Ice Candy Man by Bapsi Sidhwa is a historical fiction first published in India in 1988. It was translated into English under its new title ‘Cracking India’ in 1991. The events of the novel are based on the 1947 partition of India that created the majority-Muslim country Pakistan. It is set in Lahore, a city in Punjab that suffered many riots and violence among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs and that finally became part of Pakistan. The Partition forced all non-Muslim people to migrate to other cities or to convert to Islam. The partition of India is regarded as the largest mass migration in human history and its brutality is even compared to that of the Holocaust.
The Political and Social upheaval engendered by independence and partition included religious intolerance that led to mass violence, killings mutilations, rapes, dismemberment, and therefore the wholesale slaughter of infants, Children men, and women.
About Bapsi Sidhwa
Bapsi Sidhwa is a Pakistani American novelist and women’s rights activist. She has produced four novels in English that reflect her personal experience of the Indian Sub-continent partition, abuse against women, immigration to the US, and membership in the Parsi community. She was born in Karachi and witnessed the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent as a young child in 1947. Her first and second novels The Bride and The Crow Eater received countless rejections. But after she has received numerous awards and honorary professionals for these two works and her two most recent novels, Cracking India (Ice-Candy-Man) and An American Brat which have been translated and published in several languages.
Justification of The Title
The title of the novel Ice Candy Man seems to be contradictory. Because the story of this novel revolves around the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent during the late 1940s. Moreover, the novel focuses on feminism. However, the title Ice-Candy-Man holds great significance.
Ice Candy Man in a broader sense refers to every man of the Indian Sub-continent. The men are as sweet as candy before the partition. There exists communal harmony among the people belonging to different communities. The masseur, the gardener, the Ice-Candy-Man, etc. all belong to different faiths yet they sit in one group cracking jokes and talking about trending issues. But this situation vanishes with the breaking of violence of partition. Ice-Candy-Man is seen celebrating the vista of Lahore burning in flames and feels excited about the death of the masseur. All this show how fake is the sweetness of man.
The other perspective of vindicating the significance of the title is to narrate the story of Ice-Candy-Man. He is a good person having a humorous nature when we meet him in the beginning. But when the partition takes place, he changes into a villain. He helps the Muslim mob locate Ayah’s hiding, who drags her out of the house and takes her to Kotha, where she is gang raped and forced to become a prostitute. But again he finds a transformation in his character and he repents his actions and marries Ayah. He also becomes a poet. He tries to convince Ayah about his true love but she leaves for Amritsar.
This shows the complex nature of a human being that cannot be judged. Hence the title Ice-Candy-Man of the novel carries a great and profound significance both in terms of humanity as well as the individual.
Themes of The Novel
Partition is one of the main themes of Ice-Candy-Man. Lenny an eight-year-old child is the protagonist of the novel. She is innocent and unaware of the bitter differences among different communities. But as the novel develops, her innocence withers away and the bloody experience of the partition takes its place. She gradually becomes aware of the dark realities of life. She witnesses the city of Lahore burning into flames. She also becomes aware of the violence that happens. Males are butchered and women are raped.
Such incidents of violence bother Lenny very much in the beginning, but with the development of the novel, she becomes used to it. Burning flames, fights, Slogans, rapes, mass killings, etc. become the incidents of every day. In most of the novels dealing with partition, leaders like Master Tara Singh, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi are represented as heroes. But in Ice-Candy-Man we find them represented as Culprits of violence in the views of Lenny.
According to Bapsi Sidhwa, the unnecessary bloodshed to gain a separate country will always haunt the minds of those who lost their families, friends, and close ones.
Bapsi Sidhwa is entirely a feminist. In this novel, she describes the theme of marriage and the problems of women regarding different aspects of their lives. Writing from the perspective of feminism, there is also an issue of early marriages. Society limits women by bounding them into marriage and making them responsible before time. Women shouldn’t curse, lie, and steal but men can do all this. Lenny is not comfortable with all restrictions and complains by saying:
“It’s okay if cousin swears
but if I curse or lie
I am told it does not
Suit the shape of my
mouth. Or my personality
Betrayal is a central theme in the novel. The country of India betrays its own people whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Parsee by enforcing a hasty, Ill-conceived plan of moving millions of refugees from one country to another.
Throughout the novel, Character’s desire for power or influence over others mirrors the desire for political power that fuels religious intolerance, Religious intolerance erupts into violence. Lenny witnesses many acts of killing, maiming, and death. Religious intolerance also becomes a way for men to subjugate women.
Politics and Leaders
In the novel, Sidhwa presents her own opinions and beliefs about the personalities and characters of Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah through the narration by Lenny. The writer has compared Nehru with Jinnah. In the comparison, she criticizes Nehru and favors Jinnah. There are various instances in the Novel where the writer defends Jinnah. Sidhwa herself once considered the book as a defense of Jinnah.
Configuration Of Love
Ice Candy Man is a novel that tells us about the different shades of love. The cruel, pitiless, and obsessive form of love is exhibited in the Ayah and Ice-Candy-Man relationship. The unconditional love between Lenny and Ayah is the purest form of Love.
Ice Candy Man is the only novel of Bapsi Sidhwa in which she used child narration. It has been narrated by a polio-stricken Child named Lenny, a daughter of a Parsi family in Lahore that reminds the reader of the Childhood of the writer herself. The first-person narration technique used by the author in the novel makes readers feel as if they were reading the autobiography of the writer.
Through Lenny’s narrative, Sidhwa has raised some gender-related issues too. Her narration begins in her fifth year and finishes after her eighth birthday. Violence bothers Lenny very much in the beginning but with the development of the novel she becomes used to it. According to Lenny leaders like Tara Singh, Mahatma Gandhi, J. L. Nehru, and Jinnah are represented as the Culprit of Violence.
Thus, the device of the child narrator has been very successfully used by Sidhwa in Ice Candy Man.
Sidhwa’s observation on Nehru
Bapsi Sidhwa has compared Nehru with Jinnah. In the comparison, she criticizes Nehru and favors Jinnah. The writer shows Nehru as Lady Mountbatten’s lover. According to Bapsi the British government has done injustice to Jinnah and favoured Nehru.
Analysis Of The “Ice Candy Man” Novel
The novel is about the partition of India. The plot starts with Lenny, a 4-year-old Parse girl who recounts her childhood memories after she is struck by polio in her infancy. She spends most of her time with Ayah (Shanto) an 18-year-old Hindu girl from Amritsar and she learns a lot about adult relationships. Ayah is so beautiful that everyone from the shopkeeper to the beggar stares at her in the street. She has a number of suitors including Masseur, Sharbat Khan, and Ice-Candy-Man. Every evening, Lenny is taken out to the garden or the zoo, or to other such places by Ayah.
Col Bharucha, Lenn’s surgeon had put a plaster over their leg to correct it. When he is taking away the plaster, Lenny is apprehensive that the fault might have been corrected Col Bharucha Consoles Leny’s mom, saying,
“If anyone’s to blame, blame
the British! There was
no polio in India till
they brought it.”
The Ice Candy Man is presented as a lovable rascal, who knows how to trick both the English and Ayah. However, his dark side is hinted at when he dangles Lenny’s brother Adi from his arms and threatens to drop him unless Ayah goes to the cinema with him.
Another critical incident was Lenny accompanying Imam Dinto his native village Pin Pindo, where, unlike Lahore. Hindu Muslims and Sikhs live peacefully. Iman Din was the sixty-two-year cook of Sethi’s family (Mr. and Mrs. Sethi, Lenny’s mother). Lenny meets Imam Din’s ground children Ranna, Khatija, and Praveen. The village Chaudhary the Mullah, the granthi, and other villagers strongly express, their Solidarity and couch to protect each other, asserting that the city’s madness will not infect the villages. Slowly and gradually Lenny starts witnessing the change in her.
Lenny sees people around her belong to separate religious communities. Ayah and the family gardener Hari are Hindus. Imam Din, the odd–job man yourself the Ice Candy Man and, the Massear, are all Muslims. The Zookeeper Sher Singh is Sikh. She notes how each group has its own way of dressing, eating, and worshipping. As the relations between these communities get worse, Lenny becomes more and more aware of their differences.
When Master Tara Singh, a Sikh political and religious leader visits the city and threatens the Muslims there violence breaks out. People start fighting fires and killing each other. This period also sees a growing intimacy between Ayah and the Masseur with the Jealous Ice-Candy-Man constantly staking and observing them.
The news of Partition gets confirmed by April of 1947. The overnight new nation of Pakistan. Lenny remarks. I am Pakistani. Just like that, the political situations beings to be serious. While Hindus and Sikhs are leaving Pakistan for India, some of the Muslims in India are behaving for Pakistan.
One day, a train comes carrying Muslim refugees from India. Ice Candy Man finds that his female relatives traveling on the train have all been murdered and mutilated. In revenge, he joins the mobs attacking Hindus and Sikhs or robbing their properties out of fear, the gardener Hari converts to Islam.
Ranna, Imam Din’s great-grandson, escapes with his life when groups of Sikhs enter Pir Pindo, massacre everyone in the village, and rapes the women. Rahna, once he reaches his grandfather, shares his terrible story with everyone, including Lenny.
The story reaches its Climax when a Muslim mob comes to Lenny’s house. From their name, this mob assumes that they are Hindus. Imam Din comes out to protect the house and tells that this is a Parsee household. Yet the group wants to know what happened to the Hindu nanny Ayah. Ice Candy Man comes up to Lenny to ask where she is hiding. Lenny thinks she can trust the Ice Candy Man and disclose the truth. Ayah is dragged out of her hiding place. Lenny, shocked repents her trust in Ice Candy Man. Ayah is taken to Hira Mandi and is managed as a prostitute thereby Ice Candy Man. Lenny feels guilt-stricken.
When Godmother tries to locate Ayah she comes to know that the Ice Candy Man has married her after keeping her as a prostitute. Godmother plans to visit to see Ayah, now Mumtaz after her marriage. Lenny insists on going with her to Hira Mandi. Lenny is shocked to see the sadness in Ayah’s eyes.
Ayah, who is not Mumtaz pleads to Godmother to send her back to her relatives at Amritsar. Godmother assures her that she will be rescued. Thereafter Godmother’s contact helps Ayah to get free from Hira Mandi and Ice Candy Man. She is lodged in a recovered Women’s camp on Warrish Road.
Ice Candy Man tries to meet her but is beaten up by the guards. He now becomes a dejected lover, reciting love songs, searching for her lost love. One day Lenny comes to know that Ayah with other Hindu women, has been shifted to Amritsar to her family. She also gets the news that Ice Candy Man has also followed her across the Wagah Border into India.
Thus, in the Novel Ice Candy Man, we learned the social-political impact of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent through the point of view of a minor disabled girl, Lenny from the Parsee community. Khushwant Singh an Indian author and politician says,
“Ice Candy Man deserves to be ranked as amongst the most
authentic and best on the Partition of India…
Sidhwa has blossomed into Pakistani’s best
writer of fiction in English.