About Novelist, Poetess, Public Speaker

My photo
I like to live the Dream of mother teresa. I pray to Lord give me strength to help less poor and less fortunate youth, kids, women and humans of all ages

Thursday, December 16, 2010

" Saat Phero Se Dhokha" Hindi Novel written by Kamlesh ChauhanReviwed by M S Verma

Saat pheron se dhokha: A Review

Fiction is for entertainment but according to a definition of Sahitya in Hindi (or literature in English) good fiction should also have some message to convey, some purpose for the good of humanity, for it is hard to confine oneself to ‘Art for art’s sake.’ The fact is that ‘Saat Pheron Se Dhokha’ is a novel by a woman, of a woman and for women.’ But of course drawing of such lines to segregate readers is not valid as far as fiction is concerned. The novel deals with the life of Indian brides who are married away to Indian American grooms by the parents of the girls with the fond hope and in most cases firm belief that they were sending the daughters to a world of all happiness and to a world of perpetual spring where flowers bloom round the year. But the moment most of these hapless girls set foot on the foreign soil, their travails begin as happens in the life of Rita, the protagonist of the novel. Kamlesh’s couplet on page 14 of the novel sums up the theme of the novel, “Hum jab bhi roye, jaar jaar roye. Hum jab bhi roye, khud ke saath roye.” (Whenever I wept, it was to weep inconsolably and to weep alone).The newly wed bride hardly finds time to live her dreams on the foreign land when she starts getting glimpses of the type of life that awaits her. The husband who had taken vows to live and die for her, is the first one to give her a cold shoulder and to her horror she finds that the so called true love was just a flimsy flake of snow that melted with the first whiff of foreign air. Rita, the heroin, finds that she doesn’t command the same respect and importance as the other members of Sudhir, her husband’s, family do. She is constantly persecuted by her husband and his family. In desperation she tries to run away from this hell of a life but only to fail. Her romantic encounters with Prakash, Dr. Vimal and Ravi are all failures. By and by her children grow up; find their soul mates and very wisely Rita lets them marry with their lovers. She is by now too tired to struggle any more and manipulates circumstances to have Sudhir by her side at the time of the marriage of the children. Sudhir repents for his miss doings by only mumbling a few clich├ęs and the novel is made to have a precarious happy ending which is much like the silence before another storm breaks. That in brief is the story of the novel.

Rita is a tradition bound beautiful intelligent and educated young Indian girl coming from not a very rich, middle class family. She is married to an NRI, Sudhir, who has ‘chhoti chhoti ankhen, chhota sa kad, dekhne mein jara bhi sundar na thha’ (He had small eyes, was very short of stature and not at all good looking) but he is an engineer in America, making him a very desirable groom for an Indian girl. Rita gives in and marries him much against her inner voice cautioning against it. However, the life Rita is forced to live is pure misery that leaves her with an unquenchable thirst for emotional and physical love. With her husband she is only a sex machine to satisfy his lust. She finds herself a victim of male chauvinism. Throughout the novel Rita is haunted by the idea of her growing age, of being a mother of two children and deprivation of ideal love. It has become a refrain in the novel and an obsession that is very deep rooted. She says to almost everybody she meets, “Mein ladki nahin, aurat hoon, balki maan bhi hoon.” She also seems to be almost regretting unconsciously that she had children who just added to her suffering. The struggle most of the time is between the head and the heart. She is forced to live like an American with Indian mores. She can’t protest to her husband who beats her black and blue like an animal because at the time of her marriage, her parents had gagged, handcuffed and shackled her by telling, “Beti, hamari izzat rakhna. In saat pheron se dhhokha mat karna. (Our dear daughter, please don’t let us be humiliated and disgraced. Do ensure that your marriage vows were genuine, not a ploy.”) These words of her parents clip her wings and she is doomed to drag her existence on the dreary rough ground silently suffering like a bird.

Rita is a pathetic figure who has compromised her life to her cruel fate. She does meekly think of an attempt to free herself but procrastinates like Hamlet, “To do or not to do, that is the question.” Reality and dreams play hide and seek in her life. But, then, Rita has some character traits that are responsible for her predicament. She doesn’t think twice before opening up about her miserable life before even total strangers. No prudence or precaution is shown. She is desperate to find consolation. Occasionally her pain finds expression in poetry. But gagged by the promise she made to her parents, she seems to cling to her shackles, handcuffs and the gag on her mouth. Like a masochist she seems to be enjoying her pain. In desperation she tries to run away from her cruel husband but her attempt was doomed to fail.

She is torn between the demands of the body and the mind. She is bothered by the question of right and wrong and is faced by a moral dilemma whether to fall in love with other men without divorcing her husband is right. She gives in to self pity, “Meri zindagi ke darwajon per charon taraf janziren hain. Mer jeevan ki aazadi ke sabhi raaste band hain.” (All the exits of my life are secured with chains making an escape from this hell impossible.) To a great extent she is herself responsible for this state. Her naivety contributes to this situation. A time comes when she almost loses her identity. Her past constantly affects her present.

Before marriage, her first encounter was with Kanhaya Lal, the teacher. But it was nothing more than a fling of a youthful heart and ends as abruptly as it had started. Later she comes across Prakash, the photographer, Dr. Vimal and Ravi. These male beasts feel as if they had a license to flirt with any woman and are after beauty and find an easy prey in Rita because of her hunger for true love, vanity and naivety. They have nothing but flattery for Rita, knowing well that she would be pleased to hear well of her beauty and talent. They seem to be sharing her concern for her miserable life only as a ploy. Ravi is the worst. He is an expert flirt and an insensitive cheat. In Rita he finds a willing victim and makes good use of every one of her weaknesses. She was warned by her friend but still rushed on into his arms and consequently suffers. Ravi is a very good reader of women’s mind. His two utterances: 1.Samaaj, samaaj, samaaj, pakhandi samaaj and 2. Kya shaadi ka certificate aur mamta, pyaar karne par pahra laga dete hain? (‘Society my foot! It is just hypocrisy personified. ) and (Does a marriage certificate and motherhood prohibit one from falling in love?) just externalized Rita’s unexpressed anguish and the clever flirt succeeds in bringing his victim closer to him with these utterances so that he could pounce on her. He succeeds and not only exploits her physically but also cheats her of her hard earned and much needed money.
Bhanu shares Rita’s character traits minus her naivety. She is an innocent lovable girl, pure, simple and of course beautiful. She finds her match in Dimitry. He is an important character who works to efficiently bring a happy end to not only his marriage with Bhanu, Dhanush and Savera’s but also to Rita and Sudhir’s story and in bringing the family together. The burden of the scheming unscrupulous members of Sudhir’s family are jettisoned and the novel ends as if with the promise ‘that they all lived happily ever after.’

Rita’s personal and social values are shared by her children Dhanush and Bhanu along with Savera and Dimitry. But unintentionally the author has succeeded in taking a dig at women’s fickleness too. One moment Rita or Bhanu would firmly assert not to talk to their lovers but soon this resolution is thrown to winds and they find themselves in the strong arms of their lovers. Except Sudhir and the members of his family there are no villains or vamps in the novel except a one time appearance of Krishan Verma the smuggler. There are minor characters that appear for a short period to give the story line an impetus and coherence. They are like the Indian Sutrdhaar or the backstage announcers

Sudhir is not good looking as mentioned above, yet youthful Rita manages to love him and become the mother of his two children. Later he is described as a butcher, an animal, who behaves like Dr. Jekyll and Hyde, now a repentant lover and the next moment an animal He is insensitive to his wife and his children’s pain and sides with the members of his family who just exploit him. Even in the end he doesn’t gain readers’ sympathy as his promise to be good is just a contrived one.
In the story Kamlesh Chauhan has woven messages to make the novel very purposeful. While the main onus is on the issue of Indian girl’s married to foreigners and their subsequent plight with the conclusion that the Indian American grooms are mismatch for Indian girls, she also advocates women’s education and their freedom to work; the worth of family relations; disintegration of family norms in America; a woman’s dream of a full normal life; the Indian belief in good actions and their fruit and bad actions and their harmful consequences (Karma phal theory). Dimitry says. “Mein karma or Taqdir ki rekha mein yaqeen karta hoon.” (I believe in the principle that none can escape the consequences of one’s actions and can not erase what is written as his destiny.) Kamlesh Chauhan has also poignantly pictured the fractured society of Indian community in America. The attitude to casual sex among Indians in America prompts Rita to retort angrily to Ravi, “Aaj ki kunvari is married and the married one is kunvari.” (Today the virgins enjoy sex till they feel cloyed and married women find sex as a rare commodity to come by.). This one liner is a gem of a dialogue in the novel. However, Kamlesh Chauhan has imparted a picturesque quality to the description of the moments of Rita’s physical intimacy between Sudhir and later with Ravi. In general too, most of the dialogues are short and witty and are very apt and some of them are memorable quotes.
Kamlesh Chauhan has a poetic heart and like the nightingale in Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale, she bursts out in poetry again and again, now a couplet, next a complete touching poem like the one on page-167, which I leave for the reader to read and appreciate.

I have read the author’s first novel “Saat Samunder Paar” and now the current one. I find that Kamlesh Chauhan has taken a very long leap in her progress and from a budding writer she has metamorphosised into an accomplished artist. From Prem Chand

she has moved on to the very intense style of Sharat Chandra Chateree, the famous Bengali writer who happens to be my favorite too. The coherence in the narrative, the

lucidity of diction, the analytical consistent handling of ticklish situations, logical development of the story and characters, steering clear of improbabilities...all touch the heart.

When I read on, I am reminded of the novels of ‘Stream of consciouses by Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce and others. Kamlesh Chauhan’s Rita is an introvert and through flash back of the story, Kamlesh compares her past and present and her pain and regret are enhanced. Pathos occurs. She has very efficiently made use of similes and metaphors with apt comparisons. There is animal imagery. There are symbols too. The absence of the Jai Mala (wedding garland) with Sudhir at the engagement ceremony is very apt reminder of the coming events. Nature makes her contribution in a big way. The moon, the stars, the clouds, birds all contribute to the readability of the novel. The author bursts out into poetic description again and again. Nature adds to the happiness or the sadness of the characters. The half moon and the cloudy sky or the stars and the moon, air etc. make a significant contribution. Kamlesh has also added another dimension by her picturesque descriptions of places of tourist interest in America which are enjoyable like armchair travelogue.

All put together I would say, “Well done Kamlesh Chauhan, well done indeed.”

Prof. M. S. Verma, 16th December, 10

63-B, Sujan Singh Park,

Sonepat-131001 (Haryana) India

1 comment: