Saturday, August 28, 2010

Do you agree with the view that Ice-Candy-Man is a story of partition narrated in a Parsi perception?

Partition is an upheaval which transformed millions of hapless people on either side of the border in the subcon­tinent into refugees. If Partition is the cataclysm which Freddie predicts towards the end of the narrative in The Crow-Eaters, in Ice-Candy-Man, Partition becomes the moulding prin­ciple, a shaping force in the evolution of consciousness ol Lenny, the Parsi child-protagonist.
If Partition is a traumatic ex­perience to Bhisham Sahni and Amrita Pritain, it is an integral part of Bapsi Sidhwa's consciousness. This narrative, complex as it is, marks a point of departure in Sidhvva's writing. For here, for the first time, she employs a child-narrator like Firdaus Kanga in Trying to Grow and Adam Zameenzad in Gorgeous White Female. The narrative depicts the growth of Lenny, her slow awakening to sexuality, and pains and pleasures of the adult world and to the cataclysmic event that tears her world apart. The process of Lenny's growth of consciousness against the backdrop of Partition becomes central to the narrative. Thus her progression is from one level of consciousness (Angra Mainyu) to the other (Spenta Mainyu).
According to Bapsi Sidhwa, she wrote Ice-Candy-Man from an "objective point of view," but like a Pakistani objective."1 Sidhwa's treatment of history is typical of a postcolonial novel. Here history is richly humanized where Lenny's evolving con­sciousness integrates within itself the diachronic moment of her own growth, holistically, and conversely, the disintegration of the subcontinent. The Parsi attitude", rendered through Lenny, Godmother and other characters like Colonel Bharucha is that of a neutral disinterest. As they are not so much affected by the so­cial, political or even economic consequences, they are near per­fect, detached observers. Thus Sidhwa displays a fuller grasp of the 'human' consequences, of history. In the narrative, action is internalized in the young, though fertile, mind of Lenny. Lenny thus becomes ah eye-witness to, and a victim of, a topsy-turvy world.
Zoroastrianism enjoins that a Parsi should be loyal to the ruler. The Parsis are celebrated for their unflinching loyalty to the British. Referring to the loyalty of the Parsis to the British, Novy Kapadia observes that all the Parsis wanted from the ruling British authorities was religious autonomy and protection and they were granted both. However, the sense of insecurity in the Parsi community was due to alienation brought about by the re­jection of the coloniser and distrust of the nationalists. When objections are raised by some members of the Parsi community at a jashan meeting on the eve of Partition, Colonel Bharucha, the spokesman of the Zoroastrian community in Lahore, ob­serves:
I hope no Lahore Parsee will be stupid   enough to court trouble. I strongly advise all of you to stay at the back—and out of trouble.
He argues that it would be very difficult to predict the outcome of Partition. He cautions them:
There may not be one but two—or even three—new nations. And the Parsis might find themselves championing the wrong side if they don't look before they leap.
His word is almost a law for the Parsi community. He resolves that the Parsis of Lahore should cast their lot with whoever rules Lahore. He too, like Freddie in The Crow-Eaters, believes that there is no need for the Parsi community to leave Lahore. He tells them:
Let whoever wishes to rule! Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian! We will abide by the rules of their land.
The proclamations of Colonel Bharucha at the community dinner reflect the stance of the majority in the Zoroastrian community in the pre-Partition context. He aptly predicts that Hindus, Muslims and even the Sikhs would jockey for power. He cautions the Parsis of Lahore not to jump into the middle. To Lenny, a child who is caught up in the whirlpool of religious disparities, Colonel Bharucha's proclamation is a revelation. Exiled several centuries ago, the Parsis adopted India as their homeland. Therefore, an­other migration would be truly unthinkable. They are attached to, and identified themselves with, the Indian soil.
Ayah, an eighteen-year-old Hindu, is at the centre of Lenny's scheme of things. The nexus between Lenny's world of childish pleasures and innocence and the fast-changing ambience is realised in Ice-Candy-Man whose presence is exhilarating for the young child. Ayah's amorous adventures become central to Lenny's perceptions. If the covetous glances of Ayah's admirers including the Masseur and Ice-Candy-Man awaken her to sexu­ality and passion, the passes of holy men and dusty old beggars give her a glimpse of the adult life. Initially her world is made secure by strong, courageous and loving women like Rodabai and the young Ayah. Sidhwa very clearly establishes in the nar­rative that Parsi women are quite strong and their strength is re­vealed in moments of crisis. For Lenny, the process of growing up, of seeking to understand the adult world is largely an attempt to make sense of the senseless events of the Partition.
Colonel Bharucha who blames the British for bringing polio to India, seals the fate of Lenny. He declares:
She'll marry—have children—lead a carefree, happy life. No need to strain her with studies and exams.
Adi, her fair brother, is sent to school whereas she is denied sev­eral privileges which other Parsi children enjoy. She is reluctant to become a mere reproductive organism, a destiny designed for her by Colonel Bharucha, a man. Thus Sidhwa seems to disap­prove of sexism which is part even of Parsi ethos. Speaking of the women's passive acceptance of the role allotted by the patri­archy, Susie Tharu observes: "As women we often believe our exploited, sexually passive, dependent role is best for us. We are contented, often exalted by its meagre rewards, its promised glitter. Further we have so identified with patriarchy's hostility to anything that challenges the established order we fear and even actively resist critical speech and radical action. Worst of all, we are ourselves so insecure in the system (the time between good and bad, and hence acceptable and totally unhoused, is slippery) that often we are the most vicious in our castigation of those who do not conform." Tharu argues that there is a need for a 'real' consciousness. Women have not only internalized a bourgeois consciousness but also refuse to see themselves as victims. They are locked into a 'culture of silence' which they themselves contribute to the perpetuation of patriarchy that ob­jectifies and destroys her.
Sidhwa's treatment of history is typical of a postcolonial novelist. Her fictional (and imaginative) rendering of historical figures and incidents is singular. Despite her admiration for Gandhi, she holds him, though partially, responsible for Parti­tion. Gandhi was deified whereas Jinnah was caricatured in In­dian films and biased accounts of the British and Indian histori­ans. Sidhwa wrote Ice-Candy-Man since she felt that enough had not been written about Partition, although several novels includ­ing Train to Pakistan, A Bend in the Ganges and Tamas deal with Partition horrors. Her thesis is that most of these accounts, however moving, show a strong pro-Hindu bias. Thus Sidhwa sets out to 'dismantle' the 'Imperial purpose' in Ice-Candy-Man.
Lenny's response to Gandhi is naive. He, a mythical figure, for her at least, emerges as a multi-dimensional reality. His pres­ence is overwhelming:
My brain, heart and stomach melt. The pure shaft of humour, com­passion, tolerance and understanding he directs at me fuses me to everything that is feminine, funny, gentle, loving. He is a man who loves women,. And lame children. And the untouchable sweeper— so he will love the untouchable sweeper's constipated girl-child best. I know'just where to look for such a child. He touches my face, and in a burst of shyness, I lower my eyes. This is the first time I have lowered my eyes before a man.
Lenny truly comprehends the concealed nature of "ice" lurking deep beneath the hypnotic and 'dynamic' femininity of Gandhi's 'non-violent exterior' only after the communal frenzy starts. Sidhwa's description of Gandhi is a mixture of awe and irrever­ence. Her eulogy on Jinnah, on the other hand, is typical of a Pakistani, making it a moral obligation for her to defend him. When her mother tells her that Jinnah's wife, a Parsi, died heart­broken, Lenny reminisces:
But didn't Jinnah too die of a broken heart? And today, forty five years later, in the films of Gandhi's and Mountbatten's lives, in books by British and Indian scholars, Jinnah who for a decade was known as 'Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity', is caricatured, and portrayed as a monster.
This passage gives a clear indication of Sidhwa's anguish at the biased work of the British and Indian scholars. Taking a passage from Sarojini Naidu's tribute to Jinnah, Bapsi Sidhwa reinforces her argument:
the calm hauteur of his accustomed reserve masks, for those who know him, a naive and eager humanity, an intuition quick and ten­der as a woman's, a humour gay and wishing as a child's pre­eminently rational and practical, discreet and dispassionate in his estimate and acceptance of life, the obvious sanity and serenity of his worldly wisdom effectually disguise a shy and splendid ideal­ism which is of the very essence of the man.
This is Sidhwa's glowing tribute to, and an assessment of, Jin-nah, who, in her view, was discriminated against by the wily statesmen during Partition. She, however, rises above petty na­tionalism and presents the Partition horrors, not in the "red light of emotion" but in the "white light of truth." Her humanism permeates the narrative at all levels as she demonstrates, in ef­fective fictional terms, how the religious disparities were delib­erately exploited on the eve of Partition. Thus Ice-Candy-Man, like Khushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan, is the story of what happened to the poor when the politicians so heartlessly played around with their lives. They suffered the most. Bapsi Sidhwa, being a Parsi, did not suffer much during Partition. The fight was chiefly between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, people who were to gain by it and who were going to be empowered by it. It was their 'battle' and as a Parsi, her emotions were not aligned one way or the other. Lenny, at least to some extent, takes after Bapsi Sidhwa and most of the incidents did take place in her own life though she only fictionalised them.
Lenny who is incapable of lying, realises that to become cor­rupt or mimick others is no easy job. What she aims at is some­thing which is natural to others but her efforts are an exercise in futility. She remains in an Edenic state whereas Adi and Cousin plunge into life with great gusto. One day Godmother catches her easily when.she steals three jars. Her face and voice give her away. The resultant awareness brings only fresh pain:
Adi can swear himself red in the face and look lovable—Rosy can curse steadily for five minutes, going all the way from 'Ullu Kay Pathay' to asshole; from Punjabi swear words to American, and still look cute. It's okay if Cousin swears—but if I curse or lie, I am told it does not suit the shape of my mouth or my personality or something.
Her inability to accomplish what others do with effortless ease plunges her into fresh agony. Godmother comforts her:
Some people, can get away with it and some can't. . . . I'm afraid a life of crime is not for you. Not because you aren't sharp but be­cause you are not suited to it.
Godmother's remark is like 'life-sentence' to Lenny. Even her mother encourages her to speak the truth. When Lenny breaks a plate, she showers her daughter with the radiance of her ap­proval:
I love you. You spoke the truth. What's a broken plate? Break a hundred plates.
Lenny's realization at this juncture of life is significant:
The path to virtue is strewn with broken people and shattered China.
This truth, which is born of Lenny's tender experience acquires the magnitude of a cosmic truth in the narrative. Ironically enough, it is Lenny's probity which brings about the ultimate catastrophe—the abduction of Ayah by an irate Muslim mob led by Ice-Candy-Man, an occurrence from Sidhwa's childhood, though it was effectively dramatized in the novel.
The Hindu Ayah who sustains Lenny's life has a multi-religious throng of admirers but she does not discriminate. The Queen's Park becomes the locale where discussions throw light on the topic of the times—communal frenzy. As Partition be­comes imminent, the admirers of Ayah become conscious of their communal identities. Communal loyalties too, which re­main hitherto dormant, become sharper. Ayah too is slowly transformed into a 'token', an orthodox Hindu, whereas Imam Din, a fair and imaginative arbitrator, and Yousuf turn into re­ligious zealots and take Friday afternoons off for the Jumha prayers. The initial optimism of Imam Din is superseded by anxiety and apprehension as his faith in the 'Sikh brothers' erodes slowly. However, he remains calm in the face of all ca­lamities. Lenny's realization that he is 'not at ease with cruelty' indicates the effect of turbulent times on her tender psyche.
The widening disparities are filtered through Lenny's con­sciousness. She observes:
One day everybody is themselves—and the next day they are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian. People shrink, dwindling into symbols. Ayah is no longer just my all encompassing Ayah—she is also a token—a Hindu.
Sidhwa resorts to subversion in Ice-Candy-Man to offer the per­spective of the marginalized. She comes close to Mistry who employs popular gossip and newspaper account to question the 'official' version of the infamous Nagarwala case. She intro­duces conversations among ordinary people in the novel. Her minor characters such as Masseur, the Government House gar­dener and Sher Singh perform, like Hardy's rustic characters, the role of a commentator and interpreter. They analyse and draw their own inferences which sometimes reflect the stand taken by the respective communal groups to which they belong. For in­stance, the discussions on politics in Queen's Park give ample scope for them to voice their feelings. At the same time, they curse the politicians in whose hands their destiny lies. The butcher's comment on Gandhi is typical of a Muslim in the pre-Partition context:
That non-violent violence monger—your precious Gandhijee— first declares the Sikhs fanatics! Now suddenly he says: "Oh dear, the poor Sikhs cannot live with the Muslims if there is a Pakistan!" What does he think we are—some kind of beast? Aren't they liv­ing with us now?
The Masseur's reply is equally sarcastic:
He's a politician, yaar. It's his business to suit his tongue to the moment.
Thus their comments on, and their interpretations of, the latest political developments in the subcontinent give Lenny a vivid idea of the crumbling familiar social order. Her realization that one man's religion is another man's poison is charged with pro­found significance. She closes her eyes and tries to shut out the voices. She remarks:
I try not to inhale, but I must; the charged air about our table distils poisonous insights. Blue envy: green avidity: the grey and blackstirrings of predators and the incipient distillation of fear in their prey.
Lenny begins to play violent games, a gesture which she borrows from the adult world. One day Adi and she pull the legs of a doll and when the doll splits, she breaks down. In fury, Adi asks:
"Why were you so cruel if you couldn't stand it?" he asks at last, infuriated by the pointless brutality.
In Kapadia's view, Lenny's innocent act has symbolic signifi­cance. He observes: "It shows how even a young girl is power­less to stem the tide of surging violence within, thereby implying that grown-up fanatics emmeshed in communal frenzy are simi­larly trapped into brutal violence."
Though Parsis were not victims of Partition, their agony was no less intense. Sidhwa highlights the quandary of the Pars! community on the eve of Partition. Forced to make a choice, (to opt for Hindu India or Muslim Pakistan), they were reduced to 'irrelevant nomenclatures'. They were mere detached observers of a bloody event which broke India into two. Her innocent query is typical of a child:
India is going to be broken. Can one break a country?
This strikes the keynote in the narrative. Sidhwa seeks to re-examine the role of the British in 'cracking' the country. She at­tempts to expose the 'illegitimate' part played by the British in the political process.
The birth of Pakistan leads to an identity-crisis in Lenny. She observes bitterly:
I am a Pakistani. In a snap. Just like that.
She takes another birth, though a symbolic one, as a Pakistani. Ice-Candy-Man is Pakistani in setting and sensibility. The per­spective of Sidhwa is quite evidently Pakistani. According to her, Partition was a 'mistake', a tragedy which could have been averted. However, in the novel, she argues how Partition fa­voured India over Pakistan:
The Hindus are being favoured over the Muslims by the remnants of the Raj. Now that its objective to divide India is achieved, the British favour Nehru over Jinnah. Nehru is Kashmiri, they grant him Kashmir. Spurning logic, defying rationale, ignoring the con­sequence of bequeathing a Muslim state to the Hindus. . . . They grant Nehru Gurdaspur and Pathankot without which Kashmir cannot be secured.
Thus Sidhwa rejects the British and pro-Hindu Indian versions of history. She subverts the popular myth about Partition which was nursed and cherished by people on either side of the border in the subcontinent. Ice-Candy-Man is a typical postcolonial text which achieves the objective of dismantling notions of essence and authenticity. The experience which Sidhwa depicts in the narra­tive is 'real' which, hitherto has been regarded as 'inauthentic' and 'marginal'.
It is Lenny who unwittingly surrenders Ayah to the rioters led by Ice-Candy-Man. Even Imam Din's desperate lie fails to save her. Lenny's sense of guilt is acute:
I am the monkey-man's performing monkey, the trained circus elephant, the snake-man's charmed cobra, an animal with condi­tioned reflexes that cannot lie.
In disgust, she scours her 'truth-infected tongue' and even tries to wench it out. Sidhwa's narrative mode, like Narayan's, is ironic. Lenny's mother and Godmother set her firmly on the path of truth and it is her truthfulness that spells doom for Ayah.
The subsequent confrontation between Godmother and Ice-Candy-Man opens Lenny's eyes to the wisdom of righteous in­dignation over compassion, to the demands of gratification to the unscrupulous nature of desire and to 'the pitiless face of love'. Ice-Candy-Man who ravished the voluptuous Ayah however, re­pents and marries her. Even her name is changed to Mumtaz. Thus Sidhwa shows how patriarchy deliberately deprived women of liberty ultimately resulting in a crisis of identity. But Ayah rejects the new identity which her marriage offers. Lenny feels the pain of Ayah since it is she who perpetrates it, though in innocence:
They have shamed her. Not those men in the carts—they were strangers—but Sharbat Khan and Ice-Candy-Man and Imam Din and Cousin's cook and the butcher and other men she counted among her friends and admirers. I'm not very clear how—despite Cousin's illuminating tutorials—but I'm certain of her humiliation.
Thus Sidhwa effectively establishes how Partition affected the two nations in general, and women in particular. Urvashi Butalia raises a pertinent question about the predicament of women during Partition:
Why was it that we heard so little about them? How had they expe­rienced the anguish of the division, the euphoria of the newly-forming nations? My assumptions were simple: firstly, that these questions had remained unasked because of the patriarchal under­pinnings of history as a discipline. I also believed (and this view has been considerably qualified since) that in times of communal strife and violence, women remain essentially non-violent, and are at the receiving end of violence as victims, and that they are left with the task of rebuilding the community.
The task of building the community as pointed out by Urvashi Butalia is precisely what the strong women in the narrative— Rodabai and Lenny's mother—accomplish. When Rodabai con­fronts Ayah, now the wife of Ice-Candy-Man, she tries to com­fort the hapless victim:
It can't be undone. But it can be forgiven . . . worse things are for­given. Life goes on and the business of living buries the debris of our pasts. Hurt, happiness ... all fade impartially to make way for fresh joy and new sorrow. That is the way of life.
But the traumatic experience leaves Ayah spiritually dead. She replies:
I am past that. I am not alive.
Her fractured self seeks relief in India where her roots exist. Lenny's realisation that Ice-Candy-Man is a 'deflated poet' and a 'collapsed pedlar' is symptomatic of her 'arrival.' She perceives the change which comes over Ice-Candy-Man: and while Ayah is haunted by her past, Ice-Candy-Man is haunted by his future: and his macabre future already appears to be stamped on Iris face.
The eventual rehabilitation of Ayah which is chiefly the work of Godmother, the Good Samaritan as she is, and the repentance of Ice-Candy-Man give Lenny a glimpse of the power of love and the pain of separation.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak contends that the word 'subal­tern' is packed with meaning. According to her, everything that has limited or no access to cultural imperialism is subaltern. She vehemently protests against the lack of cultural space for the subaltern. To work for the subaltern, she argues, is to bring it into speech. Ayah in Ice-Candy-Man truly represents the 'sub­altern' since she is denied some cultural space by Ice-Candy-Man, who in turn, is a victim of imperialism. Her humiliation is a concrete illustration of the subaltern's lack of access to the cultural imperialism.
Referring to allusion in the postcolonial literatures, Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin write: "Allusion can perform the same func­tion of registering the cultural distance in the postcolonial text, according to the extent to which the text itself provides the nec­essary context for the allusion."
Thus in Bapsi Sidhwa's fiction in general, and in Ice-Candy-Man in particular, there are several intertextual references which not only enable her to register 'cultural distance' but also intro­duce the exotic to the western reader. This is one of the salient features of postcolonial fiction. Ice-Candy-Man, like Anita De-sai's In Custody, provides the necessary context too for the allu­sion,
The Urdu couplets of Iqbal and Ghalib cited in the text are an evidence of Bapsi Sidhwa's passion for Urdu poetry. Ice-Candy-Man's anguish of separation is described in IqbaFs words:
My passion has brought me to your street—
Where can I now find the strength to take me back?
While 'appropriating' the language of the coloniser, Sidhwa. at the same time, maintains 'Otherness' which gives a distinct identity to the text. Thus she challenges some of the assumptions which hitherto ordered 'reality'. Ice-Candy-Man's newborn wis­dom is a mystery to the young mind of Lenny. She realises the power of love only when he too disappears across the newly-created border into India.
Raima's nightmarish experience at Pir Pindo is closely mod­elled on a personal experience of Raima Khan, a friend of Bapsi Sidhwa. His survival in the carnage is a miracle, yet he takes a comic-ironic view of his own predicament:
It's funny. ... As long as I had to look out for myself, I was all right. As soon as I felt safe, I fainted.
His endurance teaches Lenny the importance of being whole. His 'instinct for survival' and his ready ability to forgive a past which could not be controlled are in sharp contrast to her frivo­lous ways of life.
Discussing the treatment of Partition and its effects in fic­tion, Susie Tharu observes: "By representing the Partition in 'Universalisf terms as outrageous, and its effects as a meta­physical disorder that can.be restored to an equilibrium only by the artist who is imaged as a magician-healer, these texts inaugu­rate a narrative and a subjectivity that translates history and poli­tics into a failure of humanity.
She argues that the trauma and suffering of people during Partition is largely due to degeneration of politics leading to sub­human acts. The tragedy of Ayah and the trauma of Ranna are the result of what Tharu calls 'failure of humanity'. Lenny at one juncture cries out:
I feel so sorry for myself—and for Cousin—and for all the senile, lame and hurt people and fallen women—and the condition of the world—in which countries can be broken, people slaughtered and cities burned—that I burst into tears.
Lenny's 'education' is a growth of consciousness, a phenomenon which is hastened by events and situations at once tragic and brutal.
When a novelist attempts to develop a philosophical con­ception of history, the point of view as a literary strategy as­sumes great significance. Bapsi Sidhwa avoids the pitfall of em­ploying omniscient narration in Ice-Candy-Man. This work marks a new phase in her writing in the use of narrative voice. She is true to history, by and large, though there are a few aber­rations in providing historical signposts. Ralph Crane argues that Lenny's unreliable narration proves to be reliable in its own way, since it causes us to question the British and Indian versions of the truth that have hitherto been accepted. Sidhwa, in fact, em­ploys two narrative voices for rendering the account of Partition. The first is that of Lenny, a child and the other is that of author­ial omniscient narrative voice. Lenny's rendering is through her dreams and nightmares. It is more subjective, though not in­volved or enlightened about its consequences. The other is an implied adult narration trying to objectify what is child's narra­tion, however precocious she may be. Sidhwa's success lies in an excellently maintained restraint and impartial, disinterested, near-factual description. She maintains balance so that the voice remains childlike but sophisticated enough to involve the adult reader. There is no authorial comment, yet Sidhwa's narrative brings out the full fury of Partition horrors, through electrifying scenes and dramatic use of language.
Sidhwa's Ice-Candy-Man invites comparison with Firdaus Kanga's Trying to Grow and Adam Zameenzad's Gorgeous White Female. All the three protagonists are children endowed with fertile imagination. They are precocious whose sharp per­ceptions are out of proportion to their age. If Sidhwa's Lenny tries to interpret the actions and events connected with Partition, though she is too young to accomplish it, Lahyayani, Zameen­zad's eleven-year-old protagonist, the offspring of a Bengali babu and an English woman, attempts to live an intense life. His aspiration to be reborn stands in glaring contrast to the struggle of Kanga's Brit whose passage to adulthood is necessitated by his Osteogenesis imperfecta. Interestingly enough, however co­incidental it may seem, Lenny is a victim of polio whereas Brit is an invalid by birth. Lahyayani, on the other hand, transcends the barriers of race, gender and age in order to achieve his objective of rebirth. Zameenzad, like Sidhwa, is an expatriate writer ex­ploring the themes of rootlessness (which is the result of his mixed origin), colour and sexuality through the volatile mind of his child-protagonist. Childhood is the 'country' which all the three protagonists—Lenny, Brit and Lahyayani—try to leave be­hind in their journey to adulthood. If Brit succeeds in establish­ing nexus with the adult word, Lenny and Lahyayani, despite their intense struggle, fail to acquire an identity of their own. Lenny's predicament is qualitatively different from that of Brit in that she is a girl. Brit's identity which he achieves after a he­roic struggle within himself is Kanga's triumph as well. The sin­gular achievement of Sidhwa and Kanga is that they provide a true look into the depths of childhood memory which Zameen­zad fails to achieve in his Gorgeous White Female.
Bapsi Sidhwa's Ice-Candy-Man was retitled Cracking India. Born in Pakistan, and teaching in U.S.A., Sidhwa has a 'dual lit­erary heritage'. If Ghalib and Iqbal fascinated her, writers like Eugene O'Neill, influenced her writing to a considerable extent. An early reference in the text links Sidhwa's title to O'Neill's play, The Ice-Man Cometh:
Ice-Candy-Man is selling his popsicles to the other groups loung­ing on the grass. My mouth waters. I have confidence in Ayah's chocolate chemistry . . . lank and loping the Ice-Candy-Man cometh.
Thus by referring to the influence of American writers like O'Neill, Sidhwa reflects on the influence of America on Paki­stani history. Commenting on the change of title, Sidhwa re­marks:
This novel was published as Ice-Candy-Man in Germany and in Britain. But here the publishers wanted to change the title. My publisher said that the, American readership will not relate to Ice-Candy-Man, because apparently Ice and Candy are euphemisms for drugs here. So they felt it would be better to give a title based on what the narrator says in the novel about the Partition. I feel that not enough has been written about the Partition."The new title is suggestive, no doubt, but as Robert Ross aptly points out, it diminishes the centrality of Ice-Candy-Man aiid blurs his symbolic role. Ice-Candy-Man, in Sidhvva's view, stands for wily politicians whose work it was to 'crack' the once unified country. He symbolises evil for which stand the states­men of the times, leaders who were responsible for the unmiti­gated suffering of ordinary people on either side of the border. Through Lenny, Sidhwa demonstrates how absurd it is to break a country! The new title thus suggests the notion of quest, of dis­covery.
In Ice-Candy-Man, allegory is the structural principle con­trolling the narrative. Some Indian scholars regard this work as a moral allegory. According to Nilufer Bharucha, the Hindu Ayah is symbolic of the Indian earth whereas Shirin Kudchedkar ob­serves that Ayah represents the innocent, natural sexuality of women who becomes the prey of debauched male desire. Sid­hwa herself admitted in an interview:
Ayah, for instance, is not symbolic of anything, but on reflection, I felt that she could be representing India in a way. These are people who desire her so much, and each one of them, when he has a chance, ravishes her.
Sidhwa's Ice-Candy-Man, foregrounds the Partition, its horror and consequences. Though Sidhwa was not aware of the alle­gorical reference, at least when she was writing, perceptive read­ers pick up the resonances. Thus in the ultimate analysis, Ayah and Ice-Candy-Man emerge as personifications of ideas—the former standing,for Mother Earth and the latter for Evil.
Thus Ice-Candy-Man is a novel of education in which Lenny's growth of consciousness takes place against the back­drop of Partition. Khushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan is racy and down-to-earth whereas Balachandra Rajan's The Dark Dancer employs myth as a structural parallel. The Hindu-Muslim riots are viewed as a re-enactment of the fratricidal bat­tle of Kurukshetra. It is an allegory since the allegorical refer­ence is sustained and unbroken. Manohar Malgonkar's, A Bend in the Ganges projects the value of love which transcends violence and non-violence and brings about freedom and fulfilment to in­dividuals. Bhish am Salmi's Tamas is a grim reminder of the hu­man tragedy suggesting that those who forget history are con­demned to repeat it. For all these Indian novelists and Sidhwa, Partition is not a mere historical event but an all-pervasive emo­tional experience.
The worldview which serves as the controlling point of the narrative here is characteristically Zoroastrian. In Lenny's con­sciousness, there is a gradual and purposeful shift from scepti­cism to faith. It is a tale of 'arrival,' a true bildungsroman in which Lenny learns to view the world from a heuristic perspec­tive. Her enlarged consciousness results from her experiment with truth of which Ayah is the victim. Lenny's passage from a state of bliss to the adult world of pains and pleasures constitutes the core of the narrative. The progression of her mind is thus a positive movement in which she reaches the plenitude of her being.
In Ice-Candy-Man, Sidhwa presents a diachronic world where the life of Lenny and her growth at all levels is in a paral­lel time order. In other words, there is the history of Lenny and there exists the chronology of subcontinental Partition tale. As historical time is linear and colonial which is nothing but a rec­ord of depravity, cultural, economic, political and emotional, each postcolonial novelist creates his own 'space' of authenticity and belongingness by his 'english'. By doing so, he is 're­placing' the text in the postcolonial context. New 'spaces' are sought to be created for redefining the native sense of history. Thus in Sidhwa's fiction too, there is this tug between history and the hapless protagonist in such a history. He/She is an 'in­sider' in history, yet without his/her own autonomy of self. Hence he/she seeks to break out of this 'history' and creates his/her own world with temporal autonomy through his own 'english'.

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108 comments:

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