Can Pinjar by Amritha Pritam be seen as a women's narrative?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Pinjar would have to be considered an example of a women's narrative for a couple of reasons.  The political reality of Partition in India was conceived of by men.  Whether it was British, Hindu, or Muslim men, the political construct and social reality of Partition was something that men designed and something with which women had to struggle.  The level of social struggle that many Indians endured was noted.  The violence, riots, and bloodbath that resulted has been well documented.  However, beneath this was a rage against women, an unspeakable violence that was perpetrated to women under the guise of claims of sectarianism and ethnic identity.  The mistreatment of women was perpetrated by one group against another on nationalist grounds.  For example, the burning of a busload of Muslim women by Hindu nationalists carried political overtones.  Yet, the element missed in all of this was the extreme level of violence against women.  In a culture where the treatment of women was already subject to scrutiny, Partition and the rage caused by it allowed atrocities committed to women on a large scale.  Pritam's novel has to be seen as a narrative for women because it takes one of these many incidents and elevates it on a scale, demanding for social change in the way in which women are viewed and perceived.  In writing about Partition's cruelty, Pritam writes that "A million daughters, cry to you, Waris Shah Rise" in seeing the corpses that line the road of her native Punjab.  The theme of Pinjar is one that appropriates "the other" in terms of seeing Partition from a women's point of view:

The novel was too radical for its times because the wounds had not yet healed and the communal hatred as still at its peak. Even in those difficult times, Amrita was able to write a novel that saw the situation from the point of view of the other.

Partition was a condition that men designed, but the brunt of it was experienced by women.  The uprooting of villages that had been in families' names for thousands of years, the pregnant women who had to travel to another border for protection, the women who made this trek and were emotionally and physically violated by men of different communal identities and, sometimes, their own were all the realities of mens' decision.  The fact that Puro is not a victim, but actually a voice demanding that reality be reconfigured into what should be as opposed to what is makes Pinjar a women's narrative.

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