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Saeed 1

Nimah Saeed
Professor John Ness

Thesis Statement
In traditional India caste, class and geography have played an important role in creating
differences among families. Family and gender issues have always been a controversial issue in
India. This can be illustrated by taking a deeper look into the short stories written by famous
authors and classical Indian movie.
Ila Mehta's story "Smoke" returns to a critique of modernity by protesting its dichotomy between
the spiritual and the physical. As we are well aware, the division of the home and the world was
stabilized with another ideological distribution of properties so that the former was considered
sacred and the latter mundane. In Mehta's story, a widowed urban woman doctor is unable to
admit desire, sexual or any other, because she has been placed in the realm of the spiritual and
thereby removed from the touch of the physical. As her mother-in-law reports: "Mama was all
too full of praise, dear. 'Shubha is indeed a saint, he said. "Her life is like an incense stick. It
burns itself to release its fragrance into the world."
Like so many stories in this collection, this is a sad tale of troubles in a family. Joygopal
is married to Sasi and they live a simple life. However, her mother dies leaving a baby, Sasis
brother, Nilmani. Much to her husbands disappointment, Sasi sort of becomes her little brothers
mother. Joygopal is primarily concerned because the baby, being a boy, will be entitled to Sasis
fathers wealthy estate, and Joygopal, a lazy and fairly disreputable fellow has his eyes on this
Their lives are virtually ruined by this bitter property fight, since Sasi fights for Nilmanis rights.
Sasi dies young, quickly and under suspicious circumstances.
An overlapping theme in the The Wedding Shroud, is the distinct advantages men have
over women. The male characters in these stories procure female resources with no
consequences or restitution. In each of the stories a man takes something of significant value
from a woman, usually her body or her labor, leaving her depleted, while augmenting himself
from her resources. These males do not have to pay for their exploitation of women and
observers rarely restrain them. At the end of the story, Chughtai suggests that a mans serial
exploitations of a woman do not end with the close of the narrative, but rather, that the
exploitation continues even after reading has stopped. Chughtai attacks the perpetuation of a
system that allows men to assume and abuse their power over women.
Historical Context

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The short story Smoke does not tell when does it take place. Ila Mehta, the author, does not use
specific dates nor does she mention major historical events but she does mention that the story
was written down in the year 1985. The Elder Sister by Rabindranath Tagore has no such
historical context as well. The movie Chandni Bar directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, the story
takes place in Mumbai, India. While in the beginning some of the scenes have been shot in
Sitapur (U.P.). The director mentions the year the story took place is in 1985. The major
historical event that has been mentioned in this movie are the communal riots between Hindus
and Muslims. As for The Wedding Shroud it was written in the years 1945-1955 by Ismat
Chugtai. No such historical context of the story is provided by the author.
Geographical Context
The short story Smoke takes place in India. The region of the country which is the setting of
the storys action is Gujrat, India. The setting of this story is urban. Shubha is a doctor by
profession and own a clinic. The Elder Sister took place in India. The main character, Sasi lived
in a village so she had a rural side of life but her husband, Joygopal on the other hand leaves for
Assam, an Indian state to look for employment. where comes the urban setting. The story of the
movie Chandni Bar is set in India. Mumbai (urban) is the region of the country where the
movies story is set. However, in the beginning of the movie, Sitapur (U.P.) is shown which is a
rural setting. Ismat Chughtai in The Wedding Shroud does not specifically mention in which
country or region the story takes place but with a few hints its clear that it is an urban setting.
Social Context

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The main characters of the story Smoke belong to an upper class. Shubha is educated and is a
doctor. Her mother-in-law is independent and travels by herself. It is a very well to do family.
The social group is neither powerful nor marginal. In The Elder Sister the main characters
belong to a middle class. It is rather a moderate social group. Susis husband, Joygopal is not in a
favor of Susi keeping her brother. hes against her decision. The movie Chandni Bar has main
characters belonging to a lower class. Mumtaz has to work in bar to earn an income and her
husband, Pottya is a killer and takes money for killing people. If the scenario is scene from a
normal person whose life is in danger than Pottya belongs to a powerful social group but there
are way powerful people from whom he takes bribes from. The characters of The Wedding
Shroud belong to a lower class. Their social group is marginal.

Family Context
In the story "Smoke", the family keeps up with their traditions. For instance, they regularly
change the old garlands with the new ones on the pictures of their deceased ones. The mother-inlaw is against smoking. Shubha has a habit of smoking but she has to keep it a secret from her
mother-in-law. They are very family oriented. Shubha's husband and father-in-law die in a car
accident so there is not much of a female-male relationship shown. But Shubha goes over to one
of her patient's house and spends quality time with him. Ba, the mother-in-law has all the power
in the house that is why Shubha is reluctant to smoke in front of her. In "The Elder Sister" Sasi's
parents die leaving with her a baby boy to take care of. Sasi is a loyal sister. She treats her
brother like a son. She stands up for him against her husband. There are actually both strong and
weak female-male relationships in this story. The bond Sasi shares with her brother is a strong
female-male relationship. The sister-brother relationship is as strong as a mother-son

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relationship. The relationship between Sasi and her husband is weak. They both have no love or
passion for each other nor do they fit on a common ground. In the film "Chandni Bar", Mumtaz
is raped by her uncle. Mumtaz's uncle has the power in their family but once Pottya marries
Mumtaz he has the power. Once Pottya dies, Mumtaz has the power over her children. Mumtaz's
family dies in communal riots. She is mentally disturbed by a series of events in her life; first her
parents die in communal riots, her uncle rapes her, then her husband dies, her son goes to jail and
she has no money to get him out of jail and lastly her children go on the same path as Mumtaz
and Pottya; her son becomes a killer and her daughter, a bar dancer. In "The Wedding Shroud",
female members of Kubra's family encourage her to believe that a young man staying with the
family will marry her if she treats him special. The family was emotionally disturbed when
Kubra was rejected by the guy because they made a lot of sacrifices to provide him with special
food and delicacies.
Ethical Context:
In "Smoke", Shubha and her mother-in-law are emotionally disturbed due to the death of two
people in their family. Shubha is emotionally troubled which is one of the reasons she smokes. In
"The Elder Sister" the author explains the division of property in traditional Indian families. As a
sister, Shubha was fulfilling her brother's rights by taking care of him. Shubha's husband
involves her brother in a fraud that is where the wrong action in the story comes from. The
author explains the importance for a sense of responsibility by showing the bond Sasi and her
brother share. In "Chandni Bar", the director is defining prostitution as a form of violence against
women. He raised a moral issue in this movie that even if the people go to the police for help,
they do not help the needy people because they themselves work for bribes. There is no justice at
all. Mumtaz does not have enough money to go to the court and seek justice for her son and no

Saeed 5
one helps her out. In "The Wedding Shroud" , Ismat Chugtai focuses on relationships among
Muslim women, using the day-to-day language of the household.