They are expected to get married off as soon as possible. Usually the father has to look after the marriage but in this case Hari had to. Although he was not completely grown up, he could understand things as they were and knew he had a task at hand with three sisters. ‘He would have to find them husbands. ‘ This line justifies his task but the description, which follows again, shows the importance of the traditional dress, ‘Wedding finery-silk saris and gold jewellery-and arrange wedding to which the whole village would have to be invited.
‘ This line shows that once again clothes form an important part of any cultural occasion. The word ‘finery’ justifies the fact that these items and clothes were considered very extravagant indeed. The ‘silk saris and gold jewellery,’ as we can see has to be given as gifts as part of a ritual. Perhaps Hari resents this ritual in the face of hunger and poverty. Anita Desai has also used hyperbole when she says that the whole village will have to be invited. This perhaps is not too far fetched an idea considering the fact that Thul is only a just a village.
Ofcourse such an idea could not be materialised in the city. This is not all. ‘The bridegrooms might demand dowry. ‘ This line completes the gist of Indian weddings. The word ‘demand’ shows that the people are forced to pay this even if they do not have the money to. This dowry is a major cause of concern in the cities.
It is not practised any more. But in the villages, they still practise this, evidently. It just goes to show that the villagers have stuck with tradition for generations. They however have not looked to the betterment of the community by eradicating this practise and always continue to do so.
From this we can see the difference in culture in the city and culture in the villages. This is different from the cities where the women were marching the streets. The villagers had thought that the womenfolk were ‘a nuisance. ‘ This was a new idea and a contrasting one that too. In a society dominated by man, the woman has absolutely no say. We derive this when we see that Lila’s mother never told their father anything for drinking and ruining his health. She is submissive, diminutive and has to oblige to the requests of her husband. The line ‘No one dared tell him, least of all my mother,’ proves this fact.
This is perhaps related to the chores that they do and the problems that the have to face of which their husbands’ drunkenness is part of. Anita Desai however portrays quite the opposite. She shows Lila as a hard worker and also shows that the women do have some rights such as buying their own fish. She shows this and tries to tell the reader that women do have rights but are not completely recognised as individuals. They usually carry the name of their husband if they are married. This is what Hari means when he says that he has to find them husbands. He has to give them a name, a family name.
We can see the same thing for Lila’s friend, Mina. ‘Her parents were trying to find her a husband. ‘ This shows once again that Anita Desai used Lila as an example and then also mentions her friend for our better understanding of the attitudes towards the women. The attitude of submission is also evident in the cities. This is when Jagus’ wife tells Hari, ‘men can go to the toddy shop and drink and forget, but we can do nothing, so we must lie down and sleep. ‘ This attitude again shows that the women in the cities are taken seriously but only when they act as a group.
All these ideas were new to villagers as it had not been part of any custom or tradition. Even Hari is aware of the fact that in a male dominated society he has to get work. His feelings are clearly expressed, ‘He did not like to be watched, the only boy with no boat and no job on the fishing boats. ‘ We can see from this that through negative words, the author paints us a picture of masculinity and what it is all about in an Indian society. She also tries to show that even a ‘boy’ is subject to so much pressure tow work and make a name for himself. Religion plays an important part in the lives of the people of Thul.
Religion is what makes them what they are. From the very beginning the religious aspect of their lives has been introduced. It is when Lila wades into the water to reach the ‘sacred rock. ‘ ‘It was a sacred rock, a kind of temple in the sea. ‘ The use of comparison again shows us the importance of the rock. To this Lila ‘took the flowers from her basket and scattered them about the rock, then folded her hands and bowed. ‘ This shows that the Lila respected and worshipped the rock, a form of devotion. Anita Desai has begun with this and thus shows the importance of religion in their lives.
Lila is not the only one. ‘Some would say a little prayer,’ ‘Some would simply bow,’ ‘it seemed like a good way to start the morning. ‘ From this we can see that the women of Thul respected the rock and treated it as an idol to be worshipped. We also see that this is a custom and that it is a spiritual one. Starting the morning with this meant that the women prayed for the day to go well for themselves as well as for their families. The author repeats the fact that the women bow down and worship the rock so that we may know the significance of this.
She immediately compares the rock in the sea to the proper temple. The rock also was a ‘kind of temple’. The only difference was that in the temple the priest would have to be paid for performing the puja (prayer) for them. It goes to show that the people of Thul were deeply attached to their faith and this is part of Indian culture-deep association with faith. Another aspect that can be learnt in context with this is that the younger children also worshipped it. They never questioned the faith. That perhaps is another point to be understood.
The temple in Thul is not as important as the rocks in the sea. However it is considered holy and there are people who go there in a show of devotion. ‘It had four brick pillars supporting a tiled roof, an unwalled court and a small alcove that housed an idol. ‘ This description again shows us that Anita Desai pays attention to even the minute details. This helps the reader understand the significance of the temple and that ‘several young men singing’ shows that these people are devotees and a common part of an Indian society. The religious significance is also brought out through plays.
There was the ‘Radha-Krishna story or the Rama-Sita or the Nala-Damayanti. ‘ This shows that people from the village were interested in such happening and once again showing their devotion to the Hindu faith. The common reference to characters from the Holy Book shows that it was part of their lifestyle and thus part of everyday culture. Magic and superstition also forms an important of the beliefs in Indian culture. Some of these superstitious beliefs come from generation to generation while others are just from what people see. One such example referred to is the medicine man.
We can see that the villagers did not rush to the doctor first but to the mystic medicine man. This shows that they were not very supportive of technology as we see when the factories are about to be built. This also proves that religion in a village is quite different from religious practices in the city. The medicine man had a cow and ‘feeding the cow was a pious act. ‘ The use of the word ‘pious’ is synonymous to the word ‘sacred’ used when we see that every house has ‘a sacred basil plant. ‘ This again shows that people were pious and attached to their faith.
‘All this gave him the air of a magician, of witchcraft. ‘ The meaning here is the same. It shows that he cured by magic and not medicine. This once again adds the nature of superstition to the story and shows us that people were easily drawn to believe that came from magic. The use of repetition once again shows that the author focuses on this point to tell us more about the mentality of people and how it is related to tradition. We can also see that the author adds meaning to the word ‘pious’ when she describes, ‘Once it had started crackling and smoking,’ ‘he recited a long prayer in Sanskrit.
‘ This adds a feeling or mystery and uncertainty. It also shows that this is a ritual performed whenever something like this happens. At the end he says, ‘Holy ash, purified ash. It will drive the demons away that create the fever. ‘ This once again shows that the belief in demons is superstition and the children have been drawn into this because perhaps they have seen this before. This shows that people believed the medicine man for they believed in superstition and it is evident that it is passed on from generation to generation. Even in everyday life we see the aspect of religion.
For example we see that there are rangolis in front of every house. This is supposed to be a blessing to the house and shows the piety of its inhabitants. It is also considered a sin if it is not present. This goes to show Anita Desai even touches on these details to show the basic attitudes and cultures of the people of Thul. We also see that when Biju’s new boat was being launched into the sea, ‘his wife stepped forward to break a coconut open on its prow where a pair of eyes had been painted, black and white. ‘ This once again shows us for small things such as these, the villagers seeked a good omen and a blessing.
The author also has managed to prove from the examples that religion was part of their everyday life. The religion in the cities is somewhat different than the religion in the village. They have the same basic aspects and also stem from customs and traditions, once again showing that in India no matter how far a person may have reached, he is still in touch with his roots. In the cities the Coconut Day has been brought into focus. The author deliberately brings this in so that we may learn the customs and traditions even in the city through the eyes of Hari.
The day itself was a festive occasion with the throwing of coconuts into the sea as a good omen. The description of the scene itself is enough to visualise. ‘There were more hawkers and stall keepers than ever, selling hot salted snacks, ice creams coloured drinks. ‘ The description however does not end there. This just gives us a glimpse of the scene that prevailed in front of Hari and also shows us that the author has used her descriptive style to show how the people came to the beach and celebrated this day.
Once again her description includes, ‘Women were dressed in their brightest and newest saris- pink and yellow, violet and orange-and all had flowers in their hair. ‘ This perhaps is a link to the description of the woman in the village. This once again shows that the women of the city have not forgotten their customs and traditions. ‘Hundreds of urchins splashed through,’ showing that the children also were part of the festivities. This also shows that people from the city wanted their children to know about their faith.
The way in which Anita Desai has put this is quite memorable indeed, as we have already seen in her description of the rituals in the village. The comparison between the festival in the city and the festival in the village only shows that the zest and the zeal with which the people celebrated the festivals is the same. Only perhaps the numbers are different. We can see this when Hari arrives home for Diwali. We see once again that a rangoli has been drawn up on the porch, ‘with coloured powders,’ ‘a big paper lantern hung from the beams,’ ‘and Lila had arranged all the festive sweets on a tray.
‘ This once again captures the very mood of the people during this festival. It once again symbolises their excitement and also tells us that it is perhaps the only time of the year when they will be happy and stay together. This festival is also coupled with garlands once again showing the link with nature as the rock in the sea. Then there are the lights and the sounds of the festival that are described. ‘Each shot across the sky like a comet and explode with a bang into a cloud of stars before he set of the next.
‘ This refers to the crackers, an essential part of Diwali. At the end of the festival there is a story to be said and learnt as their mother tells them. They learn about Rama and how the festival into being. Through this description, the author tries to convey the history behind it all and that it has been going on since a long time. This once again proves that culture and tradition formed the basis of their festival. The author ends the festivities by saying, ‘every shop opened a new ledger at a special ceremony and prayers were said to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
‘ This again shows that each individual followed the custom and tradition by praying to the goddess. The author has managed to show us this by mentioning the words, ‘every shop,’ showing that no one was an exception. The excitement of Diwali is also generated due to the bullock cart races. The mere mention of this signifies the author’s interest to tell the reader the details of the festival. This also shows that Diwali was a time for celebration and that the villagers did not let this chance go amiss. The author’s descriptive style once again stands out as we read the novel.
It portrays the culture and tradition in both the town and village through the eyes of Hari, a villager of Thul. We learn that culture and tradition is not just a ritual or an offering, it shapes the lives of people as it has in the village of Thul. The children then follow the customs followed by the parents. People in the city may not be too inclines towards tradition in the modern age but still they know their roots and their beliefs. The people in the village however are more dedicated to their faith and their culture.
The way in which all this has been expressed is by the language of the author. She has managed to create a picture in our mind of the various colours, sights and sounds, that involve the rituals. She does not only stop there, she also talks of the finer points of each of these ceremonies, the marriage ceremony, the puja, etc. all confirm that she has indeed expressed that culture and tradition form the basis of an Indian society. ‘The Village By the Sea,’ combines this essence of spirituality with the essence of belonging to one’s own community, people, faith and of course culture.