"Duplicity and Reality: How Great Expectations Ruin Characters in 'Madras on Rainy Days.
Here is part two of a paper I wrote last year on Samina Ali's novel Madras on Rainy Days.
The park is a symbol of patriarchal society’s duplicity, where men can engage in sexual activity while women face death should they do something similar. Homosexuality is supposed to be condemned, and yet Abu Uncle reveals, “That park he goes to, I know that park, all men know about that park. You go there, you find someone, you have release” (241). Abu Uncle tells Layla to move on, dismissing what should be considered a grave offense on Sameer’s part.
Ali shows the harshness of the patriarchal society and the danger of blind devotion to duty. Some rules cannot be broken, regardless of whether they harm someone. For example, Abu Uncle and other members of Layla’s family demand she return to Sameer, despite Sameer’s infidelity and inability to serve as Layla’s husband. Ali seems to argue people are blinded by the patriarchal society’s double standards. Layla thinks she can count on her family to help her but she is wrong and is shocked that her family will return her to Sameer, “…not believing my family could ever send me back to Sameer” (242). Layla realizes Abu Uncle is trying to help her when he counsels her to return to Sameer, “…I realized that this man who had always tried to save me believed he was once more doing the same” (242). She knows her uncle is trying to help her, not realizing he is actually hurting her. Layla confronts Abu Uncle about how he allowed his sister (Layla’s mother) to be mistreated. “Without a single protest, you let my father do whatever he wanted to her, to us” (243). Abu Uncle acts out of duty, without questioning whether his actions are helping or harming his loved ones.
Duplicity is seen with Layla being unable to ascertain whom to trust. Early on, the holy man warns Layla about whom to trust. Noor tells Layla, “One thing, I know, child, is that you doubt those people you can trust. And those who will betray you are your best friends. You see with only your eyes, child, so you see nothing. You are the blind one-as blind as your name tells us, Layla” (19). Layla will find herself betrayed by her husband and his family, as well as her own family. Layla ends up ignoring Nafiza, the person who is trying to help her. Nafiza sees through the duplicity in Nameer and Layla’s home. “I clean you bed each morning. I see me-self. No-thing change. You think because you put dupatta around face and pray with he mama that everything change. No-thing change between you and you husband. Still, he man who no real man. Still, you wife who no real wife. The home no real home for you child” (153). Nafiza has cared for Layla her entire life and has witnessed the duplicity of patriarchal society. Unfortunately, Layla dismisses Nafiza.
Sameer seeks fulfillment in America for what he sees as an escape from life in India. He lies to his family that he wants to go there to make money to send home to his family. Ali reveals how Sameer’s ideas of America do not match the reality Layla has experienced and seen with her father’s quest for success. Layla tells him of the harsh winters, the racial bias, and the need to obtain a degree in America, as his Indian one will not be recognized.
It can be argued Samina Ali shows the inequities of a patriarchal system with its double standard. Layla seeks to embrace the patriarchal society she has grown up in, yet finds duplicity throughout whether it is hybrid identity, falsehoods, or double standards. In the end, she finds the society she sought in India was built on illusion, and she has to find a new life in America. Samina Ali does not give the reader any idea whether Layla’s new journey will be successful. She only seems to conclude one journey has ended and a new is beginning. “Where would these streets lead me?” she asks as she prepares to leave India (307). Only one thing is certain, Layla is free to choose her path, as seen when she says, “My body hidden and safe under the chador, belonging only to me” (307). Layla has experienced the duplicity of a patriarchal society, symbolized by the chador, but now, it is a shield for her to pursue life on her terms, presumably with a better understanding of the difference between reality and illusion thanks to her experience with duplicity.
Ali, Samina. Madras on Rainy Days: A Novel. Picador; Reprint edition, 2005.
“Duplicity.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-
webster.com/dictionary/duplicity. Accessed 4 May. 2017.