>The female characters in Ice-Candy-Man pulsate with a will and life of their own. Discuss.


Ice-Candy-M.an is a major novel on the Partition which treats history of both India and Pakistan. It had been a shocking and traumatic experience shared by both the nations. Ice-Candy-Man by Bapsi Sidhwa is a Pakistani version of this traumatic experience like Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan as Indian versions of this bitter reality. Like any other upheaval, political or religious in nature, Partition of the Indian sub-continent proved to be a disaster for both the Hindus and the Muslims. Women and children had been the worst sufferers and easy victims in communal riots. In her novels Sidhwa dwells on the Partition crises, the Parsi milien with its social idiosyncracies and the problems of muslim women in Pakistan.

In her first novel The Bride, Sidhwa deals with the repression of women in the patriarchal Pakistani society. This novel is based on a true story narrated to her during her stay in a remote area of Karakoram mountain range. She was told about this sad tale of woe and strife of a girl by army engineers and doctors. A girl from the plains of Pakistan was taken across the Indus for marriage by the local tribals after her marriage, the girl ran away. She hid herself in the rugged mountains and she whs continuously chased by her husband and his men. Shewas caught while crossing a rope bridge on the Indus river. Her husband severed her head and threw her into the turbulent waves of the Indus. But Bapsi Sidhwa has made some departure from the real story. In her narrative, the girl does not die but escapes to the other side. In her fictional presentation of the story, Sidhwa has introduced the tribes of the Karakoram with their customs and beliefs. The novel The Bride “provides an incisive look into the treatment of women. It is the most contentious of Sidhwa’s novels, the most critical towards unjust traditions that undermine the structure of community. The novel relates how Zaitoon, trained as an obedient Muslim girl, is captivated by the fantasies of her protector father’s visions of the lost mountain paradise,” observes R. K. Dhawan. Fawzia Afzal Khan calls The Bride a challenge to “The patriarchal culture and values of Indian—Pakistani society.”
In her novel The Ice-Candy-Man, Sidhwa deals with the problem of communal riots in the wake of Partition. It is a politically motivated novel. Sidhwa’s depiction of communal riots is touching as well as shocking. Children and women suffer the most. The horrors of Partition are depicted without histrionics. Lenny, the child narrator is eight year old. She suffers from Polio and records her observations about her surroundings in a detached manner. She observes social change around her and narrates it from a child’s point of view. Lenni’s mother, Mrs. Sethi and other Parsi women help Hindu and Sikh families and kidnapped Hindu women to move to safer places. Lenny’s Godmother rescues the Hindu Ayah who had been forcibly married to her Muslim friend, the seller of ice-candies. Ayah reaches Amritsar safely.
Feroz Jussawalla observes that Ice-Candy-Man (1988) is the truest bildungsroman in Bapsi Sidhwa’s Parsi trilogy of The Crow Eaters, An American Brat and Ice-Candy-Man. Bildungsroman focuses on awakening and awareness of the changing environment. It also records the growth of a child into a mature individual. Lenny also awakens to a new identity. Sidhwa’s heroines and heroes awake and get rooted in one’s self. Feroz Jussawalla calls the tales of Sidhwa’s Parsi protagonists as “the rites of passage of the Parsis of Bapsi Sidhwa’s fiction. In her writings, Sidhwa asserts that though Pakistan got independence in 1947, women in Pakistan still “continue for their independence struggle till today.” Her novels present a condemnatory view of the practices of the patriarchal Pakistani society. In her novel The Pakistani Bride, Sidhwa writes: “Women the world over, through the ages, asked to be murdered, raped, exploited, enslaved, to get importunately impregnated, beaten up, bullied and disinherited. It was an immutable law of nature. She also expresses her views about her writings that she is not writing feminist literature. Rather her novel Ice-Candy-Man is an important testament of “a gynocentric view of reality in which the feminine psyche and experiences are presented with a unique freshness and aplomb,” according to subhash chandra. He observes that Sidhwa turns the female protagonists into the moral centre, while most of the male characters either remain passive or indulge in violence. The female characters in Ice-Candy-Man pulsate with a will and life of their own.

>Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel, in one way or other, advocate the women rights. Discuss.


Bapsi Sidhwa is an award winning Pakistani novelist striving above all to bring women’s issues of the Indian subcontinent into public discussion. She was born in 1938 in Karachi, Pakistan (then part of India), but her family migrated shortly thereafter to Lahore. As a young girl, Sidhwa witnessed first-hand the bloody Partition of 1947, in which seven million Muslims were uprooted in the largest, most terrible exchange of population that history has known. The Partition was caused by a complicated set of social and political factors, including religious differences and the end of colonialism in Sub-continent. Sidhwa writes about her childhood, “the ominous roar of distant mobs was a constant of my awareness, alerting me, even at age seven, to a palpable sense of the evil that was taking place in various parts of Lahore“. Sidhwa was also witness to these evils, including an incident in which she found the body of a dead man in a gunnysack at the side of the road.

Characteristically succinct, she says of the event, “I felt more of a sadness than horror”. Her home city of Lahore became a border city in Pakistan, and was promptly flooded by hundreds of thousand of war refugees. Many thousands of these were women – victims of rape and torture. Due to lasting shame and their husbands’ damaged pride, many victims were not permitted entry into their homes after being “recovered.” There was a rehabilitation camp with many of these women adjacent to Sidhwa’s house, and she states that she was inexplicably fascinated with these “fallen women,” as they were described to her at the time. She realized from a young age that “victory is celebrated on a woman’s body, vengeance is taken on a woman’s body. That’s very much the way things are, particularly in my part of the world”. It appears as if realizations such as this inspired Sidhwa’s later activism for the cause of women’s rights.
Sidhwa claims to have had a rather boring childhood, with the exception of the years of strife surrounding the Partition, due partly to a bout with polio, which kept her home schooled. She cites Little Women as being the most influential book of her childhood, as it introduced her to “a world of fantasy and reading–I mean extraordinary amounts of reading because that was the only life I had”. She went on to receive a BA from Kinnaird College for Women, in Lahore. At nineteen, Sidhwa got married, and soon after gave birth to the first of three children. While traveling in Northern Pakistan in 1964, Sidhwa heard the story of a young girl who was murdered by her husband after an attempted escape. She looked into the story and discovered that the girl was a purchased wife, a slave. This discovery moved Sidhwa into action. She began to tell the girl’s story in the form of a novel.
Along with prevailing expectations of women’s place during that time in Pakistan, the responsibilities of raising a family prompted Sidhwa to write in secret. Although Sidhwa speaks four languages, she made a conscious decision to write in English, partly due to the increased probability of worldwide exposure to issues that concerned her within the subcontinent. At that time there were no English language books published in Pakistan, so after Sidhwa finished writing the novel, she published it herself as The Bride. The novel was critically acclaimed for its forceful style and its undeniable ability to speak eloquently of human warmth amid horrible circumstances. She received the Pakistan National Honors of the Patras Bokhri award for The Bride in 1985.
Soon after publication of The Bride, Sidhwa began work on her second novel, The Crow Eaters. The novel is named after derogatory slang referring to the Parsi people, in reference to their supposed propensity for loud and continuous chatter. The Crow Eaters is a comedy, which signals an abrupt change from her earlier work. The Parsis, or Zoroastrians, are the socio-religious group to which Sidhwa belongs, a prosperous yet dwindling community of approximately one hundred thousand based predominantly in Bombay.
The Crow Eaters tells the story of a family within the small Parsi community residing within the huge city of Lahore. Complete with historical information and rich with bawdy, off-color humor, the novel is never boring, as Sidhwa’s acute sense of humor constantly changes from the subtle to the downright disgusting. Nothing is above this humor, which often times leaves the reader feeling guilty for laughing out loud. The main character, Faredoon, relentlessly torments his mother-in-law Jerbanoo, especially about her self-indulgent complaints of impending death. Some of the most hilarious moments involve Faredoon’s detailed and gory description of her funeral. The Parsis practice charity in life as well as death, and their funeral custom of feeding the body to the vultures reflects this belief.
Bapsi Sidhwa’s third novel marked her move into international fame. Ice-Candy-Man was published in several other countries in 1988 under the title Ice-Candy-Man. Book sellers stateside feared that an American audience would mistake the unfamiliar occupational name (meaning popsicle vendor) for a drug pusher.
The novel is considered by many critics to be the most moving and essential book on the partition of Sub-continent. Told from the awakening consciousness of an observant eight-year-old Parsi girl, the violence of the Partition threatens to collapse her previously idyllic world. The issues dealt with in the book are as numerous as they are horrifying. The thousands of instances of rape, and public’s subsequent memory loss that characterize the Partition are foremost. In the hatred that has fueled the political relations between Pakistan and India since that time, these women’s stories were practically forgotten. In one of her infrequent bursts of poetry, Sidhwa writes, “Despite the residue of passion and regret, and loss of those who have in panic fled– the fire could not have burned for. . .Despite all the ruptured dreams, broken lives, buried gold, bricked-in rupees, secreted jewelry, lingering hopes…the fire could not have burned for months. . .”
Sidhwa replaces flowing, poetic sentences with forceful criticism when she theorizes about what caused the fires to keep burning. Sidhwa repeatedly condemns the dehumanizing impact that religious zealotry played in promoting mob mentality, separation, and revenge during the Partition. Sidhwa’s widely varied narration alternates between opulent description, subtle humor, and bone-chilling strife. The narrator, Lenny, is astute beyond her years, yet the questioning nature of the child is portrayed so skillfully that it allows the author to effectively deal with serious subjects both firmly and with subtlety, whichever suits her purpose. When she discovers that her mother is illegally stockpiling gasoline, Lenny wrongly assumes that her mother is responsible for the bombings that are plaguing Lahore. This image is both funny and disturbing, highlighting the strange mixture of innocence and fear that Lenny is dealing with. When the citizens of Lahore become more apprehensive of the impending Partition, they stratify strictly upon religious lines.
Lenny’s perceptions of the differences in people changes at the same time. In reference to a Hindu man’s caste mark, Lenny proclaims, “Just because his grandfathers shaved their heads and grew stupid tails is no reason why Hari should.” “Not as stupid as you think,” says Cousin. “It keeps his head cool and his brain fresh”. Seemingly simple passages such as this one succinctly and with humor hint at a child’s precise realization of the discriminatory nature of the caste system. The novel is made up of hundreds of such cleverly phrased passages, which make the book quite enjoyable to read despite the clarity with which the troubling passages are depicted.
Women’s issues, the implications of colonization, and the bitterly divided quagmire of partisan politics that the British left in their wake are reevaluated in the novel, picked apart by the sharp questions of a child. Sidhwa’s credibility in the eyes of the press and literary critics of the subcontinent is remarkably accentuated by virtue of her being a Parsi, a woman, and a first-hand witness to the violence. The Parsis remained neutral during the Partition, a fact well remembered by two countries. Sidhwa uses this impartial position to its fullest, contributing greatly to the national discourse on the matter. Critical analysis of Ice-Candy-Man deals with a wide variety of topics in the novel, including several analyses of Sidhwa’s subtext on male/female authority issues.
Sidhwa travels frequently to Pakistan in her capacities as a women’s rights activist. Sidhwa works with women to help foster an awareness of their rights, including the organization of large-scale awareness-raising public protests. She also utilizes her position as an acclaimed writer to make numerous public statements in the Pakistani media aimed against repressive measures that harm women and minority communities. She has worked as the voluntary secretary in the Destitute Women and Children’s home in Lahore for years, and was appointed to the advisory committee to Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Women’s Development.
Since moving to the United States in 1983, Sidhwa has received numerous literary awards both in the U.S. and abroad. In 1987 she was awarded both a Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe\Harvard and a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts that allowed her to finish Cracking India. In 1991 Sidhwa received the Sitara-i-Imitaz, Pakistan‘s highest national honor in the arts, along with the Liberaturepreis in Germany. In 1993 she published her most recent novel, An American Brat, a comical reflection on the confusing friction that different cultures impose upon a Pakistani girl in the United States. The same year she received the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, which, pleasantly enough, also included one-hundred-five thousand dollars. The author has received numerous other awards for her writing.
In her most recently published essay, for Time Magazine, she reflects on the Partition’s victims of rape. “What legacy have these women left us? I believe that their spirit animate all those women that have bloomed into judges, journalists, ngo official, filmmakers, doctors and writers– women who today are shaping opinions and challenging stereotypes”.

>Ice-Candy-Man has strong women characters who want to forge their independent identity. Discuss


Ice-Candy-Man has strong women characters who want to forge their independent identity. In a patriarchal set-up which is essentially discriminatory against women and em­phasizes on conditioning them for life-long and willing subjuga­tion to men, the women of Ice-Candy-Man are not only con­scious of their desires, but also eagerly assertive about their in­dependent handling of situations.

The male characters, despite the fact that they initiate almost all events of the novel, remain peripheral and apathetic, lacking the will to change and tran­scend their circumstances. The women characters “subtly but ef­fectively subvert the ingrained elements of patriarchy, privileg­ing female will, choice, strength along with the feminine quali­ties of compassion and motherhood.” Ice-Candy-man can un­doubtedly be termed as a feminist novel—the traditional novel eulogizes the heroic qualities of men only, while in feminist nar­ratives women acquire such attributes by their active involve­ment in and control of situational contexts. Lenny, the narrator in Ice-Candy-Man is also the centre of the novel, retaining her in­dependent identity in diverse situations. Her attitude towards her nameless cousin significantly portrays the feminist need for as­sertive equality. At this point it shall be interesting to note that all women’s writing may not be necessarily feminist. A piece of writing which justifies, propagates or perpetuates discrimination against women cannot be termed as feminist. Only that artistic work which sensitizes its readers to the practices of subjugation and opposes them can be treated as being feminist in nature. Ice-Candy-Man not only sketches and critically reviews the dehu­manizing patriarchal norms engendering a discriminatory social climate, but also portrays the struggle against them, as well as the desire to manifest an assertive self-will on the part of its women characters.

Lenny, the child narrator of the novel, witnesses the barbaric cruelties of the Partition days, including the inhuman commodification of women. Yet what emerges as the dominant note or thematic motif in the novel is not the victimization of women, but their will and sustained effort to fight against it and overcome it. Most of the other Partition novels in English, as well as in other languages, have concentrated largely on the helplessness of women pitched against oppressive male forces. Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Manohar Malgonkar’s A Bend in the Ganges in English, and the short stories of Saadat Hasan Manto and Kishan Chander in Urdu highlight the trauma women had to undergo during the catatonic times of Partition. Even the more contemporary authors have not been able to escape it. They have talked about the national trauma of Partition using the device of the child narrator and taking the linear time narration. Sidhwa on the other hand treats the theme of Partition with a clever juxtaposi­tion of images and an underlying ironical humour without com­promising with the innate independence of women.
Lenny is a handicapped girl representing a miniscule minor­ity. She is also free from the effect of social conditioning most of the sub-continent girls have to undergo. She is a young, curious and vi­vacious child, eager to know what is happening around her and participating in it vigorously. The socio-religious divide creates in her an awareness of her own identity, but even prior to that she had become conscious of the creation of the gender, the so­cially accepted role of women and girls, and also of her bur­geoning sexuality. She is aware that her “world is compressed.” This awareness is intensified when Col. Bharucha prophesies her future, “She’ll marry, have children—lead a carefree, happy life. No need to strain her with studies and exams.” Lenny observes the gender-based relationship in the society and accepts it as a peripheral part of her experiences, without allowing it to colour her own individuality. She notices how in Col. Bharucha’s clinic a woman has to discuss her child’s health through her husband. During her visit to Pir Pindo she notices how Khatija and Parveen, the adolescent sisters of Ranna, like the other girls in the village, already wear the responsible expres­sions of much older women “affecting the mannerisms of their mothers and aunts.” They are perplexed by Lenny’s cropped hair and short dresses.
These early impressions of Lenny, pre­sented with multiple strains of irony, humour and wit exhibit her awareness of gender stereotypes. She perceives many differences in the personality traits and interests of men and women. How­ever Lenny is neither influenced nor conditioned by her percep­tion of gender based social stereotypes—that she assertively re­tains her interests is evident in her attitude towards her Ayah, Hamida and her cousin. When godmother arranges a meeting with Ayah, Lenny insists on accompanying her. She feels that Ayah has been wronged and ashamed by her friends and she shares her humiliation. She wants to “comfort and kiss her ugly experiences away.” She does not think that sexual exploi­tation should remain a stigma for any woman, “I don’t want her to think she’s bad just because she’s been kidnapped.” She also keeps Hamida’s past a secret under the impression that if revealed her mother may sack her. Her sympathy bonds her to all the women characters in the novel.
Very early in the novel the reader notices Lenny’s con­sciousness of her own burgeoning sexuality. Her open back­ground and liberal upbringing make her receptive to her early sexual stirrings. She enjoys the admiring covetous giances Ayah receives from her admirers and displays traditional feminine smugness and coquetry. She vividly portrays Ice-Candy-Man’s toes, Avail’s furtive glances towards Sharbat Khan and the Mas­seur’s intimacy with Ayah. Her relationship with her cousin, al­lowing clandestine forages into physical intimacies, shows her mental independence. During their walks to the bazaars and gardens she irreverently points out boys and men to her cousin whom she finds attractive. She sums up her attitude neatly when she says, “Maybe I don’t need to attract you. You’re already at­tracted.” Cousin angrily complains to godmother, “She loves approximately half of Lahore . . . why can’t she love me?”
Despite the pressures of socially constructed gender-roles and expectations the awakening of an individuality which is pulsatingly present in Lenny can be felt in other women characters too. Lenny’s mother belongs to the privileged economic strata of the society. She can engage several servants to look after the children and other daily chores. She is kept busy with her social obligations—entertaining guests and partying exhaust her time. Lenny’s physical handicap has generated a sense of guilt in her which often surfaces in her conversations. She says to Col. Bharucha, “It’s my fault, I neglected her—left her to the care of Ayah.” Lenny admires her delicate beauty, but resents her “all-encompassing” motherliness. She is initially possessive about her mother but soon learns to cope with it. Her mother’s voluptuous appeal generates a subtle jealousy too in her psyche:
“The motherliness of Mother….How can I describe it? While it is there it is all-encompassing, voluptuous. Hurt, heartache and fear vanish….The world is wonderful, wondrous—and I perfectly fit in it. But it switches off, this motherliness….”
Mother’s motherliness has a universal reach. Like her invol­untary female magnetism it cannot be harnessed. “… I resent this largess. As father does her unconscious and indiscriminate sex ap­peal. It is a prostitution of my concept of childhood rights and pa­rental loyalties. She is my mother—flesh of my flesh—and Adi’s. She must love only us!”
Lenny is given ample personal space by her mother. Though de­cisively controlling and channelizing her children’s lives, she allows them to frolic around and view life from their own stand­points. Lenny is permitted to accompany Imam Din twice to a village Pir Pindo, her visits to parks and restaurants with Ayah are also unchecked. She is also able to effortlessly control the entourage of servants and run her household effortlessly. Despite her liberated handling of children and a modern life-style, she is very much a traditional wife, humouring constantly the wishes of her husband. She is almost servile in her attitude towards her husband, coquettishly appeasing him and trying to create an at­mosphere of pleasant mirth around him. Lenny sceptically looks on when her mother chatters in saccharinely sweet tones to fill up the “infernal time of Father’s mute meals.”
Though Lenny is not able to decipher it, her remarks hint at the presence of an inner void in her mother’s personality. Most of the women writers have hinted at the presence of an inner hollowness in the lives of women, which is often shielded by the deceptively beautiful screen of their social graces and obligations. For women like Mrs. Sethi, social elegance is not simply a pleasure, it is also a bondage, because herein they are forced to accept their role as female.
The conversation during the party the Sethis organize for the Rogers and the Singhs explicitly suggests that it is a woman’s erotic capacities, not her intellectual calibre, which is integrated with the life of society. Her driving sprees along with the Electric-Aunt to smuggle petrol in order to help their stranded Hindu and Sikh friends, and the rehabilitation of Hamida shows her humanitarian understanding of the situation, and also a desire to do something meaningful.
A major part of the novel’s discussion is centred on Lenny’s Ayah Shanta. She is a Hindu girl of eighteen and everything about her is also eighteen years old. Though she is employed with considerate masters, her condition is that of an unprotected girl whom everybody treats only as a sex object. Looking at Ayah, Lenny also becomes conscious of her sexuality:
“The covetous glances Ayah draws educate me. Up and down, they look at her. Stub ended twisted beggars and dusty old beggars on crutches drop their poses and stare at her with hard, alert eyes. Holy men, marked in piety, shove aside their pretences to ogle her with lust. Hawkers, cart-drivers, cooks, coolies and cyclists turn their heads as she passes, pushing my pram with the unconcern of the Hindu goddess she worships.”
While the sexuality of Lenny’s mother lies beneath the veneer of sophistication and unfulfilled longings, Ayah’s is transparent and self-serving. She is fully aware of her sexual charm and uses it without any inhibition to fulfill her desires. She has accumulated a good number of admirers who regularly assemble in the Victo­ria Garden—the Ice-Candy-Man, the Masseur, the Government House gardener, the restaurant owner, the zoo-attendant, and a knife-sharpening Pathan are her regular admirers. Lenny also learns to identify “human needs, frailties, cruelties and joys,” looking at these people during her outings:
I learn also to detect the subtle exchange of signals and some of the complex rites by which Ayah’s admirers co-exist. Dusting the grass from their clothes they slip away before dark, leaving the one kick, or the lady, favours. … I escape into daydreams in which my father turns loquacious and my mother playful.
Ayah uses her charm to obtain easy gains—cheap doilies, cashew nuts, extra serving of food etc. She successfully uses her charm as a strategy of survival and manipulation till the violence of Partition destroys her familiar world. Her portrayal also repre­sents the male exploitation of female sexuality. Ice-Candy-Man manages to kidnap her with the help of some hooligans and forces her into prostitution. Despite her conviction that she is now an impure person, she retains her will to go back to her family and face life anew. Her refusal to admit defeat despite physical and emotional mutilation and her determination to probe into future alternatives imparts a moral courage to her.
Godmother and Slave sister—Rodabai and Mini Aunty—are other major female characters in the novel who are presented with a sense of glee. The one-and-a-half-room abode of her godmother is termed as her haven by Lenny, her “refuge from the perplexing unrealities of my home on Warris Road.” She is also a surrogate mother for Lenny in a mutually fulfilling rela­tionship. Her portrayal is presented to us by Lenny in a fasci­nated manner, as if she is an idolized entity. She is presented as an old lady, plainly attired in Khaddar sarees, covering herself from head to foot, possessing a penchant for sharp wit, accurate repartee and a profound understanding of human psyche.
She makes it her business to know everything about every­body, and tries to help people whenever she can. She do­nates blood, seeks admission to a boarding school for Ranna, traces the Ayah and manages to send her back to her people. She is a formidable person too and scolds the Ice-Candy-Man for disgracing the Ayah, “Oh? What kind of man? A royal pimp? What kind of man would allow his wife to dance like a performing monkey before other men? You’re not a man, you’re a low-born, two-bit evil little mouse!”
Despite Slavesister’s protest she permits Lenny to accompany her to Ayah’s place. She is also a sensitive person. When she realizes that Ayah, despite her marriage with Ice-Candy-Man, does not want to live with him, decisively sets about to rescue her. Pier Paolo Piciucco comments that the plot of the novel comes to a head because of the Godmother. Her visit to the Ayah has the trappings of a trial: she sits and acts as a judge. Unlike other female figures of the novel Godmother has transcended her sexuality and emerges as an authoritative presence, able to achieve her desires. She incarnates the ideal of strength in female characters.
Godmother’s attitude towards Mini Aunty, whom Sidhwa has very aptly termed as the Slave sister, draws the reader’s attention for its incongruous eccentricity. In her dealing with peo­ple outside her immediate family circle she displays compassion and understanding, but her attitude towards her husband and her sister is shorn of such sentiments. She fully dominates her household in which her husband is only a peripheral presence. She is insensitive, churlish and cruel to her sister and constantly bosses over her. Her sister does all the household chores, while she only criticizes her nastily:
If you think you have too much to cope with you can live some­place else.
Don’t think I’ve not been observing your tongue of late! If you’re not careful, I’ll snip it off. . . . God knows, you’ve grown older— and fatter—but not up! This child here has more sense than you.
Lenny adores her godmother as she tights her battles for her though it cannot justify the Slave sister’s exploitation.
Muccho, the sweepress, and her daughter Papoo are other female characters who can be mentioned here. Muccho takes Pa­poo as her rival and saddles her with all the household chores, beating and abusing her on slightest pretexts. Ayah and other servants constantly try to save the young child from this abuse but often their efforts are fruitless. Once she had to be admitted to hospital for two weeks as she had concussion as a result of her mother’s severe beating. But despite this senseless maltreatment, Papoo cannot be browbeaten into submission. She is strong and high-spirited, but as Sidhwa suggests very early in the story, “There are subtler ways of breaking people.”
Muccho ar­ranges her marriage with a middle aged dwarf whose counte­nance betrays cruelty. Papoo is drugged with opium at the time of ceremony to suppress her revolt. Lenny curiously studies Muccho’s face during the wedding ceremony and is startled to find a contented smile on her lips—”smug and vindicated.” The sketch of Muccho suggests that women themselves are un­consciously bound by their conditioning and saddle their daugh­ters with a repetitive fate, treating marriage as a panacea of all ills.
The women-characters of Ice-Candy-Man draw our attention to the facts of victimization of women and their compulsions to define their lives according to the pre-fixed gender roles. They also expose the patriarchal biases present in the archetypal social perceptions. Lenny, the child protagonist, recognizes these social patterns and exhibits the vivacity to transcend them. She also re­cords the multi-faceted trauma women had faced during the un­settling and devastating days of Partition. The narration of the story by a girl-child ensures that the surrounding world would be seen through a feminine eye. The novel presents women as a “twice oppressed category on stage: firstly, as human beings suf­focated by violence and secondly, as women burdened by the bond and impositions of a patriarchal society.”