and ramblings on everything in between
Heartache and hardship were a big part of this set of chapters. Just when you think these women can’t possible overcome any more burdens in their lives, the author reveals something else about them that makes you think they must be made of steel. This book is humbling, to say the least. Take a look at what I had to say about Chapters 1 – 5 and Chapters 6 – 8.
Chapters 9 – 13
Question #1 from Sam: We’ve been introduced to two Muslim characters in this book; the Muslim couple that Claudia had us discuss in the last set of questions, and Hayder from the hospital. Given the division between Pakistan and India, I’m guessing this is slightly purposeful. How has the author portrayed Muslims and how does this compare and contrast with the character perceptions or assumptions about Muslims? What do you think the author’s opinion is on religious division in India?
I did not pick up on this, but perhaps she is making a statement about the faith for her Indian readers. I know little about the religion (sadly. Major World Religions as a gen ed in college, what?) other than we don’t have the same views on who that Jesus guy was, but in this novel they are portrayed in a positive light. The apparent love between a man and his wife, and the unasked for friendship of Hayder in a very trying time for Bhima. Umrigar is showing that stereotypes and preconceptions can often be wrong, and the core of what we are as humans doesn’t often differ much from the people that we meet. Here we have a rich woman and a poor woman telling us the same story of a lifetime of heartache, after all.
Question #2 from Sam: Pooja doesn’t seem disturbed when she learns that Raju and consequently her illness might be due to his infidelity. How do you think Pooja can be above anger at her husband in the face of death?
I’m sure she must feel that there is no time or energy left for anger. Even when we have been deeply wronged, it’s possible for the great amount of love we feel for someone to survive. She knows her fate and I think she is choosing to remember the man she loved as she prepares to pass on. Perhaps seeing him in the same state is enabling her to forgive more easily. He will have no chance to recover, just as she will have no chance to recover, so that alone is punishment enough for his actions. Again, such strong and unbelievable women compose this novel.
Question #3 from Claudia: Bhima has lived through so much suffering and hardship, and yet she continues to persevere and stay the course. Where do you believe she draws her strength from? Do you believe it is through her small actions, such as serving Sera and her husband, healing Sera’s wounds, or taking in her granddaughter and raising her as her own?
She doesn’t mention faith, so it’s not coming from there. I think the last of her hope was placed on Maya, and that is what made the pregnancy so unbearable for her. She expressed rage at Maya in the beginning of the novel and this is where I feel it spurned from. Rage that nothing in this life has gone right for her. She does seem to find joy in her relationship with Sera and doing a good job for her, so I imagine this is renewing for her each day.
Question #4 from Claudia: Do you believe Bhima is even looking to find happiness? Peace? Rest? Does she have hope at all for her own life since she is always looking out for the good of others?
I don’t think she believes it exists. Nothing in life has worked out for her or those around her, and I doubt she believes she has the resources or energy to make a change this late in life. Life without hope is the saddest thing to me. Because what is left of us when all hope is gone? Bhima has gotten up and gone to work every day of her life (except when she was sick and Sera brought her home with her) and I think that is what gets her up in the morning. The repetitiveness of life is what keeps her going. She is clearly a natural caregiver and does put others needs before her own, and I’m sure at many points in her life this was rewarding, but it’s almost as if she’s seeing those opportunities as a burden now. Another hardship.
I provided our musing topic this week and I went with failed marriages and how they have ruined so many aspects of Sera and Bhima’s lives. It’s apparent that a lot of their resiliency and ability to overcome have been strengthened by the trials they went through during their marriages, and that certainly plays into the women they are today, but what a miserable way to go through life. Marriage is not a happy thing in this novel, aside from Dinaz and Viraf, who seem to be off on a good start together but I fear tragedy will strike them next. I’m positive something is going to happen between them because Umrigar has been consistent with that so far, but I’m not sure what exactly will happen.
Bhima would have been saved from a life of working nonstop to keep little food on the table in the slums. I’m sure she would have found a life of meaning in a loving partner who also provided for his family.
While Sera is still able to live a life of luxury despite her failed marriage, I imagine she would have found wonderful outlets for her caring and loving side. She goes above and beyond for her servant so I can imagine the good she would have done in her community. So much focus was placed on her husband and mother-in-law that she didn’t build her own dreams.