The Dark Holds No Terror & The Human Component in Indian Society

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Human Comportment in Indian Society- Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No Terrors

By – Farhath Suraiya (introduction at the end of the paper), Vol. III, Issue. XXVI, March 2017



This paper entitled ‘Human Comportment in Indian Society – Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No Terrors deals with the characters of Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No Terrors and their behavior towards family and society. The present paper focuses on how Shashi Deshpande realistically portrays the middle class people of India and their state of mind in cultural and social system. Shashi Deshpande has stressed about human relationship in her novels. The Dark Holds No Terrors is one of its kind using female as a central character with reference to her experience in life.

Novel is an art which draws the history of human feelings; it’s the story not of the kings or of the battle won or lost by them; it’s the story of the struggle of the common men, sometimes of a girl like Sarita, against the odds of life and fate.

After 1970’s numerous novelists emerged. Shashi Deshpande holds a unique position among the contemporary women writers of India because of her vision of human kind. She gives importance of marriage and relationship, which are essential of humankind. She has published nine novels. She had published her first novel ‘the dark holds no terrors’ in 1980. She was awarded Padmasri award.

Shashi Deshpande novel The Dark Holds No Terrors is a masterpiece which not only describes the experience of a woman but also makes a study of Indian society. Shashi Deshpande has used stream of consciousness technique which helps novelist to probe into the psychology of the heroine. But technique may sounds little difficult to cope up with the young readers. They may get little confused with the past and present events interwoven with one another.

The Dark Holds No Terrors is the story of Sarita, who from her childhood is accused by her mother for the death of her brother’s death. Even after her marriage, Saru herself doesn’t feel content of her life and family. She is felt as she has lost in an alien land.

Sarita lives with her parents and her only brother Dhuruva. She loves her brother at the same time she hates him because he was loved by her mother so much. Sarita’s mother is an old fashioned Indian mother who loves her son Dhuruva much than her daughter. She always excuses and pampers him at many occasions. She gives an extra care to Dhuruva though Saru is also an young girl. This kind of act induces Saru’s ‘sibling jealous’.

One day Smita, Saru’s friend offers to take her to a film ‘Rani of Jhansi’ with her family. But Sarita has been stopped by her mother that she would take her some other day. So Sarita is angry, she decides to badger her parents. when Dhuruva being patted to sleep by his mother, Sarita plans to leave. Suddenly she has stopped by Dhuruva and she agrees to take him to the secret place when they reach the destination. Dhuruva finds it’s a beautiful place. Dhuruva asks “look at the water it is a river isn’t it, sarutai?”(187). Saru is alarmed and says that she is going back, hoping he will follow and she sees down again. Though Saru dislikes her brother for some reason, she really cares for him. In Indian tradition elder sister is always project as a second mother to the siblings, that’s what Shashi Deshpande pictures in a pinch.

Saru mother accuses her for the disappearance of Dhuruva. The following words by her mother to her echoes throughout her life. “you did it, you did this, you killed him, why didn’t you die? Why are you alive, when he’s dead” (191). Though the Indian mother panics and worries about her son. She shouldn’t utter these words to a daughter. Indian women who obsessed with her love for son blocks her care for Saru. Atleast, later she must have loved her daughter openly. On the contrary, saru mother never thinks of Saru’s innocence but directly leaps over Saru vehemently.

After all, she is a mother, who holds responsibility towards a daughter. She looks after her everything. But young Saru who is guilty of her brother death punishes herself in a way thinking that her parents are not caring anymore. When Saru attends age, Saru is conditioned by her mother for her goodness. But Saru is not welcomed by it rather misunderstands her. There is no friendliness but mutual hatred among them. Saru mother is an uneducated woman and doesn’t know how to move with an younger generation. This the thing happens in India i.e ‘generation gap’ spoils the harmony of the family. They could not know how to lead the issues.

Now Saru is a teenage and college going girl, though endowed with whims and fancies. She is determined to become a doctor. Saru meets Manohar (manu) at college. She is bewitched by his charm and impressed by the features and mannerism of Manu. Saru discloses her love affair to her parents. Her mother thus:

What caste is he?

I don’t know.

A Brahmin?

Of course not.(96)

In India, a man may live without food but he can’t survive without caste conscious. Though Sarita’s mother is a human, she couldn’t think of socialism in society. Shashi Deshpande has portrayed India has got independence from British not from caste system. It’s the caste system which brings breech among Indians than any other issues.

 Inspite of their parents disapproval they get married. They lead a happy life. Saru is a doctor so is respected more than Manu thus: when we walked out of room, there were nods and namastes. But there were all for me, only for me. There was nothing for him.(42). The real storm starts here manu is annoyed by public response. On the economic front, Manu is a defeated man. His salary is much less than Saru. Altogether Manu is a ‘sampling’ compared to ‘tree’ Saru.

In India a woman should always stand a step behind in all aspects. This quality ingrained in many of Indian men and it reflected in Manu also. Manu who loves and admires Saru at first, but now its totally submerged. Only envy, anger, and greed smears Manu from head to toe. Men cannot accept the truth, instead they find pleasure and victory in torturing the women,

That’s what happens in the novel, Saru loves Manu. But he tortures and acts as a monster at night. Manu thinks that he can show his anger only through physical and mental torture to Saru. Because he’s an incapable spirit and a scum. At some point Saru thinks of divorce but due to unknown reason she couldn’t do it. Manu aware of this, his actions deteriorates, Shashi Deshpande visualizes how the patriarchy rule the women society with a crooked nature.

Sarita, Smitha and Nalu are best friends. After long time they meet with each other. While they are interacting Saru and Nalu notices that Smita has been called in the name of ‘geethanjali’. Then Smita admits that her husband has changed her name and he calls her as ‘Anju’. It makes readers to think that a woman can’t even name herself of her wish but to her husband’s choice. It sounds sarcastic.

Saru amazed to see the sea-change in Smita. Smita who was slim and frail looking with large eyes but after marriage, she becomes a fat woman of three children. It reminds that after marriage most of Indian women are not taking time to care themselves but to become a fish in a fisherman’s bait. Smita is a typical Indian woman who becomes an actor on stage, gets applause from the audience leaving behind her personal issues or doesn’t mind about herself.

Mrs.Dixit, Sarita’s neighbor, Sarita fondly calls her mavshi. Mrs.Dixit an affectionate mother to her five children. She is very caring to Saru also. After Dhuruva’s death Saru feels neglected and alienated too. Mrs. Dixit takes Saru to her home and cares for her thus “come here, Saru , let me plait your”(74). Which reflects that every woman has love and care for children in spite of their odds. Like Jesus towards his followers. After years Saru visits Dixit mavshi with curiosity. She is altogether a different woman. She is obese and diabetic. Sudhir, her son complains about her health and behavior. Like she doesn’t have control over food and she always nags her daughter-in-law Premi. But here the novelist indirectly highlights the fact that the same mother who took care of him and his siblings when they were so young and who was so patient when they commit bad things. The typical Indian son who failed to think of his mother’s sacrifice and care despite, he accuses his mother who is so old and meek.

And the other fact reveals here that in the Indian society, married woman ‘sumangali’ have a greater respect when compared to widows. It applies here that when Mrs.Dixit was ‘sumangali’ she was treated well. And now she is a widow so she is marginalized and alienated by her own blood. Then it also shown that younger generation of are deprived of tradition and becomes unorthodox which is seen in Indian society frequently. Sudhir who should worship and care for his mother(the life giver), but she is hated much by her son. Mrs. Dixit is a typical Indian old woman who is ignored by her own children because she is rendered useless by age and diseases.

When readers observe Shashi Deshpande’s novels, it has been revealed that her ideas about man and woman relationship, her excels of her art of plot construction, and use of dialogues. She presents different aspect of the problems and facets of human life. She has drawn the picture of a middle class people of all group – adolescents, married, aged, neglected and persecuted.

As a whole, the novel very effectively portrays the concern of the author about the human relationships. The present generation who entangles between tradition, modernity, and superstitious beliefs and stranded in an utter confusion which reflects in their comportment towards the society. If the conduct of an individual is good and welcoming, It would create a pleasant environment inside and outside of the family. If it’s poor, then it would create an environment which deteriorates each day. The novelist presents the principal character Sarita(saru) who has become the victim of the above situation.



Deshpande, Shashi. The Dark Holds No Terrors. New Delhi; Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd.,1990.

Shree S, Prasanna. Womens In The Novels Of Shashi Deshpande: A study. New Delhi: Sarup and Sons.2003.

Jain, Jasbir. Gendered Realitics, Human Spaces: The Writings of Shashi Deshpande.Jaipur:Rawat Publication.2003.



Farath Suraiya is an M. Phil scholar and interested in creative as well as academic writing. enly

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