Dr. Charu Mehrotra
Head/Associate Prof. Eng
Bareilly College, Bareilly
Quest is inborn, innate and imbedded in human psyche since time primordial. A step within, or a step without the threshold is the leitmotif of quest. Quest started with primitive man’s progress. To secure his existence against the hostility of nature was itself a quest for him. As man became a ward of land seas and frontiers, he was infused with greater urge to explore the frontiers. In Buddhism Nirvana is achieved through self – perception and enlightenment of the mind. It is ‘Avidya’ or ignorance which make man hacker after the mirage of pleasure inviting pain and sorrow. The unfulfilled cravings lead him to despair. Hinduism lays emphasis on ‘Chitta’ which represents the fundamental instinctual drives of the human psyche. It primarily means ‘I – Consciousness’ and the integration of self is impossible unless one clarifies the demands, residence, complexities and confusions of the ‘I – consciousness.’
In all the novels of Anita Desai, the two important stages of elementary feminine and transformative feminine are significantly present. Further amplification of the feminine principal as such will be shown to bear the imprint of psychologists like Esther Harding. To support and elucidate the logic of the evolving consciousness of the protagonists, a peripheral reference to the Hindu and the Buddhist concepts has also been made.
Among the Indian – English women novelist, Anita Desai is unambiguously different. As a matter of fact, she has far deeply plumed the psyche of the Indian feminine and has gone to prove her statement that literature should deal with most ‘enduring matters’. She expands and expounds her insights into the feminine behavior in the Indian context by externalizing the interior- cobwebs and the darkest labyrinths if her female characters. The most recurring and predominant theme in the novels of Anita Desai is the complexity of human relationship, particularly the man – woman relationship. Her women are not ordinary women, but sensitive beings. Emotionally starved and unfulfilled women revolt against the male dominance and demand their rightful place.
Clear Light of Day lifts curtain on the vanishing contours of a Delhi family as its members leave home to find new roots elsewhere. The departing lights leave behind a sole occupant, Bim with her dim – wit brother Baba. It is she who is vouchsafed a view of the clear light of day, and this process of ‘seeing’ on the part of Bim is, infect the process of individuation. Having been left alone to guard over the decaying house, the idiot brother, the alcoholic aunt Bim finds herself contending to keep her own being intact. This very endeavour signals her quest for self, or integration. She is a typical child of the decadent Delhi culture where the past was sinking into an inglorious burial and the future seemed dark, uncertain and doubtful on the horizon. The fading glory and the crumbling values been juxtaposed , as it were, with the hopes, aspirations and dreams of Bim, Tara, Raja and Baba is in the mould of an ordinary woman waiting eagerly for the completion of her journey in marriage. Raja, quite contrary to the expectation of the family, turn individualist, self- centred and selfish after getting married to Hyder Ali’s daughter. Leaving the deserted family to its fate, he now looks after his father – in-law’s property at Hyderabad. The family is left to the care of Mira Masi, she is a surrogate mother to the children. Baba, the idiot brother, remains occupied with his own thoughts and is a liability everybody disliked to own. This is the state of the family whose battered ship it left to be steered by Bim alone.
Eventually such existential obligations dishevel Bim’s psyche and launch her on a quest which, no doubt, is a quest for wholeness or individuation, an experience with the rich possibilities of an individuated, integrated and coherent formulations of the psyche. Bim cultivates a spirit of dedication and sacrifice, whereas Tara shuns responsibilities and obligations. In psychological terms, it can be said that Bim has a developed ego- consciousness which means utilization of the power drive, an intrinsic ego instinct. But Tara lacks healthy ego, which fails to grow and develops to its proper size. Whereas Tara retreats to her dreamy and fantasy world.
Bim’s quest for childhood can be appreciated with the insights of Edingar’s psychic life Cycle. Every situations alienation, repentence and restitution. Before she is taken by ego depression, her inner sources of strength wield their impact to produce in each experience an increment of consciousness. No doubt,moving from inflation to the tortuous agony of alienation is a cumbersome process, but it is needless to emphasize that the connection between ego and self is of vital significance for psychic health. It is through the anguish of life that Bim finds an answers to her dilemma. Her newly gained awareness, understanding and wisdom leads her to accept truth and reality of her existential commitments Bim’s realization of her moral responsibility stems for her acceptance of a life – long responsibility for Baba. No doubt, acceptance means the expression of certain drives in an appropriate and constructive measure.
Now Bim’s elevation and exaltation to the higher realms of enlightenment can be explained by her credentials that stipulate her in the positive aspect of the mother archetype, Hetaera and Amazon. Bim fits in squarely into the role of Hetaira in her relationship with Tara, Raja, Baba and Mira Masi. She is Amazonian in the sense that she can fight her battles and command respect from the male dominated society. She moves out of the precincles of house with an urge to establish herself independently. In fact, her choice of career is not only a longing to fulfill herself intellectually, but primarily it is guided by the compulsion of the family and need to look after the idiot brother. Bim realizes that the idea of a solitary and isolated existence in an eccentricity and in her quest for authenticity, she comes to appreciate that the essence of existence lies in being – in-the world as being with others is a primordial structure of human existence than being-for-oneself. What is also important in the novel is that the archetype of the external, feminine operates in Bim in all essentiality like the mother archetype. Bim acts like a quiet, calm, unchangeable and blessed container for all that tumultuous, noisy, irksome in the family. The reader never experiences ripple on the calm surface of Bim’s personality. She has stayed firm, resolute and unaltered despite changes, vicissitudes and the flux of time that brushes her by.
The, preceding analysis bear sufficient evidence of Bim’s reaching out to the world outside herself she extends generously and even extravagantly to establish a Buberian ‘I- thoug’ relationship as she is full of maternal tenderness and care not only to elk-like, strangely imbelile Baba but to selfish and self-centered Raja as well. Bim oose in stature and shines resplendently in her role as a giver, nourisher in the archetype of the great mother primarily because she has cultivated through her dialogue with the goings on in the family a kind of kierkegardian ‘inwardness’. In fact, it will not be too much to say that Bim transcends the narrow shall of individuality and ontologically traverses the ‘ I-thou’ matrix of relationship and thus reaches the state which Karl Jasper describes as ‘ being-in-itself’. Erdeniably, Bim is remarkable quester; she stayed on resolute and determined not only to swim against the violent current if emotional flood of youth, but she endeavored to negotiate and cope with its uncontrollable and dynamic passionate thrust. The wavering sentimentality and youthful energy vigour are channelized into meaningful intellectual formulations, and this helps Bim to establish a vital rapport with life and its exigencies.
With such a vast experience, Bim traverses the road to selfhood and every new situation in her the fresh openings of awareness and realization. She views the futility of her inveterate bitterness and malignant spitefulness against Raja and Tara and she longs to protect them instinctively or instantly from the outside vulnerability. Thus, Bim resolves a shadow residues against Raja who left her battle alone. No doubt, it is difficult to acknowledge ones shadow side, as one has to “overcome certain moral obstacles, such as vanity, ambition conceit, resentment, etc.”
Bim has been a symbol of surrender and dedication, and gains an increment of knowledge and wisdom that opens up new dimensions in her personality, in the end of the novel, she reaches a point where the cobwebs that blocked her vision are cleared and her perception of life pulsates with a new cadence. Bim feels happy and contended while Tara feels sad and sorrowful on recollecting their past life. Tara had used Bukul as an instrument if escape from the family obligation. Appears to her a loathsome burden and futility, where rebuilds and recreates the history of her family not with standing the devastating vicissitudes in its carrer. Bim realizes that their deepest selves lived here and it contains all the time past, present and future. The new awareness emerged in Bim’s psyche only after she was able to view her own existentiality as a part of family. Raja and Tara are caught in the personal core of love and its ramifications while Bim imputes love in terms of relatedness compassion, understanding or to put in terms of relatedness compassion, understanding or to put it conceptually, she manifests eros totally.
Bim’s awareness cannot be total without a discussion of a significant milestone in her journey towards integration, individuation , wholeness, self , etc, viz her mystical ethereal at the music concert which in Marlow’s language can be interpreted as her peak-experience. Bim works towards a reconciliation of the discordant elements. This coming to terms or reconciliation of the different and disparate strains of Bim’s psyche as she allows the clear light to envelop her whole being, lend a peculiar grace to her personality. This is ‘astamgyna’ or ‘atambodh’ Hinduism, when one comprehends the futility of irritable hankering after the rank, luxuriant and sensual. In psychological terms, it means the a psychic hygiene or cleaning or a stage when ego-self rupture is heeled.
Thus, we can say that Bim among all the female characters analysed so far that emerges more positive, more affirmative and one who completes herself both psychically and existentially. Rejecting the freakish and capricious, she reconciles the disparates, discordant elements of her being to move towards sanity and wholeness. Steeping out of her narrow self which sometimes narcissistic, she moves to the outer worlds of displeasure, irritations etc. With a veneer which epitomizes nothing but harmony.
1. Clear Light of the Day, Anita Desai, 1980 Mariner Books, NY 1980.
2. A Critical Study of the Novels of Anita Desai: N. Raj Gopal, Atlantic Publishers & Distributor, 1995
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