What does Sidhwa’s Cracking India tell you about gender relations in colonial India, and how do they differ from culture to culture and from class to class?

In Cracking India, the relationships between women tend to be sympathetic and caring. Meanwhile, the relationships between women and men come across as predatory and exploitative.

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InCracking India , female gender relations appear to lead to a sense of solidarity and obligation. When it comes to the women in the novel, they generally look after one another regardless of class or social standing. When women are kidnapped and banished from their family, the women in...

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In Cracking India, female gender relations appear to lead to a sense of solidarity and obligation. When it comes to the women in the novel, they generally look after one another regardless of class or social standing. When women are kidnapped and banished from their family, the women in Lenny’s family take them in and care for them.

When Hamida is abducted by the Sikhs, her husband won’t take her back. They consider her a “fallen woman.” It falls on the women to take care of those who have been assigned the sexist “fallen woman” label.

The close bond between women is further evinced in Lenny’s relationship with her nanny. The two share many intimate, affectionate moments together. They cuddle in the grass and run all kinds of errands together. Lenny also learns several things from her nanny, including how to use male admires to her advantage.

As for the relationship between men and women, this gender dynamic comes off as predatory in Cracking India. While Ayah appears to enjoy manipulating her male admirers at first, eventually, one of her admirers—Ice-candy-man—uses her in horrible ways. Again, it’s up to the women to come to the defense of other women in trouble due to India’s gender standards.

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Sidhwa's work seems to suggest that gender relations in Colonial India took a secondary role to the issue of Independence and national identity.  While the issue of gender inequality in terms of power and agency was always present, Sidhwa makes the argument that it never received traction or galvanized people into action because the focus was on national identity.  Gender relations in Colonial India took a secondary role to the nationalist movement of being free from England.  Sidhwa shows this as the case even in the supposedly "advance" Parsi home, Lenny lives in a world of women and the domain of men is a unknown realm.  The women in the home can only sit by to watch what happens to India.  Sidhwa seems to be suggesting that it might have been intentional that the power brokers of the time were men that advocated a nationalist construction in order to consolidate their own power.  This became evident in the violence that accompanied Partition, where men were the primary aggressors and women were intended and deliberate targets.  In Sidhwa's construction, women experienced a silencing of voice in all realms of culture and class.  It looked different in different settings, but women were denied agency and autonomy.  Those who made the decision to "crack India" were men.  The actions of Ice- Candy Man and the mob were as much as a reflection of gender imbalance as much as anything else.  For Sidhwa, gender relations in Colonial India consisted of imbalance, but were sublimated into the larger cause of national independence.  The true nature of this inequity was evident in the violence that accompanied Partition.

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