Saturday, 2 March 2019

Feminism in 'Ice Candy Man' by Bapsi Sidhwa


Sushila Singh puts it in Feminism and Recent Fiction in English: Human experience for centuries has been synonymous with the masculine experience with the result that the collective image of humanity has been one-sided and incomplete. Woman has not been defined as a subject in her own right but merely has an entity that concerns man either in his real life or his fantasy life.

Many contemporary writers have projected the plight of women based on caste, creed, religion, gender-prejudices, community and beliefs, and are trying to suggest some pragmatic solutions to them.

In ‘Ice-Candy Man’, the whole story has been narrated by the female protagonist Lenny who relates the horrors of violence and her personal observations and reactions. The protagonist not only observes but also analyses men’s lascivious and degrading attention towards women, voraciousness of male sexual desires, women’s plight as they are reduced to the status of sexual objects, and relates the peculiar disadvantages, social and civil, to which they are subjected.

Lenny as a narrator relates her life as, “my world is compressed”. As a physically handicapped girl, her world is restricted to the four walls of the house. As a child she spends most of her time with her Godmother. She terms her Godmother’s room as, “my refuge from the perplexing unrealities of my home on Warris Road”. Her schooling is stopped as suggested by Col. Bharucha, her doctor, because she was suffering from polio. He concludes, “she’ll marry—have children—lead a carefree, happy life. No need to strain her with studies and exams”. Lenny concludes that the suggestion made by Col. Bharucha sealed her fate. It reveals the limitations associated with a girl’s life.

Patriarchal society considers women as physically weak to venture into the world outside the four walls of their houses and too deficient to make important decisions. Hence women are relegated to the domestic sphere where they have to accept the domination of a male counterpart. Since ages it is considered that it is a woman’s duty to tend house, raise children and give comfort to her family.

Lenny as a girl learns that marriage of girls is of utmost importance to their parents. Independence and self-identity are meant for men. The intense concern for her marriage even in her childhood puts Lenny in dismay. As a child she was shocked to perceive Ice-Candy-Man pushing his wife Ayah into the business of prostitution. The site of Hindu and Muslim women being raped during the riots petrifies her.

Lenny’s mother is another interesting female character of the novel. As a servile housewife, she limits her life to the four walls of her home. She reticently follows her husband, who is the decision-maker of the family. Lenny’s mother is a representative of those traditional women who as subordinates never express their desire to establish themselves as better human beings.

Sidhwa as a writer encourages women to transgress the line of marginalization. She states in an interview: “As a woman, one is always marginalized. 1 have worked among women to create an awareness of their rights and protested against repressive measures aimed at Pakistani women and minority community”.

Women should utilize their potentials beyond their domestic life to assert their individuality. The novel Ice-Candy-Man projects through Lenny’s mother that women should have a purpose in life besides domesticity which should be developed by them to the best of their abilities. Lenny’s mother exhibits a change in her personality by the end of the novel. She becomes acquainted with the political changes occurring in the country during India-Pakistan division.

She emerges as a social worker. Along with Lenny’s Electric-Aunt, she helps the victims of 1947 riots. She provides people with petrol who wanted to cross the border and helps the raped and exploited women. The novel ends on a positive note. Women strive to come out of their plight and finally move forward from their degraded and tormented state to start their lives afresh.

Hence, we can conclude that Sidhwa as a writer has a constructive approach towards women’s predicament. Women may not just fill a place in the society but they should fit in it. By leading a contented life they paralyze their lives but if they desire they will have courage to break through their plight and afford opportunity for betterment.