Research Culture: Vol I, Issue 4 – Culture Special


By Sohinder Bir Singh

My paper is an initiative taken to analyze Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s long poem Main Te Main. It is a dramatic monologue written as a counter discourse between individual and social boundaries. Shiv Kumar Batalvi has dedicated this poem to Sahir Ludhianvi. To some extent it is a biography of Sahir Ludhianvi (a famous urdu poet from Punjab). The story of the narrator within the poem is somehow related to the hard reality of Ludhianvi’s life. “Main Te Main” and “Gori Nadi Daa Geet” written by Mohan Kahlon (a prominent novelist in Punjab) have many similarities. Hand by hand reading of the both books embellish autobiographical aspects of poet’s life. When we talk about Folklore, it consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs and customs that are the traditions of the culture, subculture of group. The woman character of the poem is depicted as the violator of traditional custom. She has proved an unfaithful wife in the poem. Shiv Kumar presented a traditional village, where this woman lives. The poem starts with the painful note of a woman who lives alone in the village. Her husband lives in a foreign country. The narrator of the poem is illegitimate son of that lady, depicts the situation of his mother, says:-

Paharan pair suttee ikk garan vich
Jananhari meri payi jaagdi hai. (P.9)

These lines describe the loneliness of the women, who is devoid of the company of her husband. She lives in despair with a hope of her “meeting” with her husband. But her individuality demands physical union. Due to this psychic bent, she chooses deviated way, where she develops physical relations with a stranger. Her psyche can be compared with Sigmund Freud’s concept of Id; under the effect of Id a person works against his or her social values and norms. In social context a women should tame herself in some social boundaries. Her relations with a stranger proves her a violator of social values. Out of this relation woman gives birth to a son. Who is taken as a illegitimate child in the society. Her depression increases by leaps and bounds when people start talking about her and her child in ridiculous manner. Whenever people sit together, they criticize the act of the women and her immoral ways of living. All these talks create death like feelings in her. Poet says:-
Adhoora geets maa nu chubda hai
Adhoora geet jagg nu chubda hai (P.11)
These lines put light on the psychic position of the women. In our culture a women has the position of Goddess. The mythic mothers like Sita and Parvati are devotional and idol Women. They are regarded as the most sincere and faithful women. Sita, wife of Lord Rama (in Ramayan) though she is a faithful wife suffers through the test of loyalty. She has to give Agni Pariksha to prove her purity. So the faith and trust are important features of an Indian women. When the women character of the poem, breaks the limitations of the society she is regarded as a sinner. When a mother gets the place of sinner what will be the future of the child she bears with an immoral relation. The child will also face the questioning gaze of society. Both mother and child suffer because child is a result of illegitimate relation of women. Here the woman is demolished by the society for fulfilling her individual needs. Her immoral task makes her a sorry-figure facing the embarrassment before conventional values. Because of this disobedience of woman, the birth of child copes up as an untraditional ceremony. Mother suffer from great pain, shame and despair as poet says:

Oh appne tohmataye dhudh,
kolon trabhak jandi hai (P.12)

All this despair and shame of mother, put her in thoughts of her child, who is born against social values. She sees her child’s future in complete shame, humiliation and hopelessness. The fears of mother bring her to complete psychic breakdown. Her depression forecasts the shadows of disharmony upon child. When child goes out in the village, people tense him with satire and call him a bastard. People collected under trees, girls collected for spinning, all talk about the bastard child. Use of symbols like:-

1) Maa di rooh da vilkada laggna
2) Donhi vich raatan ridkna
3) Pind de mandar da Buddha shankh vajjna.
4) Gaagar da paani darna, etc.

depict the “psychic ruin” of the mother. These symbols on the one hand highlight the psychic condition of the woman and on the other hand show the culture and social system of the village. Sex is an important part of the human life. A woman, in the absence of her husband develops relations with a stranger. Instead of understanding the physical needs of the woman people question her character. Society blames her for the violation of social laws and values. When individuality faces social values, it suffers from a tragic consciousness. Thus sufferer survives a death like life in the society. The psychic condition of the narrator; who is a bastard son of the woman, identifies his degraded position in the society, says:-

Mere layi us din sooraj
bada manhoos chadiya si
mai aapne sahmne jad ap
pahli vaar mariya si.
main us din bahut roya saa
main us din bahut dariya saa.

These lines show, boy’s state of ignorance converting to the state of knowledge. In this state of knowledge boy feels the absence of his father. Due to absence of father figure, he questions himself and state of knowledge pushes him to know the reality of his birth. When he asks question to his mother, she is speechless, thus he hates her. Hence there is not any straight mention or signal of women’s relationship with a stranger, yet her silence and depression symbolizes the illegitimate existence of the child. Backbiting and testing of village people encourages boy to bring out the reality of his birth.
But here Shiv Kumar portrays a different picture of the boy, who instead of asking or enquire about his father, chooses to play with his age mate neighbour girl at riverbanks.

Batalvi provides another folkloric essence in the poem, where young girls of the village come to narrator’s house for spinning. They all sing songs of love and pain of loneliness. These traditional tasks encourage the cultural devotion of the people of the village. Under veil of traditional tasks encourage the culture devotion of the people of the village. Under the veil of tradition and culture, young girls satisfy their sexual instincts by making relation with the bastard child. It is a bitter satire on cultural customs and ethical where individual instincts are satisfied under the veil of tradition. This act elaborates that how young girls of the village satisfy their individuality on the name of cultural laws.

If we talk about Roland Barthes concept of social law, it supposes that when there are some implemented laws in a society, they are difficult to change or break. A person has to live according to those laws. But existentialists empowered individuality before laws and customs. They take the side of individual desires and individual needs, for the priority of existence in human beings. If the veil is uncontained, all girls of the village face same shame and torture before society, as narrator’s mother faced first. On the second narrator/bastard child for their own gratification. As a result, boy starts wandering place to place for his sexual gratification. He says:-
Main us udasi raat nu
sau varr baliya bujhiya
te aapne jangal ch main
chandan de vaakan uggia.
All these incidents of the poem clarify that individual desires are also the part of social values. These are also fulfilled in social or cultural context; otherwise these desires take the form of sin. The person, who tries to fulfill his individual needs by crossing the boundaries of tradition and society, suffers a lot, whether this suffering is psychic or emotional.
When we try to analyze the psychic structure of the illegitimate child, he is a product of incest relationship. His mother’s depressed condition affects his personality. He becomes a split personality because of the absence of affection and care given to him by his mother. He gives preference to his own self and individual desires, because society always molests him for being an illegitimate child. Society makes fun of him and his existence. He turns to an unconfident man with sick individuality.
In Hindu mythology, we find Karan of Mahabharata (Great India Epic), who is also an illegitimate son of Kunati and Sun God. Before marriage Kunati had a relation with sun God. In their relationship Karan was born. Later on Kunati was married to Pandu. She was mother of five Pandavas and when battle between Pandavas occur, Karan was divided between blood relation and friendship. Karan’s state of knowledge about his birth grew a grudge in him towards his mother. Kunati wanted that Karan should support his half brothers, who were Pandavas. But Karan desired to help his friend, Duryodhana, who was a Kaurav. Amidst unbalanced mental position, he sacrificed his life. If we think about Karan’s psychic forum, he is shattered within because he questions his existence and compares it with five Pandavas, who were legitimate sons of his mother. The fame of Pandavas, crushed the conscious of Karan. Therefore his conscious did not allow him to help his half brothers. So, he preferred death for himself.

As we compare the psyche of Karan and narrator, both are unbalanced personalities. They both have not committed any sin, yet they have to suffer in society. The reason of their suffering is same, the gratification of self-desires of their mothers.

Actually human beings are devoid of individual freedom. Society implemented some limitations upon freedom. First are individual boundaries, In which a person should fulfill his desires according to family laws. Second are social boundaries, in which society stands like a guard to check or mend the ways of people. Third are Nation boundaries for regulating proper law and order in a nation. Fourth are cultural boundaries, which implement traditions and morals in the society. Narrator’s/ hero’s consummated relation with a girl, resulted in the pregnancy of the girl. Boy’s relation with the girl is forbidden. He wants to hide this banned deed of them from the society. So, decide to abort this child. The girl dies with the curious treatment given to her while abortion. The death of girl symbolizes the victory of strict laws of the society. Death of the girl is proved another way for splitting the personality as well as the existence of the hero. He remains a victim of the distorted conscious for his whole life for murdering a girl and an urborn child for the sake of social taboos. Jean Paul Sartre, a great existentialist, said that as a person steps forward for fulfillment of his desires he faces his existence diminishing. A war beings between his inner conscious and outer conscious, which can never end. Hero’s mirror stage is also like a shadow of vains. The life of the hero of the poem transformed to a mechanical life, searching his true self in the society. In the end of the poem, narrator is failed in finding his archetype of ‘anima’ as he says:-

Jado vi main kade
aurat cho aapna geet labhiya hai
mainu aurat ne ikk baafar jihe
ang heth dabbiya hai. (p.62)

Anima is a female part within a male according to Carl Gustav Jung. The existence of the narrator/hero of the poem is meaningless. Although his outer existence is of a living being in the world, yet his inner existence is dead, a bundle of defeats and a song of suicide as he depicts:-

Eh main nahi hor hai koi!
Eh main nahi hor hai koi!!
Eh main nahi hor hai koi!!! (p.75)

The central theme of the poem is the agony of psychic instability in the life of people in modern world. The truth of the life of the hero of the poem is a revolution against the false and shallow customs of society. It is a war between shattered personality of the hero and cultural values and laws around him. He has proved a bestial of values. This revolution snatches the existence of the hero. As a result, hero becomes a person with imbalanced characteristics. He is a victim of vulgar instabilities and silence. Cultural values crop up as an apple of discord for the individuality of the hero. Whether Shiv Kumar beautifully portrays the consequences of the forbidden aspects of culture and its values, yet these values are the reason to build up a permanent unrest and mental disorder in the personality of the hero. This mental unrest proved a death in life for the main character.

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