Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ice-Candy-Man: An Introduction

Lenni is an eight year old Parsi girl who leads a comfortable life with the four members of her family before the Partition of India in Lahore. Lenni regularly goes for walks with her Hindu Ayah Shanta. The Queen's garden near her house is their favourite place. Lenny limps on one leg and her parents are worried about her. Dr. Bharucha puts plaster on the leg a number of times but each time the results are not upto the mark. Even surgery hasn't helped much. Dr. Bharucha assures the parents of Lenny that with the passage of time, Lenny will walk normally.

The novel Ice-Candy-Man presents people from all communities —the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Parsis living in Lahore before Partition. 'Bapsi Sidhwa here introduces the device of child-narrator. Lenny, the eight year old girl narrates the events around her from a child's point of view. The novelist also shows the child growing, becoming more conscious about the changing environment around her. Sidhwa introduces the readers to characters like Shanta the Ayah, Imamdin the cook, the Ice-Candy-Man Dilnawaz and Hassan Ali, his cousin brother. At the moment, people in undivided India are seen engaged in the Quit-India Movement, and on the other hand, the Muslim League motivates the Muslim Community to raise a demand for a separate nation for the Muslims. Often the slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad' are heard in the streets but the communal harmony is intact. One day, one British police officer Rogers and Mr. Singh a neighbourer of Lenny visit the house on dinner. They begin to quarrel on trifles. This hot exchange of words is in fact a glimpse and foreshadow of the coming conflicts in the near future. People have started discussions on the possibility of Pakistan and the minorities begin to plan for shifting to safer places. It foreshadows the communal riots between the Hindus and Muslims.
One day, riots break out in Lahore in a locality far away from Lenny's house. This leads to the killing of innocent people on both the sides. The news of bloodshed spreads like wild fire. The All India Radio also reports about cases of violence from different parts of India. Soon the entire Punjab province is seen burning in the fire of hatred and communal violence. Dilnawaz, the Ice-Candy-Man waits for his sisters on Lahore railway station. When the trian arrives from Gurdaspur, everyone on the plateform is shocked to see the ghastly, sight. The Train is loaded with mutilated bodies of Muslim passengers. This shocks everyone and the friendly Dilnawaz turns into a person possessed with a frenzy and a desire to kill the Hindus. He also abducts his friend Shanta, the Ayah of Lenny and later takes her to Hira Mandi of Lahore, a locality of prostitutes.
Ice-Candy-Man loved Shanta from the core of his heart but now she is a Hindu for him. Vengeance has transformed him into a killer and a beast. Later with the belp of Lenny's relatives, Shanta is rescued and she reaches the relief camp at Amritsar. Lenny's delicate mind is shocked to see all this. The Parsee community remains neutral during this time. Lenni's life becomes a nightmare. She realizes that her Muslim neighbours will not spare the lives of non-Muslims anymore. There have been a number of incidents where the Muslims burn alive the non-Muslims. These traumatic incidents leave a damaging impact on the sensitive person like Ice-Candy-Man, and he loses his sanity and poise. He begins to roam about in the streets of Lahore to avenge the death of his Muslim friends.:Communalism and the narrow feelings of caste and creed put on a cloak of greed, meanness and hatred which leads to violence and destruction on the large scale.

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