The flute in this story is of symbolic significance, the author using it to classify which of the main characters as happy or sad, whoever plays it and is in the mood for playing it is most likely to be happy. When Guleri and Manak set out for Chamba, Guleri was happy and she hid the flute under her duputta, she asked her husband to play the flute but he failed to do so; “He looked at her sadly. Then putting the flute to his lips, blew a strange anguished wail…He handed the flute to her unable to continue.”
Superstition is also portrayed as part of Indian thoughts when Manak is deep in thought and is suddenly awakened by Guleri when she tells him; “‘Do you know the bluebell wood a couple of miles from here?’ she asked. ‘It is said that anyone who goes through it becomes deaf. You must have past through that bluebell wood. You don’t seem to be hearing anything I say.’ “8 Not all people in that area believe this but it does show how Hinduism is linked to Indian culture through superstition.
Ultimate respect for the mother is another aspect in Indian customs, everybody in the society will eventually know and the news will be widespread if a son or daughter does not comply with their parents’ orders. Manak is forbidden to argue with his mother or even discuss her decision or displaying any hesitation when it comes to executing one of her orders, “‘ Why do you croak like an old woman?’ said his mother severely. ‘Be a man.’ Manak wanted to retort, ‘You are a woman; why don’t you cry like one for a change!’ But he remained silent.”9 – A prisoner to his culture and custom.
Manak is not even involved in the decision-making concerning his life; he does not have a word about the matter and he hopelessly attempts to stop his wife, Guleri, from leaving because he is aware of the treacherous plan his mother intends to put into action during her absence. The mother does this for her own personal benefit not for her son’s own life or future because he was happy with his current wife and for the simple fact that she could not have babies the marriage with her that lasted seven years was terminated, secretly.
Amrita Pritam distances the characters that are evil in the story from the reader by not naming them; she names only two types of people, the oppressed and the neutral characters. The husband and the wife whose opinions are neglected and not taken into consideration when decisions are to be taken concerning them and their life possibly represent the oppressed, Natu a simple servant and Bhavani are neutral not involving themselves too much in the story.
In conclusion, Indian culture is a combination of many beliefs and other cultures. The practice of sati probably originates from the Hindu religion, marrying more than one wife and the respect for the mother would come from the religion of Islam. As we can see in the story Guleri was not a widow and her husband, Manak, did not die, but in essence she lost her husband and so she burnt herself to death committing suicide giving up to Indian tradition. The author was possibly successful in her goals to ‘uncover’ the ‘sufferings’ of the rural women in India.
The story leaves the reader with two choices; either to believe that rural Indian society is really like the style in which it has been reflected, or that the story has been exaggerated for political grounds to be in favour of the feminist movement which is currently expanding in India. Personally my response to this narrative would be, as I believe, a moderate one not leaning to either of the two. I think that some of the points such as the mother-in-law’s credibility and her power in a family living in such societies is true and is one which many other readers and I despise.
On the other hand I believe that aspects which are the like of not allowing a lady to travel by herself have been slightly exaggerated and are not really oppression on women, in fact they are the opposite; to protect her and ensure that no one individual would harass or abuse her. The passage is most certainly biased but not fully. Finally I believe that the writer had a lot of good points in there to portray the backwardness contained in those regions but did slightly exaggerate possibly for political reasons.