gangoḷḷi's house, and Bhaṭṭa considers the lack of interest which Śinappa shows for him a show of arrogance. Śinappa says that Gangoḷḷi wants his opinion about some stories which the latter has written. Bhaṭṭa goes to Gangoḷḷi's house a little later, when Gangoḷḷi and Śinappa are bent over Gangoḷḷi's stories; Gangoḷḷi welcomes Bhaṭṭa cordially (Bhaṭṭa hopes that Śinappa has noticed this) and Bhaṭṭa begins praising the book which he had borrowed in grand words. Just as he is commenting that it is peculiar that there are such placenames in Bangalore, where Iyengar lives, his son comes to tell that a visitor is waiting for him at home, and he leaves (p. 203).

14Later Gangoḷḷi is thinking about his own stories, in which he has tried to express his war experiences on the Assam front, and he remembers a book of Russian stories about the atrocities of World War II, translated by Doreswamy Iyengar, which had moved him to tears when he read them; perhaps he could improve his own style if he would reread the stories, and he asks his daughter for the book. She tells him that Bhaṭṭa has borrowed it. Gangoḷḷi sends a servant to get the book back from Bhaṭṭa, and he sees that the story which he found the saddest of all is precisely the one which Bhaṭṭa said was the most humorous. He reads the story again that same night, but instead of weeping as he did previously, the memory of Bhaṭṭa's comments makes his stomach ache with laughter (p. 205).

155.4 The return of Captain Gangoḷḷi to his home village is like the throwing of a stone into a quiet pond, and the ripples of the impact spread far. With all the innovations which he brings to the village (his dining table, his daughters' dresses, his playing cards etc.) the village cannot remain as it was, and Uggā Bhaṭṭa, the custodian of religion and decency (bhaṭṭa is a Brahmin caste name; ugga means 'stammerer'), is the person who feels the change most keenly. Not only does Gangoḷḷi introduce new things: he invites anyone he likes to his house for company and allows them to share in the new experiences of playing cards and smoking cigarettes.

16Till then, Bhaṭṭa was undisputedly the most respected man in the village and represented the local cultural élite; he sees a shift in the people's interest and feels the pain of being left out, hence he makes a point of reclaiming his status by associating himself with who has become the new élite, viz. Gangoḷḷi. What the story gives us is a humorous fictional illustration of the sociological phenomenon known as Westernization. The Indian armed forces are by necessity a part of society that has become Westernized more than most others, and in the story we see that the overall behaviour of Gangoḷḷi and his family holds an immense fascination for the villagers. Gangoḷḷi is obviously wealthy in comparison with the villagers, and as a retired military officer he commands respect; hence his innovations carry an amount of prestige as new norms of social behaviour.

17Bhaṭṭa does not know in full detail what the process which is taking place around him is, but he is aware that the prestige that was first attached to his person and to the cultural pattern for which he stood has waned. The threat comes from Gangoḷḷi, and we see Bhaṭṭa very typically condemn the changes in the village in religious terms, that is to say: in words denoting concepts which in the traditional setting were used for evaluating social behaviour. But Gangoḷḷi's lifestyle is not determined by the kind of religious considerations which are of such importance to Bhaṭṭa, by caste and god, and Bhaṭṭa's first conversation with Gangoḷḷi underlines how incongruous Bhaṭṭa's terms are for understanding him. Gangoḷḷi apologizes for not having invited him earlier, because he feared it would be an affront to Bhaṭṭa's maḍivantike, and Bhaṭṭa puts up a show of liberalism:

"...maḍi, mailige, all these things are nothing but human creations. The important thing is that if the mind is pure, it’s all right...."
"No, we eat meat and so on..."
Don't we know all that? What's there in food? The important thing about food is that it makes this our mortal body strong; it will perish some time or the other-irrespective of whether you eat non-vegetarian or vegetarian food. But inside it there is an eternal soul, isn't there, for which alone religion and morality are food! This heap of books in front of you is evidence that you are taking in that food sufficiently. So, as soon as I saw it, I came running here, you see. In this the Bhagavadgīte, Rāmāyaṇa et cetera..."
"No, I haven't read any such book yet..."
"So what if you haven't read the Bhagavadgīte and the Rāmāyaṇa, the important thing is that if you read about God it will do. That is, if a man knows that the world in which he is has a Creator called the Supreme Lord, it's okay."
"Unfortunately, I don't believe in God either. In agreement with modern science, besides a certain force that is the cause of this world..."
"Oh, why should you give such importance just to a name." Seeing the heresy of this military person, how angry Bhaṭṭa became! If possible he would have brought down a little avatar on the spot... Yet what to do? Being a bhaṭṭa, he had to continue talking (pp. 195-6).

  • 3 Ahankāri. This word too is not totally devoid of a religious connotation, considering that general (...)

18When on the first page Bhaṭṭa complains that the same people who performed the meritoious act of washing the feet of the local swami three months earlier now go to Gangoḷḷi's house for tea parties, we see that the lifestyle which Gangoḷḷi has brought with him is to be condemned on religious grounds, according to Bhaṭṭa: "morality, religion, everything" is disregarded. When Bhaṭṭa dislikes the book which he has borrowed from Gangoḷḷi, it is further proof that Gangoḷḷi is a "military heretic, a non-believer" (miliṭari pākhaṇḍa, nāstika - p. 201). When his friend Śinappa mentions that he is going to Gangoḷḷi's house because the latter has asked him to come over and see a story he has written, Bhaṭṭa sees this as again another humiliation: "'Wow, what arrogance!... He's barking as though only he knows, doesn't he, the egotist3, the defiler of religion, the non-believer' - thus he began a rain of all the abusive words a believer can know" (p. 202).

19The borrowing of a book from Gangoḷḷi is an adventure for Bhaṭṭa, for his life took place so entirely within the bounds of his orthodox religious environment that the only books he possesses are religious texts, most of which he has inherited from his forefathers. 'Iyengar' (variously spelt in Latin script), the last name of the well-known author of humour, is of course a caste name, and it is in keeping with what we know about Bhaṭṭa's background that he forgets the rest of the man's name: there are practically no Ayyangars in northern Karnataka, where the story is obviously set, certainly not in rural areas, and the caste name is so exotic and fascinating for Bhaṭṭa that he is not aware that the rest of the name could make a difference when looking for a book by someone of that name. Reading the book gives him the illusion that he has joined a new incrowd, has regained his position as belonging to the élite of the village, and he shows this in his condescending attitude towards his wife. But in the meantime we know, and later Gangoḷḷi finds out, that Bhaṭṭa does not understand what he is reading. The small degree of Westernization which the reading of translated Russian war stories with relish means, already proves too difficult for the traditional village pundit, but he feels that he cannot admit this failure for fear of losing face.

205.5 A short story which all my informants recommended as one that is illustrative of the process of modernization is Abacūrina pōstāfīsu ("The Post Office of Abacūru") by Purna Chandra Tejasvi (K.P. Pūrṇacandra Tējasvī 1939b). A son of K.V. Puṭṭappa, popularly known under his nom de plume 'Kuvempu', an adored author of romantic and archaic novels and poetry, Tejasvi went his own way. Commonly labelled a Navya author by critics, his folksy and humorous style sets him apart from the Navyas, whom he considers pretentious. A biologist by profession, he has also written informative books in Kannada on nature and wildlife.

21At first sight, there is not much in the story that would seem particularly 'modem' or 'modernizing' to the Western reader, yet according to the informants modernization was very much present in the story. Only when we take a closer look at the tragedy of the protagonist, rather than at the setting of the story or the actions of all the other characters, do we understand where the problem lies, and how this story is indeed a poignant illustration of the dilemma which is faced by many people who make the transition from the traditional village society to a kind of society which is somewhat more modern.

225.6 Purna Chandra Tejaswi: Abacūrina pōstāfīsu

23Bōbanna becomes the post master in the new post office in Abacūru because he is the only person there who can read English, and no person from elsewhere who knows English would care to come for the low salary that goes with the position. The post office is housed in the house of his widowed aunt, who had brought him to the village as a bridegroom for her daughter thinking that because he was an orphan he had no parents to look after she would be able to live with the couple. Till then he had been a loafer, and his aunt had the local landlord Allījān Sāb give him some work on the plantation; now he gives up that job for the new post office, which would not have come to the village if he had not been there.

24The first article of mail that comes is an envelope addressed to Allījān Sāb's son Azīz. Bōbaṇṇa wonders whether it could be a love letter, and this thought excites his curiosity immensely. His own love life has been rather insipid, and though he has felt his wife's nudity in the dark, he has seen none of the ordinarily clothed parts of her body. He puts the envelope in his pocket, opens it much later and finds a card written in Urdu, which he cannot read; but what is much more fascinating is that the reverse side bears a picture of a beautiful, heavy-breasted woman who is nude down to the waist (p. 275). To have more work to do, he begins writing letters on behalf of others and reading aloud the replies which they receive. This means that he becomes involved in a large number of affairs, knows all sorts of things about the people of the village and thereby loses his inner peace.

25Moreover, the picture postcard, which he has kept for himself, disturbs and excites him; it inspires him to playing small pranks with sexual overtones on his wife, who as the mother of two children feels embarrassed and begins to have doubts about her husband. Also his aunt-cum-mother-in-law notices this and cannot appreciate it, since she is a puritanical woman who wants to see that the atmosphere in the house remains serious. She feels that his pranks are excesses which may lead to her daughter becoming more attached to her husband than to her, and since she no longer has a husband she thinks that her daughter Kāvēri too should live continently (p. 277). She mentions this to Kāvēri, who feels embarrassed and angry and blames Bōbaṇṇa's behaviour on his new job, which has gone to his head so much that he thinks himself a big officer and has bought a pair of sunglasses as a sign of this.

26Meanwhile, Bōbaṇṇa goes through all the mail, envelopes, also weeklies and monthlies from cover to cover, in search of nude photographs. Thus he also opens a letter addressed to Bēlāyada, an inhabitant of the neighbouring village Mūgūru, in which he reads that Bēlāyada's wife has agreed to let the superintendent of a plantation there have their daughter with him for some time on payment of Rs. 100. Bōbaṇṇa keeps the letter in a box, as it has become his custom to keep all the mail there until the addressees come to claim what is theirs. In this manner all the mail becomes public, and some people actually make their mail public deliberately if it contains some good news which enhances their reputation: they will come again and again to ask Bōbaṇṇa openly whether anything has come from them and what it says (p. 279). Thus also the contents of the letter about Bēlāyada’s daughter becomes public. The Mūgūru school teacher comes to the village and a public discussion about the matter takes place at the post office. Kāvēri and her mother are not pleased about the developments concerning the post office, which has now become a public gathering place where all kinds of loafers and good-for-nothing characters come together, and the atmosphere in the home deteriorates. Kāvēri takes sides with her mother out of loyality towards her against Bōbaṇṇa.

27Bēlāyada still does not come to get his letter, and meanwhile the letter passes through so many hands that it becomes dirty and difficult to read (p. 283). One person suggests that they should tear it up and tell Bēlāyada that such a letter had come, but Bōbaṇṇa says that he has a responsible job, like a school master and not like the owner of a bīḍi- shop; he makes a neat copy of the letter and mails it to Bēlāyada’s address in Ujire, another town.

28At night he lays a hand on Kāvēri, and she shakes it off angrily. Bōbaṇṇa is angry and disappointed about his wife, who once could be turned into an erotic volcano, and tells her that prostitutes are better than a wife like her. The atmosphere in the home deteriorates still further.

29Another night, Bōbaṇṇa hears a mob approach the house, goes out and sees Bēlāyada with his wife and daughter, the plantation superintendent and a number of other people from Mūgūru. Bōbaṇṇa smells that they have been drinking alcohol before they came. Bēlāyada abuses him and asks why he wants to ruin the reputation of a woman in such a manner; Bōbaṇṇa replies that his card is a mere copy of the letter that came to Abacūru, but nobody in the group wants to hear of it. Bēlāyada travelled from Ujire to other places, Bōbaṇṇa’s card was redirected after him from place to place, countless people read it, and Bēlāyada’s respectability (maryāde) is ruined. Bēlāyada was actually looking for a bridegroom for his daughter, but after this incident it will take a long time before anyone will be interested in her. No one present comes forward to defend Bōbaṇṇa and say that the original letter was not his. Bēlāyada abuses Bōbaṇṇa still further, referring to his wife, which infuriates Bōbaṇṇa so that he kills Bēlāyada with one punch. The mob, which now suddenly pretends to consist only of close friends of the deceased Bēlāyada, wants to grab Bōbaṇṇa, but he manages to flee. The next day, the post office is closed down, according to the regulations, and Kāvēri and her mother go to work on the plantation again.

305.7 The coming of the post office to the village Abacūru is a great step towards modernity, as is already indicated by the fact that if it were not for Bōbaṇṇa, the only person there who can read English, the office would not have come there at all (p. 273). With such a low educational standard, we can understand that there was not much contact between the village and the outside world, and the post office becomes a means by which this contact suddenly is greatly facilitated. The episode with the nude on the picture postcard from Mangalore - relatively a big city - which inspires Bōbaṇṇa to look through all the mail in search of more is another indication of ignorance of what happens in the urbanized world.

31But the most humorous aspect of the story is what seems to us the utterly irresponsible attitude of the post master with regard to the incoming mail: it does not at all occur to him that mail is the personal property of the addressee and that others have no right to read it without that person's permission. In other words, we see here the total lack of consciousness of matters such as privacy or individual ownership: there is a general openness, everybody is allowed to know about everything (all the letters that arrive at Bōbaṇṇa's post office are opened and kept in a box from which anyone can take and read them), which reflects a social consciousness that is far removed from the individualism of urban life. Typically, the letter which comes for Bēlāyada is in an envelope, but when so many have read it that part of the writing has become illegible, Bōbaṇṇa copies it on a postcard - which of course anyone can read. It does not enter his mind that perhaps the letter writer is playing a mean practical joke on Bēlāyada, or that if the letter writer wanted his message to become public he would not have written a letter but publicized it. Characteristically, none of the other villagers sees anything wrong in what the post master does (except of course Bēlāyada, his family and the others who come from Mūgūru), and they find it all quite natural.

32It is here that we should see the element of modernization in the story: the setting is entirely rural, old-fashioned, traditional, characterized by the kind of social consciousness that is very public and in which there is no place for anything very individual and private. But the post office is an agency through which mail enters the village society, mail which is not intended to be public, and the clash between what is public and what is private leads to the story's tragic end. In the other works which we will discuss in this chapter, we will see that the opposition public-and-conformistic versus private-and-individualistic keeps recurring in different forms, and what is invidualistic and non-conformist is always associated with the city (as opposed to the village), or also with foreign countries, and implicitly or explicitly with change.

  • 4 Toffler 1981: 40.
  • 5 This is, I know, a somewhat impressionistic statement. The differences are individualism, a lessen (...)

335.8 Bombay is something special in India, an "industrial node in [an] essentially nonindustrial nation4", which makes life there different in certain respects from that in the rest of the country, and this is also reflected to some extent in the writing of the Bombay Kannada authors5. Ballala's Bhāva bandhana ("Bond of Emotion"), which first appeared in 1954, is typical for its metropolitan setting and the hardships of suburban poverty.

345.9 Vyasaraya Ballala: Bhāva bandhana

  • 6 This is one whose job is to carry lunches made by housewives in the suburbs to their working husba (...)

35In a Bombay suburb Śāradā Bāi lives in a small apartment with her retired father and her sister Kamala. Śārade had a job as a typist until she became pregnant: contrary to her expectation the company for which she worked did not give its women employees maternity leave, hence she had to resign from the job when the pregnancy was in a progressed stage. Kamala has taken over that job, and every day Śārade prepares lunch for her, which she gives to the 'tiffin-box carrier'6 who takes it to the office (p. 189). Her husband is in a nearby sanatorium, where they hope he will recover from tuberculosis. He suffers from feelings of guilt that he fell ill now, when she is expecting their first child, for which she had to give up her job, so that they and her father depend entirely on Kamala, and he says that it was a mistake for them to have their child just now, and that they first should have waited a year or two (p. 192).

36Theirs is a 'love marriage', i.e. one that was not arranged by their elders: he was her colleague in a neighbouring office, also a Kannadiga, their acquaintanceship grew steadily, they began meeting and going out together regularly, and she felt immensely happy when her father eventually gave his consent to their marriage when they decided that they wanted to marry, "overcoming the inner pain caused by his [her father's] traditionalism" (pp. 192-3). Two months after she became pregnant, the attack of tuberculosis came; her husband was given sick leave, but without pay; she had to resign from her job on account of her pregnancy, but her boss was kind enough to give it to Kamala, who till then was packing perfumeries for Rs. 60 per month, so that her salary shot up to Rs.130 and she could work more leisurely in a bit more respectable surroundings (p. 194). Since then Kamala had the habit of unpleasantly reminding them that they depended on her. The relationship between the two sisters had always been uneasy, and always their father had been partial towards Kamala. Now too this had not changed.

37Her father returns home in a gloomy mood, remembering her late brother Sadānanda, who died in a railway accident, and he says:

"What is left for me? Everything was over when Sadā died. Now I'm clinging on to life for the sake of my child Kamala. So that the curse which fell upon her big sister doesn't touch her too... Your husband is hospitalized. You lost your job. Now, now, now,..."
"Father, hey," Śārade interrupted in the middle, as soon as she realized that he spoke thus after his gaze had turned towards her belly (p. 195-6).

38He reproaches her for having consulted him about her getting married only after she and her husband had already decided the matter for themselves. Also Kamala one day, when she asked Śārade for a towel and pregnant Śārade did not give it quickly enough for her liking because of a pain in the abdomen, sarcastically remarked: "What romance gives in the end is only pain, sister" (p. 197). Śārade is deeply hurt that apparently no one else wants he child that is growing in her, but this makes her all the more determined to continue taking her medicines so that it will be born healthy (p. 198). She asks her father whether he can go and collect some money from her sister-in-law, who reportedly has received some from their uncle in the village; he says he will.

  • 7 Certain train coaches are reserved for women, since it is very common that unaccompanied women are (...)

39In the evening he returns furiously together with Kamala, whom he drags into the apartment by her hair, calling her a "shameless girl", demanding to know who the loafer is with whom she was travelling and beating her so that when Śārade intervenes to help Kamala, she too receives wounds on her hands (p. 199). Kamala then explains what has happened. On his way to the sanatorium at Andheri, their father changed trains at Santa Cruz and saw Kamala step out of one of the coaches, a general coach for men and women7, to change over to the women's coach. Before she could explain to him why she was there, he struck her on the cheek and dragged her to another train to take her home, without speaking another word. She tells Śārade that she was with a male colleague through whom she could borrow Rs. 50 from a friend of his in Dadar so that they can buy medicines for Śārade's husband; coming back from there, they were in such a hurry that she got into the general compartment with him and got out to change compartments only at Santa Cruz, which was his destination (p. 200). Śārade has a close look at Kamala's face, sees that she is not lying and begins to weep.

405.10 Though Śārade is the protagonist of the story, the consciousness through which the family drama is viewed, the central character is actually her father Rādhākrṣṇayya, who finds himself in the crossfire of the values of his traditional upbringing and the realities of the changing society around him. The story does not tell us whether Śārade's is an intercaste marriage, but it is a 'love marriage', which is already bad enough from her father's (and sister's) point of view. How traditional the father is can already be seen from his remark that for him "everything was over" when his son died-his daughters do not really count. He had consented to Śārade's marriage, but only at the time of the main incident of the story does Śārade hear that he had done so only grudgingly, for he had thought that it would not really matter whether he consented or not, since Śārade and her friend had already decided the matter for themselves (p. 196). Her sister Kamala too pokes fun at her with sarcasms about her "romance" (romāns: the English word is used, implying that the manner in which her marriage came about is not Indian). Her father thinks about their condition in terms of a "curse" (śāpa), including her pregnancy.

41There is nothing special about Kamala, who was always immersed in Kannada and Marathi stories and novels (p. 194), apparently never had any particular ambitions in life, could not get any better employment on her own than that of packing perfumes for a monthly Rs. 60 and also agrees with the traditional view of how a girl should get married. That the expression 'vyāniṭi byāg' (vanity bag) is used for her handbag is a hint that besides all this she is vain too. Perhaps it is precisely because of her commonness that she is the favourite daughter of the traditionalistic Rādhākrṣṇayya: because she is so common, she will not step outside the bounds set by tradition. But she can be considerate if she wants to, as we see by her concern about getting money for buying medicines for her brother-in-law, even if it means travelling around the city to borrow it from a stranger through a colleague.

42It is this last act of hers which upsets her father so that he becomes violent towards her in public: the urban trains of Bombay have general compartments, for both men and women, and separate women's compartments, in which men are not allowed, and the mere fact that she was travelling in a general coach and said bai bai ("bye bye") when she stepped out (p. 200) is sufficient reason for the father to believe that she has become a morally irresponsible person, a "shameless girl". His traditional sense of what is respectable for a girl and what is not, weighs heavier than the reality of their situation, and he cannot come to terms with the fact that now, and in Bombay, his norms are outdated and detrimental to their well-being.

435.11 Shantinath Desai is one of those Kannada authors who not only has an active interest in foreign matters but also can see that there may be elements in the cultures of other nations which are worth synthesizing with his own culture. We find with him a sympathetic curiosity and general openness towards what comes from abroad, even if it is obvious at times that he is not so very familiar with the objects of his sympathy. Chinese noodles, in one restaurant, are eaten in the Italian manner. But this is not nearly so important as the fact that he wants to enter all this information, and the world that lies beyond India's borders, especially the West, plays an immensely important role in this well-constructed, intriguing and important novel, which has a quick liveliness about it which not many works of Kannada fiction have.

44A number of problems come together to form the subject matter of the book. There is the problem of changing from a small-town environment to that of Bombay, the most metropolitan and cosmopolitan of Indian cities: this means the inner, mental problem of adapting oneself to big city culture. There is the problem of the breakdown of faith in all that has been handed down over generations in the form of values and guidelines for life, of Weltanschauung. There is the problem of man as an individual in urban, industrialized society seeking a meaning in life. There is the problem of reorienting oneself with regard to other people in this new context and seeking meaningful new interpersonal contacts.

455.12 Shantinath Desai: Vikṣēpa

46Rāhula Mañjēśvara is a student of English in Bombay, and he and Mādhavi Nihalāni, a Sindhi student of philosophy from a wealthy family, are in love and are considering marriage. Especially Mādhavi is interested in marrying soon, since she wants social approval for their intimacy. When Rāhula asks whether her family will permit her to marry him, without caring about caste and such matters, she replies that their family is 'very modern'. Rāhula wonders why a modern girl would want to jump into marriage so soon. His real ambition is to go abroad, to England or America, and first build up a career. But she asks: "What connection is there between an engagement and a career? Do you know how much independence we'll have when we're engaged?... Later, after our wedding, do you know how much help my people will give in securing a good job or going abroad?" (pp. 7-8).

47Though Rāhula is not from an exceptional background, he is a very vain person: he knows that he is handsome, that he is a good student getting first class marks and that women adore him. In the restaurant which he frequents, where he is served by his regular waiter John, he meets his friend Raṇajita Gāyakavāḍa, the dissolute son of a maharaja, who studies French literature in order that one day he may write bestsellers "like Proust" for sale in England and America: potboilers about the degenerate court life of maharajas, the crown prince's sexual aberrations, his wife's love for the maharaja's younger brother, hunting, the independence movement at the court, shooting and people running off to Bombay. Rāhula listens to Raṇajita's prattle till in a gigglish mood Raṇajita suggests that they swap girl-friends. The most important lesson that Raṇajita has learnt from French literature is that it is wrong to equate love and marriage. He says that Rāhula will make a fatal mistake if he rushes into marriage without first enjoying some independence and freedom, but Rāhula cannot totally agree with him and says: "Rather than moving in a hundred directions and getting confused, how much mental calm is there, how much satisfaction, if you go down a defined traditional road," in defence of the idea of getting married. Raṇajita's sneering reply is "Boy oh boy, since when have you become a believer in tradition! If you need tradition, go see your pa, get hitched to a woman he has selected for you and start a happy household" (p. 17). One evening Rāhula goes to Mādhavi's house to be'politely'interrogated by her mother and uncle about his family, family property and other similar things of great importance. He is thoroughly disgusted with the bourgeois behaviour of these people, the shrill voices in which Mādhavi and her mother order the servant about, the uncle's apologies that that evening is their driver's day off so that Rāhula must take a bus home, the mother's unbearable, uncultured boorishness, the uncle's advices on how to make a career and go abroad and how he shows off his new tape recorder. Rāhula decides not to stay for dinner but to leave soon.

48The next day Rāhula has a visit from his friend Aravinda Dēśamukha. Rāhula tells him that he will marry Mādhavi. Aravinda is a bit surprised, since Rāhula always untiringly presented himself as "extremely modern, having an extremely independent lifestyle, a person with extremely modem values" (p. 31), and "Rāhula, who had digested seven or eight girls as if he drank water, could rinse out his mouth with Mādhavi and spit her out, couldn't he?" (pp. 31-2). Rāhula says that it should be seen as "a sort of experiment", and wonders whether he will change with the stability which marriage may give to his life. That will depend on him, says Aravinda, whose eye has fallen on a young widow, Vaidēhi Karṇika, but he has doubts about a marriage: "She needs a new life-she has the desire for a new life. But there's a trailing old samskāra, isn't there?" To which Rāhula says "Damn it [ḍyāmiṭ] what samskāra! A widow is a good, tasty fruit that is ripened with experience, boy! Go ahead [gō aheḍ]-bowl until the wicket falls!" (p. 33), after which he gives some bits of manly advice and brags that Mādhavi gave him his aftershave lotion, which is not true. Sitting in an Iranian restaurant afterwards, Rāhula tells Aravinda his fears about his planned marriage with Mādhavi: his fear that she may become like her mother later, his feeling of discomfort about the strangeness of the Nihalāni family life, his doubt as to whether Mādhavi is actually her uncle's daughter. He confesses his belief in environmental conditioning and tells about his background: his mother died when he was born, his father remarried, he grew up in a strange atmosphere, his aunt was extremely affectionate, he was exposed to many different people, he had a convent school education. He feels uprooted, has a variety of different sensibilities, hence he desired Mādhavi, who is modern, educated, cultured and complex (p. 36). But he fears that after marriage she will devour him, will destroy his inner self. Aravinda's conclusion is that Rāhula does not know what love is and is incapable of loving. Rāhula wants to invite some friends to a picnic to celebrate his engagement.

49While Rāhula was in convent school, he enjoyed Christian church services and the beautiful words in the sermons: "the kingdom of heaven", "grace", "confession of sins", "purity of the soul", etc. The most amusing part of school was confession: "the strange idea that if you told the sin you had committed to a phādara, your soul would be cleansed" (p. 41). He would tell half-truths (how he hated his father for forgetting his mother and marrying again) or complete lies: e.g. how his passions were aroused by his schoolmate Rosy Verghese, how he kissed her and did other physically intimate things with her. This leads the priest to believe that the girl may be pregnant. The priest talks with her parents, and this creates such consternation that she must undergo a physician's examination for proving her innocence. She writes to Rāhula that after this she does not want to see him any more, and he thinks: "If I don't really enjoy this Rosy some time, I'm not Rāhula." After this, he develops the art of mental exhibitionism in front of his friends, sympathetic professors and girls, whom he wants to attract to himself by playing the role of a tragic hero. Thus he had snared even Mādhavi, who had chased who knows how many boys earlier (p. 44). Two of his favourite victims are Professor and Mrs Williams, staunch Christian believers who want to do good when they see an opportunity to do so and always welcome Rāhula, the bright student, when he comes to their house. He tells them that his life is empty and meaningless, and that he is searching for something that can be a centre for his life; he asks theatrically (nāṭakīyavāgi) whether a man-woman relationship can be such a centre around which one can build one's life and which can uplift him. As Aravinda has already said earlier, Williams too says that he must create his own upliftment. But Rāhula doesn't know how to do this, where on earth to put down roots. He asks whether there is any meaning in life, whether a human life can have more meaning than that of a guinea pig. Williams says that he must search for his own meaning: one must feel it in one's own heart (p. 51). Rāhula wonders whether he is the only restless person he knows, and whether it is possible to live without any roots whatsoever, as his friend Raṇajita suggested.

50Rāhula and his friends Aravinda and Raṇajita (male) and Mādhavi, Śirīn Contractor and Vaiēdhi (female) go to Mud Island for the picnic. He compares the three women: Śirīn full of self-confidence, with something artistic and detached, a "very ḍēñjaras [dangerous] girl"; Mādhavi with her self-love, her smugness and fat buttocks, her ability to taunt and insult; Vaiēdhi's submissiveness and self-sacrificialness that touches him in his manly nature - in a way Mādhavi and Vaidēhi are more attractive than Śirīn, he decides.

51After the meal Rāhula suggests that everyone switch partners and walk around for an hour, for "what fun is there in just going around with your own garlaphrenḍ [girl friend] after coming to a picnic" (p. 59), and after some naughtiness they move off in different directions. Rāhula tells Vaidēhi that he should not marry Mādhavi, because he is not fit for it and is a very disturbed person. He says that he cannot offer Mādhavi the easy life which she is accustomed to, and he needs a motherly kind of woman: "your beautiful eyes, filled with some sort of quality, compassion in you, are beginning to make me chatter this way like a fool. You must forgive me. Aravinda is really very lucky." But he says that Aravinda is a weakling, like "all idealists. Ideals are a fleeing from life-a fleeing from the earth to the sky. Doesn't fleeing mean weakness?" (p. 62). Vaiēdhi says that she will give the idea of marrying Aravinda some thought only if he asks her directly. Rāhula tells her that if for some reason she and Aravinda do not marry, he will be ready to marry her; he feels proud of himself for the way in which he says this (p. 64). Meanwhile Aravinda's mood is totally ruined by Rāhula's suggestion of swapping companions: "Even when I gave him a kiss," Śirīn says, "he didn't come to his senses.... Vaiēdhi, take your baby" (p. 64). Rāhula too shows worry about where Mādhavi and Raṇajita are. He walks off with Śirīn, who says about her father, who passed away when she was young, that he told her: "When you laugh, the world laughs, when you weep, the world weeps," and she says of herself "I don't know any philosophy, you know. I'm a student of economics-don't you know?", to which Rāhula says: "There's a lot of philosophy in what you said, Śirīn. You're a good jāli [jolly] girl. Ai laik yu" [I like you] (p. 65). Mādhavi feels jealous when Rāhula tells her that Vaiēdhi is wandarphul [wonderful], and she asks him about "today's... strange unhealthiness. The whole day you haven't spoken one word of love with me." Raṇajita told her that Rāhula wants to marry her only for her money. To find out the truth about their relationship, Rāhula suggests to do with her what he read in D.H. Lawrences Sons and Lovers: living as husband and wife for a few days and letting his body and blood tell the result of the experiment (p. 70). Mādhavi refuses. She does want a kiss, but when he kisses her passionately, she calls him a savage (p. 73).

  • 8 A registered marriage is one without religious rituals, which demands only the speaking of an oath (...)

52Later she changes her mind and agrees to spend the whole day with him in a hotel in Santa Cruz. He books a room. However, on the crucial day she sends the house servant Abdul to say that she is ill. Rāhula asks him about Mādhavi's father, who apparently has not returned from Calcutta for four years, and about the relationship between Mādhavi's mother and uncle: Abdul gives no details, but it becomes clear that there is something peculiar about it. Rāhula becomes restless, roams idly through the red-light district of Bombay, goes to Williams' house to find only their adopted son Paul there, and he has a discussion with him about Bertrand Russell, marriage and morality, and though Rāhula feels relieved, he has a sleepless night. He meets Mādhavi in a restaurant the next day and says that he wants to ease the relationship because he no longer trusts her. She suggests that they should have a registered marriage8 at once. Then he retorts:

"Every relationship must have the seal of society - mustn’t it? You need registration - don't you? You need your mother's approval, your father's - to hell with your father-your uncle's approval. You need approval - you need encouragement - you need bondage..." (p. 85).

53She is deeply perturbed, weeps and says: "It's all true, Rāhula, it’s all true - from the point of view of discussion. But it isn't a matter of samskāra. The mind will get very disturbed before the wedding, Rāhul - to be at ease and behave independently and according to one's own will will not be so easy..." (p. 86). She says that she needs "only you-I need my rāja." He says "It's all a lie, Mādhavi. You don't know it yourself, but all these things are very important for you: you need your mother, money, a car, a house, a servant-then you need me too." He sends her away with her servant, who is waiting for her downstairs.

54Rāhula spends a few days with Raṇajita in a brothel in Daman, where Ranajita says that they can stay until the memory of Mādhavi is destroyed, root and all. Rāhula wants to finish his M.A. and go abroad, to the UK or USA. He sees Ranajita on the other bed and wonders how he, with his "fine white skin", could end up in such a sordid place. Raṇajita talks some quasi-sophisticated language about the imagination enabling one to love every girl, "each woman the same! All of them Helen - Cleopatra!" (p. 94), but Rāhula feels disgusted with everything and wants to return to Bombay at once. They talk about Mādhavi, whom Raṇajita would be able to marry only secretly, because, as he says, his "father wants 100% Maratha blood-otherwise he wants a foreign white skin" (p. 96). Rāhula says that he may be afraid of responsibility, he has no strength to bear guilt, to which Raṇajita says:

"Guilt, remorse! You should become a Christian. Looking at the odd mood you have today, it seems you have no manliness, no courage, no pith, no fury. Seeing your sissiness today, you should become at least a Christian 'father' [phādar] - or at least a second Gandhi..." (p. 96).

  • 9 In Pondicherry there is an asrama for religious seekers, founded by the religious thinker and teac (...)

55"If Gandhi were here," Rāhula says, "I would've joined his asrama. No worry, no trouble. Whatever question comes, ask Gandhi. The truth is what he says! Life could've been so easy. No, why not at least go to Pondicherry?"9 (pp. 96-7). He wants a direction in life. Raṇajita says that he has already decided that "For people like us the direction is the West, across the ocean... France," but Rāhula just wants peace (p. 97). He tells Raṇajita about the picture his mother showed him in his childhood: an elephant has half uprooted a tree, a man is on a branch which is being gnawed at by two rats, he is awaiting a drop of honey from a hive on the branch above him, and he hangs above a well where two snakes await him with wide-open mouths. This is life, and a spirit in the sky holds his hand to show the way to liberation. To Rāhula the whole picture looked beautiful, but Raṇajita says "Damn it! If in your picture the spirit would be a spiritess - Helen, Cleopatra, yesterday's Malabari girl, Śirīn - ha, ha, ha..." Rāhula feels revolted and says he will study and try to go abroad: "I must go abroad, Raṇajita: if not, I'll be a stranger here" (p. 100).

56In Bombay he finds an excited letter from Aravinda waiting for him, in which he demands the truth about what Rāhula said to Vaidēhi on the day of the picnic. At the university library he finds Vaidēhi and takes her to a restaurant, where he shows her Aravinda's letter, saying that it is proof of his love for her. Rāhula asks her whether she wants to marry Aravinda, forgetting that she is a widow etc.; she avoids answering, saying that she must discuss it with her elder brother. He understands that she wants to marry Aravinda, goes to telephone her brother, returns to find her with tears in her eyes and says that her brother is awaiting them. Later he goes to see Aravinda, his elder brother who is a physician and his sister-in-law, and he asks what the brother thinks of widow remarriage. The brother says:

"In no other society can there be as much mental cruelty as in ours. By forbidding widow remarriage our people have made thousands of women experience death while still alive. Our society, which for thousands of years has committed such a ghastly sin in the name of sexual purity, is truly a contemptible society..." (p. 116),

57but if e.g. Aravinda were to marry a widow, he would have to sever Aravinda's ties with his house, for the ensuing scandal would probably ruin his medical practice (p. 117). Rāhula tells the truth about Aravinda's feelings, says that all this has been discussed with Vaidēhi and her brother, and then Aravinda's brother and sister-in-law consent.

58After this Rāhula goes to his home town Kāravāra because his aunt has written that his father's last days are drawing near. His uncle tells him that he will be the head of the family in the event of his father's death and will bear all the responsibility that goes with it; but Rāhula is not interested in his property, and if he gets a scholarship for going abroad, he needs no inheritance. The uncle wants him to marry his daughter, but Rāhula's eye falls upon the daughter's friend Kundā Śirōḍakara, with her "sensuality that was spread throughout the build of her limbs, the youthfulness that was dancing in her newly matured body" and with her special interest in him. When in Belgaum she is playing badminton Rāhula lures her away to the kitchen of his aunt's house on a pretext, where they kiss and do some other things of an amorous nature. They agree to meet again secretly in the evening. When that night he asks her what she will tell her parents as an excuse for coming home so late, she answers "that I have gone to walk around with you." "Damn it," Rāhula says, "is your house an American house, that you can say you've gone dating a fellow like this?" She says that her parents trust her, and that they will agree to a lavva myārēj ("love marriage") too: "What's important is that he's of our caste, then it's all right." Suddenly everything becomes clear to Rāhula: the trap has been set up by his aunt, who, as Kundā tells, had been telling Kundā's people much about him and had made them interested (p. 127). He feels angry that "this dumb ball of flesh" has been chosen as his bride, and he wants to get rid of her. He feels like "an innocent fly caught in a net" (p. 130) but also feels that his aunt, who just wants what is good for him, cannot really be blamed, nor can youthful Kundā, for "who wouldn't want a handsome, gifted boy like Rāhula?" (pp. 130-1). Though he does not want "to ruin this simple, foolish girl's mind", he feels that he is not yet ready for marriage but must first let his personality grow roots (p. 131).

59Rāhula had a difficult relationship with his father, rejected his way of life but did not know what he himself wanted. His aunt supported him in his desire to go to Bombay, saying that instead of taking over his father's business he might become "a collector or commissioner" or had a possibility of "going phāren-gīren" (to foreign countries 'and that sort of thing'). His relationship with his father consisted of a monthly Rs. 250 and now and then a silly postcard. His father asks him what he will do with the shop, house and property, his younger siblings, whether he can look after the shop; all of which Rāhula takes as an insult, as if he is not fit to be more than a shopkeeper, and he tries to hide behind politeness to avoid further discussion. His father also worries about his getting married (p. 135). He should marry and look after the shop for one or two years till his brother finishes his education and can take it over; then he can go to England, Japan or wherever for a year or two and return. First he must settle and establish the continuity of the family, put down roots here. Rāhula feels that he and his father live and think on different levels and cannot talk with each other (p. 136). He walks around with his cousin and thinks about death, how Christians treat it in the proper, serious way; he asks whether his cousin has had any thoughts on philosophy, politics or society, and finds out that the simple boy has left all that to "great heroes - like Nehru" (p. 138). Rāhula feels that everything around him in his home town is a meaningless sham.

60After his father dies, Rāhula feels alone with an empty feeling: death makes him wonder again about the meaning of life. His aunt misinterprets this as a feeling of uncertainty about his future and gives him advice about marriage, money matters etc. He feels disgusted with the show of sympathy from Kundā's parents, which he finds artificial and selfish, and probably arranged by his aunt, but on the other hand he is innerly moved by "Kundā's beautiful body and the serious way she sat" (p. 142). His aunt urges him to marry Kundā: "She can't be like your Mādhavi: alṭrāmāḍarn, phyāṣanebal [ultra-modem, fashionable], rich, educated, but if you consider it from the point of view of your new responsibility Kundā is a very suitable woman... You're always free to choose the woman you marry, boy," she says, but when he asks why she is talking so soon about marriage, she says that it is wrong to fool around with girls, and Kundā's parents are already worried. "I've done nothing to worry them, aunty," he says, but she snaps: "All that crazy Western reasoning of yours won't do, Rāhula" (p. 145). She wants him to stop his silly talk about love; she feels that it is her duty to get him married and put him on a right path in life, after which she will be free of major responsibilities. When she begins to weep, he surrenders and says that he will do as she says. He says that he wanted to postpone marriage for a few years to seek out the meaning of life; typically his aunt cannot understand him at all and becomes angry. When Rāhula again brings up his wish of going abroad, she says that first he must marry, then all his wishes in life will be fulfilled (p. 149).

61Rāhula goes to the railway station to take a train back to Bombay and, to his fright he also sees Rosy, his former schoolmate, now married to a hotel owner in Goa named Dias and mother of a baby boy. Fortunately she behaves amiably towards him. They are to share the same first-class compartment; Rāhula has a good look at her, thinks that in a way she is more beautiful than before, but her beauty is not of an inviting kind: it is "self-loving, complacent beauty, the beauty of Mary sitting with the infant Christ on her thigh" (p. 152). In the train Rāhula drinks some brandy with Dias; when Dias is asleep, he remembers the vow which he took years back and kisses Rosy. "Rosy's a good girl. May she have a happy life," he thinks. He asks her whether she is angry at him, and she asks why she should be (p. 161).

62Back in Bombay, Raṇajita sees Rāhula's engagement to Kundā as proof that he has no manliness. Meanwhile Raṇajita has become Mādhavi's "very close friend", "but that crazy girl is a heap of snow - too frigid." Rāhula visits Williams and hears that Paul is going to Africa soon to devote himself, body, speech and mind, to Christ in missionary work. Rāhula envies him for his faith and asks Williams where he can get such faith for himself. Williams answers: "from within you, where else?" (p. 166).

63Rāhula studies hard, gets silly letters from Kundā and realizes that the letters which he used to receive from Mādhavi were not so silly as these. Aravinda and Vaidēhi pay him a visit. He says that he has peace with the idea of his marriage, but soon he thinks that it would have been better if Aravinda would have had a girl like Kundā and Vaidēhi a man like himself (p. 171). While Aravinda is away to a tea stall for a few minutes, he tells Vaidēhi that he has doubts about her relationship with Aravinda, thus causing her to weep, and confuses her by putting on a show saying how actually he needs someone like her to give meaning to his life. Later he sits and writes a mean letter to Kundā to chase her away, saying that he is setting her free from his cage, her life will improve and he too will be free (p. 176). In his regular restaurant he meets Raṇajita in the company of a girl from Andhra Pradesh who speaks pretty Hindi and is obviously a prostitute. Raṇajita asks him in a whisper for a loan of Rs. 50 and also offers the girl "if you need her for anything". Rāhula gives him some money, Raṇajita thanks him for "saving my night" and their regular waiter John comes to say that a good special room has been prepared for him upstairs.

64Rāhula calls a masseur to his hostel room, and while he is being massaged Sirin comes with her dog. "In front of Sinn's white, fleshy body" he has the masseur continue his work, saying: "probably it gives as much pleasure as seksa [sex]... Don't you think you should try it?" "What, massage or..." she asks. He says "Both, if you want to compare them... The body is an extremely wonderful-thing... it's possible to make the body a superb instrument of pleasure" (p. 184). The masseur goes and they talk about marriage. There is a prospective groom for her, a forty-year-old spectacles merchant who has a house, money, car and all, but he is "a dumb kind of man. A child who follows his mother's orders - extremely dumb." Rāhula asks whether she can maintain her independence in such a marriage. She actually wants a forceful man who will grab her and change her completely, but seems to acquiesce. She asks Rāhula to chase off Raṇajita, who is becoming very bothersome to her. Rāhula asks what he will get from her in return, and she says "First let my wedding take place - then I'll give you what you want." Rāhula calls her "a good bitch... You're a wonderful girl, Śirīn" (p. 188), then says animals have an easy life, which they could imitate: he asks Śirīn whether she wants to try this "marry and simplify formula" with him, but she declines (only for Kundā's sake, she says) and leaves.

65Kundā's father has found a job for Rāhula with a British pharmaceutical firm in Bombay. Rāhula is appalled by the restrictive environment, and Kundā is worried now and then by his unconventional behaviour. He says "darling, don't you know that people come very close when they're afraid? Come, my sweet parrot, come, come into the cage of my arms..." but she cannot appreciate this: "Again you've started your theatrical language. Rāhula, please talk in our plain language - talk naturally." Rāhula, resenting her dullness, volunteers to keep quiet (p. 194). She feels doubts about marrying, but they marry after all and go to Goa for their honeymoon, where they stay in Dias' hotel and Kundā behaves in a self-effacing way, as nothing more than her husband's property (p. 201). One evening Rāhula tells Dias how he likes Goa, while Kundā feels embarrassed by being called "darling" in public (p. 202). Rosy wants to dance with Rāhula (Dias says that Rāhula may first have "to ask permission from the home department" and laughs, and Kundā, trying to laugh too, says "he is free to do anything"), they go, Dias drinks whiskey and Kundā drinks lemonade. As the evening progresses Rāhula becomes more and more enebriated. Dias says that Rāhula is lucky with such a wife, but Rāhula replies:

"Lucky? She doesn't know proper English. She doesn't know how to talk. She has no social graces. I'll leave her here in your house in Goa for a month of training, otherwise life in Bombay may be difficult for her. Do you know how much sophistication is needed in high society there?" (p. 205).

66He dances with a girl who earlier had caused his mouth to water (p. 203) and in extreme drunkenness he makes obscene suggestions to her; before he reaches the washroom he has to vomit. He is taken to their room, and there Dias takes Kundā by the hand saying "let's repair this ruined night a little" and wants to take her back to the dance hall, but Kundā misunderstands this and screams. When Rāhula has regained some of his soberness he says she should not have married a wicked character like him, and he tells her to leave him, though he feels remorse for this immediately afterwards (p. 211).

67They are settled in Bombay, where they throw a party with some assistence of Rāhula's secretary, a 'fat, sexless, thirty-year-old Panjabi woman'(p. 214). Williams, the first guest to arrive, tells Rāhula the news that Raṇajita had become involved with criminals and was murdered recently. Rāhula is shocked to hear this about "that good boy" who was, "it is true, a little disturbed (vikṣipta)" (p. 216). Other acquaintances come: Śirīn, colleagues, Aravinda and Vaidēhi (who have joined the Communist Party). Vaidēhi sees this as a way of making one's life meaningful, but Rāhula sees in this only an intellectual game, or at most a show in support of her remarriage as a widow; she does not react to this (p. 225). Towards the end of the evening, after the visitors have left, the police come to question Rāhula about his old friends: it turns out that Ranajita, the waiter John, the hotel owner in Daman, the cousin of the girl with whom he danced in Goa, and Mādhavi's uncle were all part of a smuggling ring.

68One day he goes to a communist party meeting with Aravinda and Vaidēhi, where he notices how deliberately unkempt the members look. He admires Vaidēhi’s faith in the work which she does for the party, and asks her to give some of that faith to him: but she does not understand his real problem and says "You too must join the party. Then everything will be all right" (p. 240). A comrade from France has come to give a lecture on a peculiar variety of things connected with communism, and afterwards some of the listeners ask silly questions, to which the comrade gives comforting answers. Rāhula asks the man's opinion about the book The God That Failed, and typically the reply is that the book is the Bible of American reactionaries and imperialists, and that such authors ought to be brainwashed (pp. 241-2). Later he tells Aravinda that he values his freedom too much to join the party, even if this freedom frightens him now and then. Aravinda accuses him of thus being a servant of reactionary forces, and Rāhula angrily replies "It's better to sell a part of my soul than to give my whole soul away" (p. 243).

69At home he finds in-laws and acquaintances from Belgaum who have arrived to see him before he leaves for Britain on a business trip for the company, and he is enraged by their immense silliness. He reads in a newspaper that Mādhavi and her Sindhi husband are going to America, where he will follow a course in business administration, which makes Rāhula think of the past again. He wonders at, and simultaneously feels disgust for, the people around him with their idea of easy happiness. "You're a happy creature," he tells Kundā, "...I'm just a creature" (p. 250). She has doubts about what he will do in Britain if she does not come with him, and whether perhaps he will forget her. "Come if you want... though it'll be better if you come after I finish my training... because -" Rāhula says; she shouts "I know about your training!" and he retorts "If you have any such fear, fasten a chain to my neck and take me there if you want... if you want, bring your father and mother too... Yes... I know you're clairvoyant. Everything that happens in the world appears before your sixth sense. Tell me which people have slept in this bed when you were not here" (p. 251), and he recalls girls with whom he had short affairs. But he wants to make Kundā happy during his last few days in Bombay. By telephone he calls Mādhavi and agrees to meet her in London when she will be on her way back to India. He makes Kundā weep with happiness when he takes leave from work and says he will be her slave until he goes abroad (p. 254).

70With Aravinda he discusses the possibility that he stay abroad and not return. Aravinda asks what will happen to Kundā, for which Rāhula upbraids him as a good communist of bourgeois values. "If she comes there too - rather than that it is better I stay here... But, Aravinda, what will become of me after returning? Office, wife, children, I'll become lifeless in this carrousel - in a way I'Il die.... My soul is cursed - only if it finds a proper environment will it be freed from this disturbedness - let happiness go to hell, let comfort go to hell, at least I can experience a sort of peace..." "You can find that peace here, can't you-in living with your wife and children!" says Aravinda, but Rāhula says that he is innerly incapable of achieving that kind of happiness (pp. 257-8).

71He writes a letter to Kundā, intended for her to read after he has left, saying that it is better that they separate and go their own ways. He remembers one of the talks which he had with Williams on the meaning of life, how he thought that religion has a purely utilitarian value, to create a meaning where there is none, how it could be enough to see in death nothing but death, in life nothing but life. Kundā enters the room asking him to join the noisy guests in the drawing room. He gives her the letter which he wrote; she reads it, then grabs a knife in a sudden attempt to kill herself, but Rāhula succeeds in wresting the knife from her. He tries to comfort her, saying of course he will return, since a fellow like him cannot hope to find anyone more loving and beautiful elsewhere, but Kundā closes her eyes, sinks down on the bed and says:

"I know, Rāhula, you-you can never, never come back..." (p. 263).

725.13 The word vikṣēpa can be translated as 'disturbance', 'restlessness', 'perturbation', 'dispersal', but it acquires its true clarity of meaning when one knows its etymological derivation from the Sanskrit verbal root kṣip- 'to throw' and the adverbial prefix vi- 'asunder', so that we may translate it as'throwing asunder'(as action or result). This is precisely what we see in the (anti-) hero Rāhula, and what he also explicitly recognizes in himself: his thoughts are scattered, he drifts mentally, there is practically nothing that gives him stability. He is not alone in this: in fact he surrounds himself with people who, to a more or lesser extent, suffer from the same difficulties - unless it is better to say that he comes into contact with such people by nature. We see how Rāhula, in his own rootlessness, observes these others and learns from them, though when the end of the novel is reached, he has still not been able to draw any conclusion from his experiences, and the narrative ends right in the middle of his marital crisis.

73When we look at all the main characters of the novel, we see that we can arrange them in a continuing scale, starting from Rāhula's aunt and father at one end, representing the old society in which one's life-pattern is completely fixed, where the individual is caught in a rigid framework of familial and social obligations and securities. Via Kundā, Vaidēhi and Aravinda, Mādhavi and Śirīn we finally reach Ranajita, who exemplifies a person broken loose so completely, so utterly without any sense of moral obligation to anyone or anything that he meets his natural end at the hands of a murderer, who is probably one of the shady characters with whom he cultivated dubious relationships.

74Rāhula is the main vikṣipta of the novel, but he rejects the extreme looseness which is symbolized in Ranajita. We see this already in the second chapter, at their first meeting in the restaurant: both of them are looking for a new, satisfying lifestyle, but Rāhula realizes that a free life is not the same as a shapeless life, and one must consciously set limits to one's life, "like a river needs banks, like a picture needs a frame" (p. 16). He also feels disgust at the relationship between Mādhavi's mother and uncle. Rāhula feels that life can only have meaning in relation to certain fixed points: the religious beliefs of his elders obviously have no meaning for him any more (there is no single reference to them, except to the typical allegorical picture of life, which has more of an aesthetic effect on him rather than that it conveys any clearly outlined religious message), and he tries to find such a meaning in human relationships, most importantly marriage. Because he has set such high hopes on marriage he defends the idea of his marrying in the restaurant and discusses the idea later with Williams (p. 49).

75But if marriage becomes a way of personal fulfilment, as Rāhula wishes, rather than a social contract which is drawn up within the social group (caste) for the benefit not so much of the individual but of that group, then the traditional, caste-bound, Indian marriage which is arranged by others is doomed to fail. If a marriage is to fulfil personal needs it cannot be decided on except by the persons who want to marry, on the basis of those personal needs: in other words, what several of our Kannada authors call a "love marriage" is the only feasible form of marriage. Rāhula thinks that he can find fulfilment in a marriage with Mādhavi, who is modern, educated, cultured and complex (p. 36), and she herself also believes this about herself as well as her family: "Didn't I tell you that our family is extremely modem? Don't you understand it as soon as you see me?" (p. 5). He needs a variety of experiences for fulfilling his life, including the physical love of a woman, which he hopes he can experience with Mādhavi, but her attitude is different, as we see in a discussion between them:

"Rāhula, today you've become very difficult. I don't know what to do in order to make you simple."
"Come and sleep with me."
"Yes, your same old refrain. That's why I said we should marry soon. Can't you wait for six or seven months?"
"That's just what I said. Let's keep some distance for six or seven months. Come, let's go" (p. 73).

76He realizes in time that her value system is not what she pretends: she appears - perhaps actually wants - to be individualistic, take her own decisions, shape her own life, but she is incapable of doing so. She depends far too much on social approval, which for her is more important than her own sense of purpose and of right and wrong.

"Rāhula, you must marry me soon."
"Did I say I wouldn't?"
"For some reason, my mother is very worried..."
"Why? Is she afraid that after having assured you about marriage I may ruin her darling princess?"
"No, Mādhavi, how could you convince your mother? I'm not a businessman, not an IAS officer, not a son of a millionaire, not some son of a maharaja in a decrepit court like Raṇajita, nor a grandson" (p. 5).

77Rather than shape her own life she wants to depend on how much her people will do to "help secure a good job or go abroad" (p. 8). Rāhula's priority in life is to find meaning and purpose, whereas hers is to become 'established' in life and enjoy certain material comforts (p. 88), besides which she has some filmy ideas about love: people should kiss (but she is terrified by the passionate kiss which Rāhula gives her-p. 73) and speak little words of love (p. 69). Basically she is afraid to act for herself: "the mind will get very disturbed... to be at ease and behave independently and according to one's own will won't be so easy" (p. 86). The ease of not having to think is more important, and characteristically she ultimately marries a businessman from her own community.

78Less vikṣipta than Rāhula, but also looking for their own way through life, are Aravinda and Vaidēhi, who from the beginning feel an affection for each other; but their traditional lack of independence blocks their way to happiness together. Aravinda cannot face Vaidēhi directly and speak out his feelings for her; moreover, he fears the reaction of his elder brother (the elder brother in India often assumes a father-role of authority over the younger siblings) if he would say that he wants to marry a widow (cf. above, the chapter on the position of women). Vaidēhi suffers from the social stigma that lies upon her widowhood and hence cannot explicitly admit to Rāhula, on two occasions, that she actually loves Aravinda. How well-founded her fear is illustrated by the talk which Rahula has with Aravinda's elder brother, who fears that his medical practice will lose business if it becomes known that he encourages his brother's marriage to a widow. It is only due to Rāhula’s intervention that they (and authoritative relatives: elder brothers, whom they cannot do without) can finally openly accept their wishes, and even then a nagging sense of taboo remains. Rāhula sees this as one reason for their membership of the communist party: by publicly adhering to an antireligious, unconventional and yet in a way publicly recognized ideology, they hope to make Vaidēhi's second marriage look less scandalous. Vaidēhi's silence seems to prove that Rāhula is right about this (p. 225). Between all the other friends, Śirīn appears as a female version of Ranajita, but more shrewdly self-centred and only just too earthbound to be self-destructive. What they both share is utter perfidity: Sirin seems amused by the idea that she marry the optician and after that 'give Rāhula what he wants', and Ranajita sees no evil in telling Mādhavi at her engagement picnic that she will become deeply unhappy if she marries Rāhula, nor in himself becoming her "special friend" soon afterwards.

79Rāhula too behaves strangely in his personal relationships, especially those with women, which are doubly important for him because of what we have seen above about his expectations. Mādhavi, Vaidēhi, Kundā: he wants to draws all of them to him, but at the same time he repulses them deliberately. Throughout the novel we find mention of how theatrically he behaves, almost towards everyone. He finds an almost cruel delight in playing with people, exploiting their good-heartedness (as in the case of the Williams's) or playing wicked pranks (as when he gets Rosy Verghese into trouble by lying during confession - about which more must be said below). Partly due to personal vanity, it also shows his clumsiness, his lack of genuine self-confidence and purpose in his dealings with people. The only woman whom he approaches straightforwardly is Śirīn, probably because he knows that she is too shrewd to be fooled, and also because of her nirliptate or detachment, which he admires in her: the other, not (or in any case less) detached women are too emotional, take him too seriously, while he is not sure himself about what exactly he wants from life and how to get it. This may be what Aravinda means when he tells Rāhula that he is incapable of loving (p. 37): loving means committing oneself, which Rāhula is incapable of doing.

80At any rate the Indian past, with all that it once had to offer an individual to give him a place in the world and a meaning in life, is completely dead for Rāhula. It has become so incongruous and empty that Rāhula finds it hard to speak with people who still live with the old mentality, even though he knows that they mean well and are concerned about him (which makes the matter only more difficult, because he does not want to hurt their feelings). Especially his aunt clearly shows that she cannot understand the problems which occupy him. She lives in a world governed by rigid values, strict rules and fixed social obligations. The idea that any person could be different or have different needs can hardly enter her mind. When Rāhula tries to explain why he wants to postpone his marriage for a few years (to determine a meaning and a direction in life before he binds himself to a woman), her blunt and ignorant reply is:

  • 10 Yama is the Vedic god of death. To 'go to the house of Yama' means to die.

"Wherever you go life is the same, boy: birth, growth, marriage, children, work, death. What else is there? It's the same story, isn't it: the devotee goes to look for God, in the end he finds out God is in his own heart! What is there to investigate, dear-life is where you are, it is as you are."
"Only a woman knows how to find the fundamental features of life! Look here, aunty, it's we who are fools. Some sort of unsteadiness, some restlessness-we keep harping on 'life, life' and go looking for something. Finally we just go to Daman There Rāhula stopped.
"What do you mean, going to Daman?"
"Nothing, I wanted to say 'go to the house of Yama'10. Somehow..."
"Remove all this about death and Yama from your head... Rāhula you must marry soon" (p. 147).

81The traditional pattern is more important for her than concrete, living human beings. Rāhula puts up very little resistance against his aunt's forceful dumbness, partly out of pity for her and Kundā, partly because he has no clear alternative for himself and believes that he can escape from his aunt's snare later: after all, he is only "an innocent fly caught in a net" (p.130) and hence feels that he has no real responsibility for his relationship with Kundā - he is bound to her by others rather than having bound himself to "this dumb ball of flesh", to whom he feels emotionally insufficiently attached. But he is willing to give Kundā and his aunt a try, and he actually thinks out loud to his friends that this old-fashioned sort of bondage may give him some stability. This experiment, as he confesses later to Aravinda, becomes a total failure (p. 258), and with this, traditional, rural Indian culture ceases to have any purpose for Rāhula any longer: it is nothing but a hindrance. In this light Kundā's last words in the novel, that he "can never, never come back", acquire a heavy symbolic meaning.

82If Indian tradition does not provide life with a meaning, then what does? Ranajita thinks that he can find a kind of fulfilment in a crude, hedonistic profligacy, which leads to his moral and personal decrepitude and also his death under disgusting circumstances. That Desai has made him the son of the third wife of a maharaja with a decrepit court who insists that his son should marry a woman with "100% Maratha blood" or else "a white foreign skin" to keep up social appearances, makes Ranajita stand out as a symbol of the inner bankruptcy of old India. Rāhula therefore looks at non-Indian sources of meaning.

83One possibility is chosen by Aravinda and Vaidēhi: the gospel of Marxism, along with its church: the communist party. Though Rāhula is highly skeptical about the organization, he lets himself be persuaded by his two friends to attend a party meeting. He feels somewhat annoyed at the offset by the apparently deliberate slovenliness of the people who have come. He is disappointed with their low intellectual standards, also the too simple, dogmatic, sectarian attitudes of the guest speaker (a Frenchman who has an English name and was a wartime resistance fighter against the najhi – Nazi - enemy). In a way Rāhula can admire the sense of purpose which Vaidēhi has found in her party work, but when she says "You too must join the party. Then everything will be all right" (p. 240) we hear only an echo of his aunt's "Just listen to what I say-everything will be all right" if he only marries soon etc. (p. 148). Marxism is just another siddhānta, a doctrine to which one surrenders uncritically, in which one can comfort ably lose one's individuality and follow dogmas rather than think and take responsible decisions, which is the reason why he rejects it in his talk with Aravinda after the meeting (p. 243).

84A different gospel is represented by another character who keeps returning in the novel and who stands outside the previously listed group of friends: Professor Williams, along with his wife and adopted son. What sets him apart is that he is a foreigner and as such does not fit in the traditional Indian setting, nor does he suffer from the problems Rāhula, Ranajita and the others have. He is shown as a convinced Christian, actually a spokesman for Christian beliefs, though his Christianity remains very sketchy. For Desai, Christianity is apparently the same as Roman Catholicism, and here too we see some unfortunate errors in his descriptions. He evidently does not know that whatever is confided to a priest by a penitent during confession must be kept a secret by the priest between the penitent, the priest and God. Hence the problems which Rāhula creates for Rosy by lying during confession are totally unrealistic (unless the priest would want to break his vows, which is most unlikely). The many discussions which Rāhula has with Williams prove to be fruitless in the end, because Williams says that his religious beliefs are not mere utilitarian figments of the imagination but hold some absolute truths, and faith in them cannot be given to one by someone else but comes from within; and Rāhula is far too disturbed a person to have faith in anything he feels within. It is not so surprising that Rāhula asks Williams about his beliefs and pays serious attention to what he hears. Christianity is the religion that is considered by Indians to be the most widely spread, on a world scale, among the people who live in a modem, urbanized milieu, and from this point of view we can understand Rāhula's hope that Christianity may provide him with a solution. In India everything is drawn into the sphere of religion, and if any part of culture is without any direct religious significance, it is quickly given one, be it however unconvincing. Any traveller in India can notice how the common people tend to identify as Christian anything that is new, recognizably of foreign origin and condemnable according to orthodox Hindu views, and this usually leads to strange conclusions, e.g. that fighting for women’s rights is Christian, that disobedience towards parents is Christian, that "love marriages" are Christian, etc. Christianity is a viable way of finding a basis in life also for a modern Indian, as is demonstrated by Williams' adopted son Paul. Something of the notion that Christianity is better suited for the modem age sounds through also in Dias' words in Goa, which signify that Hindus are a somewhat backward people: "Why do people with such Hindu ideas come to Goa!... I had thought you were somewhat improved people... let it be, excuse me" (p. 209).

  • 11 Personal letter d. August 20th, 1986.

85Christianity offers nice things: the kingdom of heaven, grace, purity of the soul etc. Rāhula feels that Christianity has a certain proper dignity that Hinduism lacks at times, e.g. at funerals. Most important for Rāhula is that it can make one rooted in life, to such an extent that someone like Paul can be inspired to leave the country and face hard circumstances in an unknown part of the world with full faith in God. But not all about Christianity and Christians deserves equal admiration. In Raṇajita's words we read that Christians have no manliness, no courage, no pith, no fury, and Rāhula is ripe to become a Christian monk on account of what Ranajita sees as his sissiness (p. 97). On the other hand, it is Raṇajita who is saying this, for whom perhaps anything that stops short of libertinism is to be deemed contemptible (and as a character, he is condemned by the author towards the end of the book). Rāhula, in his indirect, quasi-jocular way, contradicts him: he would perhaps like to live in a sort of monastic community, with a complete doctrine to tell one what to do and what not to do (pp. 96-7), in other words: where he need not think any more but can have all his questions answered by figures of authority. What may look somewhat disappointing about the novel is that Desai, who has his protagonist delve into different ideologies and engage in ethical discussions, shows Indian Christians in a way which we would expect from a 'Hindi' film. Throughout the book we find Christians associated with the use of strong liquor and sexually loose behaviour. When Rāhula wanders through red-light Bombay at night on p. 81, a pimp makes him the special offer of a Goanese girl, "only sixteen years old. The girl is like an Alfonso mango." And Goa, the former Portuguese possession, is associated with Christianity, just as Rosy and Dias own a hotel there, and as we have already seen, according to Dias Goa is not for 'unimproved' people with 'Hindu' ideas. Daman (once a Portuguese possession, like Goa) is the same sort of place, though much smaller, and it is precisely there that Rāhula and Raṇajita spend their wild nights in a brothel, characteristically run by a man named George (Jārja), who is a brother of the criminal waiter John in Bombay - and in India, we must remember, English names are 'Christian' names, and vice versa. Desai includes three episodes with a prominent use of alcohol in the novel: in the train with Mr and Mrs Dias, in the Daman brothel and in Dias' hotel in Goa. India lacks the cultured use of alcohol which has grown in Europe over many centuries: hence, for the common Indian, alcohol means drunkenness and scandalous behavior - and in this book these things always go together with Christians.-But what in e.g. Kattimani's Janivāra mattu śivadāra is meant as a real criticism, here carries a metaphorical significance: the breaking of traditional taboos is seen as a way of exploring all possible experiences of life in all their diversity, and Christians stand for the possibility of an alternative lifestyle. Similarly, in Mukti, an earlier novel by Desai, the disoriented protagonist is emotionally saved by a Christian girl in a relationship that would not have been condoned by orthodox Indian standards, and this character was the most popular among the novel's readership11.

  • 12 Ibid. Most members of this caste speak Konkani as their mother tongue and have ancestral ties with (...)

86Just as in Anantha Murthy's story Ghaṭaśrāddha the Christians are the only people who show an active concern for the fallen woman, here too they are, in an odd way, through the use of taboo things such as liquor, those in whom the protagonist sees some possibility of liberation. Rāhula's caste is not mentioned explicitly, but the author says that the protagonist was modelled after a Gauda Sārasvata Brahmin whom he knew in Bombay12. Hence the emphasis on what exactly is eaten in the novel (e.g. chicken - p. 14): non-vegetarian food is forbidden in southern Brahmin communities, i.e. Rāhula deliberately breaks the rules of his caste. Such food, alcohol, visiting brothels, having irregular sexual relationships with women (p. 251), all this together forms part of Rāhula's path of breaking loose from the inhibitions of his upbringing, discovering life and orienting himself in it.

87What remains to be studied is Rāhula's mental relationship to the Western world, which plays an all-important part in the novel. Both Rāhula and Raṇajita play with the idea of going to the West. For Rāhula, the West is synonymous with Britain and the USA, as it is for almost every Indian; Raṇajita's mental horizon is a bit wider and also includes France, though his idea of France seems derived from the popular Anglo-Saxon stereotype and would probably appall the average Frenchman. Raṇajita enthuses vaguely about French literature, art and culture, and says that there is nothing more rewarding in life than marrying a French girl and living in Paris. So we read about his ambition,

"For the time being, having fun. Hyāv a guḍ ṭaim [have a good time]. But I just must write my novel. After writing my novel, somehow I'll go abroad... The place where I must go is France-you know, Rāhula?"
"Yes, France! That's a wonderful country. Their literature, their art, their culture! See, there's nothing more rewarding in life than marrying a French girl and living in Paris."
"So marriage has a place in your plan of life too."
"Yes! But I said marriage with a French girl-not with a Hindi woman. There's an important difference. When you're married to a French girl there can be no worry about your freedom. When you're married to a "Hindi" woman it's finished-the life of a tethered bull" (pp. 18-9).

88He does not go into detail about what that sort of life is, but we may assume that he means a life in which one is bound by many social duties and is forced to subordinate one's personal wishes and ambitions to the demands of the social group. He is very concerned about preserving his freedom, as we see e.g. in his talk in the restaurant with Rāhula about the latter's planned marriage with Mādhavi.

"You're still young, a somewhat unusual young man, and it's for that reason, isn't it that I struck up friendship with you? Rāhula, your whole life's still ahead of you. When you have the ability to make a hundred girls like Mādhavi dance on your little finger, goodness gracious, to put your neck in one girl's hand so soon... like a dog..."
"Do you think that rather than being like a dog, it is better just to be a dog?" Rāhula laughed meaningfully.
"Independence, your own independence! To say that the freedom which is a human's birthright, the freedom that is his life's breath, is the freedom of a dog is a huge mistake."
"Freedom without a foundation is no freedom! Like a river needs banks, like a picture needs a frame, it's absolutely necessary to set a limit to your freedom. Your freedom is the freedom of a feather that flies in whichever way the wind blows" (p. 16).

89What Raṇajita means by "freedom" becomes much clearer from his wanton deeds later on. But for him France is ultimately nothing but an elegant appendix to Britain and the USA, as we see from his reason for studying French literature: "I'll write like Proust, like Proust. My novel will rise to the top limit of praise in England and America and become a bestseller, a bestseller!" (p. 14; my emphasis). So Raṇajita thinks that Proust's works are bestsellers in England and America (in translation, supposedly, since Anglo-Saxons as a rule consider it unnecessary to learn how to read anyone else's language), and he seems to believe that Proust is a good writer because his books sell well in the two big English-speaking countries - a somewhat odd way of evaluating literature.

90The West is a glamorous place to go to, where one can make money by writing bestsellers. The mere desire to go there is enough to make a person interesting and appreciated: at the picnic, Mādhavi reports all the "good things" which Raṇajita has said about Rāhula, viz. "your intelligence, self-respect, your desire to go abroad etc." (p. 68). The West is a place where one has personal liberties, and it is the land of writers like D.H. Lawrence and B. Russell. These two authors have a very typical fascination for many Indian readers.

91Rāhula desires personal freedom in order to find a meaning in life for himself, he wants to step out of a meaningless, dead culture, but finds society around him forcing old patterns of life upon him. His aunt manoeuvres him into a marriage with the "dumb ball of flesh" from his own caste. To find a new meaning he must explore, experiment and discover, which he must do with other people, but he can hardly find any such people. Mādhavi is too gregarious, too concerned about 'what people say'; Śirīn is too calculatingly self-centred; Vaidēhi, even if she were not already attached to Aravinda, is too inhibited; Aravinda is too timid; Raṇajita has no self-control and is too extravagantly hedonistic. Perhaps naturally for a student of literature, Rāhula puts his hopes on an escape to the West, as he tells Raṇajita in Daman: "I must go abroad... if I don't, I'll be a stranger here" (p. 100), and again to Aravinda when he muses about not returning from the UK because, as he tells Aravinda,

"This soul of mine needs an environment where it can stay - if necessary by detachment, inside, outside, in darkness, in light - on top of that in isolation.... I don't see myself going to the Himalaya, I haven't the proper training for such a path through life, no belief, no faith... Do you know who I really am? A gypsy, I'm a gypsy turning from town to town, country to country, woman to woman.... I have no base, no roots.... Forgive me that I didn't come to your registered wedding. I feel envy somehow - you, Vaidēhi, that kind of relationship isn't possible for me, I'm jealous of that..."
"Poor sister Kundā..."
"I too feel pity for her. But my soul can't be the slave of that pity. I have tried that experiment. Do you know what remained in the end? Emptiness! Meaninglessness!" (pp. 257-8).

92Yet Rāhula has enough sense not to idolize everything and everyone from the West: the French 'comrade' who speaks at the party meeting is clearly just as foolish as any Indian sanātani.

93In some of his characters Desai also shows us some less flattering opinions / prejudices about the Western world. For Rāhula's aunt the ability to go abroad has nothing but show value, and she also suffers from the common Indian prejudice that all Western people are debauchees: when she tells Rāhula that he must marry Kundā (after hypocritically saying that he may choose any wife he wants) and Rāhula says that he has done nothing to worry Kundā's parents, she says "All that crazy Western reasoning of yours won't do" (p. 145, my emphasis). She sees the Western world as a place of evil, of mainly erotic temptation which Indian men cannot resist:

"In a way it's good if you 'go to foreign' after you're married. Men who have a wife and children are sure to come back. Besides that, it’ll be easier to keep off the pretty women over there. Just listen to what I say - everything will be all right" (p. 148).

94Kundā has similar ideas (p. 251). Even Rāhula reveals this idea once, when he brings Kundā home at night and asks "ḍyāmiṭ, is your house an American house, that you can say you've gone dating a fellow like this?" (p. 127). One of the attractions of Goa for Rāhula is the "Western" atmosphere:

"This Western atmosphere is very hōmli [homely] to me... On the whole one feels completely free here. There’s no hindrance that makes the body shrivel up - one can walk hand in hand in the streets - if you want you can neck on the beach... you can go and drink as much beer as you like as often as you like" (p. 202).

955.14 Already in Bhyrappa's Vamśavṛkṣa (§1.17) we came across the Hindu ritual known as śrāddha in which a man commemorates the last three generations of his ancestors. In Bhyrappa's novel the ritual was a serious matter; in the story of that title by T.G. Raghava (T.G. Rāghava 1935 b), we see the protagonist doubt whether the ritual has any meaning at all, and his doubt is symptomatic of his attitude towards the religiosity of his relatives. The introspective, Joycean style mark the story as a typical Navy a production. Like many of the stylistically more ambitious writers in Kannada, Raghava is a teacher of English by profession.

965.15 T.G. Raghava: Śrāddha

  • 13 Sādu is a black paste which is worn by orthodox men when they sit down to have their meal and rema (...)

97The protagonist declines a friend's invitation to go to a movie the next day because it is his father's tithi or death anniversary. But the next day, when his mother tells him to prepare for the rituals, he resents having to participate in them and refuses to do so. He thinks of his forefathers, for whom he feels no affection whatsoever, and he realizes that he has only bitter memories of his father: how he once refused to give water for the toilet so that the protagonist had to use a piece of paper to wipe his posterior; how he had been kicked by his father for not getting out of bed soon enough; how he had been spat in the face for not wearing sādu13 on his forehead during meals, after which he had got up without eating; but on the other hand his father had said nothing when he had broken the thermos flask. The protagonist desperately tries to free himself from the memory of his father. Instead of obligatorily fasting, he considers having breakfast in a hotel, but he changes his mind again and drinks coffee and smokes two cigarettes instead.

  • 14 Cf. ch. 1 n. 59.

98The protagonist does not understand the ideology behind all the ritualism connected with things such as śrāddha-s and sacred threads, and he feels it is a sort of hypocrisy. On the other hand, he does not want to hurt other people's feelings by his behaviour either. He hears the presiding priest and his brother talk outside his room, in the hall: the priest praises the brother for behaving in the traditional ritual manner. Other Brahmins come for brāhmaṇārtha14, and Raghava is angry at their irreverent way of speaking on an occasion at which especially they should show dignity. He hears mantras being chanted, smells burning tuppa and wood, and he thinks of all the people who are forced by sheer poverty to eat without tuppa. He hears the priest and his brother go to the street to ritually welcome more Brahmins; suddenly he is gripped by the fear that the priest may peek in through the window of his room and ask him what he is doing - but he convinces himself that this will not happen. He thinks of his brother, who is now out there with an empty stomach and will surely get a headache on account of that. He is appalled by all this superstition. He then remembers how once he had wanted to tell the little boy next door the truth about where babies come from: his brother and sister had objected vehemently, and his mother had abused him.

99He suddenly decides to cover the window and undress fully; after a minute he decides this is meaningless, and he dresses again. He listens to the sounds that are coming in from outside, hears someone blow his nose and thinks that it must be the priest. He then remembers how people had laughed when they had heard that his brother would perform the śrāddha for the sixth time:

"God taught him good sense last year," sister had said; they said that on the eve of father's śrāddha- day a cat had shitted in his bed. They said that thinking that it had to be a form of father’s anger, he acknowledged his mistake and vowed to perform the śrāddha with devotion from the next year onwards (p. 262).

  • 15 Cf. ch. 1 n. 42.

100He feels bored, miserable and disgusted with all the empty superstitions and rituals that are being performed: "If I'd die now, there'd be no śrāddha, it would mean a loss of two rupees for the priest and for the Brahmins, loss of food, loss of everything" (p. 263). He listens to the meaningless mantras. He closes his eyes and sees the steady flame of the lamp that was burned on the day of his father's death under the cot where his father had died. He hears someone, perhaps his brother, eat outside his room and hears his mother say someone should sprinkle water near the door and lay out rangavalli15.

101At night he wakes up with a yell, as though a heavy weight has fallen on his chest. He feels ashamed and scrapes his throat. His sister asks their mother what happened; the mother says he yelled because he had a bad dream.

1025.16 Traditional India, like pre-modem Europe, greatly emphasized the role of institutionalized, ritualistic religion in social as well as individual life. One of the consequences of the complex phenomenon which we call Westernization is an increasing doubt about the meaningfulness of many ritualistic practices which previously figured so prominently in Hindu life and to which was given great importance for reasons not only of religious belief, but also of social decency. The notions which underlie this ritualism are questioned, and the practices can appear meaningless and silly. Thus a ritual, as an example of ritual in general, can be used as a very powerful symbol of the inner crisis of a civilization in transition.

103One of the more striking rituals of orthodox Hinduism is the śrāddha, a ritual in which a man commemorates his departed ancestors over three generations. The ritual is quite complicated, takes a few hours for its execution and is full of ancient symbolism dating from Vedic times. The basic part of the ritual is the offering of food to the ancestors and the gods through Brahmins who symbolically act as their representatives, and also to animals which are thought of as representatives (usually crows, but also a cow is possible). In his story, T.G. Raghava depicts what goes on in the mind of an educated young man who is compelled to be present at this ritual.

104Raghava's style is not easy, being a form of Kannada stream-of-consciousness writing with unfinished sentences, infinite verb forms where one would expect finite ones, etc.; but it is highly effective and suggestive. The elliptical descriptions which at times occur demand some closer knowledge of Indian, here more particularly: Brahminical customs, in order to be wholly understood. For instance, a sentence which literally runs "Because I sat down to food not-being-to-the-forehead, leaving the food and getting up having the face spat full" (p. 259) may not be immediately comprehensible for those students of literature who are not familiar with certain details of the culture. The same can be said about certain aspects of the ritual and the mantras as used by the priest: at the same time the reconditeness is used effectively to strengthen the impression of the protagonist's own failure to comprehend fully what is happening. One may doubt whether we can at all speak of a 'story' proper, with its absence of any plot or solution to a question. It is more or less a description of a string of events connected with the father's śrāddha, recounted in a monologue intérieur.

  • 16 A pañce (Sanskrit dhautra, also known by the Urdu-Hindi word dhōti) is a long and broad strip of c (...)
  • 17 A paijāma (from which the English expression 'pyjamas' is derived) is a loosely fitting pair of tr (...)

105Though the protagonist does not believe in the meaningfulness of the śrāddha ceremony, he does not want to offend his relatives: hence he declines his friend's offer in the first paragraph of going to a movie, and on p. 260 we see how one of his reasons for not leaving his room on the day of the ritual is that he is not appropriately dressed in a pañce16 but is wearing a paijama17 and a shirt, and thus "to run around in front of them would give a feeling of shame, embarrassment, and also of being one who has made a mistake. But I comforted myself by thinking that I entered the room and closed the door because I did not want to give rude answers to the priest's whys and whats and to hurt his feelings and those of the family." He thoroughly dislikes the hypocrisy which he sees in the ritual: "Mother, who was saying 'I don't see the sense of hating people who are dead', became quiet as soon as she saw me... Why do people forgive as soon as a person has died? Why?" (p. 259). He cannot see any meaning in the complex rituals, as is shown clearly by his mockery of the sacred formulae which are being mumbled (pp. 263-4) and of the happiness of the relatives when crows come to eat the offerings of food, a sign that the ancestors are pleased:

[Mother] says that if no crow comes, father isn't satisfied, he's angry. That is to say: she said so. It seemed foolish to be worried about whether a crow had come or not. It must have been one who had come for brāhmaṇārtha: 'look, all the ancestors are satisfied, one, two, these four or five crows have come and are eating contently,' he said. I thought: what sort of crows are they if they wouldn't come (p. 263).

106But also the irreverence of the Brahmins who have come only for brāhmanārtha (a ritual offering of food to men of the priestly caste), and not out of any sense of performing a religious duty, disturbs the protagonist: one of the Brahmins jokingly complains that they had to fast all night and now want to eat, and the protagonist thinks: "I was ashamed at the anger that suddenly crept in from beyond my consciousness that said he was a faithless non-Brahmin; why should I be angry at what has no relation to me, I thought" (p. 260) - if the priests that must conduct the ritual themselves show so little reverence for it, then why should he, and what does the ritual mean?

107He is also aware of much sordidness surrounding the event, which seems incongruous with its presumed solemnity: "The sound of someone who opens the door and blows his nose, it must be the priest - the dirty guy. A dirty guy who blows his nose in the courtyard and wipes it on the end of his pañce" (p. 262), or the combination of outer sordidness with sordidness of the mind, which we see in the episode of his brother and the cat on the same page. The śrāddha should be a religious act, a respectful communication with ancestors in the spirit realm with seriousness and involvement on the part of the people who desire the performance of the ritual; but the protagonist's awareness of all the sordidness and stupidity around the ritual reduces it to something ridiculous and loathsome.

108The fact that all this sordidness and hypocrisy strikes him so, and that he criticizes traditional figures of authority such as his mother and the priests, show that the protagonist has evolved, or at least is evolving, a new set of values that is more satisfactory for him, as is also shown when he smells tuppa (molten, clarified butter, popularly known outside Karnataka by the Urdu-Hindi word ghi, Sanskrit ghṛta) being burnt in the sacrificial fire: "The smell of tuppa that was being thrown into the fire was coming, mixed with smoke that comes from cracking firewood. When there are people who must eat without tuppa; such sentimentality, the bad influence of that kind of books, I thought" (p. 260), explicitly mentioning the influence of exposure to new ideas through reading. And all the same, his attitude towards the tradition and towards the memory of his father remains ambiguous, as we see in the passage where he describes his memory of bearing his father's corpse to the cremation-ground:

And when I heard the news of my father's death, I felt no such grief; I thought tears might come to my eyes, they did not. But when I lifted the corpse, when all were weeping, when I was trying not to weep, when somebody looked my way and said 'oh mother, I can't look at those orphaned children', tears began to come to my eyes too. It was not my own grief, I comforted myself by saying tears can come to any kind of person's eyes if he sees somebody else weep, I should not succumb to sentimentality. When I closed my eyes the night after father was burnt, I saw the pyre burn before my eyes (p.259).

109This is also shown by his deciding not to go and see a movie, but rather to stay at home, again staying in his room because he is not appropriately dressed; towards the end of the story, when the ritual has been completed, we read that he still sees the burning lamp which was placed under the cot on which his father died: "The steadily burning lamp appears before my eyes now and then. If I would ask some psychologist, he would probably say that there is some connection with my father" (p. 264); and finally, in the last paragraph of the story, when he wakes up at night with a scream, thinking that he has been struck on the chest by "something like a long, big, red-faced, beam? rice-pestle? temple-pole? penis?", we see that he, the skeptic, is moved by what happened that day, whereas his traditional mother, whom we would expect to be a genuine believer in the rituals that were performed, wryly comments that he just had a bad dream.

110This ambiguity towards traditional religiosity is a real problem for him:

The priest came to the street with my brother, to go and call inside the Brahmins who have come, to whom they gave darbha-grass and whose feet they washed after applying (tuppa, cowdung or cowdung, tuppa?) tuppa, cowdung and tuppa. I was afraid the priest would suddenly peek in through the window and say Hey, what're you doing, come out - surprising, a fear one ought to get rid of at the age of twelve; I comforted myself by thinking that anyone who says he's decent will not peek in through windows like that (p. 261).

111He is afraid of confrontations, for he does not know how to defend his position, and he has to meet blunt and coarse resistance if he steps outside the traditional pattern, e.g. when two days before the ritual he wants to tell the boy from the neighbouring house where babies come from:

When he asked: "Who makes babies?", sister said "God". When he asked: "Where does a baby come from?", I called him closer, saying: "come here, I'll tell you." "Keep quiet!" my mother and sisters all screamed. Nevertheless, without stopping I said to him - from the belly. Because I thought he wouldn't understand the word 'uterus'. Then he said: "Our mother says it comes from the forest, doesn't it?" "A lie," I said. "It's you who's telling a lie," he said. "Aw, go away," I said and kept quiet. Mother began abusing me. Though I forgot what exactly all her abuses were, I remember that she said: "You're quite a profligate, aren’t you, ruining little boys" (p. 261).

112Thus he feels helpless, powerless to fight an oppressive system that is too big for him to tackle. Here the following passage is very significant:

I felt I had to be naked. I got up, covered the window and took off the clothes on my body one by one so as to fulfil the desire. I had felt for many days I should stand naked. I looked at myself. I looked at the clothes I had taken off and that had fallen. I stood for a minute with my eyes closed. It seemed there was no connection between this and the momentaneous feeling that everything would have a new meaning if I would be naked, it seemed there was no meaning, I put on my clothes again. The cloth was a bit cool when it touched my body. I opened the window. A light breeze played on my face (pp. 261-2).

113The act of undressing of course represents the desire to dispose of the burden of culture which is dead to him, to return to innocence and start afresh: but characteristically, this symbolic act is carried out in strict private, with the window covered, and although the protagonist experiences a short relief of coolness, his act results in nothing lasting.

  • 18 Namely by A.K. Ramanujan: samskāra. OUP (Indian branch), 2nd ed., 3rd impression, 1985. In the fol (...)

1145.17 samskāra by U.R. Anantha Murthy is one of the very few novels in an Indian language which has been translated well into any European language18, and this has made it one of the very few works of modem literature from India that are known abroad as well as throughout the whole of India. It has also been made into a good Kannada motion picture. The negative side-effect of the fame of this novel is that Anantha Murthy is generally known, especially outside Karnataka, as the author of samskāra and of nothing else. Both the novel and the film have become notorious on account of their straightforward questioning of traditional notions which governed the lives of large numbers of people and which have never been questioned in such a penetrating, radical manner before. This has made samskāra one of the most hotly debated works of modem Indian fiction. Reactionary groups demanded that the film be banned, with the argument that it was insulting to a certain section of society.

115The power of this short novel lies chiefly in its symbolic simplicity: all the problems that appear in it become focussed in what we can call a 'master problem' which is analysed in great detail and with great forcefulness. This problem is the one of orthodoxy, of to what extent one can and should adhere to an inherited doctrine. When the adherents of a doctrine feel that the rules of orthodoxy are no longer suitable in the time and under the circumstances of their lives, a crisis in orthodoxy occurs. This crisis may remain latent when the adherents pretend that no such unsuitability exists, or it may become manifest when the adherents demand integrity and try to harmonize their beliefs with their way of life or vice versa, which is what we see in Prāṇēśācārya, the protagonist of samskāra. In this novel, orthodoxy appears in a typically Indian form, viz. in questions of social exclusivism and religious ritualism which preserve the purity of caste. The reason why the novel has been universally appreciated by its foreign readers is that Anantha Murthy has succeeded in discussing the problem in terms which bring out some universal aspects of the problem, so that Prāṇēśācārya's situation can be grasped also by those readers who have no background knowledge of Brahminical orthodoxy.

116"'A rite of passage or life-cycle ceremony', 'forming well, making perfect', 'the realizing of past perceptions', 'preparation, making ready', are some of the meanings of the multi-vocal Sanskrit word," says A.K. Ramanujan about the word samskāra in the afterword to his translation of the novel. All these meanings can be found in the book.

1175.18 U.R. Anantha Murthy: Samskāra

  • 19 Cf. ch. 3 n. 12.
  • 20 Mādhva-s are the adherents of the doctrine of dvaitavēdānta, a pluralistic, theistic doctrine firs (...)

118Prāṇēśācārya, a traditional Brahmin scholar, is married to Bhāgīrathi, who is crippled to such an extent that she cannot move around independently or eat. She urges Prāṇēśācārya to marry a second time, but Prāṇēśācārya gently refuses. Just then Candri, "Nāraṇappa's whore", comes rushing to tell Prāṇēśācārya the news of Nāraṇappa's death: on returning from Shimoga, he suffered from a fever for four days and suddenly died. At once the news is spread through the agrahāra (Brahmin settlement), for according to orthodox rules the community is in a state of impurity and is not allowed to eat until the corpse is disposed of. The question then arises who among the Brahmins should perform the cremation ceremony. Garuḍācārya, a distant relative of Nāraṇappa, does not want to do so because he had fallen out with Nāraṇappa's father and with Nāraṇappa too; moreover, he adds with a sideways look at Candri, there is the question of whether Nāraṇappa still was a Brahmin at the time of his death, since he had been living with a Sudra woman. Durgābhatta, the only Smārta Brahmin19 in the agrahāra, sees a possibility for mocking at the Mādhva-s20 and says:

"Chi chi chi, don't be too rash, Acharya. O no, a brahmin isn't lost because he takes a lowborn prostitute. Our ancestors after all came from the North - You can ask Prāṇēśācārya if you wish - history says they cohabited with Dravidian women...." (pp. 5-6).

  • 21 A śāligrāma or śāligrāma is a particular black stone of great ritual importance to Vaishnavas (dev (...)
  • 22 Cf. ch. 1 n. 59.

119Prāṇēśācārya defuses the situation by asking whether Lakṣmaṇācārya, an in-law of the deceased, will perform the rite, but he too refuses on account of Nāraṇappa's association with Candri. He further recounts the various acts of deliberate irreverence and barbarism which Nāraṇappa committed: when his wife died, no proper funeral was conducted for her; he never performed śrāddha for his parents; he threw the holy śāligrāma21 stone, which had been worshipped in his family for generations, into the river; he invited Muslims to his house and ate meat and drank liquor with them (p. 7). Lakṣmaṇacāryās wife Anasūye hates Candri immensely, for she sees her as the cause why her sister, Nāraṇappa's wife, was not properly cremated, and the gold necklace which Candri wears should have been around her sister's neck. Dāsācārya, who makes a living by eating brāhmaṇārtha22, finds the situation unbearable and suggests that Prāṇēśācārya, as the most scholarly man in the agrahāra, should speak the final word on this matter of canonic law. Durgābhaṭṭa meanwhile eyes Candri and thinks it is understandable that Nāraṇappa threw away the śāligrāma and took this sensuous woman instead. Then Prāṇēśācārya makes a crucial statement: "he may have rejected Brahminhood, but Brahminhood never left him" (p. 9). He announces that he will go through the religious lawbooks to find a solution to the question. Candri comes forward and offers her gold ornaments to cover the expenses of the funeral, and the Brahmins are afraid of the temptation and rivalry that the gold will create among those who are eligible to perform the funeral rites (p. 10).

  • 23 'Aḍḍapankti' Brahmins is an abusive term for particular Smārta-s (the Mūgūru Karnāṭaka caste), who (...)

120Still the Brahmins discuss how thoroughly rotten a person Nāraṇappa was. What had prevented the other Brahmins from excommunicating him was his threat that he would once and for all ruin the purity of the agrahāra by becoming a Muslim himself (p. 11). Someone suggests that Nāraṇappa's corpse should be handed over to his 'aḍḍapankti'23 Brahmin friends in the neighbouring town Pārijātapura, whom he had corrupted by cultivating among them a taste for dramas; but the Mādhva-s are deeply upset by the idea that those other Brahmins may then claim the gold, a quarrel breaks out among them and Prāṇēśācārya says he will see what the law books have to say on the matter.

121Prāṇēśācārya retires to seek a solution, and meanwhile memories of Nāraṇappa float before his mind's eye. He remembers how Nāraṇappa brazenly scoffed at all that the Brahmins had claimed they believed in for centuries. When Prāṇēśācārya pleaded with him not to let his wicked influence loose on the boys, he asked whether e.g. Garuḍācārya, who spent his time confiscating the wealth of widows, performing black magic and thinking up evil, was Prāṇēśācārya's example of a good Brahmin. "All right, let's see who wins, Acharya. You or me? Let's see how long all this Brahmin business will last. All your Brahmin respectability. I'll roll it up and throw it in all directions for a little bit of pleasure with one female. You'd better leave now - I really don't want to talk and hurt you either" (p. 21). The last time Prāṇēśācārya had seen Nāraṇappa was three months earlier, after he had again been catching fish in the tank of the Ganēśa temple. Prāṇēśācārya had gone to his house in an attempt to make Nāraṇappa better his ways and had found him there drunk with Candri and abusive, and Nāraṇappa told him his mind about the moral standards of the others in the agrahāra. In the form of a fairy-tale he told Prāṇēśācārya how he too is to blame for the moral downfall of the agarhāra through his hypocrisy, namely by reading aloud in public lewd classical stories from Sanskrit sources and so turning the heads of the youngsters who came to listen (p. 25). After that accusation, Prāṇēsācārya began chastening his stories, and as a result of this the boys of the agrahāra no longer came to listen (p. 26).

  • 24 Ramanujan translates: "...have gone astray and become an outcaste".

122There is another story about why Nāraṇappa was so thoroughly evil: Garudācārya had cast a spell on his father, so that he would have only one son (Nāraṇappa), and Nāraṇappa took revenge on Garuḍācārya by persuading his only son to join the army (p. 27). Lakṣmanācārya's wife Anasūye believes this, for otherwise "how could Nāraṇappa, who is born in a good family, become such a cāṇḍāla24" Durgābhaṭṭa, the Smārta who cannot stand the Mādhva-s, derived fun from telling Garuḍācārya that it is not possible to perform sandhyāvandane in the army, and that one is forced to eat meat there (p. 28). If Garuḍācārya performs Nāraṇappa's funeral, so his wife hopes, this may compensate for the sin which he has committed, and as a result her son may return. Garuḍācārya indeed approaches Prāṇēśācārya, who is the highest authority in the agrahāra on these matters, for permission to perform the funeral, but he is obviously only interested in the gold. Later Laksmanācārya comes with a similar claim. Seeing this development in the agrahāra, Prāṇēśācārya goes back to the law books in search of a just, impartial solution which is in accordance with dharma.

123At night Lakṣmīdēvamma, a child-widow in the agrahāra who is considered not in her right mind any more, walks through the streets and accuses the Brahmins of having ruined their Brahminhood:

"...A golden man like Naraṇappa became an outcaste, got himself a harlot.... Where has your brahminism gone, you rascals! Don't you know you'll fall into the lowest hell reserved for outcastes and perish there? In this agrahara, in all my born days, have I seen a body kept uncremated at night?... Brahminism is in ruins. Why don't you shave your heads and become Muslims, why do you need to be brahmins, you!" (p. 44).

  • 25 A muttaide is an 'auspicious' married woman (see chapter 1), who can become inauspicious by the de (...)

124Meanwhile Candri is concerned about what is to be done with Nāraṇappa's corpse. She realizes that he had given up Brahminhood by eating with Muslims et cetera, (so did she, but being born in a family of prostitutes she was unpollutable, a nityamuttaide or everauspicious woman25, undefilable like a running river-p. 45), but fears Nāraṇappa will become a ghost if something is not done soon. Also, in his dying moments, Nāraṇappa spoke out the names of God, which means that he was not a totally corrupt sinner. She has a deep respect for Prāṇēśācārya, the poor man who had probably never experienced the pleasures of the body, just as Nāraṇappa too never said anything against him. "Her mother used to say: prostitutes should get pregnant by such holy men.... But one had to be lucky to be blessed by such people" (p. 47). Prāṇēśācārya continues searching the law-books for an answer to the dilemma: if an answer cannot be found, it means a victory for Nāraṇappa He wonders whether it was fear or compassion that he did not excommunicate Nāraṇappa and why Nāraṇappa threw away his valuable Brahminhood, which comes as the result of the accumulated merit of previous births (p. 49). He returns the gold to Candri.

  • 26 …manage dōṣavilla (p. 63). Ramanujan translates: "These things don’t apply to me" (p. 61), which d (...)

125Rats fall dead in the agrahāra; the stench of the rotting corpse and the prolonged fast become unbearable, so the Brahmins come to urge Prāṇēśācārya to reach a decision soon. He says that he will ask the god Māruti for a sign in the temple in the forest which will tell them what to do; he goes and without his knowledge is followed by Candri, who carries a supply of bananas with her and waits at some distance outside the temple, fondly remembering how Prāṇēśācārya had come and brought her a blanket and a pillow the previous night and sad that she is already past thirty and still has no children (pp. 55-6). People die in the nearby outcaste settlement. The Brahmin settlement is visited by a flock of vultures; the Brahmins take this as an evil omen and try to drive them off with shouts and the sound of ritual gongs at the suggestion of Dāsācārya (who has just returned from a clandestine meal in the neighbouring Smārta agrahāra). Candri feels guilty that it is because of her that Prāṇēśācārya is sitting so long in the Māruti temple, but then she realizes: "I am not to blame26." Prāṇēśācārya waits till the evening, without receiving any sign from the god, remembers that it is time to give his wife her medicine, leaves the temple and comes across Candri. Overcome with feelings of tenderness Candri offers herself to him, and Prāṇēśācārya, tired, hungry and suddenly confronted with the touch of a healthy young woman's body, accepts her (pp. 64-6).

126Afterwards, Prāṇēśācārya is in utter turmoil due to what he has done with Candri: he tells her to report what has happened to the other Brahmins in the agrahāra and say that he will perform the funeral rites for Nāraṇappa. But she feels it is not right to put him through further trouble and approaches a Gowda friend of Nāraṇappa, who is drunk and refuses to have anything to do with the corpse of a Brahmin; then she asks a Muslim, to whom Nāraṇappa once loaned some money when he was in need, and he cremates the corpse (p.72). She packs her things and leaves the agrahāra. Meanwhile the drama troupe, which Nāraṇappa had helped set up and which is largely a cover for dissolute behaviour, gets drunk and discusses Candri as a superb woman, who cleaned up their vomit when they got drunk; they consider her much greater than any Brahmin woman. They decide to go and do something about the corpse of their beloved leader, find his house empty, believe that he has become a ghost and run away (p.76).

127Prāṇēśācārya thinks over his past life, how he deliberately chose to marry a born invalid as part of a self-imposed austerity at the age of sixteen, then went to Benares to study, returned and led a deeply pious life; how he had expressed to a Smārta once that he did not try to become a good man (sāttvika) but was one, and that his lifestyle was an expression of that (p. 78). He wishes Candri will come to tell the other Brahmins what has happened, since he does not dare do so himself, but she is not there. He feels remorse when the others come to ask him for guidance, but also relief that he no longer has any moral authority over them. He simply tells them that he received no answer from the god. The others decide to go to another agrahāra to ask for advice; there they can also have a meal, and they can send their families to their in-laws, where they can do the same without breaking the rules (p. 81). On the way, the Brahmins fall ill one by one.

128Prāṇēśācārya feels that with his union with Candri, he at last has come to experience life to the full, not inhibited and hampered by all the rules and rituals he believed in. He remembers what Nāraṇappa used to tell him. He returns to the spot where his life was changed, pulls up and smells the grass, flowers, other plants, swims in the river and feels delighted as a being that is one with nature. Back in the agrahāra he sees how his wife dies; he calls the help of the Brahmins of the neighbouring agrahāra for her cremation - they have just cremated Dāsācārya - and he stands weeping at the sight of the pyre of his wife, "the field of his life's penance" (p. 88).

129At the maṭha the other Brahmins of the agrahāra hear from the swami that all Nāraṇappa's property must be donated to the maṭha "for the Lord's service", or the swami will not give permission for the cremation of the body, in which case all will have to leave the agrahāra.

  • 27 A rathōtsava or car festival' is a festival during which the local god (in the form of a small, po (...)
  • 28 At rathōtsava-s and on other such occasions Brahmins are offered free meals.
  • 29 A mālēra is a person of mixed caste, of a Brahmin lather and a non-Brahmin mother. Because of thei (...)

130Prāṇēśācārya, in the meantime, does not return home but starts wandering. On the way a Gowda begins talking to him about the nearby agrahāra where a corpse has been rotting away for three days, fortunately not recognizing him but thinking that Prāṇēśācārya is a mendicant Brahmin, out begging for food; he recommends to Prāṇēśācārya that he go to a nearby village called Mēḷige, where there is a cart festival27 going on and where he as a Brahmin can get an excellent meal28, and leaves (p. 98). Prāṇēśācārya continues to think over the import of his sexual union with Candri and realizes that whether slowly or quickly, fully consciously or not, he decided to take Candri when the opportunity arose: the responsibility for the deed was his. He wonders whether all the great sages of mythology who gave up their austerities for a woman ever suffered the confusion which he is suffering now (p. 101) and then remembers Mahābala, who, although he was a Smārta, had been the great friend of his youth, with whom he had gone to Benares. Mahābala had been full of the desire to know God, but after some time in Benares he abandoned his studies to go and live with a prostitute. He saw in Nāraṇappa the degeneration of another Mahābala, against which he had to fight. He realizes that he has lost the struggle and must leave the agrahāra to start a new life, perhaps with Candri, like another Mahābala, which is at least a clear-cut direction in life, not ambiguity (p. 104). Then a young Mālēra29 traveller accosts him on the way and begins some small talk, accompanying Prāṇēśācārya to Mēḷige, very much to the latter's annoyance. - Meanwhile the leader of the Smārta agrahāra at Pārijātapura has realised that Nāraṇappa brought back the plague with him from Shimoga and that the Mādhva-s by their religiously inspired squeamishness have helped spread the disease, and he takes measures to save his own agrahāra (p. 107).

131Puṭṭa continues annoying Prāṇēśācārya on the way with trivialities about his in-laws and riddles, while Prāṇēśācārya tries to reflect on why his mind is so perturbed: it is because until now he has lived according to the books, which prescribed life in all detail and had answers to everything, and by trangressing a fundamental rule for that way of life the whole structure has collapsed. Then he decides:

"...the root of all my anxiety is because I slept with Chandri as in a dream. Hence the present ambiguity.... I'll be free from it only through a free deliberate wide-awake fully-willed act. Otherwise, a piece of string in the wind, a cloud taking on shapes according to the wind. I've become a mere thing. By an act of will I'll become human again. I'll become responsible for myself.... I'll catch a bus to Kundapura and live with Chandri. I'll then end all my troubles. I’ll remake myself in full wakefulness...." (p. 114).

132The other Brahmins have returned to Dūrvāsapura, determined to burn Nāraṇappa's corpse, but they decide to wait until Prāṇēśācārya returns (p. 116).

133Prāṇēśācārya is worried that someone in Mēḷige may recognize him, but he consoles himself with the thought that the Brahmins there are Smārta-s and therefore strangers (p. 116). Puṭṭa remarks that Prāṇēśācārya must be a silent, suffering type of person, and that is why he kept talking. He prides himself on the fact that his father is a Brahmin from a high sub-caste, who "looked after my mother whom he lived with, better than his lawfully wedded wife." The temple festival is accompanied by a fair with all kinds of worldly amusements, including aerated drinks. Prāṇēśācārya decides it is better not to try to get rid of Puṭṭa, who may have been brought to him by fate, just like his experience with Candri, for he wants to become able to enjoy this kind of life as much as Puṭṭa does: it is also the kind of world in which Candri lives. He feels that he must let go of his Brahminhood completely if he wants to let go of it at all. He is disgusted at a cockfight, where he saves Puṭṭa from a brawl after he has won a bet; but seeing Puṭṭa's joy at having won the small bet, he feels a fatherly affection and the desire to have a son of his own. Puṭṭa takes him to a relative of his, a woman named Padmāvati, who as he says will be angry with him if she finds out that he has been to town without seeing her; when Prāṇēśācārya is confronted with this longing Mālēra woman, whom he finds sexually highly attractive and who is living alone, he is terrified by the awareness that Puṭṭa thinks he is doing him a favour by acting as a sort of pimp. For a moment he thinks of telling the whole truth: that he is in a state of pollution, that Nāraṇappa's body (as he believes) is not yet cremated, but he does not. He and Puṭṭa leave the house, and Puṭṭa says that she is not a common prostitute: "No lowcaste man has been near her. And she isn't the kind of spirit that'll accept any ordinary Brahmin either. Not for money, not for a few coins" (p. 130).

134Puṭṭa tells him to go and have a free dinner with the other Brahmins in the temple. Prāṇēśācārya is afraid to go unaccompanied by Puṭṭa and asks him to come too, but Puṭṭa asks how such a thing is possible when he is a Mālēra (p. 132). Prāṇēśācārya enters the temple alone and sits down for the meal, aware of the sin which he is committing: eating in a state of impurity while sitting in the same line with others, thus causing impurity to all of them. Prāṇēśācārya thinks he should perform the funeral for Nāraṇappa, then tell the Brahmins in his agrahāra the truth: that he slept with Candri, felt disgust with his wife, had coffee in a common shop in a fair, went to see a cock-fight, lusted after a Mālēra woman, polluted other Brahmins by eating with them in a temple and even invited a Mālēra boy to join him in the temple: "Not a confession of wrongs done. Not a repentence for sins committed. Just the truth. My truth. The truth of my inner life" (p. 137). The Brahmin who serves the meal then suddenly remembers who Prāṇēśācārya is, apologizes and rushes off to the house of a big merchant, where a special feast is organized for great scholars among whom Prāṇēśācārya too should be present, rather than among these more humble Brahmins. Prāṇēśācārya runs away from the place, only to be caught up with by Puṭṭa (p. 138). Prāṇēśācārya tells a lie saying he must go to Dūrvāsapura at once because his brother there is deadly sick. Puṭṭa says he has a friend there named Nāraṇappa who lusted after Padmāvati and disgusted her because he was a horrible drunk; he wants to come and ask Nāraṇappa whether he can rent Nāraṇappa's orchard near his village. Prāṇēśācārya then thinks it may be good to have Puṭṭa for company on this difficult journey. A wagon on its way to Durvāsapura comes by, with room for only one more passenger; Prāṇēśācārya then wants to go on foot, so that Puṭṭa can stay with him, but Puṭṭa insists that he go alone, and he will follow. Prāṇēśācārya gets onto the wagon and leaves.

1355.19 Prāṇēśācārya and the majority of the Brahmins in his agrahāra are Mādhva-s, i.e. they follow the teachings of Śrī Madhvācārya, the Kamatakan thinker who laid the basis for the philosophical and religious system known as dvaita-vēdānta, historically the third of the great Vedantic schools of thought. The fact that Anantha Murthy was himself born in this community, and that he therefore knows this Brahmin caste better than other similar castes, is the obvious reason why the narrative is set in a Mādhva agrahāra (and that too in the area around Tirthahalli; he was born in Mēḷige, the town in the novel where the cart festival takes place). In the novel, we see among the various Brahmin castes there is a sense of rivalry and hierarchy; this becomes clear in the teasing and sneering that goes on between the Mādhva-s and Durgābhaṭṭa, the single Smārta in the Durvāsapura agrahāra, and in the passages where we read about the uneasy relationship which the Mādhva-s have with the neighbouring aḍḍapankti Brahmins, who again are Smārta-s. Muslims are a terrible threat to their purity, so much so that the Brahmins tolerate Nāraṇappa's behaviour for fear that he will carry out his threat of becoming a Muslim too. In the last part of the book mālera-s enter the narrative: people of mixed Brahmin-non-Brahmin ancestry who are again a threat to one's purity if one associates with them.

136Nāraṇappa has lost his purity, deliberately and many times over, by eating fish and meat, drinking alcohol, and above all living with Candri, who is from a lineage of prostitutes. For him Brahminhood had lost all meaning, but instead of simply leaving the Brahmin community (after all, he could have become a Muslim, as he threatened to) he remained in the agrahāra and deliberately affronted the others. This suggests that he hated Brahminhood so thoroughly that he wanted to take revenge on the social environment that brought him up in that tradition. Indeed he considers his continued stay among the Brahmins a sort of contest, as we see in his challenge to Prāṇēśācārya: "Who'll win in the end, me or you?" (p. 21). He ate meat and drank liquor in his house with Muslims, blew fish out of the temple tank with dynamite, led a generally lascivious life and on top of all this was a bad influence on the youngsters of the agrahāra.

137But all this does not mean that Nāraṇappa has no principles whatsoever, and this is a very important point. After he has challenged Prāṇēśācārya, he asks him to leave because he does not want to hurt his feelings (p. 21), and later Candri recalls that Nāraṇappa never said a bad word about him (p. 46), just as she knows that in his own way he believed in God. Another thing that sets Nāraṇappa apart from the other Brahmins is his disgust for the hypocrisy of the others. He finds Brahminhood, i.e. memberhood of the highest varṇa, of the Hindu priesthood and scholarly caste which is supposedly morally superior to all other varṇa-s, incompatible with the performance of black magic, the confiscation of money from hapless widows and the perpetrating of other forms of evil, as Garudācārya does. Also he finds it hypocritical to advocate strict standards of morality and meanwhile read lewd stories from classical works to young sters, as Prāṇēśācārya does. Nāraṇappa cannot agree with the orthodoxy in which he grew up, and he cannot be a hypocrite. He can, however, respect Prāṇēśācārya for the latter's attempt to be genuinely orthodox, even if he cannot be so himself. But apart from the satisfaction which he may feel in not being a hypocrite and in exposing the hypocrisy and false piousness of others, Nāraṇappa's path through life looks quite sterile. Driven on by hatred and a desire for revenge, believing in God on the one hand and living a life of dissipation in drunkenness and crude sensual pleasures on the other, he probably did not find much peace with himself and with life. He may appear at first sight to have had no principles, but what made him rebel against the orthodoxy of the agrahāra is precisely that the others were false in professing to follow principles in which they did not really believe. His basic respect for Prāṇēśācārya shows that he did believe in the desirability of principles, but he was not able to find any meaningful principles for himself besides the search for sensual pleasures.

138Every Brahmin character in Dūrvāsapura who is pictured in detail, with the exception of Nāraṇappa and Prāṇēśācārya, is superstitious and hypocritical, in other words: they lack integrity. The rules demand that no one in the agrahāra should eat until Nāraṇappa's body is cremated, but Dāsācārya sneaks out to Pārijātapura, where, after a short and friendly discussion with one of the Smārta-s about why the interdiction on their eating together is not really necessary in the age in which they are living, he gets his meal, to the Smārta-s' glee (pp. 57-8). The Brahmins first all shy away from having anything to do with Nāraṇappa's cremation for fear of impairing their purity, but when the prospect of earning some gold appears, they suddenly change their minds. Although Durgābhaṭṭa tells them that their ethnic purity is a hoax, since their Aryan forefathers came down from the north and married Dravidian women here (which nobody denies; pp. 5-6), they hold on to their belief in such purity all the same. The child-widow Lakṣmīdēvamma, who is a bit out of her mind, does not elaborate the matter in any detail, but also accuses the Brahmins of hypocrisy (p. 44). The whole question of whether Nāraṇappa's cremation can be performed and who should do it is a matter of superstition, and the simple Candri, who is untouched by such ritualistic considerations, straightforwardly gets rid of what is just a "rotten, stinking corpse" (p. 72), apparently without suffering any unpleasant supernatural consequences afterwards.

139Prāṇēśācārya differs from the others in that he is not a hypocrite and desires integrity. He must live in accordance with his beliefs, and his beliefs must be meaningful for him. He is a Brahmin, meaning that he is a member of the highest varṇa in Hindu society. Besides that, he is a Mādhva, and the Mādhva-s are known as the most seriously orthodox Brahmin community in Karnataka. Furthermore, he studied for years in Benares and won numerous awards for his outstanding learnedness; he is the authority on doctrinal matters in the agrahāra. Yet all these outer distinctions become insignificant for him in comparison with his personal, inner integrity: he is ready to renounce his Brahminhood, decides to leave the agrahāra, and when he leaves he also leaves behind all the awards which he has won.

  • 30 Krishnamurthi 1970: 214.

140The problem of Nāraṇappa's cremation created doubts in him concerning the tradition: till then he had firmly believed that orthodoxy had a solution for everything if only one was learned enough to find the solution in its literature, and the problem shook his faith. The actual turning point comes with his sexual union with Candri, because he realizes that he is responsible for this transgression. He remembers how he had discussed his pious lifestyle once with his Smārta friend Mahābala, with whom he studied in Benares: his lifestyle was an expression of the fact that he was a sāttvika, one with an inborn longing for God (p. 78), and now that faith in his own inborn goodness is lost. He remembers how Mahābala gave up his studies and began living with a prostitute, and how shocked he was by this. He realizes that his intense desire to make Nāraṇappa turn back from his evil ways was largely caused by the parallel which he saw between Nāraṇappa and Mahābala. As M.G. Krishnamurti says, Nāraṇappa is a question for Prāṇēśācārya30, because he seems to choose deliberately in favour of evil, which is an incomprehensible choice for Prāṇēśācārya. Only after the episode with Candri can he feel what must have gone on inside Nāraṇappa and Mahābala, and he now knows that "we form ourselves through our decisions, at this stage we give a shape to a personality" (p. 101). Rather than continue life with a set of values and a social identity completely inherited from his ancestors, he decides that he must venture out into the world and shape himself through a series of various experiences and decisions of his own.

  • 31 Ibid. pp. 213-4.

141If Nāraṇappa presents a question to Prāṇēśācārya so Krishnamurti says, then Candri and to some extent Padmāvati indicate possibilities31. Indeed Candri especially appears, to use a term from Jungian psychology, as an anima-character, who draws Prāṇēśācārya's attention to the fact that his personality has been developing in a one-sided manner because he denied proper expression to other sides of his psyche and fooled himself into believing that he was happy as an unthinking creature of tradition. She is complementary to Prāṇēśācārya, and the passage where she reflects on how fortunate she would be if she would become pregnant by Prāṇēśācārya (p. 47) shows that the author meant her to be complementary, and not a self-sufficient alternative. Here the fact that she is not a Brahmin woman but a simple, uneducated daughter of a prostitute is significant: Prāṇēśācārya is entangled in a cultural pattern that has become rigid and thereby has lost much of its meaning, and therefore the complementary influence, which can help generate new meaning, must come from outside. Here too lies the significance of the remark by one of Nāraṇappa's cronies about the greatness of Candri in comparison with Brahmin women (pp. 74-5), or Durgābhaṭṭa's understanding, when he closely observes Candri's sensuous beauty, why Nāraṇappa threw away his śāligrāma and gave up his vegetarianism and inhibitions with regard to alcohol (i.e. outwardly rejected his association with the Brahmin community - p. 8).

142Samskāra deals with key issues which lie at the root of the crisis in which Indian culture finds itself today. Indian society is in transition from being an agricultural to a post-agricultural society, and the urban people who are caught in the transitional process feel that the cultural code which they have inherited contains too many incongruities for comfort. But these people are as yet only an avant-garde: they know that in time the crisis will engulf most, if not all of India, but what the writers among them have to say about this matter is still beyond the ken of many of their readers. To understand some of the profound difficulties which some Indian readers have with the novel, it is useful to turn our attention to two examples of criticism which have appeared on it.

  • 32 Vasantakumār 1983: 818-9.
  • 33 Ibid. p. 822.

143Candri is a symbol, just as the Brahmin women are one. Therefore remarks like these by critic M. Vasantakumār are totally beside the point: "This kind of generalization is not right. It is not correct to believe that women with dried-up breasts are to be found only among Brahmins, and that those who are buxom belong to the Sudra class. Also among Brahmins there are women who possess the full beauty of a well-built body.... Excellence or deficiency in bodily beauty does not depend on caste32" The critic has obviously totally failed to realize the symbolic qualities of the novel. The author would have been really astonishingly stupid if he had wanted to communicate such a view of feminine beauty. Nor has this critic been able to grasp what exactly has taken place in Prāṇēśācārya, for he says: "Nothing is true in life.... Nāraṇappa, who became a 100% materialist and led life like a non-believer finally dies pronouncing the name of God.... Prāṇēśācārya says goodbye to all 'values' he had believed in and sets out drooling for the physical enjoyment of a woman33" It should be clear that such a naive black-and-white view of the main characters of the novel does not do justice to the author's intentions; it is merely evidence that the critic conveniently skipped over those messages in the novel which did not neatly fit into his own view of things.

  • 34 Amur 1981: 25.
  • 35 Ibid. p. 26.
  • 36 Ibid. p. 30.
  • 37 tātvika paribhāsheya bhāradinda. Ibid. p. 29.

144In his remarkable discussion of the novel, critic G.S. Amur too sees a simple polarity: either Prāṇēśācārya must stay as he first was, or he must become another Nāraṇappa. Amur is upset that Anantha Murthy lets Nāraṇappa 'win'34 and has Prāṇēśācārya lose his Brahminhood and acquire a new set of values through his contact with the Mālēra Puṭṭa and others35. After my discussion above, it should be clear that Samskāra is not just a simple story 'for or against' Brahminical orthodoxy, just as Prāṇēśācārya does not become merely another Nāraṇappa. Though Nāraṇappa's and Prāṇēśācārya's predicaments are similar, Prāṇēśācārya is a much more intense person, who demands complete integrity from himself and at the end of the novel is still struggling to give a shape to his life, whereas Nāraṇappa stopped short of searching for a new significance to his life. Prāṇēśācārya continues where Nāraṇappa gave up. In general, Amur's discussion is highly unfair. He explicitly states that the novel cannot be judged on artistic grounds alone because. it deliberately tries "to question traditional values and establish Navya values36" He furthermore complains that the novel is a failure on account of the weight of philosophical terminology-37; he gives no examples of this, and I have not seen any myself. Presumably it is not so much a matter of words but rather of the different, unorthodox outlook which Anantha Murthy presents that causes difficulties: subtleties of thought rather than difficult language.

  • 38 Ibid. p. 28.

145Amur apparently cannot or does not want to see the novel as a symbolic creation; he rather treats it as though it were a sort of documentary about historical persons. Thus he thinks that he can give a valid alternative interpretation to Prāṇēśācārya and Candri's uniting: Candri is an opportunist who merely wants to become pregnant (i.e. Amur disregards all that we read in the novel about her feelings for Prāṇēśācārya and Prāṇēśācārya happens to be tired at the moment38. In other words: if only Prāṇēśācārya had not been fatigued and weakened by his vigil in the Māruti temple, the turning point of the novel would not have occurred. But this is precisely a possibility that is not at all interesting for the novel, i.e. for what the author is trying to tell us. Just as characters in real life, characters in a novel ought to be judged on the basis of the totality of their actions, against their own backgrounds and their own attitudes as given in the novel.

146The strait-laced, puritanical, priestly Prāṇēśācārya whom we see at the beginning of the novel is what Jung would call Prāṇēśācārya's persona, i.e. the consciously constructed image of oneself which one would like others to believe one really is. Because it is a conscious construct, it does not represent the psychical totality of the person, nor the spiritual truth about that person. Prāṇēśācārya demands complete integrity of himself and cannot pretend to uphold beliefs in which he has lost faith. He realizes that he is not the purely cerebral person whom he believed he was, and his actual behaviour, prompted by his inner, subconscious self, proves that he does not really believe in the idea of caste purity, which is one of the cornerstones of the whole orthodox doctrine according to which he has led his life. It is precisely because Prāṇēśācārya was fatigued at that crucial moment that the truth about Prāṇēśācārya overcomes his persona, and therefore he decides to go and tell the Brahmins of his agrahāra his truth: "This is the truth about me. It is not a confession of wrongs. It is not the repentence that I am a sinner. Just the harsh truth. The truth of my inner life" (p. 137; my emphasis).

  • 39 Ibid. pp. 28-9.

147Amur's criticism suggests that he would prefer a pious falsehood to the harsh truth, which is precisely what the novel denounces. It is the main message of the novel that truth and genuineness are preferable to a pretty lie. Amur is furthermore concerned to point out that because Prāṇēśācārya's weakness is the cause for his uniting with Candri, their union says something about Prāṇēśācārya and cannot shed light on any general principle.39 The principle is precisely that attention to individual needs and personal integrity are more important than outward, social orthodoxy. What both Vasantakumār and Amur fail to grasp is that Anantha Murthy does not simply substitute a new clear-cut code of conduct for an old one: the truth of Prāṇēśācārya's inner life is not necessarily that of all people, hence his way through life, as he sees it, is not that of all people. (Hence Amur does not tell us what the "Navya values" are which the novel supposedly tries to establish: they cannot be categorically stated.)

148We must also note here that Prāṇēśācārya nowhere condemns the other Brahmins: perhaps they are happy in their old way, but he cannot be. It is probably because these critics identify themselves strongly with religious orthodoxy and the culture which has produced it that they are shocked by the doubts which this novel expresses about that orthodoxy-to such an extent that they are blind to the numerous explicit explanations of Prāṇēśācārya's position in the text.

  • 40 Ramanujan 1976: 145.

149In the afterword to his translation of the novel, A.K. Ramanujan is somewhat apologetic about what some readers of Samskāra consider serious flaws in the book. "The central dilemma concerning the death-rite," so he writes, "need be no dilemma to a learned brahmin: the text Dharmabindu has an answer to this very question, and the guru of Dharmasthala has suggested a solution. No crow or vulture would ever touch a plague-ridden rat, every villager knows40." The inaccuracy about the crows and vultures is a pity, but this does not touch the main matter of the novel. And again here, as in the case of the supposed universal unattractiveness of Brahmin women, it is a mistake to say that the novel is a failure because there happens to be a ritualistic text somewhere that has a solution to the problem of Nāraṇappa's corpse. The central dilemma of the novel is not really that of Nāraṇappa's cremation: it is the dilemma that lies within Prāṇēśācārya, whether one should live a life of integrity, of which one can grasp the meaning, or whether one can continue following an orthodox lifestyle on the basis of ancestral authority, also when one is confronted with evidence that innerly one is not convinced about the principles that govern that orthodoxy. The issue of Nāraṇappa's body is a sort of catalyst, something that sparks off a series of events, all of which are more important (the hypocritical behaviour of the Brahmins; Prāṇēśācārya's union with Candri; Prāṇēśācārya's going to the cart festival in Mēlige with Puṭṭa and his experiences there). Even if there is a text with an orthodox solution, this does not change the truth of Prāṇēśācārya's inner life, which is the real central issue of the novel.

150Another author in Mysore told me that it is plainly unthinkable to have a corpse lying in a village for more than a day, and that in the worst case the villagers would have called some outcastes to come and dispose of it. Thus the catalytic incident of the novel is unconvincing for anyone who has had a first-hand experience of village life. This is indeed a very serious flaw in the composition of the novel, because of which a reader with a village background may remain unconvinced by what the author is trying to say. The author ought to have taken this into consideration while writing. But it seems exaggerated to say that therefore the whole novel should be written off as a failure. Urbanized readers have on the whole been moved by it, and this seems to justify the evaluation that Samskāra is basically an urban novel, in the sense that it deals with a problem and sentiments that are felt mainly by urbanized people who have lost touch with village life, although the narrative is - not completely successfully - placed in a rural setting.

  • 41 Ibid. p. 146.
  • 42 Kakar 1985 and 1987.

151"A more serious objection," Ramanujan writes, "is that the central figure projects... not the integrity of the four stages of life, in which desire (kāma) and the goods of the world (artha) are affirmed and celebrated in their time and place and it is a part of the design of dharma to do so41." Indeed there is an old Hindu notion of the four puruṣārtha-s or acceptable pursuits of man: erotic enjoyment, the enjoyment of wealth, the pursuit of religious merit and finally liberation from recurring rebirth in the world. In some way or the other, one is supposed to engage in all these pursuits in the course of time in order to lead a balanced life. (Exactly how this is to be done is again a matter that is decided by the various sectarian orthodoxies, not on the basis of an individual's karma and samskāra.) And this objection too, I would say, is utterly scholastic. Whatever an old tradition may say, the reality is that the ordinary present-day highcaste Hindu has his or her own typical sexual problems, as the renowned Indian psychologist Sudhir Kakar has pointed out42. The ancient notion of the four purusārtha-s is simply not functioning, and thus it has become an illustration of orthodoxy which has lost its meaning, rather than that it is a refutation of the message of the novel.

152What may seem somewhat disappointing about Samskāra, as well as about some other of Anantha Murthy's writings, is that in a way it is very unfinished. Samskāra is a description of a problem, and a solution is given only in the broadest terms: Prāṇēśācārya must give a shape to his own life on the basis of his own experiences and inner convictions, not adhering too rigidly to an inherited doctrine that is no longer fully convincing and satisfying. Though his path is individual, and the author no doubt consciously did not want to give his readers the impression that a standard, readymade, concrete solution can be given, one would have liked to see Prāṇēśācārya not so utterly adrift at the end of the book. This has no doubt shocked some of Anantha Murthy's critics, who see their cherished traditional ideas apparently replaced by nothing. Personally I have heard people say that Samskāra is "too Western", though they had difficulties in explaining this feeling. It may be that the general Indian lack of under standing of and appreciation for Western culture leads people to identify uprootedness and un-orthodoxy with 'Westernness'. Yet the existentialistic sort of thinking of Samskāra does seem to answer a need of the present time: the questioning of tradition and the claim of importance of the individual are strongly present in contemporary Kannada writing, even if most authors do not stress these matters quite as strongly as Anantha Murthy does.

1535.20 The common opinion among those who have read Anantha Murthy's novels seems to be that whereas Samskāra was artistically a great success, Bhāratīpura is a failure. What this probably means is that Samskāra, in its composition, is a relatively simple story and in its simplicity has a mythlike quality, which makes the narrative gripping and penetrating, whereas this is not the case with Bhāratīpura, which is a more contemplative and cerebral novel. The misfortune of Bhāratīpura therefore seems to be that it appeared after Samskāra. Had the earlier novel never been written, Bhāratīpura would certainly have received greater appreciation.

154Bhāratīpura is a more ambitious work than its predecessor and is a natural sequel to it: it too is largely a novel of decadence, hypocrisy and superstition, but it progresses beyond the range of the earlier novel in the personality of the protagonist. Samskāra ends abruptly, in the middle of a crisis, and leaves the reader wondering what may happen to the protagonist next. In Bhāratīpura, this existentialist awareness is already there in Jagannātha, the highly educated youth who has spent years in London, at the beginning of the novel. Jagannātha has a head start, so to say, over Prāṇēśācārya, the traditional pundit who has lived only in villages and in the orthodox environment of Benares earlier in this century. Bhāratīpura takes up where Samskāra leaves off.

1555.21 U.R. Anantha Murthy: Bhāratīpura

  • 43 For kunkuma cf. ch. 1 n. 73. In this case each devotee, also the men, will wear kunkuma when they (...)

156Jagannātha is a young man who, after five years of study in English literature in London, has returned to his native town Bhāratīpura, a well-known place of pilgrimage on account of the presence of the temple which houses the image of the god Manjunātha. Walking through town he sees young boys annoying pilgrims with offers of lodging in their parents' houses and often cheating them (p. 9). He meets Nāgarāja Jōyisa, a local astrologer with unconventional theories about many things, who tells him that this great god Manjunātha was imposed upon Bhūtarāya, the real god of the original inhabitants of the area, by some clever Brahmins who thereafter took over the shrine and the worship there (p. 12). Jagannātha continues his walk and wonders why there is nothing beautiful in this town-unless it is Jōyisa's Sanskrit poem on the greatness of Manjunātha, which has nothing very original about it. "God has made life sterile," he concludes, and he remembers how in Hyderabad a holy man named Śīnāli Bāba boarded the airplane: a charismatic character who is known throughout India and beyond and has local scientists and American hippies as devotees; the devotees lose whatever personality they have for the sake of god. In a letter to his beloved Margaret in Britain he writes that "unless we destroy god, we surely cannot become creative" (p. 14). The next day he meets his ex-schoolmate Vāsu who, after a checkered career with a theatre company and selling liquor, has now started a sweetmeat shop on the advice of Bhūtarāya (p. 16). Vāsu asks Jagannātha whether the rumour is true that he married an English girl; when Jagannātha says that he was indeed living with an English girl for some time, but did not marry her, Vāsu's reaction is: "Good. Clever fellow. So let's say you had some fun in England" (ibid.). Jagannātha feels disappointed that this man, with whom he had once been able to speak so intimately, wears the kunkuma43 of Bhūtarāya on his forehead and cannot realize that his living together with Margaret was neither 'clever' nor mere 'fun'.

157He then goes to call on Śrīpati Rao, the man who was his mother's confidant in practical matters while he was in England and who also encouraged him to go there: he had said that though Jagannātha had enough money to ruin his peace of mind and creativity, his life ought not to be so limited. And when Jagannātha returned to India immediately upon hearing the news of his mother's death, Śrīpati Rao sent him back, saying that he should first finish his studies there, and he, the śānubhōga (village accountant) and his aunt Cikki (who had been living in their house ever since she became a child-widow and who cared for Jagannātha as though he were her own child) were there to keep an eye on matters while he was away. Śrīpati Rao is an exceptional person in the town: "If not for Śrīpati Rao, Jagannātha would not have found any other world besides that of Manjunātha swami in this medieval Bhāratīpura" (p. 18). At Rao's home his wife accuses him of not being a little corrupt and not using his contacts in the government and relationships to get a job for their daughter; he and Jagannātha leave the house so that they can have a peaceful walk and a talk about bhūta-s (spirits which are worshipped in south-western Karnataka) and about how representative of Hinduism the Manjunātha temple is (p. 24).

158Every evening a few outcaste youngsters come to Jagannātha's house, where he tries to make them literate and to give them a sense of self-respect. After they have left he reads through a letter which he wants to send to a newspaper to announce a plan of his: on the third day of the big annual festival, for which devotees come from far and wide, he wants to lead a number of outcastes into the temple, which will mean utter ritual pollution and a desecration of the shrine. Through such an act, through such commitment, Jagannātha hopes to become a genuine human being.

  • 44 Nineteenth-century Bengali mystic, one of whose followers was Vivekananda.

159He then reflects on what he did in England, how he craftily exploited everyone around him, justified his loose lifestyle by calling himself a liberal and reading The Guardian, criticized the English puritan mentality and praised the French joy of life; how he pleased an Indian friend who felt hurt because an English girl had scolded him, and also pleased a respectable middle-class Englishman, by decrying European culture. He met Margaret in the pub of the university union when he was talking with Candraśēkhara, who had come to London after having become bored with middle-class life in Bangalore and now taught in slum schools. Margaret had come and introduced herself to Jagannātha, saying she had heard his sincere and moving speech about what it means to be an Indian in Britain; some elaborate sophisticated flirtation followed, and they went to her apartment in Bloomsbury. She had a portrait of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa44 on the wall, whom she admired after reading Isherwood because like Whitman he "accepts everything, rejects nothing". The next day they met again, had lunch and went to her parents' house, where her father, a doctor from Gujarat, addressed him in Hindi, which he did not understand; the man spoke English with a heavier accent than he had. Margaret's mother said Indians have dirty habits and that India is a "god-ridden country"; Margaret claimed that the British are to blame for India's poverty, her mother said that without the British the Indians would not have had any scientific outlook, and thus a brawl ensued; Margaret said that Britain is a wretched country with wretched people, she and Jagannātha returned to her room and spent the night there together making love (p. 39). Neither of them believed in marriage, and Jagannātha thought that it would be impossible for her to come and live with him in Bhāratīpura; they would have to settle down in Bangalore and live a wretched, artificial sort of life among snobs which would not suit her; there would be no alternative (p. 40).

160After some time Jagannātha began to have doubts about Margaret's affection for him, and this reached a height when one day she complained that "one can't really feel that you are there" and began praising Candraśēkhara because he suffered so much. Then he felt humiliated and decided to return to India and fight to achieve a personality of his own. His driver, who came to pick him up, was disappointed that he had not brought a new car from Britain; at Bhāratīpura the prominent citizens of the town all waited to welcome him. Śrīpati Rao reported on local politics. Later, when he was alone again in the evening, he reflected on life in Bhāratīpura: in debates in English pubs many people held that man alone is independent and that no social or political change can change man's existential reality; but here, in the lair of Manjunātha, such ideas look ridiculous. He loathes the śānubhōga, Visvanātha Śāstri, who is good with words, makes a show of piousness with a big dot of kunkuma on his forehead but enjoys secret mischief like having illicit sexual relations with lowcaste women, and Jagannātha, suspecting that Śāstri had been messing with the accounts in his absence, made him feel uncomfortable by demanding that he show them. One night Jagannātha saw two thieves steal areca nuts from his land; he followed them and was fascinated by the narrow trails and bylanes that he had never seen before. When he made the thieves know that they were caught, one of them pleaded with him to let them go, and they would show remorse before Bhūtarāya (p. 54). The man, Śīnappa, looked rather well off, hence should not need to steal: Jagannātha could not understand this and again wondered what he ought to do in order to penetrate into the thoughts of the common folk around him. He talked about the matter with Śīnappa's boss Janārdana Śeṭṭi, who then told him about Śīnappa's difficult circumstances, that he had to marry off a daughter, for which he needed money, and he also added some lurid details about the man's private life, e.g. that he is living with a woman who is his aunt, and not his wife, as he tells people. The next day, Śīnappa's daughter Kāvēri came to sweep the floors in Jagannātha's house: he lusted after her, and when she came to sweep his room he tempted her with a ten-rupee banknote; she took it and approached him sexually, but at the last moment he recoiled. He thought about the squalidness of life here and realized that life is meaningless if one does not give any meaning to it, and then the idea to prepare the outcastes to enter the temple flashed on him (p. 60).

161Looking for Śrīpati Rao in the town Jagannātha meets Nāgarāja Jōyisa again, who invites him inside his home. Jagannātha somehow sympathizes with Jōyisa's beautiful daughter-in-law Nāgamaṇi, who seems to be suffering and looks almost lifeless, as though she expects nothing from life any more. Jōyisa says that he is considering a lawsuit, since he has the right to be the temple priest instead of the man who at present occupies that position and who is a plain crook: he has stolen gold from the crown of Manjunātha, which Jagannātha's mother had given to the god for saving his life when he was seriously ill in childhood. They hear a shout, rush upstairs and discover that Nāgamaṇi has hanged herself. People rush in to show interest, Jagannātha feels disgusted and leaves (p. 73).

  • 45 To have darśana of a god is to see the image of that god in the temple. Since the god is believed (...)

162After some time he decides to inform Śrīpati Rao about his plan, but at first Rao is pessimistic. He says that there is no use in organizing such actions for creating awareness among the outcastes: the health minister and the district commissioner of police in Shimoga are both outcastes, but this has had no effect on all the others. Jagannātha accuses Rao of having surrendered to the status quo and hence talking in this gentle, liberal way, and he explains why the god Manjunātha should be destroyed. Rao asks why they should bother the outcastes, who want booze more than darśana of god45, and Jagannātha tells him that he feels a personal necessity to do something, whether he achieves his aim or not (p. 79).

  • 46 Khādi is rough, home-spun cotton produced mainly in rural areas. Mahatma Gandhi advocated the use (...)

163The next day the local paper carries his letter about making the outcastes enter the temple on the first page. He is thrilled, but his aunt is terrified and cannot speak to him; he goes downtown and notices how people look the other way or scowl at him, except the tailor (who has borrowed money from him). At the khādi46 shop Śrīpati Rao tells him that for some reason Rāghava Purāṇika, a big local landowner, has asked them to come visit him. Purāṇika married a widow in 1920, which led to his excommunication from the community to which he belonged, and he now leads a lifestyle which must be seen to be believed, Rao says. Then Venkaṭarāya Prabhu, the town's big merchant and one of its influential citizens, enters the shop and begins to chat. After some flattery and a show of liberalism and basic support for Jagannātha's ideals, he says that the entry of outcastes into the temple, with the resulting avoidance of the temple by the devotees from out of town, will lead to the town's economic collapse. Jagannātha argues that Prabhu's views on economics are medieval, like the economy of the town is; this is unnecessary, since the area is rich in metal ores, which can form the basis of a blooming mining industry. Prabhu says it will take long before the roads are improved, a railway link is provided and electricity comes to Bhāratīpura; he supports Jagannātha's effort, but says that only after electricity has come the influence of the god can decrease (p. 89).

164When Jagannātha and Śrīpati Rao reach Purāṇika's house, Jagannātha is taken aback by the exotic luxuriousness of the place. There is a showy sophistication about everything, including the artificiality of Purāṇika's BBCstyle English which he insists on speaking with his guests (he speaks Kannada with his servant). Jagannātha admires his collection of books and the large short-wave receiver; Purāṇika offers a strong drink, but Jagannātha has become fussy about alcohol since his return to India (p. 97). To Jagannātha's amazement Purāṇika's constant friend is one Avadhāni, who in his shabby rusticity forms a radical contrast with Purāṇika and who claims that he is a medium through whom Bhūtarāya once used to speak. Purāṇika advises Jagannātha that the only way to stay sane in India is to Westernize oneself and not attempt to change the country. He speaks from experience, for he too once was impatient with the things which he saw around him. For some time he was fascinated by Bhūtarāya, whom he considers a truer, more genuine kind of deity than Manjunātha (p. 102). Before leaving the house, they go to see Purāṇika's wife, who lives in the older, ancestral part of the house, which is entirely built in the traditional local style and must indeed be quite old ("My eccentricity made me build the other parts of the house," Purāṇika says). Jagannātha is touched by the gentleness between Purāṇika and his wife, and is surprised by the photograph of Manjunātha in the wife's room (p. 104).

  • 47 "Celibacy is Life, the Waste of Semen is Death". The book is also referred to in Anantha Murthy's (...)

165Usually some twenty guests would come to the house for their meals, but now, after Jagannātha’s letter has been published, nobody comes, much to his aunt's grief; but Śrīpati Rao comes, and also Subrāya Aḍiga. Aḍiga is a simple man with a passion for the divine, who has travelled all over India in pilgrimages, felt that it was his duty to have his child-widowed sister excommunicated when she became pregnant but thereafter had her live in his house. He had also collected some English books, which he would lend to Jagannātha, like Swami Shivananda's Brahmacaryavē jīvana vīryanāśavē mṛtyu47

166Jagannātha tries to explain to his aunt that a rebellion will give meaning to their lives, just like the struggle of the poor peasants of Vietnam against America, or the American negroes' struggle for equality; but according to his aunt, the outcastes are a hopeless bunch of creatures:

"I don't understand what you're saying, Jagaṇṇa. Now it's said the outcastes will get money if they send their children to school. Do you know what they do with that money? They waste it on drink. Besides saying that they should be uplifted, all you do is like performing a fire-sacrifice in water" (p. 119).

167Aḍiga again outlines his conservative views: as long as one is not an avadhūta (one who has lost all sense of attachment to this world), one should not criticize the ways of the people.

  • 48 The Harijana does not accept the slate as long as Jagannātha holds it, for through the slate he wo (...)
  • 49 Pañce: cf. n. 16.

168When the outcastes come to the house again one evening and Jagannātha explains to them his plan that they should enter the Manjunātha temple, they do not react at all. When he writes something on a slate and wants to hand it to Piḷḷa, one of the untouchables, Piḷḷa holds out his hands but does not grasp the offered slate, in order to avoid the indirect touch48: he suddenly lowers his hands. Jagannātha lowers the slate further, and Piḷḷa lowers his hands still further; this continues until it seems that Piḷḷa is trying to push his hands into the earth. Jagannātha tries to make friendly conversation with them and hears that Piḷḷa needs money for his planned wedding: Jagannātha offers him the money. Later, Jagannātha decides to buy white pañce-s49 and white shirts with collars for them to help make them feel more dignified. He considers visiting Purāṇika now and then, but then wonders whether that would not be a mere waste of time (p. 133).

169He gives the outcastes their white clothing, about which they feel very awkward (when they come the next time, Jagannātha sees that they have cut off half of their pañce-s and given away the material to their relatives, at their demand, for making underwear, since a half pance is enough for them). He has become big news, and various papers carry letters from many different kinds of people about his plan. Śrīpati Rao complains about their local parliamentarian, who will give a statement neither for nor against the entry of outcastes into the temple. A party called the Mysore Socialist Party ("Mysopa") has come out in favour of Jagannātha's plan, and Śrīpati Rao explains that the two leaders of that group are a Gowda and a Virasaiva, who broke away from the Socialist Party and formed their own party because they are casteists and just could not tolerate that the secretary of the Socialist Party was a Brahmin.

  • 50 Śāligrāma: cf. n. 21.

170In the street he meets the temple priest's son Gaṇēśa, who asks whether he may borrow some novels by Saratchandra; Jagannātha says he can come at any time. Suddenly he decides to visit Purāṇika again and give him a bottle of whiskey which he brought back with him from England; Purāṇika is highly pleased with the gift and asks whether Jagannātha has already succeeded in shocking their medieval town. Jagannātha feels impressed by a framed photograph taken when Purāṇika married his widowed wife and goes home with a satisfied feeling. There he notices what a contrast it forms with Purāṇika's home: it has a family fire that has been burning for centuries and a 1000-year-old śāligrāma50 stone which is still regularly worshipped by his aunt. In the evening the outcastes come again, and in an emotionally highly charged scene, with great difficulty on his part as well as theirs, he asks them to pollute the holy stone by touching it. Most of the household personnel leave the house, and Jagannātha orders Śāstri to give them an extra month's pay (p. 157).

171One evening Piḷḷa's parents come to the house in dismay because the police have taken away their son. Jagannātha goes to the police station to find out what has happened; the officer who is on duty tells him the details only after he has uttered threats that he will use his influence as a prominent citizen. Piḷḷa has been beaten brutally by the police during interrogation, and from the officer's words it is clear that they do not really consider Piḷḷa a being who deserves human treatment. He has been accused of assaulting a girl. Jagannātha takes him home, where he gives him first aid and hears Piḷḷa's version of the story: indeed he had become drunk and had lusted after the girl Kāvēri, but only after he had found a certain caste Hindu undressing her in the dark outside, and he had not even touched her (p. 169).

  • 51 The use of the grammatical plural is a sign of respect in almost all the modern languages of India (...)

172Śrīpati Rao advises Jagannātha to request police protection on the day of the planned temple entry; Jagannātha takes his car and drives to Shimoga to see the district commissioner and on the way gives a ride to Prabhu, Vasu and Nāgarāja Jōyisa. Jōyisa is going to Shimoga to see whether a second marriage for his son can be arranged, now that Nāgamani has died. Prabhu tells Vāsu that the new district commissioner is a thoroughly corrupt fellow who does nothing without first receiving a bribe. Vāsu begins telling a vulgar story about the wife of an outcaste who had become a minister: she did not understand what a toilet was for and hence began defecating on the bathroom floor in a hotel. Jagannātha tells him that he has become disgusting and should shut up. In Shimoga he finds the district commissioner, who has a Mādhva Brahmin attendant (to whom he speaks respectfully in the plural51). He speaks with high regard about Brahmins and speaks in what sounds to Jagannātha like a very artificial sort of Kannada. He requests Jagannātha to postpone the temple entry to some other day for the sake of public order, but Jagannātha refuses and leaves (p. 177).

  • 52 Cf ch. 2 n. 12.

173The two young academicians who lead the "Mysopa" arrive in Bhāratīpura, and Śrīpati Rao warns Jagannātha about them: he has overheard Rangarao's casteist remarks about Brahmins, how Nīlakaṇṭhasvāmi told him that it is a matter of strategy, and Rangarao actually went to the temple to get some of the god's prasāda52. The Brahmin Youth Association of Bhāratlpura condemns the idea of the temple entry in the newspaper, and the mail brings a letter from a sociologist in Mysore University who is known to be a model hypocrite and explains why Jagannātha's plan is useless: only industrialization and urbanization will be able to stamp out casteism (p. 181). A curt letter from Candraśēkhara says that Jagannātha's plan is a hoax and that he is incapable of loving the outcastes, because he is so narcissistic that he is incapable of really loving anyone. During dinner he hears Nīlakaṇṭhasvāmi's plans of how to exploit the situation for the wider promotion of certain ideas and their party (which later makes Śrīpati Rao say that nonBrahmins are shameless people), and Jagannātha thinks that in order to achieve anything it is necessary to become insensitive (p. 188). That night he gets a peculiar visit from Gaṇēśa, the priest's son: he says that Jagannātha should tell no one that he has come, that what he is doing is right, then takes some Saratchandra novels and leaves abruptly.

174A letter from Margaret arrives, in which she tells that her father has suddenly become very devotional, that she became fascinated with having Candraśēkhara as new company and 'gave herself to him', for which he should not be too distressed. The preparations for the outcastes' temple entry become a thing of national proportions. He becomes disgusted with the whole situation and visits Purāṇika again, who gives him his written form, in two versions, of a folk song on Bhūtarāya. On returning home he becomes angry with the Mysopa people, who seem to be fighting out a sort of casteist cold war between themselves and are clearly converting the temple issue into an occasion for propaganda for their party (p. 196).

175He goes to the outcaste settlement, where he is allowed to enter Piḷḷa's hut in spite of the common belief that if a Brahmin enters an outcaste's hut it will bring the outcaste grave misfortune. At night the outcastes'huts all burn down (Nīlakaṇṭhasvāmi says that he expected such political violence; Adiga says it is because they have touched the śāligrāma) and one boy is killed in the fire. Nīlakaṇṭhasvāmi takes photographs for publicizing the incident.

  • 53 Ram Manohar Lohia was an independent socialist thinker who formulated a variety of socialism that (...)

176A reporter comes from Bangalore, interviews Jagannātha and tries very hard to pigeonhole him by pinning labels on him like 'existentialist', 'Marxist' or 'Lohia-vādi'53, none of which Jagannātha likes. He takes a particular interest in the fanciful mythology and folklore of Bhāratīpura, and when later Jagannātha sees the man's article he sees in it a stress on his existentialism, his new-left acquaintances, his studies in England, the story of Manjunātha's crown, the touching of the śāligrāma, Piḷḷa's supposed rape attempt, the healing powers of the god of Bhāratīpura who represents Indian culture in its essence, the devotionalism of the district commissioner, the belief that Bhūtarāya will punish any outcaste who tries to enter the temple, and it ends with the remark that if Jagannātha is a true atheist, then there is no point in his leading the outcastes into a temple, nor is such an action necessary for the upliftment of the outcastes, as the example of the district commissioner shows (pp. 215-7). Later Jagannātha receives an anonymous letter written in a quaintly old-fashioned polite style which stresses Jagannātha's high birth and threatens that if indeed he continues with his plan to lead the outcastes into the temple the letter-writer will feel forced to besmirch his mother's reputation by publicizing that she had extra-marital love-affairs. Jagannātha's solves his doubts about his mother quickly, but what worries him is the question whether he has a right to destroy the god if he is so particular, and can become so worried, about something like his mother's marital fidelity or Margaret's behaviour (p. 225).

  • 54 A linga is a representation of the god Siva, resembling a short Pillar with a slightly rounded top (...)

177Gaṇēśa detests his father, the temple priest, and at night he decides to take revenge on all that has been making his life cramped and miserable by entering the temple with a crowbar, digging out the Manjunātha linga54 and throwing it in the nearby river. When he returns home he is confronted by his angry father, in panic he throws the crowbar at him, his father slumps to the ground, he rushes back to the temple and locks himself in the inner sanctum, determined to hide there until Jagannātha and the outcastes come the next morning (pp. 230-7).

178In the morning the outcastes come to the temple after having drunk heavily to gather courage, and after some hesitation they enter. Gaṇēśa comes out of hiding and takes refuge in Jagannātha's house, until the police come to arrest him to preserve public order and because Prabhu has accused him of stealing the god's golden crown. The news is again reported from Bangalore, with an emphasis on the belief of the crowd of believers that Gaṇēśa is actually Bhūtarāya, who has come to save the image of Manjunātha from being polluted by the presence of the outcastes. Before going to a meeting where further actions are to be discussed, Jagannātha goes to the bathroom to wash his face and overhears how Aḍiga and his aunt discuss the details of the preparations for the reinstalment of the image in the temple (p. 246).

1795.22 The tone of the novel is coloured by the frequent use of the word nija, "genuine" or "true", and it clearly acquires an existentialist meaning: the person who is nija forms a contrast with the hypocrites, and hypocrisy acquires a number of different forms in Bhāratīpura. There is the poltical hypocrisy of the local parliamentarian Gurappa Gowda: during the independence movement he was a member of the Justice Party, but in 1947 he suddenly found it more profitable to jump onto the Congress bandwagon; as a Congressman, who should therefore make a show of upholding the ideas of Gandhi, he cannot say that the outcastes should not come, but neither can he say that they should enter the temple, for that would mean that he would lose votes (p. 143), so while preparations are being made for entering the temple, he safely stays far away in Bangalore. Similarly the leaders of the Mysore Socialist Party are only half interested in the Bhāratīpura issue: by using the issue for propaganda for their party they want to further their own political careers and achieve some personal gain, just as the party was created for their personal gain and basically inspired not by any idealistic progressive motive but by mere anti-Brahminical casteism. 'Genuineness', which is what Jagannātha demands of himself and desires to see in others, is placed in opposition to blind faith, acquiescence, opportunism, hypocrisy; it demands personal commitment and honesty, and is not aimed at any quick material benefit but at inner satisfaction. Thus it combines elements of individualism and rationalism.

180Fundamental to the novel is the religiously inspired kind of hypocrisy, of which we see the most extreme example in the temple priest Sītārāmayya. He gives himself the god's "special prasāda" (p. 229), leads an archaically orthodox life and with merciless authoritarianism demands the same of his son Gaṇēśa (see below), whom he has already destined to be his successor. He says it is outrageous that Jagannātha plans to ruin the purity of the god by leading the outcastes into the temple, which is "a hundred thousand years old; people say that except for Benares there is no other holy place with so much supernatural power" as though Jagannātha has forgotten that the golden crown which the image of the god wears has saved his life (p. 232); but at the same time Sītārāmayya steals some of the gold from that crown for ornaments for his second wife, his daughters and himself (p. 233). Then there are also people who make a show of their piousness to create a favourable impression on others, like the selfish and dishonest śānubhōga Śāstri or the district commissioner Satyaprakāśa who, now that he has risen to one of the higher, more influential and prestigious positions in society, wants to disown his social background and become a part of the establishment, as is shown by his criticism of outcastes and his praise for Brahmins, who are the traditional custodians of culture whose ways many try to emulate. The merchant Prabhu's hypocrisy is commercially inspired. Prabhu's way of doing business is well known throughout the district: in World War II he made a fortune by black-marketing, and with the coming of independence he suddenly began wearing khādi. When Jagannātha renounces his post of dharmadarśi - an influential administrative function in the temple-in protest when the president comes to Bhāratīpura to offer worship to Manjunātha, Prabhu is quick to snatch up the job. He does not directly oppose Jagannātha's idea of having the outcastes enter the temple, and perhaps he does not really care either, though what he tells Vāsu in the car on their way to Shimoga about the district commissioner may indicate that he is a casteist; but he is concerned about what the effect will be on the number of pilgrims coming to Bhāratīpura and hence on the economy of the town, and therefore tries to persuade Jagannātha to let things remain as they are.

181Fifthly, there is the intellectual hypocrisy of the Mysore sociologist Rāmēśacandra:

Rāmēśacandra was an extremely simple picture of Indian hypocrisy. He would argue with deep faith: it is all right if Sudra women are debauchees; but Brahmin women should not be so; there are no neurotics in India; Indian culture is greater than European culture; we would not have had electricity and railways if the British had not come to India and taught us English; independence should have come still later; it is wrong to give suffrage to illiterates; these British people, who keep talking about cleanliness, don't wash their arses, do they? - etc.... Rāmēśacandra's life took on a form just like Jagannātha had suspected. Believing in the purity of Indian women, he loved a girl in England. Jagannātha knew that Rāmēśa knew that although he loved her, he would never marry her. After deserting her and returning, he savoured the sorrow of love tragedies which he enjoyed in Western literature. Back in India he praised the cleanliness, honesty and political maturity of Westerners, and he became a favourite with an executive engineer who was a Hoysala Karnataka [member of Rāmēśa's caste]. After having interviewed a number of women he married that man's daughter, who wasn't all that beautiful. On his visiting card he added 'M.A. (London)'after his name (pp. 180-1).

182Jagannātha thoroughly detests all these kinds of hypocrisy and wants to associate with people of like mind to expose all such sham and become a genuine person himself: he needs new experiences and discussions to remain alert, discover more about himself and improve himself, besides criticizing society around him, for he believes in the idea that one should first remove the rafter from one's own eye before commenting on the straw in the eye of another. We see this very clearly towards the end of the novel, after he has received the vicious letter with the threat that the anonymous writer will slander the memory of his mother. He sees his leading of the outcastes into the temple not as an isolated act of limited significance, but as an expression of a whole new way of looking at life and the world, a reassessment of the individual and his place in society. This includes a reassessment of the relationship between men and women; and if he can be upset, albeit for only a very short time, about his mother's reputation and whether she maintained an absolute orthodox marital fidelity, then he must reconsider how firmly, how genuinely he believes in the value system which he believes is his - if his faith in it is not totally genuine, then he has no moral right to demand a radical action from others, no right to "destroy the god". But he overcomes his doubt, affirms his faith and disregards the vulgar threat in the letter.

  • 55 Cf. n. 47.

183In Jagannātha's view of life, which is a form of existentialism, the true human is an individual. He may cooperate with other individuals in groups to achieve aims which they hold in common, but also in such a case the individual must be personally committed to the action: he must be completely honest to himself, believe in the action and participate in it with his entire personality. Only in this full consciousness of commitment is the individual a genuine, nija human being. One must be aware of and accept personal responsibility for one's actions. The kinds of hypocrisy as sketched above are various ways in which people can be not genuine, i.e. false, less than truly human; but one can also be not genuine in a less mendacious manner, and this is expressed by the characters of Aḍiga and Jagannātha's aunt Cikki. Cikki is an example of the simple-minded sort of soul who, though she can be very affectionate, never has a thought which can be really be called her own. She has obviously never given much thought to the religious and social traditions which she has followed, and the fact that she has lived in her sister's house ever since she became a child-widow, looks very significant here. She is terrified by Jagannātha's plan with the outcastes, on whom she looks down as hopeless creatures anyway, she is deeply upset when the twenty-odd Brahmins who daily come to their house for meals stay away, and when she becomes upset again by Jagannātha's attempt at explaining to her why he believes that the temple entry is necessary, she says: "If you get married, everything will be all right. If your mother had still been alive, all this wouldn't have happened" (p. 126). That this statement comes from the mouth of a child-widow, who has never experienced what marital life really means, underlines its thoughtlessness. On the last page of the novel, after the outcastes have entered the temple, when the central drama of the narrative is over and the social and cultural reformers meet to discuss the next step to take in the ongoing struggle, the aunt sits with Aḍiga and hears from him the details about the planned reinstalment of the image in the temple, i.e. the reinstatement and continuation of the old, traditional order. We find a similar mentality, more grotesquely, in the silly Brāhmaṇa yuvajana sabhā ("Brahmin Youths' Association"), which protests against Jagannātha's plan and whose sign he sees over the vegetable shop. When he had returned from England, he had become curious and had tried to find out what was happening in this association, only to discover that the idle children of more or less wealthy people gather there and play cards all afternoon in a dilapidated and depressing room with obligatory pictures on the wall of Mother India with the Himalayas for her hair and of Gandhi spinning thread (p. 63). It is another representation of traditionalistic sterility. Aḍiga's traditionalistic sterility, which is also a fear of leading a full life, is illustrated by his reading of a book by a yogi titled "Celibacy is Life, the Waste of Semen is Death55."

  • 56 For Śankarācārya cf. ch. 3 n. 12. The name has also become a title of the mathādhipati-s of the ma (...)
  • 57 We may note in passing that precisely this was one of the objections raised against advaitavēdānta(...)

184Another example of traditionalistic non-genuineness is shown by Aḍiga. The relationship between Aḍiga and Jagannātha is more complex: in earlier days, when his desire for god had become unbearably intense and made him mad for some time, Jagannātha had great admiration for him and actually imitated him (p. 111). He is convinced that Aḍiga is basically a good man and a man of strong convictions, but after the fire in the outcaste settlement he finds out that Aḍiga's beliefs and behaviour, however intensely they may express themselves at times, actually conform to accepted norms in society and justify them. Aḍiga's otherworldliness is a convenient way of avoiding confrontations with the corruption of this world, of taking any stand and committing oneself to any action, as Jagannātha tells him: "Your mysticism and your Śankarācārya56 are just a means of supporting this order" (p. 206), to which Aḍiga retorts: "Because of your anger, you only become false" (Ninna kōpadinda nīnu suḷḷāgta idi aṣṭe - ibid.). In this short quarrel we see the fundamental clash of the two Weltanschauungen in its essence. According to Aḍiga's advaita, the universe is in reality one unitary principle which we fail to recognize as such because we are the victims of a cosmic illusion, and any action on our part within the manifested universe means our involvement in its falsehood, in a silly dream. In Jagannātha's existentialism, this kind of philosophy is bogus, because it effectually denies the basis of all our awareness and knowledge and robs the individual of his humanity57.

185Reaping an easy profit from the existence of these various kinds of hypocrisy and stupidity is the reporter from Bangalore, who represents another kind of non-genuine being. He is not really interested in finding out what is happening and why it is happening, but just wants a story full of the kind of sensationality that people like to lap up unthinkingly. The man's 'conclusions' are nothing but a distortion of what has happened in Bhāratīpura, a distortion with the instruments of established beliefs and old superstitions, which is what the established order and its mindless collaborators want because it gives them an illusion of being right.

186Are there, then, any characters in the novel who are really genuine and exemplary? Jagannātha's greater familiarity with this kind of thinking developed while he was in London (this does not mean, however, that it is a part of his personality which he acquired entirely when he was abroad, under foreign influence: his earlier admiration for arid appreciation of Adiga and Śrīpati Rao show that already before he went abroad, he felt that the traditional pattern of life in Bhāratīpura was cramped and that he had to look for new ways of living in order to lead a richer life; and he knows that much of what he hears in discussions in London about the individual and his place in society may be applicable to modem western Europe but not to India), but the people with whom he associates most have their own problems.

  • 58 Christopher Isherwood was a Western popularizer of neo-Vedanta in the form preached by Vivekananda (...)

187Margaret Desai is a highly meaningful character in the novel. Her father is a Gujarati physician who emigrated to Britain, settled there and married an indigenous woman: their marraige is a very crude and coarse version of the East-West encounter in an unsuccessful form, and because the disparity between the two spouses is so great, no rapprochement between them is possible. The result is that not only the two parents are unhappy with their lives, but instead of some kind of harmonious blending of the two cultures taking place in the person of their daughter Margaret, she ends up with a split personality, hating her mother's country, where she lives, with its people, but not being rooted in India either, where she could never enjoy the same freedom of thought, movement and behaviour that she has in Britain. Jagannātha feels strongly attracted to her - not only does she provide a possibility of social contact with a young woman who is not a relative of his, with whom he can speak out freely and discuss honestly and openly any matter he wants to, which would not have been possible in India; because she is a Eurasian she has, be it however superficially, some idea of what India means and some sympathy for an Indian man living in Britain. Jagannātha admires certain aspects of the European culture which he sees around him and wants to come to grips with it personally, and Margaret seems the ideal person to help him bridge the culture gap. Like him, she too is a seeker for a new way of life who wants to gather more experiences and explore the possibilities which life has to offer; this similarity between them makes Jagannātha believe that they can begin a meaningful man-woman relationship, and he commits himself personally to her. But we see that what looks like an intellectual, progressive, exploring and experimenting mentality in her is in reality not much more than mental and emotional instability caused by the gruesome disharmony at home, where she grew up: she cannot be Indian and she refuses to be British. In this instability she has hardly any clear and fixed ideas about anything: thus she enjoys the books of Christopher Isherwood ("an author similar to Forster, isn't he?")58, tosses Ramakrishna, Paramahamsa and Walt Whitman on one heap and vaguely admires them because they "accept everything, reject nothing. Persons who take in the whole variety of creation." Jagannātha calls them "bags that can be filled with anything. Their personalities are like pudding," and the only thing that Margaret has to say in her and their defence is "I don't agree" (p. 37).

188She has no firm opinions, feels a sort of sentimental attraction towards Indian men (no doubt as a result of her projecting her image of her father on them, and we do not see her make any attempt genuinely to understand the men with whom she becomes involved), and the relationship between her and Jagannātha soon deteriorates into a sloppy sexual affair. She humiliates Jagannātha by saying that he does not exactly fit her romantic ideal (he does not show enough suffering, unlike her father and Candraśēkhara), and when he has left for India it takes only a short while for his place to be taken by Candraśēkhara as her next lover. But for Jagannātha the results of the short relationship last much longer. He takes Margaret's rejection of him ("One can't really feel that you are there.... you are not enough of a man" - p. 41) seriously: he already felt that he was not leading the life he should, and this rejection from a woman with whom (however wrongly) he expected a personal fulfilment seems to confirm that opinion of himself, hence he wants to develop a personality which he can call really his own and live in accor-dance with it. He cannot live in a non-committal fools' paradise like she does. Jagannātha (the Sanskrit name means "protector of the world") wants to be creative, take responsibility for his own life and be solidary with fellow humans, also the humble folk whose task it is to keep the town clean by emptying the outhouses of all the fine high-caste people who live in the centre of the town and walking around with baskets of excrement on their heads. - His other companion in London, Candraśēkhara, is another obvious hypocrite, complaining about the way he is discriminated against in England while at home in Bangalore he discriminated against everyone who was not a Brahmin like himself (p. 33).

189Another key character in the novel, though he does not appear very frequently, is Purāṇika. From what we hear about his past from Śrīpati Rao, and from his own words, it is clear that once he was an "impatient" young man like Jagannātha. What exactly happened to him after that is not clear, and is not very relevant either; what matters is the result that his disappointment had on his lifestyle. For disappointed he is:

"The only way is to westernize ourselves.... This country grabs you by the neck when you are weak.... In India we live in the womb of God. Perhaps you can save yourself [Jagannātha] and a few others like you. But collective action is impossible. Therefore I say - Westernize yourself. Stay sane. But don't attempt to change this country. She is amorphous" (pp. 100-1).

190Hence he chooses to live in isolation. Because of his bad health he cannot emigrate to Europe and instead builds up an encapsulated environment where he lives a life of enjoyment of literature and music, mentally reconstructing faraway places (thus he asks Jagannātha the question, which for him has become very important, whether, when entering London's Fleet Street from the end opposite the dome of St. Paul's, one can see the pub which Dr. Johnson frequented on the left or the right side - p. 98). He has given up his struggle to improve India and has turned his back on her so thoroughly that he refuses to speak anything but English (except when it is absolutely necessary to use Kannada, e.g. to his servant). Because he has cut himself off in this manner from his natural environment, he only creates for himself, in his mind, and he has ceased to be creative in the world, with and for other people. But his detachment, at the same time, does not involve his whole personality: he cannot free himself from his background completely, and a sentimental tie remains, as is strongly suggested by the fact that he tolerates his wife, with whom he has a very affectionate relationship, keeping a picture of the Manjunātha on the wall of her room in the old, ancestral part of the house, though for him Manjunātha is a symbol of hypocrisy. The composite architecture of the house seems very meaningful if we look at it from the point of view of C.G. Jung's interpretation of house-imagery in dreams, in which a detailed house represents the dreamer's personality.

191The novel does not end with an all-too-easy happy end or with dire gloom. Jagannātha's action with the outcastes is only a partial success: though he has not achieved all that he wanted, he has contributed something towards an improved self-awareness among the outcastes and has started a movement that will continue the struggle. The two deities of Bhāratīpura too communicate to us a potential of positive change. Again it is Purāṇika, aloof on his estate, who introduces the message: he once became interested in Bhūtarāya,

"...who, according to me, is the God of passion and psychic energy. Unlike Manjunātha who represents the intellectual and religious aspect of Indian thinking. Which is hypocritical-I needn't add that.... I wondered why and how he [Bhūtarāya] came to be..."
"Subjugated -" Jagannātha added.
"Yes, subjugated to the Nirguṇa Brahman, the God of the hypocritical Indian liberal" (p. 102).

192Also Nāgarāja Jōyisa tells Jagannātha in the opening pages of the novel how once the Brahmins came to Bhāratīpura and declared the indigenous god Bhūtarāya ("king of the demons") subordinate to Manjunātha, who is apparently considered a 'manifestation' or something of the kind of the nirguṇa brahman, "the ultimate reality without attributes" which is the supreme being in advaita-vēdānta. When at the end of the novel the mob of devotees believes that Ganeśa is a form of Bhutarāya who has come to protect Manjunātha cannot survive, and the people welcome his coming. Bhutarāya represents something elementary, a raw creative energy that can be set free with tremendous effect, such as we see in the two versions of a folk song which Purāṇika gives Jagannātha and in both of which an outcaste appears who is instrumental in setting free that energy and destroying the town - which is thoroughly diseased and decadent.

193Anantha Murthy, in this novel, is not criticizing a state of affairs in a geographically very limited area: there are several passages in which a character states that Manjunātha and his temple is an object of worship for people from all over India, and the president of the country offers his worship there; on pp. 24-5 Śrīpati Rao says: "If you want to know what Hinduism is, you must come to this temple of ours." Probably the author, with his Bhāratlpura (a name which may mean "Indian town") suggested just this, just as his Śīnāli Baba, the holy man who boards the airplane in Hyderabad, is obviously modelled after another well-known Baba. It seems that what he has to say concerns a mentality and a state of culture which pervade the whole of India.

1945.23 Conclusions

195Though I have placed this chapter on works which deal with the problems of modernization at the end of this study, it can in a sense be called the chapter which deals with the most crucial issues in Kannada literature and society. Many of the problems which we have seen discussed in previous chapters would not have arisen if the complex of intellectual, scientific, technological, economical and social change, which we may call modernization, had not been taking place. The works which have been discussed in the present chapter can be placed in a meaningfully illustrative sequence, though I have not deliberately chosen them for this reason.

196Yashwanth Chittals story Mallinātha may look comical, but if one gives some thought to the process of change which is the theme of the story, one notices a tragical undertone in the confrontation of two highly different Weltanschauungen. Uggā Bhaṭṭa sees everything in what he considers religious terms; his type of traditional religiosity dominates his view of life so strongly that whatever deviates from the cultural pattern with which he is familiar cannot be other than irreligious-hence the terms of abuse which he mutters to himself in condemnation of the captain's way of life ("heretic", "non-believer") all have religious connotations. In spite of this cultural clash between the traditional, religious pattern and the new, secular pattern, the new pattern holds a certain fascination for Bhaṭṭa and also carries a certain prestige, largely because its fascination wins the popular admiration of the villagers. When Bhatta sees that the prestige that once was associated with his way of life has shifted to the captain's, he tries to enter the new prestigious circle and familiarize himself with some aspects of the new pattern. He begins with literary taste, and fails utterly.

197Poornachandra Tejaswi's Aba cūrina pōstāfisu is in a way very similar to Chittal's story, the main difference being that the protagonist is not an old-fashioned Brahmin but a more humble fellow. The opening of the post office in Abacūru means the introduction of a modem institution, which demands an ethic which is unfamiliar to the villagers: it does not occur to Bōbaṇṇa, nor to the other villagers, that postal articles are private property, or that mail ought to reach the addressees promptly. As in Mallinātha, a new thing is introduced from outside, but the villagers have not been able to grasp the implications of the innovation or innerly adapt themselves to it.

198In Anantha Murthy's Samskāra the confrontation of the old and the new becomes more dramatic, and the analysis goes deeper. For the whole of his life, Prāṇēśācārya has lived in accordance with the inherited ancestral orthodoxy: then he realizes that though all that he has studied and imbibed from his ancestors looks profound, beautifully constructed and complete, it is not his own, personal, inner truth. He has tried very hard to be something he is not, has tried to believe in this, succeeded for a long time but has failed in the end; he then decides to take his life in his own hands and give it a new shape. It is not yet quite clear to him what that shape will be, but one thing is certain: the old, inherited lifestyle is no longer acceptable. There may not be much in the novel that strikes the reader as particularly 'modern', besides the magic lantern and the bottled aerated drinks at the fair at Mēḷige, but in essence the problem of Samskāra is the problem of those Indians who are caught in the process of modernization: confronted with new experiences which were previously unheard of, the traditional norms and outlook on life lose much, if not all of their meaning.

199The kind of problems which can arise when a person with a traditional sense of values lives in metropolitan Bombay is shown in Vyasaraya Ballala's Bhāva bandhana. The protagonist Śārade has married a person of her own choice; her husband catches tuberculosis and must recover in a sanatorium while she is pregnant, and he receives no salary during his illness. This could happen to anyone, yet her traditionalistic father thinks of their plight as a curse. Just as he cannot accept the manner in which his first daughter married, he cannot accept that Kamala steps out of a general compartment of a suburban train. He creates a scene on the spot and at home, though nothing has happened that can really be called reprehensible. Kamala acted thus only because she was concerned about her brother-in-law, but their father is so terrified by the social changes that take place around him that he interprets her behaviour as another obvious example of the moral degeneration of his children.

200In T.G. Raghava's story Śrāddha we are in an urban setting which, in the case of the protagonist's own immediate environment, is still dominated by traditional religious notions. The śrāddha of the title becomes a symbol of an older stage of the culture, which has lost its inner meaning for the protagonist and is no more than a set of superstitious practices supported by ignorance. Yet this traditionalism weighs heavily on the protagonist: there are emotional associations (the śrāddha is performed on his father's death anniversary, commemorating his father, grandfather and great-grandfather; he is reminded of the difficult relationship he had with his father) which prevent him from being totally detached from it, though consciously he dismisses the ritual as nonsensical.

201Shantinath Desai's novel Vikṣēpa takes us yet another step further. Rāhula, the protagonist, has been thoroughly exposed to the new lifestyle of Bombay, finds the old lifestyle of his home town totally meaningless and has dismissed it altogether, granting only that it may afford some certainties in life to those people who can tolerate it. Unable to live a meaningless life, he searches for new meanings that can take the place of the old ones; he wants to move forwards, wants to renew and develop himslef (and his environment) but has to face the stolid traditionalism of his relatives on the one hand and the immaturity and shallowness of his friends of his own age, who are dissatisfied like him but are cowardly (Mādhavi), cynical (Sirīn), highly disturbed (Raṇajita) or too insecure and in search of some sort of ready-made, secure, comprehensive doctrine for life which can take the place of the traditional doctrine (Vaidehi, Aravinda). The novel demonstrates how an individual, when he questions the old culture, must turn back to himself and investigate his own existential (in the 'existentialist' sense of the word) situation in order to find new meanings.

202Finally, in Anantha Murthy's Bhāratīpura we see the difficulties of a person who has largely passed through the phase of seeking for new meanings and wants to convert his convictions into public action. Protagonist Jagannātha has undergone an inner change, has adopted a new way of thinking, but his home environment in Bhāratīpura has not. He sees how (quasi-) religious reasoning supports what he considers social injustice; he then tries to expose this injustice and destroy it by striking at the root of the evil, the religious system, through winning the confidence and sympathy of the outcastes and leading them into the main temple. But he has not sufficiently considered the difference in awareness and perception between him and the outcastes, or rather between him and almost everyone else in the town: therefore his plan is too hasty, he fails to replace the old way of thinking and its accompanying value system and social hierarchy by a new one. Because Jagannātha underestimated the complexity of the situation, the series of events which he triggers gets out of his control, and the ultimate consequences of what he began are a far cry from what he initially set out to achieve.

  • 59 Personal letter d. August 20th, 1986.

203Except for Chittal's and Tejaswi's stories, we read in all these writings that the cultural change is something that enters the lives of the characters either from urban centres or directly from abroad. Urban centres in India are, so to say, the ports of entry for Western influences of various kinds (educational, scientific, artistic, social, commercial, etc. - 'cultural' in the broadest sense of the word). In Chittal's story, change comes through the character of the army officer, and Desai has chosen a military officer as one of the characters in his Vikṣēpa, the husband of Rahula's aunt) because "Military officers, too, are Westernized and alienated people59." In the case of Tejaswi's story, the post office which is introduced in Abacuru is of course the local manifestation of the modern postal system which was introduced in India by the British. Ballala's story and the larger part of Desai's novel are set in Bombay, which is the most industrialized, most highly urbanized, in short: most modem, or: most 'Westernized' (if we use the word with the loose meaning which it usually has in India) part of India. Also in Niranjana's Banaśankari, Anupama Niranjana's Snehapallavi, N. Chandrashekhara's Sarasvatipuradallondu hebbettina gurutu and Bhyrappa's Vamśavṛkṣa we see the influence of urbanization.

204In previous chapters we have already seen how the influence of modem education is a major influence in social change (cf. Bhyrappa's novels, Kattimani's Janivāra mattu śivadāra, Desai's Kṣitija, N. Chandrashekhara's _ Sarasvatipuradallondu hebbeṭṭina gurutu), whereas M.K. Indira's novel Phaṇiyamma tells us that the mere introduction of technological innovations, such as new means of transportation, is not enough to bring about a change in the mentality of people. This is understandable, since education deals more directly with the manner in which people think than the buying of a railway ticket does. Furthermore, and this is very significant in connection with what I have remarked in the preceding paragraph, we must notice that almost everywhere where we see a questioning of tradition, the presence of the English language is very prominent. I will return to this matter in the concluding chapter of this study.


1 Basavaṇṇa's vacana no. 820 (tr. Zvelebil 1984: 102).

2 Jaspers 1960: 118-9.

3 Ahankāri. This word too is not totally devoid of a religious connotation, considering that generally in the indigenous religions of India, one must renounce all attachment to the ego in order to obtain salvation.

4 Toffler 1981: 40.

5 This is, I know, a somewhat impressionistic statement. The differences are individualism, a lessening of communal ties, etc. The question of how Bombay Kannada literature differs from other Kannada literature may demand a study of its own.

6 This is one whose job is to carry lunches made by housewives in the suburbs to their working husbands (in this case, sister) elsewhere in Bombay. The main consideration behind this practice is the ritual purity of food made in the home.

7 Certain train coaches are reserved for women, since it is very common that unaccompanied women are harassed by men. Similarly one finds certain bus seats reserved for women; and also in the case of seats which are not thus reserved, it is frowned upon in many parts of India if a man sits down next to a woman, or vice versa.

8 A registered marriage is one without religious rituals, which demands only the speaking of an oath before the municipal registrar of marriages and the signing of some legal documents.

9 In Pondicherry there is an asrama for religious seekers, founded by the religious thinker and teacher Sri Aurobindo Ghosh.

10 Yama is the Vedic god of death. To 'go to the house of Yama' means to die.

11 Personal letter d. August 20th, 1986.

12 Ibid. Most members of this caste speak Konkani as their mother tongue and have ancestral ties with the Western coastal region.

13 Sādu is a black paste which is worn by orthodox men when they sit down to have their meal and remains visible also after the meal as a sign that they have eaten.

14 Cf. ch. 1 n. 59.

15 Cf. ch. 1 n. 42.

16 A pañce (Sanskrit dhautra, also known by the Urdu-Hindi word dhōti) is a long and broad strip of cloth which is wrapped around the lower part of the body and tied in such a manner as to form a men's lower garment; the end result somewhat resembles a loosely fitting pair of trousers.

17 A paijāma (from which the English expression 'pyjamas' is derived) is a loosely fitting pair of trousers, generally of white cotton, of North Indian origin.

18 Namely by A.K. Ramanujan: samskāra. OUP (Indian branch), 2nd ed., 3rd impression, 1985. In the following summary, I have quoted passages from Ramanujan's translation; quotes in the discussion are my own translations.

19 Cf. ch. 3 n. 12.

20 Mādhva-s are the adherents of the doctrine of dvaitavēdānta, a pluralistic, theistic doctrine first expounded by Madhvācārya (1238-1317 CE).

21 A śāligrāma or śāligrāma is a particular black stone of great ritual importance to Vaishnavas (devotees ot Vishnu) like the Mādhva-s. Water that is poured over this stone becomes sanctified, and if the stone is not treated properly, the power that is stored in it may have devastating effects on the household where it is kept.

22 Cf. ch. 1 n. 59.

23 'Aḍḍapankti' Brahmins is an abusive term for particular Smārta-s (the Mūgūru Karnāṭaka caste), who for some unclear reason are considered by other Brahmins to be impure during certain hours of the day; thus they are a danger to the purity of other Brahmins and are not permitted to have meals while sitting in the same pankti (row) as the others.

24 Ramanujan translates: "...have gone astray and become an outcaste".

25 A muttaide is an 'auspicious' married woman (see chapter 1), who can become inauspicious by the death of her husband. Originally a nityamuttaide or 'ever auspicious' woman was a woman who was ritually married to a god and performed certain functions in the temple of the god. Later the institution degenerated into temple prostitution, and the term was interpreted to mean one who cannot become a widow because she will always have another 'husband'. The daughters of these women as a rule followed in their mothers' footsteps.

26 …manage dōṣavilla (p. 63). Ramanujan translates: "These things don’t apply to me" (p. 61), which does not mean quite the same.

27 A rathōtsava or car festival' is a festival during which the local god (in the form of a small, portable image) is placed on a gigantic chariot, which is pulled in a religious procession by numerous devotees. See also R. Khasnis' Tabbaliyu (§2.21).

28 At rathōtsava-s and on other such occasions Brahmins are offered free meals.

29 A mālēra is a person of mixed caste, of a Brahmin lather and a non-Brahmin mother. Because of their mixed parentage they are considered inferior people. See also M.K. Indira's Phaṇiyamma (§ 1.12) and ch. I n. 47.

30 Krishnamurthi 1970: 214.

31 Ibid. pp. 213-4.

32 Vasantakumār 1983: 818-9.

33 Ibid. p. 822.

34 Amur 1981: 25.

35 Ibid. p. 26.

36 Ibid. p. 30.

37 tātvika paribhāsheya bhāradinda. Ibid. p. 29.

38 Ibid. p. 28.

39 Ibid. pp. 28-9.

40 Ramanujan 1976: 145.

41 Ibid. p. 146.

42 Kakar 1985 and 1987.

43 For kunkuma cf. ch. 1 n. 73. In this case each devotee, also the men, will wear kunkuma when they leave the temple. In other temples the practice may be slightly different (instead of kunkuma holy ash (vibhūti) may be used, etc.).

44 Nineteenth-century Bengali mystic, one of whose followers was Vivekananda.

45 To have darśana of a god is to see the image of that god in the temple. Since the god is believed to be present in the image, the believer enters into very close contact with the object of his worship.

46 Khādi is rough, home-spun cotton produced mainly in rural areas. Mahatma Gandhi advocated the use of this dress material to oppose the use of fabrics that were imported from England, as this was considered a form of colonial exploitation. It is the dress material of the simple folk of India as well as of hypocrites who want to feign solidarity with the economically weak.

47 "Celibacy is Life, the Waste of Semen is Death". The book is also referred to in Anantha Murthy's story Mūla, §2.18.

48 The Harijana does not accept the slate as long as Jagannātha holds it, for through the slate he would pollute the man of the higher caste. He expects Jagannātha to drop it in his hand, in which case the pollution would be avoided.

49 Pañce: cf. n. 16.

50 Śāligrāma: cf. n. 21.

51 The use of the grammatical plural is a sign of respect in almost all the modern languages of India. As a superior, the district commissioner would speak to the attendant in the singular, but in this case he is a Harijana and the attendant is a Mādhva Brahmin: his use of the plural here signifies that innerly the attitudes of the Harijana have not changed much.

52 Cf ch. 2 n. 12.

53 Ram Manohar Lohia was an independent socialist thinker who formulated a variety of socialism that would be suitable to India's specific situation; a Lìhiyāvādi is a follower of his ideas. Lohia’s appeal is felt mainly by the Indian intelligentsia.

54 A linga is a representation of the god Siva, resembling a short Pillar with a slightly rounded top. Though originally a phallic symbol, it has a far more sophisticated significance than this historical fact may superficially suggest, which was not understood by prudish British colonial authors; still today many people, also in India, prefer not to hear about this.

55 Cf. n. 47.

56 For Śankarācārya cf. ch. 3 n. 12. The name has also become a title of the mathādhipati-s of the maṭha-s which according to traditional accounts Śankarācārya himself founded.

57 We may note in passing that precisely this was one of the objections raised against advaitavēdānta which led to the rise of dvaita-vēdānta in the thirteenth century.

58 Christopher Isherwood was a Western popularizer of neo-Vedanta in the form preached by Vivekananda. The popularity of his writings in the English-speaking world has seriously hampered a correct understanding there of what Hinduism is, and the false popular notion that Hinduism can be equated with the hybrid neo-Vedantic form of advaitavēdānta is still very persistent.

59 Personal letter d. August 20th, 1986.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 1996

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