The war inside has ever been crucial in human life than the war outside and of course has ever littered sparks for a war. The war within human beings, often paves way to unimaginable internal transformations which may often result in transcendence of behavior and the hallucinations thence may often be of schizophrenia. The novel Pandavapuram of K.S. Sethumadhavan[Sethu] considers the scope of varied dimensions of diversified and creative woman persona or the endless possibilities of complexities in woman mindset, as evolved through the inner conflicts of the character ‘Devi’. The novel extends wholehearted endeavor for the proliferation of independence and equality for women in all respects especially through the relentless war from within. Devi represents the contemporary woman who strives all possible ways to live on an extra ordinary life. The triple facets of the character ‘Devi’, as transcended parallelism, viz., Devi, Draupathi and Durga help the novelist to depict the different demeanours of woman which can often acquire and administer power over the masculinity. The so called cliché on women as hapless, helpless, dependant etc. are quite worthless about Devi. She is not a woman merely striving for survival, instead moves shoulder to shoulder and mostly ahead of the masculine headship. In other words, Devi put forth the new womanhood, quite independent in all terms including sexuality. For instance, the term ‘Jaran’[womanizer] had long been used for men who seek extra-marital relationships. Just like retaliation, Devi proves that the same can be practically done by women if needed. Draupathy who had five husbands at a time is her idol. Masculine power over women had always been based on the sexual ‘limitations’ of the feminine gender which has absolutely been overturned by Devi. One cannot differentiate Devi from a male character. In short, Devi may be considered as a stepping stone to eradicate the inequalities still hidden in between men and women. The war within the woman personae extends outside.
‘Devi’ in Pandavapuram
Devi is the central character of the novel Pandavapuram. She is a school teacher but waiting everyday at the railway platform for someone. She herself make believe that she has been waiting for her Jaran(which means a womanizer). Here begins the schizophrenic thoughts of Devi. Her thoughts were dilapidated ever since her husband Kunjikuttan had abandoned her one day for no reason. It was after she gave birth to a child. She had no idea why he had left her. The only chance was that he had a doubt about the paternity of the child. Anyway, one early morning he was disappeared from his room1 and thereafter no one had seen him.
Devi was shocked and since she could not find any reason for the descent of her husband, she tried to make out her mind with certain frantic thoughts as; the presence of a Jaran in their life might be the reason for her husband to leave her. Hence she is really waiting for a Jaran as retaliation to her husband’s deed. The psychological conflicts within her, to cope up with the extra-marital relations of men in general, gradually take her to change in her demeanors. Devi transforms into Draupathi and Durga or, they are two other facets of Devi.
Devi has been waiting at the railway platform for her Jara., He is long haired; wearing loose and long saffron Jubba[a long and full sleeve loose shirt like kurtha]; black shoes. He has strong black hands with thrusting veins; long fingers with stains of cigarette and penetrating eyes of a Jaran all of which was in fact, the beginning of her hallucinations. But thence the touch of a ‘Magical Realism’ begins with perplexed truth and delusion according to the schizophrenic mindset of Devi. Whatever she thinks and says about her Jaran is quite detached from the external world as it is clear from chapter eighteen of the novel.
In the first paragraph of the novel itself, the author provides a setting for the bewildered thoughts of the heroine. She had been expecting the usual daunting dream as in many nights. The colour that tainted all scenes of her dreams were yellow.2 Some instances are, the yellow coloured roof of small houses; yellow coloured buildings; yellow faced human beings; yellow lights and the dirty yellow smoke spread above the colony of Pandavapuram. The term ‘yellow’ has some negative implications other than colour, in certain contexts in some areas, as when related to stories and news of allegations connected with immoral traffic. Since the whole novel is about immoral traffic, the ‘yellowish attire’ of the background stands close to the theme. In addition, the yellow colourization can also be considered as her mental preparation to accept and reject simultaneously the illegal and immoral relations as a part of her mental conflict.
Devi was gradually becoming in a position to accept mentally an immoral relation as a retaliation of the rejection by her husband Kunjikuttan, who left her for no reason. She was shocked in the beginning to realize that Kunjikuttan would never be with her anymore. Hence she wanted to find out some reason for his abandonment. She thought that Kunjikuttan might have suspected her for having an illegal relation with some womanizer. When she gave birth to a child, he had asked if the child was really his.3 The next morning, he was not found in his room and never came back. Such a heavy mental shock bestowed upon an innocent and sensitive wife could make tremendous internal conflicts and responses within her as of Schizophrenia. The responses may be varied from person to person.
The triple identity of Devi as Devi, Durga and Draupathi may be explained as a part of her hallucinations out of Schizophrenia. Anyway, the mindset of Devi to confront the situation of her husband’s abandonment with an extra-ordinary way of thinking is worth to be mentioned, in place of people who may even commit suicide in a similar context. Devi proves herself an extra ordinary woman and shall be accepted as a model to women in terms of her courageous life in such a dilemma. Whether to lead an immoral life as retaliation to the husband’s or wife’s abandonment is yet another matter of argument. Anyway, the positive aspects of the mental transcendence of the character Devi as from Devi to Draupathi, then Durga and back to Devi again, is considered solely in this Paper for encouraging the women to confront and tackle challenging forces against their equality and virtue.
In a usual nightmare, Devi had been waiting everyday at the railway platform for her Jaran[womanizer but imaginary] whom she had actually been evoking from Pandavapuram, the imaginary village as she claimed of it. She had lost her husband Kunjikkuttan forever. But she wanted to live on in the same status as if nothing had happened in her life which might be a shortcoming of the shock of Kunjikuttan’s retrieval from her life. She tries to balance her life, but with a Jaran as retaliation. She did not want to do it secretly instead, she was openly waiting for ‘him’ at the platform and later ‘receives him’ at her house.
The coinage of Jaran is realistic. Devi recalls that he had distinctive attire and his arrival was not celestial that his legs were always touching the earth. He was borne to dredge conquer and make the young wives in Pandavapuram his slaves.4 Hence each one of them had ever been praying to Durga to save her from him. But, the idea of Devi was to evoke him and dredge to make him her slave. So she is waiting for his arrival. When the young ladies of Pandavapuram live in fear of Jarans, Devi is awaiting to conquer a Jaran as revenge or retaliation. The mental capability that Devi developed in this respect amidst her helplessness is really admirable which is to be encouraged. She is alone in all her activities to make out her plan to deceive and defeat the common foe of the ladies of Pandavapuaram and often seems abnormal5 at some moments.
Here, arises an argument that Devi was fighting against her own fallacies. Psychological perspectives may concede the argument, but the relentless internal fights of Devi against the reality to attain balance in the status of her life were remarkable. She was upset at her husband’s absence. But she tried to maintain her balance by finding a person in place of him at least in mind and continue as if nothing special had happened. Such an attitude so positive she had sustained in spite of her activity, irrespective of its acceptability in the society, can be the key point of the whole theme of the novel. For example, Devi reveals her decision6 with contempt to the relatives and neighbours who dare to interrogate her ‘illicit life’.
The Jaran ‘comes to her house to stay there and reminds her about their life at Pandavapuram’. she does not admit any of his arguments in the beginning. She alleges that he is a liar.7 But after some time, She overturns the context saying that what he had said was true, and that she was actually evoking him to the place to defeat him and all other men likewise, in a similar manner. This time Jaran had to argue that she had been telling lies.8 This major shift in the demeanour of Devi happened remarkably when Jaran reminded her attire in red silk sari with vermillion dot on her temple while they had been visiting the Durga temple on the hill in Pandavapuram. He tells her that she had been looked like the real Durga Devi at the moment.9 It was after this remark, Devi’s mind transcends to that of Durga. Thereafter she assumes the power of Durga Devi, who had conquered and killed Darika. The power to conquer the mankind thus she assumed was being used against the Jaran, who was defeated by Devi by all means even without a little resistance.
Devi, the teacher has fully transcended to Durga at the moment, through Draupathi who had maintained five husbands at a time and later left all of them and became Durga Devi up the hills. The story of Draupathy is told by Jaran himself. The story when progresses in the manner that Draupathi became Durga, transcendence in the same coin had been happening in Devi also. Devi says to the Jaran that he is under her control, or the five fingers in her palm10 controls the net in which he is trapped, and that she is not going to release him thereafter. The implication of five fingers clears her transcendence to Draupathi. At this point itself she has full control over him. Though he tries to escape from the scene, she does not allow her to do so. Instead she reveals him that he will be released only when she decides it.
The transcendence of Draupathi in the story to Durga happens quicker just as Devi transcends to Draupathi and then to Durga and back to Devi. However, when it happens, a complete dominance over Jaran is achieved by Durga Devi. In the beginning he was controlling the mindset of Devi, which in the end got reversed when Devi became Durga, the conqueror. In other words, Durga represents brave women who can enforce power over men when their entire freedom is brutally denied as a part of gender inequality. Devi protests strongly against such an injustice in one of her dialogues to the ‘moral world’ around her. She got very angry when she heard that her husband had left her because of her nature. She suppressed her anger in some way realizing that even if the men committed the mistake, the blame would be upon women11 and they would always be on the safer side. The fights of Devi, being a result of her internal conflicts was really to confront such an injustice which had long been suffered by women. By chapter eighteen of the novel, Devi is seemed to have regained her identity as a teacher, mother and a sister and whatever happened or passed through her mind till the time were proved to be mere hallucinations, even if she herself could not agree with it for some time.
The novel Pandavapuram and the central character Devi deals with the possibilities of inner conflicts in the minds of human beings. It also refers to the probability of distortion of thoughts in human minds as a result of crucial and mind blowing incidents in life. Devi tries to maintain her mental balance on her big lose in the form of husband. Many other women may think differently in the same context. But the attitude of Devi to cope up with the situation through conquering it is quite remarkable. A remarkable thing is that the equality in gender even in the contemporary world stands still under suspicion or rather became a matter to fight and win. The story of Devi could be modeled in this context as a beginning for a ‘real emancipation of feminine world’.
- Sethu, Pandavapuram, D.C. Books, Kottayam. 1979. P.27.