Saturday, August 28, 2010
The narrative revolves around the character of Ice-Candy-Man who is a loving person. He is in love with the ayah of Lenny. He is a man of varied interests. During winters when the sales of ice-candies decrease, he becomes a birdman. He plays a number of roles to amuse people. He speaks on politics of his days and imitates them. He is then transformed into "a metamorphosed character adopting a poetic mould, confessing that he belongs to 'Kotha'—the royal misbegottens located in Hira Mandi. After the riots, ice-candy-man saves the ayah and later she is sent to
with her parents. The ice-candyman remains a lovelorn lover. Jagdev Singh shows that through the Ice-Candy-Man, Sidhwa shows the changing patterns of communal discord: Amritsar
The change from the pattern of communal discord to that of reconciliation is, however, traced in the person of the Ice-candy man. Though his role in the cataclysmic event of Partition is painted in lurid colours, his growing passion and love for Ayah is shown to redeem him from the morass of senseless communal hatred. From a rough and rustic man, always ready to nudge Ayah the Ice-Candy Man becomes a person of refined sensibility; he steeps him self in poetry.
When Ayah is wrenched away from him and sent to
, he follows her across the border. That the Ice-Candy-Man is willing to leave the land, that he so much cherishes, for the sake of his Hindu beloved, is not only an example of self-sacrifice but also symbolic of a future rapprochement between the two warring communities—the Muslims and Hindus. Though Bapsi Sidhwa shows the possibility of the emergency of a harmonious pattern of communal relations between the Hindus and Muslims sometimes in the future, yet she leaves much unsaid about how the change in the Ice-Candy-Man's personality comes about. Amritsar
Thus, the novel Ice-Candy-Man shows how the'raw emotions in simple people can transform them into extremists. Their perception of outer reality is different from those who manipulate things to suit to their selfish interests. The novelist shows the impact of the trauma and shocking sights which the Ice-Candy-Man witnesses. He sets out to avenge the genocide of his Muslim brothers. The novel like other novels of Partition emerges as a compelling study of character and event, irrespective of caste bias and religious affinity.
The story of the novel revolves around this central character. He belongs to Hira Mandi of
, the streets of the dancing girls. His mother had been one of them and his early years shaped his personality according to his tastes. He is a jolly and friendly person. He is a gifted poet, rather poetic in his interaction with others. He would recite a couplet from Urdu poetry whenever required. He is an ardent lover of the Hindu Ayah of Lenny. He is a regular visitor of Lenny's house forAyah's sake. He is fascinated by the charm and beauty of Ayah. In summers, he sells ice-candy and in winters, he becomes a birds-man who sells sparrows and birds. Lahore
The first half of the novel presents the Ice-Candy-Man as a jovial and life-loving person. He is known for his warmth and good-nature. This is one side of his personality. One incident transforms the peace-loving ice-candy man into a selfish man and a savage. He happens to be on the
railway station when the train arrives from Gurdaspur. It doesnot carry passengers but dead bodies of Muslims. There are no women but bags full of chopped female breasts. Lahore
This barbaric scene shocks him and he loses his sanity. He runs in the streets of
to avenge the death of Muslims. During the riots, he takes active part in killing Hindus and Sikhs the worst part comes later. He joins a mob of Muslim goondas looking for Hindus. They stop in front of Lenny's house and enquire about the Hindu Ayah. The faithful servant Imam Din lies by saying that she has left for Lahore . But Just then, Ice-Candy Man comes forward and asks Lenny about Ayah. Lenny out of her innocence points towards the right direction. Ice-Candy man's trick works. They drag Ayah from inside and is forcefully abducted. It is only after a couple of weeks that Ice-Candy-Man marries her. But the damage has been done. Ayah is raped by many persons for days and now she has to stay in the locality of prostitutes of Hira Mandi. Amritsar
Lenny realizes the consequences of telling a bare truth. She is filled with a deep sense of remorse and repentence. She even injures her tongue for telling the bitter truth. Now Ice-Candy-Man also realizes his mistake. He wants to make her happy but she is heart-broken. She tells Godmother of Lenny that she wants to go to
. Later, she is sent to Amritsar and Ice-Candy-Man too crosses the Wagah border behind her. He has become a wandering woe-begone lover looking for his beloved. The story of the novel shows how racial identity and religious orientation can play havoc with the life of a person like Ice-Candy-Man. Amritsar
Lenny is the child-narrator in the novel. She is just like Chaucer's persona in tilling the stories. This device of narrator has been extensively used in modern fiction. Lenny is the daughter of a Parsee gentleman and she suffers from a limp inone leg. Even after surgery, conditions donot improve. She lives in a close and compressed world. She is a keen observer. Her physical movement is restricted due to her infirmity. It is only her Hindu Ayah Shanta who is her true companion. When Shanta is abducted, she feels herself Ayahless and alone in the world.
The novel also shows the child Lenny growing from a child into a young woman. Bapsi Sidhwa records even the small details in Lenny's life. In fact, Lenny is like a projector through which one is able to see the internal world of Lenny and her response to external reality in a magnified form. On many occasions, her immersion in thoughts look similar to that of Stephen in A Portrait of the Artist As a Young
The narration of the story is in the first person and Lenny takes the readers into her private and intimate world. The novel is also a tale of Lenny's disillusionment and failure to reconcile with external reality which is bitter and unbearable. Man.
3. Shanta, the Ayah
Shanta is the Hindu Ayah of Lenny who works in the house of a Parsee family in
. She is sharp, beautiful and responsible. She is Lenny's mentor and guide in this harsh world. Ayah has a number of admirers. Irrespective of religion, they all adore her. The communal riots in Lahore also transforms Ayah. She becomes an easy victim and is raped by angry Muslims. Later she is married by Ice-Cany-Man and he keeps her in Hira Mandi, the place of dancing girls. Ice-Candy-Man has killed her soul and her warmth is gone. Now he tries his best but his betrayal of his beloved has burnt their world of dreams and romance. Lahore
When Lenny and her Godmother visit Shanta (now Mumtaz) in Hira Mandi, Lenny is shocked to see her. She observes: "Where have the radiance and the animation gone? Can the soul be extracted from its living body? Her vacant eyes are bigger than ever: wide-opened with what they have seen and felt."
Ice-Candy-Man pleads before Godmother: "Please persuade her ... Explain to her... I will keep her like a queen... like a flower... I will make her happy." With this, he starts weeping, but Mumtaz has decided not to stay in Hira Mandi amymore. She asks Godmother to send her to
with her relatives. Godmother is a very influential lady and after a few days, Ayah is sent to Amritsar . This separation leaves Ice-Candy-Man heart-broken and forlorn like Pareekutti in T.S. Pillai's novel Chemmeen. The novel ends on a sad note. Amritsar
There are a number of characters in the narrative of Ice-Candy-Man like Lenny's cousin, Lenny's Godmother, Imam Din the cook, Hari the gardener, the Masseur, Dr. Bharucha, Mr. Rodgers, Adi Lenni's Godbrother, Ranna the village boy from Pir Pindo, Mrs. Pen, Sher Singh, Dost Mohammad, Yousaf and Butcher. They are parts of Lenny's world. Bapsi Sidhwa, is at her best while delineating character sketches with their aspirations, moods and frustrations. Everything that happens to them is perceived and felt through the eyes of the child-narrator Lenny. Characterization in Ice-Candy-Man is superb with psychological insight into human behaviour and human nature. Sidhwa also shows how a feeling of communal hatred transforms good people like ice-candy-man into savages.