Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ice-Candy-Man: The Geography of Scars and History of Pain

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. In Ice-Candy-Man, Bapsi Sidhwa conjures life and time in the sub-continent during the British Raj from 1935 to 1947, the period of the Partition of India and Pakistan. The nar­rative of the novel constitutes "the thick description of history"' in all its ramifications in the dramatic portrayal of interaction among diverse strata in various communities—their modes of the personality variants within a society by recording individual opinion, habit, belief, behaviour and psychological disposition in the context of cultural themes such as values, religion, politics and ethos.
In seizing the lost truth—the "other" in history, the text reveals an intuitive grip of the events that makes it refresh­ingly different from the scores of other novels with similar con­cerns. Here I am inclined to attribute this version of history to the writer's view of history as a woman that makes the whole rendering further distanced from the stereotypes. The narrative encapsulates with compelling sensitivity and empathy the pro-tagonist girl child Lenny's initiation in the adult world marked by a highly diverse and disparate cultural climate. The episodic structure of the novel describes within the framework of the larger theme of Lenny's growth and attainment of some under­standing of human situations, the personal, political ideological pursuits, anxiety, pain, stupidity, suffering, joy possessing the epoch before and immediately after the Partition of India in La­hore. The shrewd but sensitive tendering of the past by girl child—its geography of scars, its history of pain—raises doubts about the credibility of the projection of the child's "point of view." One may find within the child's point of view a mature woman's perceptions or authorial omniscient point of view per­meating and overlapping and as a result, a volitional blend of in­nocence and experience. In defence of this narrative approach, it could be observed that events of past really expand later and thus we do not have complete emotions about the immediate present. Only in the past we could invest meaning. Filled out in memory, the dead could take a final form only later. In the female infant Lenny's perceptions the living could be unformed, like herself in the making. Sliding into the adult's point of view, the narrative relates the random history of the female subtexts to the potential narratives of love and betrayal in a mode that enables both the narrator and the reader to discover patterns of cultural signifi­cance.
In versatile strokes of humour, fantasy, scatology and cari­cature, the upper middle class Parsee community—Godmother, Oldhusband, Slavesister, Mother, Father, Electric-Aunt, Cousin, Dr. Mody, Dr. Bharucha are portrayed. We are allowed to par­ticipate in their cultural codes, allegiances, insecurity, and politi­cal and human ideals. The Parsees situated in a metropolitan city of the then united India, sandwiched between two invidiously hostile Hindu/Sikh and Muslim communities—a delicate junc­ture, were more vulnerable in the contemporary political context because Lahore had to play a major part in the Partition of India. A period when such massive historical figures such as Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah loomed large, Lenny's immediate world is made of a Hindu Ayah Shanta, with whom she has developed a close bond, Imam Din, Masseur and Ice-Candy-Man, Shankar Haria, a Sikh neighbour Mr. Singh and his children, English Of­ficer Mr. Roger, Anglo-Indian Mr. and Mrs. Pen etc. The narra­tive in its shifting focus makes us see the scene, hear the sound, and sense the flavour of a highly desperate cultural configuration coexisting in their intrinsic vulnerability, cruelty and ideological or religion-sanctioned logic. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Parsee and English are all seen in terms of experiences that are too versatile to be reduced to a category of funny, farcical, tragic or grand. While fundamentalist propaganda and politics rage, divided loy­alties breed brutality and betrayal, arson, looting and the dislo­cation of common man. A poignant drama of personal loss and agony of young Ayah Shanta intrudes in the larger scenario and transmutes the whole tone of the novel. The awful profligacy, the ugliness, sordidness and deceit converge into an agony and ec­stasy that transcend physical and rational levels and expose us to secret logic of human desire and depravity—the ghost of the past embodying inexorably the major character, Ice-Candy-Man. The novel, from being a shrewd satiric record of the history of India and Pakistan, becomes a lore of elegiac dimension that has al­ready been anticipated in Iqbal's lines serving as a prologue: "The fire of verse gives us courage and bids me no more to be faint with dust in my mouth. I am abject: to God I make no complaint/Sometimes you favour our rivals then sometimes with us. You are free/I am sorry to say it so boldly. You are no less fickle than we." The last part of the novel centring on Ice-Candy-Man makes us recognize the teleos of history that has cast him in precarious times. His historical antecedents reveal skele­tons on the cupboard of history. In the plight of this bastard—a derelict whom we identify not only a victim of history and his own doomed longings but also more significantly of the culpa­ble, contemptible, misogynistic hypocrisy of the Moghul ruling class that gave social sanction to the sordid subjugation of women to pander to the lust and voyeuristic urges. And, subse­quently, it bred a class of male and female bastards—dispos-sessed and disowned, whose perpetuation of pimping and pros­titution in the facade of beauty, art and poetry concealed covet-ousness, helplessness and deceit. In the case of Ice-Candy-Man nonetheless, there has to be no more degradation. The disarray of history and his own fatal flaw assign him intense desolation but that also lift him to a sphere of spiritual plane. Rejection by his unwilling beloved transform him into "a moonstruck Fakir who has renounced the world for his beloved: be it a woman or God.". And Ice-Candy-Man's voice humming in our mind stirs a certain sense of awe;
Don't berate me, beloved, I'm God-intoxicated:
I'll wrap myself about you; I'm mystically mad.
The opening chapters of the novel however do not provide a clue to understanding the significance of the title. It is at the end that the whole panorama of the novel attains a metaphoric image in the title. One may infer a similar implication of the title in Wallace Steven's "Emperor of Ice Cream." The poem evokes the image of a slatternly woman at her wake attended by a man who represents pleasure and by wenches who are apparently fellow prostitutes. The meaning suggests the power of death over physi­cal satisfaction. While the novel affirms the supreme value of human freedom to make right moral choices, "Ice" in both the titles metaphorically suggests innocence, cruelty, betrayal and the ultimate power of death that divests life of all illusions.
Lenny's version of life is a truth telling project. Her afflic­tion with polio in infancy has made her routine different from other children. She is in a privileged position and has also access to social and prrvate gathering or the intimate lives of elders. She cannot be like others, she cannot lie. Says Godmother, "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.... A life sentence? Condemned to honesty??" Since her truth telling brings about a disaster in some lives, she recognizes that she is "an animal with conditioned reflexes that cannot lie." With ruthless candour, she describes her lameness, her exposure to her difference as physically handicapped and also as a female—the nature of male-female relationship—women as the object of lust, desire, the destructive outcome of sexuality. Lenny's parents, Ayah Shanta, her admirers, cousin make her sense the subterra­nean motives and urges both in political and personal lives. The city of Lahore in 1935 becomes alive, throbbing with life. Lenny pushed in a pram by her Ayah covers jail road, Queen Road, Past Y.M.C.A, past the Freemason's lodge (The Ghost Club) and across the mall to the Queen's statue in the park opposite the as­sembly chambers. She watches every scene, she loves it; Queen Victoria's statue imposes the English Raj in the Park, Felleti's Hotel Cook, the government house Gardener, and an elegant, compactly muscled head and body Masseur. Ayah Shanta and Lenny sit together. The Ice-Candy-Man of the title lurks in the background selling his popsicles lounging on the grass, a man who has to have an ominous significance in the story. In this Company, Lenny gathers knowledge of the pre-Partition politics in India, and also the mysteries of adult sexual­ity: "Masseur's knowing fingers, his voice gravelly with desire . . . consummate arm circles Ayah. Ayah's sound of pleasure." Fine confident strokes describe the character: "Ayah, chocolate brown and short. Everything about her is eighteen years old and round and plump. . . . And as if her looks were not stunning enough, she has a rolling bouncing walk that agitates the globules of her buttocks under cheap colourful saree and the half spheres beneath her short saree-blouse. The English man no doubt had noticed." Lenny notices things that love to crawl beneath Ayah's sarees: lady bird, glow worms and Ice-Candy-Man's toes: "They travel so cautiously that both Ayah and I are taken unawares. An absorbing gossip. I am sometimes bribed into commerce with the Ice-Candy-Man." She senses ten­sion among the competing admirers of Ayah: "They look as if each is a whiskered dog circling the other, weighing in and warning his foe." The awareness of the subtle exchange of signals between man-man and man-woman mark her initiations into social-sexual codes. "I learn the human needs, frailties, cru­elties and joys."
Not only are the people inhabiting Ayah's world portrayed with vividness and spontaneity, the mother and father, God­mother—childless, abrasive are made to look real. Lenny's spe­cial relationship with the Godmother is recorded with genuine feeling: "The bond that ties her strength to my weakness, my fierce demands to her nurturing, my trust to her capacity to con­tain that trust-my loneliness ... to her compassion . . . stronger than the bond of motherhood." The Electric-Aunt, addicted to navy blue, swift moving cousin, her son who makes Lenny know herself as an object of sexuality—her difference. Adi, her brother, reminds her of her ugliness. "I am skinny, wizened, sal­low, wiggly-haired ugly. He is beautiful." The narrative varies from plain matter of fact to metaphoric that amaze and amuse because of the indigenous mode of perceptions: Lenny cannot imagine Ice-Candy-Man working alongside Ayah in her house. "Mother'd throw a fit! ... with his thuggish way of in­haling from the stinking cigarettes clenched in his fist, his fleshy scarves and neck of jasmine altar ... a shady almost disreputable type." The sinister but charming implication of Ice-Candy-Man could be read in the portrait. "He talks news and gossip flow off his glib tongue like a torrent. He reads Urdu newspapers and the Urdu Digest. He can, when he applies himself, read the headlines of the Civil and Military Gadgets, the English daily. The rising German forces." The very description constitutes spurious, promiscuous personality who, we learn later, is a bas­tard born in Kotha and can enact glibly the .protocol of a Nawab as well as of a -pimp. The focus on Shanta and Ice-Candy-Man serves Sidhwa's purpose of connecting the personal with the na­tional concerns and expand the boundary of her fictional world. The novel is smoothly allowed to attain more space and contain not only the story of Ayah Shanta's love for Masseur, Masseur's murder in the riots, attrition, her abduction and cruel degradation but also the tense political scenario of the time. Things are hap­pening at a charged pace. It is the time when the political agita­tions in the Raj are gaining momentum: "The European mystery is erased In secret of his conjuring trick is known." The arrival and exaltation of Gandhi is received with mixed reaction—comic and wary: "Gandhiji reaches out and suddenly seizes my arm in a startling voice. What a sickly-looking child, he announces. . . . Flush her stomach! Her skin will bloom like roses." 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 ... It wasn't until some years later . . . when I realized the full scope and dimension of the massacre... that I comprehended the concealed nature of the ice lurking deep beneath the hypnotic and dynamic femininity of Gandhi's non—violent exterior."
Nehru however is inscribed with obvious awe and admira­tion and contrasted with Jinnah. The Nehru and Lady Mountbatten connection does not cease to excite most writers who deal with India's history. Jinnah's profile is summed up in a few succinct lines—austere, driven, pukka Sahib accented, deathly ill: Sidhwa's protagonist fancies a tragic-romantic story of Jinnah's love, marriage and loss—his Parsee wife and that he died because of heartbreak. Unlike the historiography, literature has chosen to conceive Jinnah in romantic terms. Sidhwa also takes his clue from Sarojini Naidu who paid tribute to Jinnah in gushing language: "preeminently the clam hauteur of his accus­tomed reserve,... an intuition quick and tender as a woman's humour gay and winning as a child . . . dispassionate in his esti­mate and acceptance of life."
The conflict between Jinnah and Gandhi threatens the politi­cal climate. There is news of breaking the country. Ayah informs her: "They will dig a canal." Lenny becomes aware of the catalytic power of religious differences. It is sudden, one day everybody in themselves and the next day they are Hindu, Mus­lim, Sikh, Christian. People shrink, dwindle into symbols. Ayah is no longer just my all-encompassing Ayah. She is also a token. A Hindu.  With the approaching climate of disquiet, the fundamentalism is provoked. While the Parsee community maintains caution, the Muslims Imam Din and Yusuf are turning into religious zealots: they take Friday afternoon off for the Jumha prayers. The vivid dramatic description illustrate Sid­hwa's power of capturing moments with photographic accuracy. One Friday they set about preparing themselves ostentatiously. Squatting atop the cement wall of the garden tank . . . they wash their heads, arms, neck, the cans and noisily clear their throat and noses . . . crammed into a narrow religious slot they are dimin­ished; as are Jinnah and Iqbal, Ice-Candy-Man and the Masseur.
Equally realistic details evoke the low caste female child, Papoo and her family belonging to the sweeper class, they are alienated because of the caste hierarchy—"because they are entrenched deeper in their low Hindu caste. While the Sharmas and Dau-latrams, Brahmins like Nehru, are dehumanized by their lofty caste and caste marks." Sidhwa's pen sketches the hetero­geneous configurations—caste—community with astute under­standing: The Rogers of Birdwood Barracks, Queen Victoria and King George are English Christians. They look down their noses upon the Pens who are Anglo-Indian, who look down theirs on the Phaibus who are Indian Christian, who look down upon all non-Christians. The convoluted caste politics in colonial In­dia, its grim implications—the will to power associated with deeply entrenched insecurity—form a cultural configuration from which Parsees as Sidhwa sees are fastidiously aloof: "In this milieu, Godmother, Slavesister, Electric-Aunt and my family are reduced to irrelevant nomenclature: "we are Parsee, what is God?"
The easy flow of the narrative coordinates and incorporates a wide sweep of characters and episodes in interaction of diverse cultures, compulsions, implicated in the sociology and politics of culture. Punjabi abuses build up the ambience of the sweeper caste: Papoo an eleventh year daughter of Mucchoo shall be given to an older dwarfish man in marriage. Papoo is treated with sordid cruelty. Mucchoo screeching at Papoo: "I turn my back; the bitch slacks off I say something, she becomes a deaf mute. I'll thrash the wickedness out of you."
The scatology involved in story—telling intruding into the narrative here and there unobtrusively makes us grasp the dis­placed communal prejudice with ugly potentials. The butcher continues: "You Hindus eat so much beans and cauliflower. I'm no surprised your Yogis levitate. They possibly fart into their way right up to heaven." Lenny observes Ayah Shanta is not laughing, she senses endemic hostility between different relig­ions. Everybody is a party to it. With unrelenting accuracy Lenny describes a Brahmin: "our shadow glides over a Brahmin sitting cross legged, . . . our shadow has violated his virtue. . . . He looked at his food as if it is infested with maggots . . . and throws away the leaf." The interacting Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Parsee give the narration a caricature's edge and provide some moments of innocent humour: "The little Sikh boys running about with hair piled in top-knots, are keeping mostly to themselves," or " Cousin tells Lenny that the twelve o'clock heat of the sun addles their brains" or Muslim fam­ily with their burka-veiled women they too sit apart. Dressed in satins and high heels, the little Muslim girls wear make up." Equally identifiable in the subcontinent is the scene: "A group of smooth skinned Brahmins and their pampered male offspring form a tight circle of supercilious exclusivity." Lenny hears their yelling: Parsee, crow-eaters! The mutual misinter­pretation of the communities aggravates the confusion of the time.
The narrative's wittiest rendering is that of Parsee commu­nity, where slapstick and scatological references give a bounce and realism to the mimetic description and this is where the nar­rator feels most at home. The Parsee household, its cultural codes—patterns of communication, jokes—render characters like Godmother, old-husband, Dr. Manek Mody, Slavesister, Electric-Aunt, Cousin and Dr. Bharucha distinct individuality. Their idiosyncrasies, failings and convictions are vividly drama­tized. The hilarious moments also neutralize the tense ambience of the outside world. Slavesister is often being subjected to rep­rimand. The narrator finds Godmother in a good form:
His Sourship [Old Father] had his bath. Manek, you'd better take your term before Cleopatra [Slavesister] decides to settle down to her business on the commode. "Really, Rodabai.... I hate to say it, but you really are going too far. . . may I ask who you are to tell Manek not to meddle? Are you somebody? Queen Cleopatra of Jail road perhaps?"
Milan Kundera in his essay "63 words" defines obscenity as the root that attaches us most deeply to our homeland. This depiction tellingly brings to the fore the rootedness of the novelist as much in the description of Mother's prayer of the Great Trouble Easers, the angels Mushkali Assa and Behram Yazd.
The cultural praxis of the colonized people fighting hard to overthrow imperialism was already afflicted with an endemic in­ner malaise. Their movement for freedom and Independence was, in effect a combat between two nations, two races, two people, two cultures and two ideologies over a territory India. The fight was over who owns India, who rules India, who repre­sents India. The rift makes itself apparent in the volatile mo­ments of sloganeering much before the event of Partition in 1947, as the image figures in the mind of child Lenny:
Adi and I slip past the attention of our vigilants and join the tiny tin pot processions lhat are spawned on Warris Road. We shout ourselves hoarse crying. Jai Hind! Jai Hind', or Pakistan Zindabad!' depending on the whim or the allegiance of the principal crier.
And as the time passes, the sectarian passion gains further mo­mentum,.every segment of the city life comes under the spell of sporadic violence of actions and words. DIG Police Roger is murdered—body found gutted. Muslim, Sikh, Hindu leaders rise for power and autonomy. Master Tara Singh is quoted as saying, "We will see how the Muslim swines get Pakistan: we will fight till the last mart." The arrival of Holi festival in 1947 is greeted with ominous ring by Muslims: Holi with their blood! Allah Ho Akbar—Pakistan Zindabad. Violence grows more gruesome, The narrative transcription of the lurking men­ace evokes a sense of fear, waste and vacuity. In terse, taut nar­rative the sinister design of the time is apprehended: 'Lahore is burning The abandoned houses of Sharmas, Dau-latrams. . . . that Delhi Gate . . . There's Lahori Gate . . . There's Mochi Darwaza ... Isn't that where Masseur lives? Ayah asks.
'Yes that is where your masseur stays' Ice-Candy-Man said, unable to mask his ire. 'It is a Muslim mohalla'.
Lenny's observations tellingly register the demonstrations of in­vidious hatred between the communities:
a mob of Sikhs, their wild long hair and beard rampant, large fe­vered eyes glowing in fanatic faces, pours into the narrow lane roaring slogans, holding curved swords, shoving up a manic wave of violence that sets Ayah to trembling as she holds me tight. A naked child, twitching on a spear struck between her shoulders, is waved like a flag: her screamless mouth agape she is staring straight up at me.
And then slowly advancing mob of Muslim goondas: packed so tight that we can see only the top of their heads. Roaring: Allah o Akbar! Yaaaa Ali!' and Pakistan Zindabad!'
The terror the mob generates is palpable—like an evil, para­lyzing spell. The terrible procession, like a sluggish river, flows beneath us. Every short while, a group of men, like a whirling eddy, stalls—and like the widening circles of a treacherous eddy dissolving in the mainstream, leaves in its centre the pulping red flotsam of a mangled body.
The violence further increases, the market places and residential area flash in explosions: "Trapped by the spreading flames, the panicked Hindus rush in droves from one end of the street to the other. . . . Some collapse in the street. Charred limbs and burnt logs are falling from the sky." In Lenny's reflection, we discover the enormous desolation of this epoch:
Despite the residue of passion and regret, and loss of those who have in panic fled—the fire could not have burned for ... Despite all the ruptured dreams, broken lives, buried gold, bricked in ru­pees, secret jewellery, lingering hopes . . . the fire could not have burned for months and months. But in my memory it is branded over an inordinate length of time: memory demands poetic licence. And the Ice-Candy-Man is the medium of the news—his infor­mation/misinformation—horrendous tales of macabre violence threaten the world of Lenny: "There are no young women among the dead: Only two gunny bags full of women's breasts." Lenny fancies: "I see mother's detached breasts: soft, pendulous, their beige nipples spreading," a totem of female victimi­zation. The stories of girls and women found naked in the ditches are too familiar. Ice-Candy-Man's stories grow more appalling as his shriveled dried up face looks possessed. In this milieu however bathing of buffaloes in Lenny's household, father's coming back by bicycle goes on as ever. Moti Mucchoo and Pappu (the untouchable) remain unruffled—themselves victims and victimizing each other, they belong to no community. While Lenny shares the troubled fears of Ayah Shanta and her knowl­edge that her lover Masseur was violently murdered, she does not have the resources to understand the depth of Ayah Shanta's inconsolable grief.
Ice-Candy-Man again appears on the scene, this time with a violent crowd and he manipulates the child into speaking truth about Ayah Shanta's whereabouts and gets her abducted:
They drag Ayah out. They drag her by her arms stretched taut, and her bare feet—that want to move backwards—are forced instead. Her lips are drawn away from her teeth, and the resisting curve of her throat opens her mouth like the dead child's screamless mouth. Her violet Sari slips off her shoulder, and her breasts strain at her sari-blouse stretching the cloth so that the white stitching at the seams shows. A sleeve tears under her arm.
The last thing I noticed was Ayah, her mouth slack and piteously gaping, her dishevelled hair flying into her kidnapper's faces, staring at us as if she wanted to leave behind her, wide-open and terrified eyes.
The multiple interconnected events fuse in the last part of the novel which along with describing the plight of Rana's lacera­tion and mutilation in the wake of riots drive home the extremi­ties of sadism let loose and the most brutal and barbarous illus­tration of violence figures in the suburban villages Kot Rahim Makipura. In a young boy Rana's predominantly Muslim village, the poor Muslim peasant families huddle, together, comforted by each other's presence, reluctant to disperse: "the villagers re­mained in the prayer yard as dusk gathered about them. But it is at the dawn the attack comes:
the panicked women ran to and fro screaming and snatching their babies, and the men barely had the time to get to their ports . . . Tall men with streaming hair and thick biceps and thighs, roaring Bolay so Nihal! Sat Sri Akal.
Rana abandoned by his mother and sisters halfway ran. In the frenzy of riots he saw his uncles beheaded. His older brothers his cousins, "some one fell on him, drenching him in the blood."
Amidst the dead bodies, wailing women, raped and killed, Rana was running into the moonless night. He arrived at his aunt's village just after dawn. He watched it from afar, confused by the activity taking place, soldiers holding guns with bayonets sticking out of them, and was diverting the villagers. This village was not under any attack, perhaps the army trucks were there to evacuate the villagers and take them to Pakistan. The moment he caught the light of recognition in the eye of his Noni Chachi, the pain in his head exploded and he crumpled at her feet uncon­scious.
Chachi washed the wound on his head with a wet rag. Clots of congealed blood came away and floated in the pan in which she rinsed the cloth.
'I did not remove the thick scabs that had formed over the wound', she says. 'I thought I'd see his brain!' The slashing blade had scalped him .... And old woman covered him with a white cloth, said, 'Let him die in peace!' (205)
He survived however and is now with Imam Din after the Parti­tion settles.
The country divided on communal lines on the eve of Inde­pendence brought in its wake the twin traumas—the physical one of being dislocated and forced to migrate and the psychological one of living in 'alien' conditions—which millions of people ex­perienced living on both sides of the religious divide. The riots subside, Ayah Shanta is found in Hira Mandi in the company of Ice Candy Man and we encounter the sordid concealed regions of our history and politics that subjected women and the poor to the worst kind of sadism and brutality and Ice-Candy-Man is the heir to this history. The historically insignificant portions buried in the backyard of history surface:
The Mogul princes built Hira Mandi—to house their illegitimate offsprings and favourite concubines ... who cares for orphans? . . . They are nothing but prostitutes . . . young girls kidnapped by pimps—forced into all kinds of depravities on pain of death.
The narrative of this juncture of the novel grows heavy with the oppressive power of past history that vitiates the present. We share the narrator's apprehension: "Is Ayah Shanta's progeny doomed to this life wherein beauty, sexuality, sublimity and sor-didness are mixed up? Since the Ice Candy Man recognizes in her "the rhythm of a Godd.ess, the voice of an angel. . . . How she moves. Like his ancestors he wants to celebrate her grace and the adolescent Lenny is mesmerized: "I am hypnotized by the play of emotions on the Ice-Candy-Man's plastic face, by the music in his voice. . . . Moghuls portrayed in miniature." But this history need not be. relived—it stinks. It reebs of a cul­tural politics in which the gross physical needs of the kings and the princes was the first priority. Lenny's Godmother is not go­ing to abandon the mission of rescuing Shanta; she can see through the mouth of romantic love fostered by men with the support of the woman in a conspiracy of silence. Godmother is not going to be a party to the complicity in romanticizing and idealizing oppressive sexual relations. The event beginning with highly nostalgic, hypnotic, tone turns grotesque and frenzied, unmasking the cruelty beneath the facade of sentimental eulogy: "Is that why you had her lifted off—let hundred of eyes probe her—so that you could marry her? You would have your own mother carried off if it suited you!—Badmash!" Ayah be-comes a living ghost: "can the soul be extracted from its living body." Finally Ayah is dispatched with her scant belong­ings, wrapped in cloth bundle and a small tin trunk at the Recov­ered Women's camp. The broken bones and pimply influence of the Ice-Candy-Man and his cronies is of no avail.
The Ayah's story ends exposing the latent cruelty and fet­ishes of history that always ominously appear to be in the grip of blind forces—the hegemonistic politics—endorsing the per­petuation of misinterpretation and appropriation of under­privileged and women. Getting to know Shanta, Pappoo, Hamida on the one hand, the Godmother and her own mother on the other, help the adolescent narrator reach an understanding of human situations. She must become the author of herself. The writer appears to be identifying herself with the character. The character speaking deeply, comes as close to the truth as fiction can come to the truth of the human heart. This however coin­cides with the loss of innocence. The experiences related are the ''rite of passage" to her. In gesting the pain of her world by facing it gives her strength and will to claim the power of her own moral position:
The innocence that my parents' vigilance, the servant's care and Godmother's love sheltered in me, that neither Cousin's carnal cravings, nor the stories of the violence or the mobs could destroy, was laid waste that evening by the emotional storm that raged round me. The confrontation between Ice Candy Man and God­mother opened my eyes to the wisdom of righteous indignation over compassion—to the demands of gratification . . . and the un­scrupulous nature of desire.
Ice-Candy-Man is a sincere and successful effort to artistically portray the life in the subcontinent at a crucial juncture in history without indulging in hostile parodistic melodrama or extrava­gant, vociferous pyrotechniques one may find in the recent sub­continental fiction. Tharoor or Khushwant Singh appear to be guided by a self-conscious, subversive ideology, Sidhwa's "truth telling" narration tran­scribes the destructive impulse of the time with such compassion in an unpretentious idiom that even most anaesthetized or cyni-cal reader feels touched. Feeling flows in the narrative not in­tended to shock or to impress but to make us identify the margi­nalized culture outside the mainstream as a part of history. The text aligns diverse cultures, different epochs and captures a vast human context—socio political configurations, ideologies, spiritual longings, righteousness within and without in untheo-rized, un-formulated idiom, like a camera it impartially registers the subversive dynamics of time, in knowing it we hope to derive from it some knowledge of ourselves as the product of a com­mon history/politics and common social constructs.

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