February 2017 ~ All About English Literature

For Exclusive Notes and Analysis

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Theme of Time as a “destroyer and preserver” in Anita Desai’s Novel, "Clear Light of Day". or What kind of message does the novel, "Clear Light of Day" convey?

Theme of Time as a “destroyer and preserver” in Anita Desai’s Novel, "Clear Light of Day". or What kind of message does the novel, "Clear Light of Day" convey?

Time is always presented as a great annihilator, a tremendous ravager. Its destructive power has vividly been depicted by Shelley in his sonnet “Ozymandias”. History too bears out this view. The ancient Roman Empire flourished, and then began to decline, eventually coming to an end. The same was the case with Mughal Empire, and later, of the British Empire. Similarly Fascism, Nazism, Communism too arose, flourished and fell. Anita Desai’s award winning novel, Clear Light of Day shows the destruction which time works, mainly in the sphere of domestic life and relationships, and only to a great extent in the life of a nation.

Clear Light of Day deals mainly with the fortunes and misfortunes with the Das family. The passing of years works havoc with the members of this family. This happens in the life of Mira Masi who joins this family as a governess for the mentally retarded Baba. She was married at the age of twelve, and became a widow at fifteen at the pre-mature death of her husband in a foreign country where he had gone to pursue his studies. Aunt Mira became heavy alcoholic. Mr. and Mrs. Das died leaving their wards – Bim, Tara, Raja and Baba in the hands of Mira Masi. One day Aunt Mira had to meet her fatal consequences in the progress of time. An even greater effect of the destructive force of time was the decline in the intimacy between Bim and Raja. When Raja declared that he would soon be leaving for Hydrabad, Bim felt deeply hurt. Years later, time dealt a heavy blow to the relationship between Bim and Raja because of the humiliating letter that raja wrote to Bim about their old house in which Bim and Baba were living as tenants. 

The passing of time can interrupt the life of entire nation.  India had been struggling to a achieve freedom from British rule for many years. But time came when British agreed to free India. But the country had to be partitioned in order to meet the Muslim demand for setting up an Islamic country, Pakistan. It was followed by communal riot and slaughter. The Muslims fled from Delhi in order to escape the wrath of the Hindus. Many Muslims including Hyder Ali and his family fled to Hydrabad. The piling up of anger and resentment in the heart of both the communities over the years led to a catastrophe which left a permanent mark upon the people of both the countries; and as a result, the two countries have become hostile to each other.

Paradoxically, time sometimes acts as a destroyer, sometimes as a preserver or gainer.  In the novel Clear light of Day we find certain things continue to exist despite the ravages of time. Certain experiences of human beings continue to be remembered by them, and even by others. Even after many years, Tara has not been able to forget that she didn’t stay by Bim’s side when Bim was being bitten by a swarm of bees. Tara has also not been able to forget that she had not paid enough attention to the ailing Aunt Mira, and that she could not attend Mira Masi’s funeral. Tara has continued to harbor a sense of guilt over the years. Bim remained alone in the house to look after helpless Baba. Then, in an introspective mood, induced and stimulated by the presence of Tara, Bim began to think the damage the humiliating of raja had done to her relationship. The dying word of Aurangzeb led Bim to forgive Raja. Thus Bim’s love for her sister, Tara and her two brothers, Raja and Baba, gains a new impetus.  Time as a preserver plays its role in the last episode of the novel too.

Time is something inescapable. Nobody can stop and slow down the pace of time. All human beings are slaves of time because they all think in terms of days, months and years; and they all think in terms of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age and old age. This slavery to time has its own destructive effects upon people’s feelings and emotions. The two most conspicuous examples of the damage done by this bondage to time are aunt Mira and Bim.

Clear Light of Day has another message for us too; and that is the message of forgiveness. Brothers and sisters should not harbor resentment and grievances against one another on a permanent basis. After all, they were all brought up under the same roof and had shared many activities and many games. They had loved one another. That love should remain and should continue always. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Who is Devi Saraswati? Let us try to know.

Who is Devi Saraswati? Let us try to know.

The real identity of Devi Saraswati, has been one of the most enduring enigmas and highly controversial of ancient Indian history. The Saraswati Puja is celebrated every year in almost all educational institutions. But only very few people hardly know who this Saraswati Devi is. Let us try to analyse those topics for better understanding our myth. 

1. The name Saraswati came from "saras" (meaning "flow") and "wati" (meaning "she who has ..."), i.e. "she who has flow" or can mean sara meaning "essence" and swa meaning "self". So, Saraswati is symbol of knowledge; its flow (or growth) is like a river and knowledge is supremely alluring, like a beautiful woman. She is depicted as beautiful fair Goddess with Four arms, wearing spotless white saree and seated on white lotus. She is also known as "Sharada", "Vani" and "Vagdevi" (both meaning "speech").

2. In the East Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa: Saraswati is considered to be a daughter of Durga along with her sister Lakshmi and her brothers Ganesha and Karthikeya.

    3. In the Rigveda, Saraswati is a river as well as its personification as a goddess. In the post-Vedic age, she began to lose her status as a river goddess and became increasingly associated with literature, arts, music, etc. In Hinduism, Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts, eloquence and power. Hindus worship her not only for "academic knowledge", but for "divine knowledge" essential to achieve moksha.

4. In some Puranas (like Skanda Purana) she is daughter of Shiva (Shivaanujaa) and in some Tantras with Ganesha. However across India she is worshipped as the wife of Lord Brahma. In the Devi Mahatyam it mentions her as Brahmapatni. According to some sects Saraswati was born from the left body part of Vishnu when Vishnu was in his eternal sleep.

5.     Brahma discovered the melody of mantras in the cacophony of chaos. In his joy he named Saraswati, Vagdevi, goddess of speech and sound.

6.     According to Vedanta she is considered to be the feminine energy and knowledge aspect (Shakti) of Brahma, as one of many aspects of Adi Shakti.

7.     In the Devi Mahatmya, Saraswati is in the trinity of Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. She is depicted as eight-armed. Her dhyāna shloka given at the beginning of the Fifth chapter of Devi Mahatmya is: Wielding in her lotus-hands the bell, trident, ploughshare, conch, pestle, discus, bow, and arrow, her lustre is like that of a moon shining in the autumn sky. She is born from the body of Gowri and is the sustaining base of the three worlds. That Mahasaraswati I worship here who destroyed Sumbha and other asuras.

8.     The goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in pure white often seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes that she is founded in the experience of the Absolute Truth. Thus, she not only has the knowledge but also the experience of the Highest Reality. She is mainly associated with the color white, which signifies the purity of true knowledge. Occasionally, however, she is also associated with the colour yellow, the colour of the flowers of the mustard plant that bloom at the time of her festival in the spring. She is adorned with simple jewels and gold, unlike the goddess Lakshmi; representing her preference of knowledge over worldly material things.

9.     She is generally shown to have four arms, which represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness, and ego. Alternatively, these four arms also represent the 4 Vedas, the primary sacred books for Hindus. The Vedas, in turn, represent the 3 forms of literature: Poetry — the Rigveda contains hymns, representing poetry Prose — Yajurveda contains prose Music — Samaveda represents music.

10.                        She is shown to hold the following in her hands: A book, which is the sacred Vedas, representing the universal, divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as her perfection of the sciences and the scriptures. A mālā (rosary) of crystals, representing the power of meditation and spirituality. A pot of sacred water, representing creative and purification powers. The vina, a musical instrument that represents her perfection of all arts and sciences. Saraswati is also associated with anurāga, the love for and rhythm of music which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in speech or music.

11.                        A hamsa or goose is often located next to her feet. The sacred bird, if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink the milk alone. It thus symbolizes discrimination between the good and the bad or the eternal and the evanescent. Due to her association with the bird, Saraswati is also referred to as Hamsavahini, which means "she who has a hamsa as her vehicle".

12.                        In Hindu beliefs, great significance is attached to offering honey to this goddess, as honey is representative of perfect knowledge. Hymns dedicated to her include Saraswati Vandana Mantra.

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