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Bapsi Sidhwas Ice-Candy-Man: A Feminist Perspective

Showkat Hussain Dar


(Ex-student, Department of English, Central University of Kashmir)
Country: India (Jammu and Kashmir)


Abstract:
Literature is a powerful tool in the hands of a creative writer to modulate and change the
societal framework, and Bapsi Sidhwa through her extremely absorbing and most important
work, Ice-Candy-Man, seeks to contribute to the progress of change that has already started all
over the world, involving reconsideration of womens rights and status and a radical
restructuring of social thought. Bapsi Sidhwa belongs to that group of women creative writers
who have started to depict the determined women, for whom traditional role is inadequate, a
woman who wishes to affirm their independence and autonomy and is perfectly capable of
assuming new roles and responsibilities. In Ice-Candy-Man, Sidhwa wishes a world free from
dominance and hierarchy, a world which is based on the principles of justice and equality and is
truly human. In this novel sidhwa represents a series of female characters who have survived in a
chaotic time of 1947 in India, which can be registered as a period of worst religious riots in the
history of humankind. Emotional turmoil, individual weakness, barbarities of communal riots
and brutalities inflicted on women has been faithfully projected by Sidhwa. The whole story has
been narrated by Lenny who relates the horrors of violence and her personal observation and
reactions. She not only observes but analyses mans lascivious and degrading attentions towards
women, voraciousness of male sexual desires, women; as they are reduced to the status of sexual
objects and relates the peculiar disadvantages, social and evil, to which they are subjected. Ice-
Candy- Man, is a saga of female suppression and marginalization. It projects realistically
womens plight and exploitation in the patriarchal society. It exposes how men establish their
masculine power and hence fulfill their desires by brutally assaulting women. While as on the
other hand, it poignantly depicts how women endure the pain and humiliation enacted upon
them.
Key Words: Women Creative Writers, Traditional Role, Justice and Equality, Communal Riots,
Female Suppression and Marginalization and Patriarchal society.
A feminist is a person whose beliefs and behavior are based on feminism. Feminism is a
cultural, political and intellectual movement that recognizes the fact of oppression of women and
seeks ways to emancipate them. It is the belief and aim that women should have the same rights
and opportunities as men and the struggle to achieve this aim. Feminist criticism questions long
standing dominant phallogocentric ideologies, patriarchal attitudes and male interpretation in
literature. It also challenges traditional and accepted male ideas about the nature of women and
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Galaxy: International Multidisciplinary Research journal ISSN 2278-9529
Vol. II. Issue. III 1 May 2013
about how women feel. This theory aims to comprehend the nature of inequality and focuses on
gender politics, power relations and sexuality. Themes explored in feminism include
discrimination, stereotyping, objectification, oppression and patriarchy. Simon de Beauvoir in
her magnum opus work entitled as The Second Sex, depicts magnificently how the woman is
actually on the margin in the patriarchal society:
Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female whenever she behaves as a
human as a human being, she is said to imitate male.
In her novel The Pakistani Bride, Sidhwa depicts poignantly the exploitation of women in
patriarchal society as,
Women the world over, through the ages, asked to be murdered, raped, exploited,
enslaved, to get importunately impregnated, beaten up, bullied and disinherited. It was an
immutable Law of nature. (Page, 226).
Ice-Candy-Man is a significant testament of a gynocentric view of reality in which the
feminine psyche and experiences are presented with a unique freshness and aplomb. It is tangible
in this novel that Sidhwa turns the female protagonists into the moral centre, while most of the
male characters either remain passive or indulge in violence. The female characters in Ice-
Candy-Man pulsate with a will and life of their own. Lenny as a girl child is the most
significant female character in this novel. In the literature on Partition in English, she is the only
prominent girl child narrator, beside Attia Hosains Laila in Sunlight on a Broken Column.
As a girl child she addresses the issues of childrens forced marriage to old and morally
degenerate men and the gender bias to which girl children are subjected even by their own
families.
Bapsi Sidhwa remains a potent voice among the modern feminist writers. She is the
only Parsee woman to write on the theme of partition. Being a Parsee, Sidhwa through her novels
focuses attention on the rapidly changing scenario in her Parsee polity and culture. Ice-Candy-
Man is Sidhwas important novel which is based on Partition of India. In this novel, she deals
with the partition crisis, the Parsee milieu, and the problems of Asian women and theme of
marriage. Ice-Candy-Man was published in America under the title Cracking India in 1991. This
novel highlights feminist concerns about womens issues, particularly their experience of
victimization and suppression within patriarchal societies. Its protagonists are mostly women and
each of them represents a way of life that either colludes with the premises of patriarchy or else
challenges the patriarchal repressiveness in the most unassuming manner. Mother, Mucho and
Slave sisters represent the first case. The transformed role of mother as a welfare activist, Ayahs
sexuality and the resilience of her spirit and Godmothers positive qualities represent their
redemptive potential.
The Sub-Continent was turned into a diabolical region in August 1947, when British
announced the division into India and Pakistan. This resulted in massive and violent migration of
the people across the border. This mass scale of migration entailed crimes of unprecedented
violence, murders, rapes, bestiality and so on. This tragic and momentary event stirred the
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Galaxy: International Multidisciplinary Research journal ISSN 2278-9529
Vol. II. Issue. III 2 May 2013
creative imagination of many writers who weaved the fabric of tragic tale highlighting untold
and unbearable atrocities of communal violence between the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.
Khuswant Singhs Train to Pakistan, Attia Housains Sunlight on a Broken Column, Chaman
Nahals Azadi. Mantos Toba Tek Sngh and Sidhwas Ice-Candy-Man are some such examples to
give us insight into the public frenzy, communal hatred, exploitation of women, extreme
disintegration and large scale of sectarian violence. Sidhwas Ice-Candy-Man, describes the
monstrosity of the events with such artistry that the tragedy comes alive. What disntinguishes
Sidhwas Ice-Candy-Man, is the Parsee sensitivity through which the cataclysmic event is
depicted. The novelist has realistically illustrated womens plight and exploitation in the
patriarchy society.
In Partition literature, the paradigm of woman as victim has been used as an
important device in the depiction of violence. In Ice-Candy-Man, the extensive featuring of
womens shared experiences of victimiziation in the communal riots is complemented by a
presentation of their oppression. Women are presented as victims. The novel foregrounds the
womens consciousness as they are affected by political battles. It also highlights their individual
characteristics and experiences. Sidhwa has recreated a universe where women appear as
biological beings. Each woman character represents a way of life. Lenny, her mother, her god-
mother, Shanta - the Ayah are the major female voices in the novel.
In the patriarchal society, masculinity is associated with superiority, whereas;
femininity is linked with inferiority, while masculinity implies power, strength, self-assertion and
domination, femininity symbolizes weakness, passivity, docility, obedience and self-negation.
Since ages it is considered that womans duty is to look after the house, raise children and give
comfort to family. This is an axiomatic fact that women are always being marginalized and
considered inferior over centuries. They are not given their rights. According to Sidhwa, a big
change is required at social level, which will acknowledge women as human beings having souls,
desires and feelings. She affirms that women should utilize their potentials beyond the domestic
life to have their own individuality. Sidhwas Ice-Candy-Man, though ostensibly is heroic
centered novel, subtly but effectively subverts the ingrained elements of patriarchy, privileging
female will, choice, strength along with feminine qualities of compassion and motherhood. Ice-
Candy-Man has strong women characters who want discriminatory action against women
stopped, and emphasize on conditioning them for life long and speak against willing
subjugation to men; the women of Ice-Candy-Man are not only conscious of their desires, but
also eagerly assertive about their independent handling of situations. The central consciousness
of the fictional world of Ice-Candy-Man is a young Parsee girl Lenny, who is lame. The
lameness of the narrator protagonist is suggestive of handicap, a woman creative writer faces,
but when she decides to wield the pen, because writing is an intellectual exercise, is considered a
male bastion, outside the routine of women ; submissive domesticity. Her recuperation
symbolizes the over coming of the constraint on the intellectual activity of writing by Bapsi
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Sidhwa. By making Lenny the narrator of the novel, the novelist lends weight and validity to the
feminine perspective on the nature of surrounding reality.
Ice-Candy-Man is implicitly suggestive of an unbridgeable emotional rift between the
sexes. The violent molesting of women and children under the excuse of communal revenge
basically highlights the gender divide, which is more absolute and hostile than racial
fundamentalism. Women, once they fall prey to mens violence like Lennys two Ayahs, cannot
hope for their restitution to their own families. The following conversation between Lenny and
her godmother is pathetic one in the whole novel:
What a fallen woman? I ask godmother
Hamida (the second Ayah) was kidnapped by the Sikhs,
Says godmother seriously When that happens sometimes,
The husband or his family wont take her back.
Why? It isnt her fault she was kidnapped.
Some folk feel that waythey cant stand their woman
being touched by other men. (Page, 215).

This conversation between the two reflects how inscrutable the unwritten laws of
patriarchal constitution are. The women themselves more often than not internalize these laws
into their perception of self identity. Lenny recognizes the biological exploitation of women as
she grows. As a child she cherishes her mothers love and fathers protection but the terrible
episode of Ice-Candy-Man and Ayah destroys all her thoughts about love. She was puzzled to
see Ice-Candy-Man pushing his wife Ayah into the business of prostitution. The incidents of
Hindu and Muslim women being raped during the 1947 riots petrify her. She watches men
turning into beasts leaving no room for moral and human values. Women including Ayah were
becoming prey of men. Lenny was shocked to see the human mind which was built of noble
materials getting so easily corrupted. Men were declaring superiority over each other by sexually
assaulting women. Women had nothing in their favor. Envy, jealousy, malice, rage for personal
power and importance in men were leading to violence and injury. Here I am reminded Shashi
Deshpandes famous lines :
Rape is for me the grossest violation of trust between two people. Whether it is someone
in the family or your husband or any other man who commits a rape, it destroys the trust between
men and women. It is also the greatest violence because it is not only the
womans body but is her mind and feeling of her right to have a control on her body which is
gone.
Sidhwa has also depicted the aftermath of such inhuman and barbaric acts against women after
the riots. She has also projected the farcical social behavior which victimizes women alone for
any bodily violence and leaves them to wail with their bitter experience which gives them a
feeling of pain and sense of loss.
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An essential difference between a feminist text and a male discourse is that in the latter
it is the male who is invested with the qualities of heroism, sacrifice, justice and action while
generally the female protagonists remain the recipients of the male bounty and chivalry, in a
feminist text, it is the woman who performs and controls and promotes the action by her active
involvement and concern and in the process it is she who acquires the attributes of heroism and
glory. In Ice-Candy-Man, the narrators relationship with her cousin (he remains cousin
throughout the novel, without the specific identity of a name) upholds the principle of equality
(or even superiority of woman), as she does not allow him to manipulate her sexually and he
remains a drooling figure, adoring her for her vivaciousness. In no way does Lennys lameness
becomes a source of constricting force on her psyche. She remains assertive, at times aggressive
and holds her own when it comes to the crunch. Throughout the novel Lenny appears as bold,
courageous and strong who is not ready to sccumb to the communal frenzy. She is inquisitive,
daring, demanding and lively. Sidhwa has given feminist touch to her character that moves
forward despite many hurdles. By observing the life of many women she understands the
limitations associated with women lives in patriarchal society. Sidhwa states that women are
always marginalized and she always protest against it. The formative influence of Lenny is no
other than a female character Ayah. It is Ayah who epitomizes the strength of the femininity for
she infuses in Lenny the ideas of freedom and will. Lennys mother is another significant female
character who conforms to the traditional image of a Fidel, faithful and serving wife who seems
to be capable only of humoring things out of her husband. In this novel Sidhwa projects through
Lennys mother that women should have a purpose in life besides domesticity which should be
developed by them to the best of their abilities. Women need to liberate themselves from the
constraints of womanliness which will erase the existing discrepancies regarding their
marginalization. In Ice-Candy-Man, it is Lennys mother and her aunt who play the sterling
humanitarian and heroic role of fighting for the lives and property of Hindus. The women
characters of this novel also draw our attention to the facts of victimization of women and their
compulsions to define their lives according to their pre fixed gender roles. They also expose
the patriarchal biases present in the archetypal social perceptions. Lenny recognizes these social
patterns and exhibits the vivacity to transcend them. She also records the multifaceted trauma
women had faced during the unsettling and devastating days of Partition.
In Ice-Candy-Man, Sidhwa expose the patriarchal practices of the society which
marginalized their growth and development and also represents womens psychology that has
been toned by centuries of conditioning. Hence, we can conclude that Sidhwa has a universal
appeal to women folk that they should not resort to patriarch postulates because by doing so they
are replicating patriarchy. She offers a vision perpetuate of life in which feminine values are
made to rule. She portrays women not only shown victims but also as savior. They are shown
performing heroic duties to bring order to this chaotic world. Sidhwa as a novelist, talks of
emancipation of women. Hence the novel ends on a positive note. Women strive to come out of
their plight and finally move forward from their degrded and tormented state to start their lives
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afresh. This is sheer technical brilliancepossibly only in the art of a writer who is aware of the
different nuances of Feminist studies.
Works Cited:
Ice-Candy-Man: Bapsi Sidhwa, Penguin Books India, 2000
The Pakistani Bride: Penguin Books India, 2000
Bapsi Sidhwa by Randhir Pratap Singh, IVY Publishing House, 2005
The Novels of Bapsi Sidhwa by Rajinder Kumar Dhawan, Prestige Books, 196


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Galaxy: International Multidisciplinary Research journal ISSN 2278-9529
Vol. II. Issue. III 6 May 2013