The following is the authors perception of the indian fiction novels by giving author comments in bold italics below on a discerning review on one aspect of the book. The review below has brought to fore a valid perception on inter caste marriages in India and wishing that we be more secular in our out look. The value systems of the society have evolved over the years. Value refers to the degree of importance of something or action in ethics. How do you determine what actions are best to do and which is the best way to live. In addressing the issues of rightful conduct and a good life we all try to arrive at action that is ethically regarded as good. The decision of what is ethically good or bad has varied from society to society and from time to time. The ethical and moral values of a society in turn affect the behavior of people. These include the ethical and the moral values, the ideological values, the political and religious values. The behavior of individuals would be the reflection of their value system as also that of the society. I would request the individual readers to read the review below in the context of the indian fiction novels, without any prejudice to the individual readers perceptions.
“MAYA BECAME FATIMA AFTER THE NIKAH”
For a debut novel, Kocheri C Shibu's Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar (Niyogi Books, 2015) shows a surprising grasp of Indian realities. For instance, the characters include two inter-religion couples (Khusru – Rekha, and Rafiq - Maya) both of which have Muslim men and Hindu women. This reflects the novelist's realism since, in most inter-faith couples of India, the male partners are Muslim with the female partners being Hindu. Only when there are more couples where the man is Hindu and the woman is Muslim, should we expect realistic novelists to write about such pairs.
“The love marriages have a tradition of going against the institutions, both religious and social. The religious institutions have their way of reacting to inter caste marriages. Guiding principle would be to say that which ever religion is more institutionalized- would be seen to be more radicalized in their approach. Of course the examples cited have a context in the novel which gives a background to the individuals and the events for what they are and why they are. indian fiction novels in English would have to address the social realities as part of life in the novels. Indian history as also the history of every nation is replete with love stories and of men and women who have defied the society and religion in pursuance of their heart. More often than not, the society is not very kind to such differently thinking individuals. The degree of resistance from the society vary from country to country and from time to time. I would leave it to the individual readers to relate with the issue in the context of the novel.
Some reasons for the lopsided pattern in Hindu-Muslim couples have been indicated by the author himself. It could be due to the fact that Hindu women generally marry later than Muslim women, which gives the former more time than the latter to choose their husbands. A case in point is Rekha`s usage of delaying tactics to postpone conjugal life: “Rekha kept saying 'another year' every time she was asked about her marriage” (page 111). Another reason for Hindu women being more open than Muslim women to inter-faith marriages could be that Hindus are brought up in an 'all faiths are equal' kind of belief rather than a 'my faith is the only true one' sort of superiority. This is exemplified in Rekha saying “Inshallah” to Khusru's query (page 232) whereas never does the latter use any Hindu expression for the former. In this context, it is significant that though Rekha was a virgin, she let herself be swept off her feet by Khusru who had had a hyperactive sex life. Yet another reason for the preponderance of Muslim man - Hindu woman relationships could be that Hindu society, by and large, does not mind such alliances. This social acceptance is revealed by onlooker Vijay statement: “Don`t know from where Khan has pataoed her, looks like a girl from good family” (page 217). Anyway, a truly secular Indian citizen can merely wish that inter-faith affairs become more evenly balanced in the near future than they are now.
“Rekha as a character is a reflection of her value system. The dancer doctor is in search of that Man of her dreams to love and worship. She is seeking for an experience which she herself is not sure about. She has found it in circumstances bizzare and with the young Khusru. The conditions are extreme under which Rekha has subjected to. It is not many who can say with certainty as to how they would react in life threatening circumstances well beyond their control. It would be only fair to say that one should be prepared to pay the price for the decisions that one takes to live life on ones terms. Individuals philosophy in life may or may not be always palatable to the onlooker; reader in this case. Here also I would leave the judgement to the readers with the context of events in the novel.
A related example of the novelist's realistic touch is the renaming of Maya as Fatima after her marriage in a mosque (page 282). It is worth remembering that, just before the nikah, the couple had been taken by the assembled men to a temple for marriage in which her husband Rafiq was not given any Hindu name. That Hindus do not try to convert people of other faiths is shown by this contrast itself. Finally, one would like to aver that true secularism can only mean an India in which religious conversions (which mean erasure of the previous set of beliefs) become a thing of the past since projecting the belief of any one community as better than that of another is a sure sign of communalism.
“This of course would be well known to some of the readers on the procedural aspects of the religious institutions which need to necessarily reflect in any such a marriage. Here too the discerning readers would see a larger context beyond the obvious what has been brought out in the review.”
Reviewed by Dr T Guha, HoD Languages, INA Ezhimala