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.