Pearl Pallavi Sahu
I MA English with Communication Studies
Contemporary Critical Theory/MEL 232
A Feminist Perspective of the Oriya novel Gambhiri Ghara by Sarojini Sahoo. When translated, the novel was known as 'The Dark Abode'
The Dark Abode
The novel 'The Dark Abode' was originally an Oriya novel written by Sarojini Sahoo in Oriya. The originally name of the novel was Gambhiri Ghara (ଗମ୍ଭିରି ଘର) whose exact translation would mean the dark house or home. Hence through this the novel got its name translated in English as 'The Dark Abode'. The novel was translated by Mahendra Kumar Dash. The novel was first published in Oriya in 2005 and was translated to English in 2007. It was also translated in Bengali and Hindi and attained great popularity in Bengali when it was sold in Bangladesh.
Sarojini Sahoo, along with being an Indian feminist is also an Orissa Sahitya Academy Award winner. She basically writes novels and articles that are feminist in nature and openly and frankly speaks on concept such as sexual discourses. Her outlook towards women and the society give her novels and works, the touch of honesty. Her novel Gambhiri Ghara or The Dark Abode has been a bestseller in Oriya literature. In most of her novels including this novel she very normally brings out situations that any girl would hesitate to reveal so openly. She is often addressed as the Judith Butler or Virginia Woolf of Oriya literature.
Before looking into the novel in depth, it is important to know what the novel is all about. The novel is a love story of a girl named Kuki. Kuki is shown to be a typical Indian house wife from a Hindu family who is totally devoted to her husband and household chores. She had a love marriage and married Aniket. The two though had a happy life there was always something void in their relationship. All they could do was try to hold the strings of their relationship together for as long as possible. Kuki always found this void and could not very well express it. Staying as a housewife she did nothing much to distract herself from any sort of stress or tension.
The novel shows how this totally classical housewife comes in contact with a Muslim man from Pakistan, through the net. She comes in contact with him and begins to exchange mails with him. She does not find it a necessity to tell her husband about this because she knows he is too busy to even listen to her mere distractions. She continues to talk to him through the net seeing a companion in him who would keep her from her loneliness. At the very beginning of their conversations she finds that he is a man who has always taken women for granted. For him women have always been instruments of lust. He tells her about his relationships with women and she scolds him calling him a caterpillar with a hunger for lust and sexual pleasure. His name is Safique and through their conversations Kuki comes to know that he has a second wife. Not much does he talk about his first wife but picture that Kuki gets about his second wife Tabassum is that of an independent outgoing women. She is a lustful woman with a lot of boyfriends. She goes to parties and night clubs. Kuki seems to identify herself and her loneliness with Safique. The 'net' couple slowly start opening up to each other and begin to appreciate and understand each other. The bond of love slowly seems to be building itself between the two. The two discuss their lives with each other and Kuki comes to know of Safique's arrest. He was suspected to be a terrorist after a bomb blast in London. He also tells her that one of Tabassum's boyfriends had offered her to his boss and this activity put her into severe depression. When he raises a voice against this injustice he becomes a victim of military junta. The whole arrest was a plot by military junta as a revenge on Safique. The novel ends with a tragic end where her husband leaves her after she herself reveals her relationship with Safique to him and Safique also under arrest cannot come out. Though he calls her to tell her about how much he loves her and that his love will always be true, she knows the fact that it is only her loneliness that will remain with her.
A Feminist Study:
The novel along with being a love story brings out different themes such a love, betrayal, an extra-marital affair, injustice and terrorism. Through the novel we are exposed to the frankness of Kuki of revealing her relationship after marriage with and other man of another country and religion. Though she had always been a housewife, the novel tells us about a lady who has stepped out of the boundaries that have been set up by the society for a woman. Though Kuki knows that all she has is her loneliness she still does not beg or plead. This is what Sarojini tries to convey all through the novel.
The novel is actually revolves around the life and emotions a woman goes through when she has to look beyond what boundaries have been set for her. The writer has taken a typical Indian setting with a husband and wife, leading a normal life with stagnant emotions. The heroine of the novel is shown to be a normal married woman with a child and a husband. When we look at the novel from a feminist perspective there are lot of things and aspects of the novel that we can look into. Right from the beginning we see a lady who though married the man she thought she loved, is not very happy with her married life. The Indian view of an ideal married is lady is that who would serve her husband and family. There are parts of the country that still believe in the saying, 'man for the sword and woman for the hearth'. The writer of the novel starts with this describing how people thought that she had a perfect life. They forget the point that no human can stay within such limited boundaries that have been built by other and not themselves. To point out some instances from the novel, the very first instance could be the way in which the two address each other. When the woman address, no matter how her mood is she still addresses him with respect while when he is angry with her he addresses her as tu, which though means you, is not a very preferred way of addressing someone.
The whole point of looking at the novel with a feminist perspective is not picks the faults of the life of the characters but to also show the image of an independent woman. To begin with describing the situations right from the beginning, Kuki due to spending her time at home all the day doesn't really have anyone to talk to in the urge to prove herself as a disciplined wife, she tries to suppress her emotions and finally when she finds someone like her she begins to explode. This shows that as a woman she had always been taught to be a perfect wife but midst all of this, she did not have the space to be herself. We are, in this novel, introduced to two women in the same body, the first is disciplined wife while the second is a lover. She could never really be herself with her husband as she felt she could wrong him but with Safique, she had always been her original self. The interaction between the two began on casual terms and hence she really did not have to worry about what he would think of her as she felt I really did not matter about what he thought. In the novel it is very important to understand that the two women are really different from each other. The writer has very finely knit two totally different personalities in one body. This means that where Kuki, the wife, portrays a very disciplined and submissive person, the same way, Kuki, the lover, portrays a very independent woman, strong and firm. The two personalities though belong to just one person, it is also important to know that the two men have a lot of impact on the two personalities.
When Kuki takes the step of accepting the fact that she is in love with Safique that is the moment when Kuki, the lover is born. She turns so bold that despite the fact of having a child and a husband, she continues to maintain a relationship with that man. We see that the hesitance in her face is no more visible and she also has the ability to love the man to such a great extent that she changes him from being a Casanova to a true lover. She shows the courage that usually men dare to show of having an extra-marital affair and stepping into the zone of falsehood of her own married life. The novel shows how the depression of a girl after marriage, when expected to follow the norms that the society has built for her, provokes her to take a step so bold just so that she gets a place in the large world to be her original self. Even towards the end of the novel we see that she seems to have let her husband go and not plead or beg for him to reply. She also is ready to wait for her lover to come back to her even if the wait was so long that her hair began to grey. We see that she had the strength and courage to walk out of the norms that the society had built for her such that there is no sign of helplessness or any form of regret of walking out of family bonds and doing what her heart wanted her to do.
In the feminist perspective the novel has very clearly shown two types of women, the one in the beginning to be a woman following everything but her heart while towards the ends, we find a woman who lets everything go so that she can follow her heart. The gradual change and growing of a woman is what the writer tries to draw our attention to. She tries to show us that giving a woman her own space and letting her follow her heart was what the society was missing out. Today, we have made woman a symbol but have forgotten that she too does breathe. After marriage, a woman is burdened with duties such that she is made to act in a particular way which blocks her own freedom. The possible result of the novel have been that had her husband treated her like human being and given time for she, she would never have even thought of getting involved and linking her life to that of Safique.
The truth of the time is that a woman is made to behave in a certain way that confined her real self with a self that she has to project. And it is this that makes her feel suffocated. The novel also shows that when a woman decides to take a step, she has the courage to maintain it no matter what the consequences could be. The novel gives a feminist perspective of a woman, showing both her helpless and her courageous side that gets differentiated with a span of time. The writer also extensively discusses the life of a woman and her sensibilities and her ability to walk out of the norms set by the society for her to keep her own independence by breaking her marriage with a man she had actually loved but realized that it was never true. The perspective that the novel tries to take us through is quite different from what feminism usually does. The writer though a typical feminist looks at feminism in the novel projecting the possible lives that a woman can lead if she makes a choice. The writer also tries to let the readers think for themselves the possible ways the story would have turned out had there been different ways in which Kuki was treated and giving a point for the readers to ponder about. Hence, this is the feminist perspective of looking at an unusual love story.
· "The Dark Abode : an Indian (Oriya) novel of Sarojini Sahoo." red room. N.p., 10 october 2008. Web. <http://redroom.com/member/sarojini-sahoo/reviews/the-dark-abode-an-indian-oriya-novel-of-sarojini-sahoo>.
· Dr. Sarojini Sahoo. N.p.. Web. <http://www.sarojinisahoo.com/novels5.htm>.
· "The Dark Abode." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. N.p.. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Abode>.