“Lajwanti” By Rajinder Singh Bedi is about a happily married couple who suffered in the riots that resulted in the partition of India. During the partition, tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims were forced to pack and leave, because suddenly India was divided on the basis of religion. Families who had been living on the ‘Wrong’ side of the border for generations had to migrate, at the moment of notice to their ‘homeland’. In the midst of all this pain, anguish and separation, displaced people began attacking the ‘enemies’ through thefts, violence and abduction, as was the case with the protagonist Sundar Lal and his wife Lajwanti, who was abducted.
Rajinder Singh Bedi is considered one of the greatest 20th-century progressive writers of Urdu fiction, and second most prominent writer after Sadat Hasan Manto. He is most known for his haunting tales of partition of the India. His Urdu Novel, translated into English as ‘I Take This Woman’ by Khuswant Singh received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1965. He also worked in Hindi cinema as a film director, screenwriter and dialogue writer. If his memory, the Government of Punjab has started a ‘Rajinder Singh Bedi Award’ in the field of Urdu Literature.
Significance of The Title Lajwanti
Lajwanti is a Punjabi word for ‘Touch-me-not’, the flower that withers its leaves upon human contact. This leaf represents all those women who suffered Trauma and Violence during partition. The title also refers to ‘Lajwant’ the protagonist of the story, was a dark-skinned, thin girl, delicate as the Lajwanti leaf and she also suffered in the riots resulting in the partition of India. So the title of the story is significant.
Summary & Analysis of The Story
During the partition of India, both side’s many women were abducted, including Lajwanti, the protagonist of the story. To bring back the abducted women the campaign was started by the residents of ‘Mula Shakoor’. They set up a committee named ‘Rehabilitate them in your heart’. Sunder Lal, an abusive husband, whose own wife Lajwanti went missing during the conflict was elected as a secretary of the committee.
The committee was formed because many women who came back were rejected by their families and told to commit suicide because they were tarnished and no longer acceptable in the community.
Lajwanti was a dark skin, girl who was as delicate as the Lajwanti leaf. She was also suffering from this conflict and was abducted. Sunder Lal had asked the people to treat these girls as each female deserves. A woman named Masdula Sara Bai brought some women back, but unfortunately, Laju was not there with her. But Sunder Lal never gave up and once again moved on to find his Laju. At the same time, there were also some men who were refusing to accept their wives.
Narayan who was the leader of various Hindus was against this committee. He believed that no women who had been raped or abducted should be ‘Bring Back’. He always used to give examples for this incident related to Ramayana, ‘How did Lord Ram not accept Sita? Sunder Lal gets angry after hearing the statement of Narayan and an argument takes place between the two.
Suddenly one morning Lal Chand who lives in the same village congratulates Sunder Lal stating that he saw Laju. Sunder Lal did not believe him, he said that she must be someone else. But with the confidence of Lal Chand convinced him that it was Laju. Lal Chand had started to give him descriptions like a tattoo on her chin and another on her neck. Yes, Yes, Sunder Lal replied and said a third tattoo on her forehead.
One day Pakistan delivered 16 women and received 16 in back. Sunder Lal was getting ready to visit the border town of Amritsar, after reaching there he slowly moved to Chauki Kalan the place for the delivery of many abducted women.
Luckily Laju stood in front of him. She was dressed up like a Muslim woman. She had become like more fairer and healthier than before. After returning home Sunder Lal ignored all the voices which were against them. He was happy that he got his wife back to their home. Now Laju started feeling a little bit relaxed because of Sunerlal’s gentle behaviour.
Sunder Lal also neglected her feelings and the pain that she had gone through. Once Lajwanti started talking about Jumma with whom she was there. Sunder Lal asked Laju, was he good to you, and he didn’t beat you? In answer to that Laju replied that he was never hard on me and I was very afraid of him.
Lajwanti also says that you used to beat me but I never felt afraid of you. Sunder Lal is ashamed of herself for ill-treating her.
Thus, Lajwanti by Rajinder Singh Bedi explores the plight of helpless women who were abducted on both sides of the newly-etched border and their subsequent rehabilitation. The author points out the stark and shameful reality of Rehabilitation. The author points out the stark and shameful reality of the Rehabilitation process. Overall, Lajwanti is the story of some women who were abducted and got some acceptance some got ignored.
“Feminism” is an Ideology that demands equal rights for men and women in terms of politics decision-making, career, and having Children. It is considered a struggle to achieve the same rights, opportunities, and dignity as men have in society.
About half of the global human population is women. At every step, all over the world, women face inequality subordination, and secondary class status. Before the first Industrial Revolution, human life was not male-dominated and both men and women contributed equally in society. The Industrial Revolution began in England in about 1750-1760 and lasted sometime between 1820 and 1840. During this period women were restricted to the domestic atmosphere and men started to work in industries. As a result, women remain vulnerable socially politically, and economically.
Definition of Feminism
The term “Feminism” came into use during the 1890s but its origin can be traced to the late 17th century. There is no fixed definition of Feminism and it has a variety of meanings and interpretations. In different fields of life, we define feminism according to its own social, political, religious, and cultural perspective.
In short, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexiest exploitation and oppression.”
According to the Cambridge Dictionaries, Feminism can be seen as “The belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.”
As a social movement, the main Characteristics and demands of Feminism include:
The Right of an Education.
Equal pay in work the workplace.
Fighting against gender stereotypes and performative behaviour.
Protection against sexual harassment and assault.
The rights of own property.
The general purpose of Feminism through centuries is to establish opportunities and results for women equal to those allotted to men. There are four distinct waves of feminism that align with the period of time.
These waves are –
19th to 20th Century
Right of Vote
1960s to 1980s
Domesticity & Sexuality
1990s to 2000s
Diversity & Intersectionality
2000 to present
The Portrayal Of Women and Feminism In India
Indian Women have been facing challenges in the form of Inequalities, and mental and physical violence acts. The portrayal of Feminism in Indian Literature is considered to be one of the most debated topics.
The portrayal of Feminism in Indian Literature goes back to ancient Indian History. “Ramayana” is considered to be one of the Greatest epics of Indian Literature written by Valmiki. In this epic, the Characters of women have depicted the real condition of Indian Women in the Ancient period. The Character of Sita who is the Wife of Lord Ram has justified the power and strength of her husband Rama. She has also been portrayed as vulnerable without her husband. The epic has made Lord Rama an Exemplary protagonist at the cost of the Rejection of his wife. She gave “Agni Priksha” to prove her purity to become Ram’s wife when she returned from Lanka.
Toru Dutt, a 19th-century Indian poet, expressed her pain and grief through her poem “Sita” and questioned the dominance of Indian Patriarchal society.
Feminism In The Indian Context
Feminism in the Indian Context can be divided into three Phase
First Phase – 1850 to 1915
The first phase of Indian feminism was started in the mid-nineteenth century. At this time India was to assimilate the Western idea of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. The first phase of Indian Feminism was initiated by men to uproot the social evils of Sati-Pratha and allow widow remarriage. Indian societies also forbid child marriage and to reduce illiteracy. However, as nationalist movements emerged in India, Indian society was improving the status of women by the late 19th century.
Second Phase – 1915 to 1947
During this period the struggle against colonial rule intensified. Nationalism became the pre-eminent cause. Gandhi legitimized and expanded Indian women’s public activities by initiating them into the non-violent civil disobedience movement against the British Raj. Peasant women played an important role in rural Satyagrah as of Borsad and Bardoli. Women-only organizations like ‘All India Women’s Conference’ and the ‘National Federation Od Indian Women’ emerged Women were grappling with issues relating to the scope of women’s political participation, women’s franchise, communal awards, and leadership roles in political parties.
Third Phase, Post 1947
Post-independence Indian literature has portrayed the condition of women in new dimensions. The real suffering of a peasant woman in rural India can be witnessed in ‘Nactor in a Sieve’ a novel by ‘Kamala Markandaya’. This novel has a story of woman and her husband in an Indian village who were exploited by money lenders.
‘Rukmani’ the lead female character of the Novel, is a rural Indian woman who did not receive, education, financial security, and societal support.
On the other hand the novel “Voices in the City” by ‘Anita Desai’ has stressed freedom and facing realities in the lives of Indian Women.
Depiction Of Women In the 21st Century
Indian Society has been going through several changes in establishing an identity for women. “The Binding Vine” a novel by ‘Shashi Deshpande’ has highlighted marital rape. Another contemporary author, ‘Shobha De’ has highlighted the emotional and sexual needs of an Indian middle-class woman through her story “Second Thoughts”.
Development of Feminism in West
The concept of Feminism Movement got proper prominence and importance in the 1960s. Earlier, Feminism was limited to some female writers but the increased number of Female writers and the representation of Women characters in the fiction world drew large attention in the Literature. The evolution of the feminist movement in Western literature is as follows:
First Wave Of Feminism
First-wave Feminism is mainly concerned with the treatment of women in a male-dominated society. The Major works that raised the issues of Feminism during this phase are Mary Ellman’s ‘Thinking about Women (1968), Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics, and Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. Many important works of male writers have been studied in order to analyse the attitude of male towards women and society.
Second Wave Of Feminism
Second Wave is concerned with women’s writings including Ellen More’s Literary Women, Elaine Showalter’s, A Literature of Their Own, Nina Baym’s Women’s Fiction, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Mad Woman in Attic, and Margaret Human’s Women Writers and Poetic Identity.
Elaine Showalter’s ‘A Literature of Their Own Published in 1970. This phase chiefly explores the relationship between females and literature and texts were analyzed to understand the treatment of female characters by the male in the society.
Showalter proposed three stages in the history of Women’s writing
Feminine Phase (1840-1880), in which women writers imitated dominant male artistic norms and aesthetic standards.
Feminist Phase (1880-1920), in which radical approach has been maintained and at last.
Female Phase (1920 to onwards), primarily focused on female writing focused on female writing and female experiences.
‘Mary Wollstonecraft’, one of the authors who wrote about Feminism, advocated in her ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women that women must be treated equally because they have to play a crucial and vital role in society, especially in bringing up children.
She attacked male thinkers and scholars like Rousseau who argued that women did not need education but she supported education as a means of women’s improvement.
American activist, “Margaret Fuller” one of the famous female writers of the 19th century, in her Women in the Nineteenth Century, in her “Women in the Nineteenth Century” believed that education is the means of emancipation for women and her key planks are education, employment, and politics.
While in the 20th century ‘Virginia Woolf’ a modernist and Female Victorian author, explored gender reaction in her ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and ‘Three Guineas’. She remarks a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. She advocates for the liberation of women, financial independence, and the right to reveal feelings and experiences through words.
Whereas ‘Simone De Beauvoir favors that there is no essence of the woman and that a woman is constructed by men. She states in her feminism manifesto of The Second Sex, ‘One is not born a woman but become one.’
Feminism questions the long-standing, dominant, male, interpretations and patriarchal attitude. Feminism has empowered the confidence of women and provided individuality identification in Patriarchal Society.