Saturday, August 28, 2010

Leading Themes in Ice-Candy-Man

Bapsi Sidhwa is among the important signatures in Pakistani literary world. Being a Parsi, she is aware of her roots, past and the Parsi community. Ice-Candy-Man is her major novel which introduces a child-narrator Lenny who narrates the events in the wake of Partition of India. Sidhwa's concern for her Parsi community, place of women in Pakistani society, human struggle for survival and dignity of man are major themes injier novels. In Ice-Candy-Man, Sidhwa presents her Parsi community in a dilemma over the issue of support. Partition is immanent and the question of loyalty haunts the Parsi psyche.
They are loyal to the Raj but now Parsis have to side either with India or the newly formed Pakistan. Sidhwa depicts Hindu-Muslim riots without any social discrimination. As the narrative progresses, history moves to the background and struggle for survival becomes the focus of the narrative. There are a number of novels written about Partition of India like Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh, Tamas by Bhisham Sahni, Azadi by Chaman Nahal, A Bend, in the Ganges by Manohar Malgaonkar, The. Rape by Raj Gill, Ashes and Petals by H.S. Gill, Twice Born Twice Dead by K.S. Duggal, The Dark Dancer by B.Rajan, Sunlight on a Broken Column by Attia Hosain and Ice-Candy-Man by Bapsi Sidhwa. These novels realistically portray and depict the upheaval that the Indian sub-continent experienced. It was the most shocking and traumatic experience of division of hearts and communities. These literary works leave the reader with the feeling of disquiet and disturbance. These novels deal with the tumultuous and traumatic moments in the life of one generation. (A Critic) observes that these works not only deal with the tumultuous times but also strips away the veneer of civilization that man hides behind. They also hold a mirror to the element of savagery latent in man. "It seems, a stressful situation reveals the animal streak just waiting to be unleashed. This is made all the more strong by the support of a mob feeding on hatred."
Ice-Candy-Man deals with human emotions at play at different levels, heightened by turbulent times. In the process of shaping history, human emotions and relationships are relegated to the background. The tidal waves of violence, hatred and communal violence change the feelings of fraternity. Aradhika observes: "Like some ancient Satanic rites of witchcraft, the power to destroy, springs forth from an unsuspected fount within and the sheer pleasure of humiliating and massacring the victim is so great that one forgets one's own mortality." Bapsi Sidhwa in her novel Ice-Candy-Man delineates his characters and their antecedents with fidelity and with a feeling of contemporaneity. In the narrative of Ice-Candy-Man, the reader is introduced to the kind-hearted Khansama who is a veritable rebel, the loyal khalsa refusing to leave Lahore, Tota Ram the frightened Hindu and a Parsi family oscillating between-two view-points with neutrality hoping for their survival.
In Ice-Candy-man, the main characters are. Ice-Candy-Man and the 'Ayah', the maid-servant with the Parsi family. Ice-Candy-Man is a handsome and immensely popular youngman He is a generous fellow who is miles away from religious fanaticism. But one incident shakes his entire existence and his belief in the goodness of man is shattered. He becomes a witness to the mutilated bodies of Muslims in the hands of Hindus and he takes a vow to avenge the death of his Muslim fellows. This bitter experience wrenches out the darker side of his personality. This shattering blow transforms a kind and loving individual into a violent and frenzied person. On a crucial moment in the narrative, he asks the Ayah: "there is an animal inside me straining to break free. Marry me and perhaps it will be contained." Here Aradhika observes: "The ultimate betrayal is not by the innocent trusting little girl but by the devil of hatred that cannot be contained." Now the ice-candy-man plays the pivotal role of a raffish type man.
Like other novelists on Partition, Sidhwa also describes the ugly and terrifying face of Partition by recollecting the traumatic and agonising memories of those moments. Sidhwa also has tried to recreate history in emotion-laden and poignant scenes. The rumblings of Partition are felt in the beginning of the narrative and the atmosphere proper to the kind of a tale is gradually created. As the tension mounts, atmosphere becomes grim and awesome. Here one finds the worst kind of genocide in the history of mankind. Narratives like Ice-Candy-Man transport readers back into the corridors of time. This experience of being catapulted back into the dark and forgotten recesses of time leaves the readers shocked and unbelieving on the reaction of man. One witnesses the shocking and heart-rending scenes of the arrival of trains full of massacred Muslims chugging into the plateform with crowds waiting for another gift from Amritsar. Man is transformed into a brute, a savage lusting for blood. He is ripped apart, dissected to reveal animal form. The colourful streets of Lahore look ominously dreadful and deserted. The Hindus are still reluctant to leave their ancestral property where their generations have lived and prospered. Now they visualise a future devoid of any hope. These painful experiences are like the agonising throes of a new birth. It is still painful to recollect those traumatic and dreadful moments that turned the noble ones into beasts. Indeed the Partition of India remains the most agonising experience in history. A number of writers who wrote on Partitiontouch the gut of the problem in order that such blunders should never be committed by 'wise leaders'. Jagdev Singh observes, "The Partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 is one of the great tragedies, the magnitude, ambit and savagery of which compels one to search for the larger meaning of events, and to come to terms with the lethal energies that set off such vast conflagrations." These comments aptly throw light on the central theme of the novel Ice-Candy-Man.
The theme of inter-community marriage is at the core of Sidhwa's novels like Ice-Candy-Man, An American Brat and the Crow Eaters. Her handling of the theme of inter-community marriages is relevant and contemporary. This sensitive issue arouses acrimonious debates in Parsi Community. In Parsi faith, it is believed that a Parsi could be one only by birth. In mixed marriages, the children lose their right to be members of Parsi community. The Parsis have a patriarchal society. While dealing with the theme of marriage, Sidhwa maintains a balance without revolting against rigid social codes. In her novel An American Brat, Sidhwa examines the theme of inter-faith marriage in detail. Its protagonist Feroza migrates to America where she intends to marry a Jew boy David Press. Her Parsi community opposes this marriage and Feroza has to withdraw her move but she expresses her conviction to marry to boy of her choice only, irrespective of religion.
In Ice-Candy-Man, Sidhwa presents the theme of interfaith marriage through the love relationship between the Ice-Candy-Man and the Hindu Ayah. On seeing his fellow Muslims massacred, the Ice-Candy man goes mad with rage and keeps his beloved Ayah in the brothels of Hira Mandi in Lahore. Then he realizes his mistake and marries the Hindu Ayah but now love has become powerless. The Ayah is rescued and is taken to a Recovered Women's Camp in Amritsar. Thus, a number of themes have been well-integrated in the narrative of Ice-Candy-man. 

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