Faredoon Junglewalla, nicknamed as Freddy, was a strikingly handsome man with a voice soft and pleasant to be heart.
He had a longish, nobly-contoured, firm-chinned face. His slender nose was slightly bumped below the bridge, and large and heavy-lidded, his hazel eyes contained a veiled mystic quality that touched people's hearts. His complexion was light and glowing.
Freddy had so few moral or ethical considerations that he not only succeeded in having a comfortable place for himself but also earned the respect and gratitude of his entire community. When he died at sixty-five he attained the distinction of being listed in the 'Zarathusti Calendar of Great Men and Women'.
At important Parsi ceremonies, like thanksgivings and death anniversaries, names of the great departed Parsis are invoked with gratitude. Faredoon Junglewalla's name is invoked in all major ceremonies performed in the
Punjab and Sindh.
Freddy embarked on his travels towards the end of the nineteenth century. Twenty-three years old, strong and pioneering, he saw no future for himself in his ancestral village, tucked away in the forests of Central India, and resolved to seek his fortune in the hallowed pastures of the Punjab.
Loading his belongings, which included a widowed mother-in-law eleven years older than himself, a pregnant wife six years younger, and his infant daughter, Hutoxi, on to a bullock-cart, he set off for the North.
Faredoon is by nature a person of manly bearing. He is gifted with soft-spoken manners and a voice sweet to hear. These qualities soon give him way to the hearts of Punjabis.
Freddy does not believe in ethical values. For him the sweetest thing in the world was one's need. It must be the first and foremost priority for everyone to satisfy his or her needs. Once one is able to satisfy one's needs, one can do everything one wishes to do.
….'Need makes a flatterer of a bully and persuades a cruel man to kindness. Call it circumstances—call it self-interest—call it what you will, it still remains your need. All the good in this world comes from serving our own ends. What makes you tolerate someone you'd rather spit in the eye? What subdues that great big "I", that monstrous ego in a person? Need, I tell you—will force you to love your enemy as a brother!'
Freddy quotes his own experiences in this regard and tells that he donated towards the construction of an orphanage and a hospital and installed a water pump with a stone plaque dedicating it to his friend, Mr. Charles P. Allen.
But any good thing Freddy ever did was not without a purpose. If he had dedicated the pump to his friend Allen, it was because Allen held a junior position in the Indian Civil Service and that position was strategic to his business. He shows this tendency very clearly when he says:
I've made friends—love them—for what could be called "ulterior motives.
Freddy has social and somewhat political outlooks. But these are strictly limited to his community and to his relations with the ruling English. He believes in the affinity with the feeding hand—the rulers and considers it to be his duty to remain at good terms with them.
We are the greatest toadies of the
British Empire! These are not ugly words, mind you. They are the sweet dictates of our delicious need to exist, to live and prosper in peace.
After the reading The Crow Eaters it would not be wrong if we call Freddy a man of high intellect. Regarding the household affairs he has a strong sense of compromise in general and authority in particular. He gently governs and completely controls his wife with the aid of three maxims.
If she did or wanted to do something that he considered intolerable and disastrous, he would take a stern and unshakeable stand. Putli soon learnt to recognise and respect his decisions on such occasions. If she did, or planned something he considered stupid and wasteful, but not really harmful, he would voice his objections and immediately humour her with his benevolent sanction. In all other matters she had a free hand.
Freddy has a strong belief in astrologers, mystics and fortune-tellers. Whenever he is worried and depressed, he goes to seek help from some astrologer or mystic. His visits to the tenement fakir and later in the story to Gopal Krishan are ample examples of his belief in these things.
When Freddy failed to stop the deterioration of his self and his business, he decided to consult a Mystic.
An interesting thing about Freddy's personality is his quoting scraps of English to relieve his feelings and to have a sense of pride in him. He is shown in the novel to have memorised a number of proverbs.
Faredoon Junglewalla is never at a loss for words, or, for that matter, does he lack ideas, nefarious though they may be. Freddy is an engaging rogue, handsome, dulcet-voiced, and consumed with absurd vanities.
The greatest thorn in his flesh is Jerbanoo, his mother-in-law, who has been unwillingly brought thousands of miles to
from a Lahore where a devout Parsi must be buried. She is a wily tyrant who is up to Freddy's tricks, but she is asleep when he sets fire to the premises that are both home and business. When the fire breaks out Freddy makes such a clamour that Jerbanoo is rescued, and her fears are temporarily allayed. Tower of Silence
Freddy makes a successful claim on the insurance company and never looks back. He becomes a power in the community and is consulted on all sides. The proceeds from many small villainies swell Freddy's riches.
As the fire of Freddy's life flickers he is yet stirred by the imminence of
from British rule from which he has so handsomely profited. Realistic to the last, Freddy tells his family, ‘We will stay where we are … let Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, or whoever, rule. What does it matter? The sun will continue to rise—and the sun continue to set—in their arses.’ Independence
Putli comes before us in the first chapter of the Crow Eaters as a pregnant wife six years younger than her husband, Faredoon Junglewalla. Putli is a beautiful lady with a slim and small body. She is equally expert at household jobs. While travelling to
, when they stay for a short time, Lahore
In no time at all she had watered the bullocks, started a fire in the coal brazier and set a colander of vegetables and lentils to simmer. All this she did with such economy of motion and efficiency that her mother roused herself guiltily to give a hand.
She remains active with her ability to control the household jobs till the end of the story. When Freddy becomes rich and they have servants in the house, Putli keeps always herself occupied with inspecting them and making them always busy.
Putli is not a dull-minded lady. She knows her husband very well and has ability to analyse the situations coming across her. When Freddy is caught in Jerbanoo's room, where he had gone to cut from the hair of Jerbanoo and receives a slap on his face, she instantly understands the gravity of situation.
This episode brought Jerbanoo's halcyon reign to an end. Putli felt things had been allowed to drift too far. She had noticed Freddy's deteriorating and gloomy state for some time, but the scene in her mother's room brought home the magnitude of the change in him. His behaviour had certainly not been normal and she was concerned for his sanity. Although she pretended not to credit Jerbanoo's version of the tale, Putli spected that her husband, pushed beyond endurance, had staged the performance to scare her silly. For her husband's welfare, Putli prudently took the domestic reins into her hands. She put an end to Jerbanoo's extravagant gossip sessions and firmly controlled her ransacking of the store.
Putli is a staunch follower of her faith. She would wear the Mathabana and the sacred thread around her waist and love to walk at least three steps behind her husband. She is a well-mannered lady and also knows the art of good writing. This quality of hers comes before us when she is shown corresponding with Mrs. Easymoney. Again her ability to write comes before us when we see, in train, Billy slipping a letter, written by Putli, under Tanya's pillow.
Putli is a somewhat sensitive lady who has considerations for her own self respect and for the self respect of others too. When Billy announces that he would not marry Roshan but only Tanya. It is more difficult for Putli to accept such a match. She is not even willing to talk to Mrs. Easymoney on the topic and only after Mrs Toddywalla's assurance that one can always try, she writes a letter to her. But even then the letter is full of apologies and she also refers to the death of her elder son and the going insane of her second son, Yazdi to win some sympathies from the other side.
The letter started with apologies. So impressively humble, so imaginatively self-effacing were they, that anyone not knowing Rodabai would have thought her an ogre.
Putli joined her hands in supplication; she knelt at Rodabai's feet; she was so mortified she wished to bury her face in ashes—she begged forgiveness.
In the role of a mother-in-law Putli is not much different from a traditional mother-in-law who sees every thing with an air of suspicion. It is because of the visits of Putli and Jerbanoo that Tanya goes to the office of Freddy to ask him relieve of the ladies. And to do this Freddy has to take them to
. However Tanya is the only character who may have complaints against Putli. No other character in the novel seems to have anything against her. The character of Putli is not a type character. She is an individual character who has her own variations. Her role in the novel is very strong and she is in the novel from beginning till the end. We may call her the heroine of the novel. London
Jerbanoo is the widowed mother-in-law of Faredoon Junglewalla and is eleven years old than himself. She may rightly be called a villain in the novel who has a habit of poking her nose into every matter. Her appearance is described in the novel as:
Her skin was smooth, her slightly parted, fluttering mouth small and full-lipped….Anyone less prejudiced than Freddy would have found Jerbanoo's rounded jaws and small features rather attractive or interesting.
Throughout the story she remain a thorn in the flesh of Freddy teasing him in every possible way. She is not happy at being taken away from her village to the city life of
and for her life she never forgives Freddy for this crime. Lahore
She complained, had headaches, snored, wept and raved for the sole purpose of irritating him.
When they settle at
, Jerbanoo slowly gets hold of the house and extends her sway to the store as well. Lahore
Not satisfied with commandeering the household, Jerbanoo extended her sway to the store. Whenever Freddy was away, Jerbanoo appropriated huge quantities of chocolate, biscuits, perfume and wines.
The ways she adopts to tease Freddy and to spoil the atmosphere at home have been depicted in detail in the novel at a number of places. For example: at the slightest hint of protest, at the mildest counter-suggestion, she would cannonade into an injured fury and scream at the very top of her voice for the benefit of the neighbours. Or, popping her offended eyes, she would sag into a melancholy fit of weeping so prolonged that Freddy, terrified of the resultant effect on his perpetually pregnant wife, was forced to appease and calm her with presents.
Her sway in the house is temporarily ended by Putli. When Freddy, as advised by a mystic, tried to snip her hair and was surprised by Jerbanoo, Putli realizes the reason behind the episode. She put an end to Jerbanoo's regime and closed her sessions of gossips. This action dried the energy of life in Jerbanoo. Within a few months, Jerbanoo began to show the traces of her old age.
Jerbanoo is able to tease Freddy in every possible way. When her powers are limited by Putli, she very soon manages to find the topic of death to tease Freddy.
Jerbanoo loves luxury and comfort. She is never tired of eating. Her lust for money and luxury is visible when she selects the letter from the Easymoney's family sent in response of the advertisement about Billy's marriage. Jerbanoo is class conscious. While going to
with Putli and Billy, she thinks it below their dignity to alight from the third class of a train. Bombay
The tyrannies of Jerbanoo are not limited to Freddy only, she extends them whenever she gets a chance. When Billy gets married and brings Tanya with him, she gets herself busy with taunting her and creating chances to puff at the winds of misunderstanding. It is result of her activities that Tanya goes to Freddy and complaints for her the life made wretched by Jerbanoo.
, Jerbanoo is successful at teasing Mrs. Allen who is an easy going woman and hosts them wholeheartedly. In fact Jerbanoo's image about English men and women is broken at the time of her visit to London . And she takes revenge upon Mary. Her quarrel with the traffic sergeant shows her tendency to rule wherever she gets a chance. The overall image of Jerbanoo is that of a quarrelsome lady. The aim of her life is to tease Freddy. London
Behram Junglewalla, Billy for short, was a taciturn, monosyllabic, parsimonious and tenacious little man. Billy was an ugly child. His mother, looking at the dark, large-nosed, squalling infant, remarked, 'I can hardly believe he is mine. He is so different from the others. Look at the funny amount of hair he has!'
His tight-lipped, shrewd-eyed countenance instantly aroused mistrust—precisely because he was so trustworthy. Unlike his father, Faredoon Junglewalla, Billy's was an uncomplicated character. You knew right away where you stood with him, and his values, once you grasped the one-track bent of his mind, were straightforward. He was suspicious, and he exposed this aspect of his personality at once in any transaction. He was avaricious. His dealers knew exactly where they stood with him, and their faith in his cunning was seldom misplaced. Billy had a simple vocation in life. MONEY!
He existed to make, multiply and hoard it. He was notoriously and devoutly penny-pinching. His one extravagance was a weakness for radishes—and much later, for wine.
Billy is a traditionalist. After marriage he settles in a somewhat modern colony goes to the mixed parties. But
he urges and argues with Tanya, not to reveal her midriff so glaringly or to look boldly and mix freely with other men, as the intentions are misconstrued. Even in the relationships between man and woman, Faredoon and later his son Behram adopt double standards. Behram especially wants Tanya to appear Westernized and talk English.
However at home, he wants his wife to be servile and domestic, always at his beck and call.
Billy is a miserly man. He cannot allow the money go easily form his hands. When he takes the charge of business, he is shown to march in the flat to turn off the lights. No one is allowed to get late for a few minutes. He is tyrant who needs to have the full control of his house. But he is an emotional man as well. He can not stand for tears in someone's eyes. Earlier in the novel we see that despite her repeated requests, he does not return the ring of his sister Yasmin. But when she weeps, he at once returns the ring. Again he falls in love with Tanya in first meeting and loses his heart to her. He is once again emotional when he meets Yazdi at the beach and empties his purse on his hands to make him ready to visit them. Whenever Tanya is shown weeping, Billy is shown melting before her tears. Hence Billy is a simple character who is tender by heart and miser by nature and is seen governed by his nature most of the time.
Yazdi is the second son of Faredoon Junglewalla. A sensitive boy, Yazdi is aggrieved at the conspicuous commercialism and sycophancy of the Parsis. A human dimension to his revolt is also introduced, as his father refuses him permission to marry a childhood sweetheart, the Anglo-Indian Rosy Watson. All these factors make Yazdi revolt against the existing system in his family. His initial form of revolt adds to the rollicking, hilarious narrative, and is almost a parody of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, “Love thy neighbours, as thou love thyself.” Yazdi takes charity to the extreme. He initially returned from school barefoot having given his shoes to an orphan in his class:
“A few days later he returned without his shirt, and the day after that, he climbed up to the flat in only his homemade underpants. He had distributed his apparel among four beggars near the Regal Cinema square.”
He is transferred to a boarding school in
. There he becomes a drop-out, a modern-day “hippy,” drifting about the city, “squandering his allowance and fees on beggars” and sleeping on park benches and pavements. He sought solace by assisting the lepers outside Karachi . Finally Yazdi makes a total break from his family. His share of the family money is put in a Trust and he gets monthly interest. Karachi
Yazdi uses the money “to feed dying children” and “buy medicine for the sick left to decay like exposed excrement in choked bazaar lanes.” He becomes a follower of Mazdak, the first communist. Yazdi calls Mazdak, “A Zarathusti ancestor. He realized centuries ago that all material goods, including women had to be shared.” His family does not meet him or hear from him.
Billy strolling along
, Chowpatti Beach with his fiancé Tanya is the last person to see Yazdi, an emaciated vagrant lying on a bench. The characterization of Yazdi adds to the richness and variety of the novel, as it shows all Parsis are not types, nor do they have stereotype reactions. However there is a structural flaw in the presentation of Yazdi. The Crow Eaters is a very compact novel and though it shows a network of human relationships and reality of a whole family, there are no loose ends in the plot. The exception is Yazdi. He is never shown practising his professed charity. The characterization of Yazdi is deliberately or accidentally left vague, which is slightly jarring. Bombay
When Freddy comes to
, he visits the Parsi families residing already in Lahore . Toddywallas are one of them. The Toddywallas, a large joint-family, were the proprietors of a prosperous tea stall and Mr. Toddywalla is the head of family. He is an easy-going and witty man. He has a dark, oval face decorated with bell-bottom sideburns and a bristling moustache. Freddy seems to be at good terms with the Toddywalls. At the time of execution the drama of setting fire to his store, he announces that he is taking the family to the Toddywalls for a game of cards. Mr. Toddwalla is a man of vast relations who can arrange different meetings at his home. When Harilal comes running to tell about the fire, we see Mr. Gibbons (the Deputy Superintendent of Police) and Mr. Azeem Khan, a Muslim professor there. Mr. Toddywalla is a friendly man who takes care of his friends. When Mr. Adenwalla, the insurance officer talks about the complications regarding the insurance claim of Freddy, Mr. Toddywalla is the first to speak against such policies. Lahore
Hutoxi is the elder daughter of Faredoon Junglewalla. When the story starts, she is an infant who comes with his father to the city of
. She is married to Ardishir Cooper. In the novel, she is often seen seated with her husband to listen to the tales of her father. She has been in close contact with her parents offering a helping hand in a time of need. When Soli falls ill, Lahore
Hutoxi, Ruby and their husbands hovered about the flat relieving Putli and Jerbanoo for an occasional night's sleep.
In the novel, there is not much detail about Hutoxi. She appears only off and on only shortly. The focus goes on her a bit when she is in Easymoney's mansion. In the morning, when she sees a swimming pool, she gets excited and calls her husband and children to see the view.
what fascinated Hutoxi was the emerald swimming pool and the elephant kneeling before it. While they watched he dipped the tip of his trunk into the pool and gave himself a shower. Half hidden behind a clump of mango trees was a camel and to their right, in a hedged enclosure, some deer and a peacock. Hutoxi rushed to the adjoining room to awaken the children.
Hutoxi's character in the story is not a powerful one. She is given but only a short space. We are not told about her appearance and the number of her children and that when she was married.
Yasmin is also the daughter of Faredoon Junglewalla. Yasmin is a plump, slow, light-skinned girl with nondescript features that has bloomed miraculously when she turns sixteen.
We know about her for the first time when we see Freddy tasting the salty water from the pitcher. He thinks about Soli and Yasmin that one of them might have added salt to water to show his or her intentions of marriage. There are also not much details about her in the novel however she has been given more space than Hutoxi. At her sixteenth birthday Freddy has given her an emerald ring. After the marriage of Hutoxi, she is the incharge of the affairs of children at home. When Billy hides the money of Katy it is Yasmin who is sent to settle the matter. When Katy complaints to her mother that:
'Mama, Billy has taken my money and he won't give it back!'
Putli's voice came shrill and exasperated. 'Stop teasing your little sister at once,' and then, 'Yasmin, go and stop those two quarrelling.'
And she instantly catches hold of Billy's ear to correct him. But she is not an authoritative elder sister. Billy does not yield in before her. Rather he stubbornly refuses to return her ring till she weeps to take it back. Yasmin is married to Bobby Katrak, who comes to Freddy to get himself cleared from the case of killing a blind beggar by hitting his car into him. After her marriage Yasmin adopts the new fashion of walking ahead of husband and things like that.
When Yasmin visited
after an absence of four years, Putli was scandalised to see her push Bobby aside and rush forward to greet them like any bold English girl. Lahore
However, she is thought to have ability to manage the household. When Billy, Putli and Jerbanoo go to
at the invitation of Easymoney money, Yasmin is called to keep the house. Bombay
Katy is the youngest child of Faredoon. As a child she would share the room with Billy. She has great interest in Freddy's stories. There is an air of simplicity and innocence about her. While listening to the story of fire, she insists:
Ten-year-old Katy, their youngest child, suddenly chirped up, 'Oh, Papa, please tell us about grandmother and the basket. Please!'
Katy is married to a boy from
who establishes a successful hardware business in Amritsar . But the novel does not show any of the details about her marriage. It is only mentioned towards the end that she has been married. The only episode that provides a bit of detail about Katy is the one in which Billy steals her money and resists in returning it. Lahore
Soli is the elder son of Faredoon Junglewalla. He is a young and strong boy with long golden limbs and an intelligent red-lipped face. Freddy loves him more than any other child. He never looks at any of his children the way he looks at Soli.
Faredoon smiled at his son. It was a special smile, proud and adoring. People likened Soli to him—but he felt his son was better-looking than he'd ever been.
Faredoon likes to explain his business to Soli. And Soli looks eager to learn it with interest. Being the eldest male he is sure to inherit everything some day, and Faredoon feels happy that it should be so. Soli would help his father in the business. He is used to checking the stock in the store and things like that.
Soli was all any father could wish; considerate, affectionate, quick-witted and intelligent. But at the same time he is a shy boy. That's what Putli confirms when she instructs Freddy to talk to him tactfully:
'There! You see! That's not enough. Soli may look bold but he is bashful. Quite like you really, come to think of it. You must try and get him to talk gradually, tactfully. Just a few leading questions. Tell him about us—you know what I mean...'
When Freddy tastes salt in the drinking water and understands it as a signal for intention of marriage from someone in the house, he goes first to Soli and tries to hear something form him. But Soli behaves in a shy way and Freddy has to tell a tale to prepare Soli tell frankly about his wish. Though it was not Soli who mixed salt in the water yet his way of talking with Freddy is reserved.
Soli is the most favourite of his father. When Freddy goes to Gopal Krishan and hears about his Janam Putri he is overjoyed to hear about Soli:
'One of your sons is the favourite of the gods. He will be a bigger man than even you. Good fortune will rest beneath the soles of his feet, endowing him with success at each step.'
Freddy was exultant. He knew the janam patri could only mean Soli.
But unfortunately the Janum Putri announces the death of Soli just at the time of his twenty first birthday. And as is told by Gopal Krishan, he dies. His death is a sad episode in the story. Everyone is shocked and grieved at his death. Perhaps Sidhwa has picked him to depict the death rituals in detail. His is the only death we see in the novel in detail.
Tanya, nicknamed as Tim, is the daughter of Sir Nosheerwan Easymoney and the daughter-in-law of Faredoon Junglewalla. She is a beautiful girl with a perfect oval face, the swing of black, bobbed hair and the ingenuous, innocent eyes. At the time of her first appearance in the story, she is a sixteen years old modern girl wearing a white outfit and white tennis shoes.
Tanya is a frank and easy going girl who, in no time, gets involved in discussion with his would-be brother in law who, with a twist, becomes her own husband. Tanya is a simple and innocent girl who has a very limited knowledge about love. When her mother Rudabai gives her the letter from Putli asking her hand for Billy, her reaction is quite predictable:
And it was Tanya's first love letter. Indirect no doubt, written by the wooer's mother, but a love letter nevertheless. Its ardour gratified her. Her fancy soared and she fell in love with the scrawny youth who had made them laugh so much two evenings back.
After marriage when Billy and Tanya go to Simla in train, Tanya's behaviour is that of a innocent girl. She reacts in quite unpredictable way. The only odd thing about her is her wetting her bed by urinating on it. Billy is shocked to see it. However, he mentions about it only long after whey they have a quarrel in
Tanya is accustomed to luxury and feels that prodigality is her birthright. Money simply pours out of her hands. When she is given money to shop for the new house, she selects the novel and costly articles.
Novelty fascinated Tanya. She had an engineer's passion for acquiring unusual things and experimenting with them. Gadgets, knick-knacks, an imaginative fly-swat, egg-whisk or can opener, would enthral her as much as fancy cars and costly electrical equipment. She was like a child with a new toy—like a scientist at a discovery.