Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Parineeta - Sharat Chandra Chatterjee

It is a Sharat Chandra, but for a change, it is not a tragedy. :-)
This one was a more enjoyable reading than Devdas.
In hindsight, the movie based on this book had certain fabricated sequences but they only served to make it more interesting and dramatic.

It is a story of 13 year old Lalita and 25 year old Shekhar, their families and the norms of the society those days.
In both Devdas and Parineeta, the women are 13 or 14 years old but seem so know their minds so fully well. They know they are not merely infatuated but deeply in love. They get married at that age and manage a household like experienced homemakers. Such maturity cannot be a product of imagination alone. People during those days must have truly been superior (in some respects).

Gurucharan, the impoverished father of five daughters, is a Brahmin. According to customs he would have to give dowry to get his daughters married off. He would be ostracized by the society if could not get them married before they turned 14 or 15, for he would be guilty of harbouring aged, unmarried daughters. Lalita, his niece reflects on how the society would have no objection if a girl became a widow soon after marriage and returned to the father’s house. Quite sardonically, she thinks that the only safe way for a girl older than 15 to stay in her fathers house is by becoming a widow!

A Brahmo (not a Hindu, but a follower of Brahmoism), did not have to give dowry. Gurucharan seeing no other escape, converted to a Brahmo but was ostracized by the society for giving up his religion. One way or the other the poor man had to be ostracized.

This episode has been excluded from the movie entirely.

However, this conversion of Lalita’s uncle to a different religion made it almost impossible for Shekhar who was a Brahmin to marry her.

In the end however, Lalita is accepted by Shekhar’s mother who was fond of her and they live happily ever after.

I googled “Brahmo” to learn more.
Brahmoism was founded by Ram Mohan Roy.
It is the youngest of India's 9 recognised religions. It seemed to have been founded to counter the evil practices of the Hindu society of those times like sati, caste system, dowry system, permanent widowhood etc.
And lastly, there are only 177 Brahmos in India according to the latest census reports!

If you havent watched the movie yet, good. Read the book first.

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