Mahashweta by Sudha Murty
A Pamphlet against the social stigma of Leucoderma.
Author: Sudha Murty
Publication: Penguin India
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What can I say about her…she is my idol…she is the goddess of my adoration. Whatever I write here about her will fall short of her. Anyway being a book reviewer it is my sole duty to introduce her to the readers. She is a Karnataka born Indian writer famous for her novels like –
Here, There, Everywhere
The Bird with Golden Wings
How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories
Wise and Otherwise
Gently Falls The Bakula
House of Cards etc
She wrote profusely for the children also-
Grandma’s Bag of Stories
Grandparents Bag of Stories
The Sage With Two Horns
The Magic of the Lost Temple
The Bird with Golden Wings
How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories
The Old Man And His God
The Magic Drum and Other Favorite Stories
The Bird with the Golden Wings
How The Sea Became Salty
How The Onion got its layers The Mother I Never Knew
The Upside Down King
The Daughter From A Wishing Tree
Sudha Murty is a prolific personality. It is astonishing to me how being the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation she probes such deep in the human heart.
She received numerous accolades like R.K. Narayana’s Award for Literature, India’s fourth-highest civilian award Padma Shri in 2006, Daana Chintamani Attimabbe Award by Karnataka Government etc.
Mahashweta is another gem of Sudha Murty that capitulates to the social blindness towards one who suffered from Leucoderma. Anupama, the epitome of beauty after her marriage found herself in that state when everyone abandoned her even her husband. When society, including her husband, shunned her she turned her life to a direction, to a height where she can live on her own accord, on dignity and self-respect.
“ Love is not a commodity that you can buy after putting it to the test.”
Anupama is the heroine or the protagonist of this novel. The book is named after her as “Mahashweta”. Being a scholar in Sanskrit she used to act, direct and translate Sanskrit plays. And one such famous and popular play is Mahashweta that she was preparing for the stage in Dr. Desai’s house when she met Dr. Anand. They both were the epitome of beauty and intelligence. But Anupama was poor and Anand was rich with an arrogant snobbish mother.
Anand fell in love with Anupama and they had a fairy tale marriage…but the usual line of the fairy tale ‘they live happily ever after’ did not prove correct for them. After the marriage, Anand left for England to pursue higher studies. Anupama lived with her mother-in-law. One day she discovered a white patch on her feet and got devastated. Secretly she consulted a doctor but her cruel mother in law came to know that. She got the chance to throw her away from the house blaming her conspiracy. She wrote to her son in England that Anupama intentionally married him hiding her virulent disease- leukoderma. So she was sacked from the house. Anupama hoped that her husband would support her. But that did not happen.
Anupama’s husband abandoned her because of her marred beauty. The white scar was no great pain to her in comparison with the betrayal of Anand. What could be more humiliating than the realisation that Anand married her only for her beauty and when the flag of beauty stood at stack he retracted and abandoned his beloved one. He never loved her.
“ She had finally discovered the real Anand. He had loved her beauty and married her for it. He was not ready to accept her if her beauty was in any way marred.”
Despised by everyone she was pushed into fatal loneliness and helplessness to the extent that she contemplated suicide. Anupama always acted the plays with a happy ending but in her life, she had rendezvous with tragedy.
But then she turned back with an epiphany and embraced her life against all odds.
“Why should she die for a husband who did not even care about her?”
She moved to Mumbai and started her new struggle. After many ups and downs in life, she went back to her passion- literature. She earned money, fame and confidence that led to her independence.
Anand realized his blunder and became repentant. But it was too late. “ …it was like the coming of the rains after the grass had dried.”
Anand asked for forgiveness and pleaded to reunite. But Anupama replied “How can you possibly expect a burnt seed to grow into a tree? Husband, children, affection, love…they are all irrelevant to me now.”
But one happy, as well as a sad thing, was that Anupama met her soul-mate, her true love, her Pundarika…Dr. Vasant. He loved her and wished to marry her even after he knew about her disease and the past. But Anupama refused him as she did not want any complications in life. She was already devastated once.
“ Oh, God! If only I had known her before her husband ruined her life, I would not have lost this priceless jewel!” Vasant was disappointed and sad.
The novel ends with the planning for another drama with one of Anupama’s students, Vinuta who suggests ‘Mahashweta’ and Anupama recites the famous lines from the play.
“ Like Rohini to Chandra, like Lakshmi to Narayana, am I to him. Just as the creeper depends on a tree, I depend on him.”
And Anupama realized Vasant like Pundarika would be separated from Mahashweta forever.
Change is the only thing that never changes:
# Anupama’s beauty faded as she got leukaemia.
# Anupama possessed barely anything to live a life. But later in her life through her education and intelligence, she gained everything.
# Sabakka who always ill-treated Anupama had to depend on her earnings.
# Time taught Anand a great lesson.
In Sudha Murthy, one always expect a simple yet heart touching plot with real characters. Radhika with her cold cruelty, supine Anand with his obsession with beauty, Girija, the spoiled arrogant girl of a rich household, Shamanna, the poor village schoolmaster…all are too lively in their role-playing.
Anupama – She is the protagonist of this novel. The novel is named after her favourite Sanskrit drama that she used to play in her college.
Anand – He was a budding doctor who fell in love with Anupama as he watched her Mahasweta. He married Anupama but later discarded her for her leukoderma.
Radhakka – Anupama’s Mother-in-law who was a cold-blooded cruel snob.
Girija – Anupama’s sister-in-law and the spoiled brat of Radhakka.
Radhika and Girija always ill-treated Anupama and tried to show her low.
Shamanna – Anupama’s father who always acted helpless before his fate.
Sabakka- Anupama’s stepmother who always hated Anupama and misbehaved with her for her beauty.
Sumithra – Anupama’s friend who gave shelter to her when Anupama was in Bombay.
Hari- Sumithra’s husband who tried to molest Anupama.
Vasanth – Anupama’s friend who loved and adored her in the real sense. He proposed to marry her even after knowing everything. He felt sad when Anupama refused.
Satya – He was Dr. Vasant’s colleague who had a close bonding with Anupama.
Plot and language:
The plot and language are very simple and flowing. The ups and downs of Anupama’s life are presented with utmost sincerity without any ornate exhibition of flowery verbose. Anupama is an ordinary simple girl with unparalleled beauty and knowledge. The author showed her eruditeness in portraying her complicated life through simple language.
‘Mahasweta’ means, ‘ goddess Saraswati’ – the goddess of knowledge. Anupama the protagonist of this novel is a Sanskrit erudite, fluent in her recitation and acts of Sanskrit plays with minute excellency.
Anupama is that courage, that inner strength that can provide the spirit of resurrection to the inflicted women of the society.
She realized her husband loved her as Mahashweta, not as a real-life Anupama. So when the white patch appeared on her foot he could not accept that.
“ But when in real life I developed this white patch and became a real Mahashweta, the White one, he could not handle it.”
Anupama was “shunned and abandoned only because of one white patch. On the other hand, Girija, who had had a sordid affair before her marriage, was held in high esteem in society and at home.”
That is the real picture of our society. One who has money and power can pass every offence with a clean chit but one the poor and helpless are tagged with blames. That’s why immoral, arrogant Girija’s life became so smooth and happy and Anupama who was the real diamond was thrown in abysmal despondency and injustice.
Importance of Women’s Education:
Education is the saviour of the oppressive social system. And Mahasweta is the glaring example of that.
Daughter of a poor schoolmaster Anupama never stopped her love for education.
And she even refused to marry as she wanted to do something of her own. Education has two folded significance and she attained both.
Education that paves us towards sustainable economic development and the education that enriches our free-thinking. Anupama’s education not only shapes her character and dignity but also proves to be her weapon to fight for her sustenance.
“ With financial independence, Anupama’s confidence began to blossom.”
She used her education as her empowerment- to break the shackle of Patriarchy. When society slew her, castigated her, she mastered the stamina to stand and fight for her right.
So when her friend Sumithra advised her to ask for some money from her husband she could say boldly, “Sumi, I do not want money from someone who does not love me. God will provide for me. I have my education, and it will serve to feed me.”
Marriage- institutionalised slavery and humiliation:
In our society marriage is shown as the only destination of a woman’s life. Without a husband, a woman has no value. Even an educated girl like Anupama who kept herself busy in enacting Sanskrit plays on stages and fundraising programmes for the poor was bound to marry Anand though she wished to be settled in life through her education. After the marriage, she merely resigned to a humble docile daughter-in-law and an obedient wife of an affluent family.
Anupama represented our cultural discourse that leaves almost no room for a life outside the marriage for girls. Women’s lives get legitimacy only when they live in marriages – abusive or non-abusive. Their destiny is their in-laws’ recommendations. That’s why Anupama had to marry Anand when her father told her that they chose her. And even when Anand discarded her and she fought her life her father wanted her to go back to her husband.
“ He believed that a woman’s ultimate sanctuary should be her in-law’s house- single women were not respected in society.”
But one day Anupama became strong enough to come out from that shackle, “ She had removed her mangalsutra-it had weighed down on her heavily…”.
For her marriage is a lifelong commitment and it becomes painful when someone “fails to honour that commitment.”
The Best Quotes:
“…repeated success makes a person arrogant, while occasional failure makes an individual more mature.”
“ When two men can be friends and two women can be friends, surely a man and a woman can also be just friends.”
“ Please remember that saying the right thing at the right time is what makes a conversation meaningful. A language is a tool we use to express ourselves. It is what differentiates us from animals.”
“ It is better to understand the vicissitudes of life and solve own problems in the makes a person arrogant, while occasional failure makes an individual more mature.”
I love Anupama as I respect her doughty decision to fight her life against all the adversities of life. She is ‘Mahashweta’…the power that kindles in every soul to soar high above the mundane prejudices and shortcomings. Her character develops from a simple girl to a mature woman who had faced the cruel face of life. She is the emblem of courage, sincerity, and devoted determination. The novel enhances a positive spirit within me and the same I hope for my readers. “It is better to concentrate on things that give me confidence and happiness.”
Every woman should think in this way. And one more thing to share before I quit…I never feel bored to re-read this novel…I have read it innumerable times and every time I feel the same glory within me.
Hi, I’m Munmun here and welcome to my book blog. I’m an English Teacher. But more than that I love to read books and write down my thoughts. I feel we can change the world by circulating the introspections of great columnists throughout the world. You are free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.