Sarasa: Character Analysis in The Novel - Talkative Man

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      There are two major female characters in the novel, Talkative Man, namely, Sarasa and Girija. Sarasa's mother, Girija's grandmother and the puny station master's wife are minor characters. Besides these, there are references to numerous women of various parts of the world who fall a victim to the philandering and deceitful ways of Dr. Rann. Komal, a nurse in Matilda's, is also one of these women who are caught into the predatory clutches of Dr. Rann.

There are two major female characters in the novel, Talkative Man, namely, Sarasa and Girija. Sarasa's mother, Girija's grandmother and the puny station master's wife are minor characters. Besides these, there are references to numerous women of various parts of the world who fall a victim to the philandering and deceitful ways of Dr. Rann. Komal, a nurse in Matilda's, is also one of these women who are caught into the predatory clutches of Dr. Rann.

      Sarasa is the: most dominant and domineering woman in the present novel. She is modern, unconventional, educated, economically self-dependent, physically tough and more masculine in her manners and assertiveness than men like her husband, Dr. Rann, Madhu, the journalist, nick-named as Talkative Man and diminutive personalities like the station master or the porter. Temperamentally, she is built up to command whosoever comes her way. All these traits of personality are cultivated in her by her position as Commandant of Home Guards Women's Auxiliary stationed at Delhi. She arrives at the Malgudi railway station by 7 Down train from Delhi. Her imposing appearance is very startling and astonishing to the station master. In his embarrassment, he persuades TM to meet the lady in the waiting room. Suddenly emerging from the waiting room, she appears confronting TM unhesitatingly. Her striking, imposing physical features and look are reported in these words:

".. a six footer woman (as it seemed at first sight), dark-complexioned, cropped head, and in jeans and in T-shirt with bulging breasts, the first of her kind in the Malgudi area. She strode towards us, and I knew there was no escape"

      Her dress, her straight-forwardness and the unwavering initiative in introducing herself to TM as Dr. Rann's "the only one regularly married and the first" wife out of his possibly several wives make him rather feel stunned. Her voice reveals a tone of command and exudes astounding self-confidence. She means earnestly what she says. Holding a copy of the photograph of the "Timbuctoo man" in her hand published in a newspaper, she enquires authoritatively from the journalist where this man is. He feels a little cowed down in her abrasive presence. and tries to avoid getting entangled into the matter. He, somehow, manages to slink away from there after telling her ambiguously that he does not know much about his whereabouts at present. He just has had a chance encounter with him and adds that probably he has left for some other place like Madras etc. She has an uncanny, intuitive, empirical perceptive power which enables her to see through the false game that TM has played upon her. However, she is discreet enough not to make an explicit expression of her suspicion about his evasiveness.

      The forceful impact of her personality is visibly noticed by TM when, on his coming back home, he mentions to Dr. Rann that there is "A lady to see you" at the railway station. Receiving this news, Dr. Rann is unnerved to the point that he keeps standing in the bathroom, his face full of questions. He looks to have become a little paler and shrunk a few inches into his Japanese kimono. Dr. Rann is very curious to know about the features of the lady but TM knowingly does not reveal much and enjoys his state of predicament. Dr. Rann's previous posture of presumptuousness looks punctured and pathetic by a mere mention about this lady.

      She is persistent in her pursuit. One afternoon, to the dismay of TM, she makes a sudden appearance at his house in Kabir Street. Luckily, Dr. Rann who is putting up in a room in his house is away at that time and the journalist leaves a message with Sambu to hold Dr. Rann back when he comes to return his scooter. The facts of her commanding personality, outlandish manners and deportment, confident and fearless behaviour, verve and modernity are totally strange and startling for the inhabitants of Kabir Street who are traditional, peculiarly localised in dress and manner residing in that part of Malgudi since generations. Sarasa's uncommon, unwoman-like and non-traditional demeanour is deducted like this:

"The neighbours viewing her from their pyols must have been startled: her dress and deportment were so unusual in our setting. She was attired like a Punjabi woman, Kurta or Salwar Kameez or whatever they call it, which seemed to exaggerate her physical stature, which was already immense. She was a large woman by any standard."

      Her manner of dressing and toughness of physical body are in complete contrast with women in Kabir Street who wear customary and conventional dress like glittering silk sarees, gold and diamonds. Against this backdrop, she looks "like a visitor from another planet. She wore around her neck white beads in a string, like a gipsy and had round her shoulder a pink muslin wrap - the total effect was startling really."

      She is uninhibited and so loquacious that even TM feels defeated before her despite his being nick-named as a talkative man for his habitual volubility by the people of his locality. She describes Rann as a crook, a woman-killer, an imposter assuming various aliases and a debauched who has seduced and deserted numerous women all over the globe. She is hardy, sturdy and endowed with determination somehow to catch hold of him. She has feeling towards him alternating between wringing his neck on the one hand and fondness for him on the other. The masculine resilience in her character is manifested by her unalterable resolve to pursue her vagabond husband to any nook and corner of the world. She has been to the capitals of the world, hunting for him with the help of the Interpol and has met only the poor wrecks left behind by him after his sudden disappearance. Her husband is a Casaniova-like character who seeks pleasure in hunting women, ravishing them and then deserting them. Listening to such a description of Dr. Rann by his own wife, TM is reminded of Adolphe Menjou, a film actor in the thirties.

      The central tenor of the novel delineating Sarasa-Rann relationship is categorically stated by Narayan in the "Postscript" which reads thus:

"This is only the story of a wife's attempt to reclaim her erratic, elusive husband who is a wanderer, a philanderer on a global scale, abandoning women right and left."

      Keeping this context in view, the very fabric of the present novel aims at depicting a social or moral milieu which is at variance with Narayan's other novels. Hence, Sarasa is projected as a woman with exceptional drive, energy, dash and dominance. Daisy in The Painter of Signs comes doser to her to an extent. Narayan's other prominent female characters such as. Savitri, Shanti, Rosie, Grace and Susila etc. look unsnewyn, submissive and brittle vis-a-vis Sarasa.

      Sarasa is born and brought up at Madras. Her home name is Roja. Her early life is ordinary. Her father runs a carpentry shop, in the backyard of his house manufacturing wooden stools, benches, furniture and other household articles. She belongs to a conventional, average and common family. She has received her school education at St. Evans in Egmore which is a locality in Madras. She has passed the tenth class examination successfully.

      Her association with Rann begins during the days when he is supplying them at, home magazines, mostly film magazines on daily charges. He is a delivery boy of a circulating library. His original name is Rangan who hails from a southernmost village named Maniyur. He is a student of Loyala College at Madras and supplements his income by serving part-time in that library. He reaches Sarasa's house at the end of his round. Besides film magazines, he will supply Some serious magazines also like the National Geographic and Will recommend to her some special article to be read in such magazines in order to improve her mind and knowledge. Moreover, he will come to collect racks, stools and benches for his boss's shop from her father's worksheet. Whenever he comes to their house during his daily round, both of them will sit close to each other on a stone bench under a mango tree in their compound and he will explain to her some serious articles from some serious magazine in order to make her understand them. These intellectual discussions in soft whispers lead to the inevitable result of their getting closely intimate with each other. She grows fond of him and feels highly elated while in company with him.

      Her association with Rann goes on thickening in due course of time. The frequency of their meeting increases day by day. In addition to their meetings in the evening at home, she is waylaid by him to and from school and taken on his bicycle. She starts missing her classes happily and spending this time with him at coffee house or ice-cream parlour. She is liberally entertained by him. She is highly influenced by his knowledge about all sorts of subjects. She is taken to the museum and feels thrilled by his descriptions about the eleventh century bronzes or in another corner about the nomads or forest tribes and their cowrie shell ornaments and so on. She is charmed by the explanations, he gives true or false, of the stuffed animals, their habits and character. So, museum is their nearest rendezvous. Sometimes, they go by bus to the beach, enjoy the ozone in the air, the surf and the sand. He holds her arms and drags her knee-deep into the waves. Such a thrilling experience makes her forget her home and parents. They enjoy a matinee at the Elphinstone or Mount Road occasionally. She feels highly flattered as her eyes have been opened to new horizons by him. Whenever she gets late in coming back home, she will put off her father by concocting some excuse such as she has to attend a special class, has gone on some excursion with the teachers or doing joint study with a friend in some difficult subjects. These explanations will satisfy her father who is, otherwise, very busy in fulfilling his customers orders. But her mother sees through her tricks and gives her occasional warnings. Consequently, she starts coming back home in time. Her mother tells Rann not to visit their house as they no more need magazines. Thus, the meetings between them become impossible. Sarasa explains the void created in her daily routine by his absence in these words:

"I missed the warmth of his company and his enlightening talk, and above all the timid pecking on the neck and hugs when none was looking."

      The love-affair replete with wooing, though temporarily thwarted, continues through the exchange of written bits of paper brought to each other by the maid-servant who has been entrusted by her mother with the job of keeping surveillance over her. Moreover on the days when her parents visit Avadi - her mother's home and return by evening, she bribes the maid-servant who will allow her to go out. She will go to the circulating library office. From there, both of them go to Elliot's beach - an ideal retreat for lovers. They will stay in a shack near the beach and enjoy there for hours together.

      Sarasa's marriage with Rann is not traditionally arranged one. Subsequent to her surreptitious meetings, she elopes with him on the day her parents have gone to Avadi. She is taken away in a car brought to her house by Rann. The maid-servant is given a gift of ten-rupee note. Both of them are blessed by her. Thereafter, Sarasa is taken to a temple on the out-skirts of the city. Rann buys two garlands of jasmine and chrysanthemum from a flower-seller on the way. Their wedding-ceremony is solemnised by a priest who is already prepared for the occasion in the temple. It is presided over by the priest himself. Thus, Sarasa-Rann marriage instead of being conventionally arranged is one that tallies the Western pattern of finalising the matrimonial knot preceded by a protracted period of loving, wooing and courtship. The marriage-ceremony is accomplished in a simple, brief and unostentatious fashion. Sarasa gives a graphic description of this occasion thus:

"A priest had lit oil lamps all around the image of some god. He presided over the exchange of garlands, asked us to prostrate before the god, lit a heap of camphor, got a couple of his friends to witness, in addition to God, distributed fruits to the gathering, lit a little flame we circled, and sounded a bell. He then gave the bridegroom a yellow thread, and told him to tie it round my neck, charged us fifty rupees for his service, issued a rubber-stamped: receipt, and we were husband and wife"

      The ritual of marriage is performed without the pomp and show of lights, drums and pipes. Still, the minimum code of matrimonial-knot is fulfilled.

      Their married life, after this brief ritual, passes together very joyfully. They find an outhouse, a cosy one with a kitchen and bed-sitting room in Poonamalla High Road and live there as happily as they can. Rann continues working in the library now in a senior position with a lot of responsibilities. Sarasa joins the service in a travel agency as a receptionist. Each of them leaves at nine everyday with a packet of lunch. She cooks food getting up early in the morning. As she returns late in the evening, they take the left-over cold food and go to bed. But, this merry state does not live long.

      The blessed state of their wedded life is suddenly upset by the events that follow. On his arrival back from Avadi, her father is furious to find her missing. The maid-servant, in self-defence, tells him that Sarasa has been forcibly carried away by two young men in a car. Hence, her father files a report of kidnapping at the Egmore Police Station. The Police Inspector, known to her father, alongwith two policemen discovers them when they are enjoying their lunch on the sea-shore, trying to live all the romantic poetry one has read in one's life. The Inspector seizes her husband's hand and puts fetters on it. Thereafter, Rann is handed over to a sergeant and she is ignominiously brought back home. He is charged with kidnapping and abducting a minor girl and is sued against in the Presidency Magistrate's Court. The lawyer gets Rann bailed out after three days. Sarasa is forcibly made to sign an affidavit that she had been kidnapped. The maid-servent puts her thumb impression on the affidavit as a witness to the kidnapping part of the episode.

      Rann's lawyer takes old record of her birth from the Government Maternity Hospital. He proves that they were married at 3.30 in the afternoon of 18th May, 1978 and her birth's date and hour, according to the hospital register, is 1.30 a.m. and so it is confirmed that at the time of her marriage she is eighteen years and three hours old. Since she is a major girl, she has full power to decide her course of life. The defence-case is established in the cross-examination. The court acquits Rann and declares them duly married.

      The court-trial leaves an indelible feeling of bitterness in Rann's mind. The spontaneity of love-feeling exists no more in their married relationship. Rann remains cool, reserved and pensive despite their living together again. The police case and all its ill-feeling are gone in due course of time. Her parents also get reconciled with them. They visit them at their house with gifts of fruits etc. But, there has come a transformation in Rann. He never tastes anything brought by her parents and does not speak to them. Moreover, his faith is also shaken in her because of the affidavit she has given against him in the court. He rather becomes firm and hardened in his outlook. She describes their post court-trial life thus:

"He brooded a great deal and seemed to nave undergone a change of personality. It was not the trial and the prosecution but my sworn statement read out at court that seemed to have shattered his faith. I could never forget the expression on his face when the lawyer read it out and I had to confirm it in public."

      There is no more joy of the past days in their wedded life. It becomes a dull routine affair of a fifty-year old couple. She does her best to cheer him up and attributes his dullness to his physical fatigue. But actually, it is not so. Their married life suddenly ends one day, as, "He did not come home one evening - that was the end." Since then, she is not able to find a clue about him despite the best of her efforts. Only once, she got the information from some known person that he had been seen at the Kuwait travel agency. But, she failed to get any further information thereafter.

      Sarasa's steadfast perseverance and indomitable determination compulsively hold back TM to listen to her past conjugal life in full details. He tries to go away on the pretext of keeping up some previous engagement. But she, like the Ancient Mariner who holds back the wedding guest to listen to his story of shooting the Albatross, does not let TM go till her full story is related to him. She leaves her visiting card to him on the promise that he will inform her the moment he gets any clue of Rann's whereabouts. The comparison of Sarasa's compulsive manner with that of the Ancient Mariner evokes the suggestion of mysterious and enchanting powers emanating from her personality.

      She is shrewd and practical-minded. She manages to stay in the waiting rooms of the Malgudi railway station for days together by the application of her common sense. She gratifies the station master by giving him a five-rupee note everyday and the porter as well by giving him two rupees daily. She is provided food by the station master's wife. In this way, she cultivates human personal relations with the station master's family and the porter. They are sentimental at the time of her departure for Delhi. This trait of her character is just contrary to her husband's who keeps himself shut and aloof from the station master and the porter while putting up in the waiting room. The station master is always approaching TM to get him away somehow. His departure from there in the company of the journalist comes as a great relief and a good riddance to the station maste.

      Sarasa's sincerity and consistency towards Rann vis-a-vis the latter's unending profligacy and disloyalty heighten the moral stature of Sarasa. Rann's insincerity is par excellence. He observes no taboos of age etc as far his desire for quenching his lecherous thirst is concerned. On the other hand, Sarasa is consistent and remains faithful to him. The dichotomy between his outward pose and his internal, unsuspected intentions, makes Dr. Rann a ludicrous figure. His externals consisting of his polished, Western way of dressing himself in "a blue three piece suit, tie and shining shoes and holding a felt hat in hand" coupled with his stance of an academician working on a UN - sponsored project give an impression about him of his being an 'educated, well mannered gentleman. He exploits such exterior show as a trick to snare a woman and ultimately uses her for the satisfaction of his insatiable sensuality. Sarasa is totally a different personality who follows the traditional norms of loyalty and fidelity in wedlock despite her husband's known vagrancy and his "unsuspected depths of duplicity." In view of human qualities, she is much above this "callous and indiscriminate lecher."

      In the "Postscript" to the novel, the author states about the exit of Dr. Rann from Malgudi. He says:

"I have told you his story as far as I could confine and observe him as a curio in Kabir street, but I had to manoeuvre to get him out of Malgudi hurriedly, when I found that he was planning to seduce and abduct a young, innocent school girl known to me."

      In this way, the nemesis befalls Dr. Rann leading to the reunion of Sarasa with him and his ejection out of Malgudi. Further turn of events brings in focus Sarasa's success in her mission of relentless search for her vagrant husband. She is entrusted with heavy responsibilities of her high official position as Commandant of Home Guards at the headquarters at Delhi. The demands of her job are urgent and exacting. She has to move about a lot. She has to visit the neighbouring towns and places which come under her control. Notwithstanding the burden of official duties, she remains equally alert and acts smartly whenever any hint is given to her about her erratic husband. The circumstances come to a pass when TM, who shields Dr. Rann from her in their first encounter is now forced to get the poisonous and annihilating weed-like (this weed being the subject of his research study) Rann ejected out of Malgudi so that his lecherous, devious ways do not succeed in polluting and defiling the virtuous and the human norms of Malgudi life. Gaffur's disclosure to him of Rann's final plan of seducing and abducting the sweet seventeen year old Girija acts as a catalyst in ensuring the execution of a strategy of Dr. Rann's exist by TM.

      The celebration of its Silver Jubilee by the Lotus Club of Malgudi with a bandobast of high publicity and by handing out a large number of invitation cards provides an opportunity to TM. Dr. Rann is persuaded by him to read out a paper on the subject of his UN - sponsored project. The lecture is entitled, "Futurology" in which he deals with a small grass-like weed spreading all over the planet earth. By 3000 A.D., this weed will grow into a giant-size and its peculiarity lies in annihilating all other vegetations with a foreboding for the total extinction of human race and other forms of life from earth as there will be nothing to eat and this grass in itself is poisonous. To synchronise his capture by Sarasa with the conclusion of his lecture, TM sends a telegraphic message to her:


      Sarasa is prompt and strategically practical-minded in carrying out the action. She has learnt to cope with emergency situations from the nature of her profession. She comes by air to Trichy and from there she hires a car for Malgudi. She waits at the railway station for a final word from the journalist. She is given a VIP invitation card for the function.

      The alarming thrust of Dr. Rann's lecture about the impending extinction of human race from earth terrifies women in the big gathering in the Town Hall auditorium. Moreover, some miscreants play a mischief by announcing that a cobra is creeping about in the hall. The result is a stampede of people hurling chairs hither and thither and at the podium where Dr. Rann is seated, unfazed, in a chair feeling amused by the fun of the effect of his lecture. TM gets him out of the hall into a dark corner to save his life. Two persons, already stationed there, push him inside the waiting car in which Sarasa is already seated. Thus, the prodigal husband is taken over by his dauntless, adventurous wife. He does not resist. The incident proves the reversal of roles of man and woman. The general male-dominated ethos of Malgudi depicted by Narayan in most of his novels pushes woman into the background, occupying second position to man. But here, like Daisy in The Painter of Signs and Bharati in Waiting for the Mahatma, woman occupies a pre-eminent position and the male counterpart is dwarfed into a weak, timid, submissive and ineffectual figure. The characters like Daisy and Sarasa are the embodiment of a resurgent, self-confident and self-supporting Indian woman in the post Independence period. Modernity exerts its natural influences on the ambience of the Indian society and changes the pattern of old, archaic, traditionally-followed norms and values. Woman is not lesser than man in any field of acitivity. Sarasa does not wail and sulk like Savitri in The Dark Room. She accepts the challenge thrown by her wayward husband. Unlike Savitri, she does not feel helpless like a bamboo pole without the support and shelter of her husband's house.

      Sarasa succeeds in roping in Dr. Rann on account of her determination, fortitude and the capability to fight and struggle against the heavy odds and adversities of life. After their arrival back to Delhi, they live together. The moments of joy of their past life return. She describes the period of their reunion as wife and husband like this:

"As far as we were concerned, we were back in the days of my father's carpentry, on the bench under the tree, whispering to each other. Such revived moment made one forget the present condition. The joy in each other's company and the sense of fulfilment were complete and indescribable."

      The period of reinvigoration and revival of happiness lasts for a few months. Overtly, Dr. Rann gives impression of feeling fully satisfied with the co-existence with her. He expresses a sense of regret for his past disorderly behaviour. Sarasa's initial doubts about his movements are cleverly removed by him through his regulated routine of enjoying company with her in her off-hours, keeping himself occupied with studies while alone and by following a normal routine of jogging in the park in the morning and a stroll on the market road in the evening without anybody's company. The heavy duties of Sarasa keep her pre-occupied from six o'clock in the morning at the Parade Ground till late hours in the evening. Still after her return home late in the evening, both of them share with each other the scintillating hours of conversation and companionship. Sarasa details such hours like this:

"We found time to sit and talk only late in the evening after I had shed my official uniform and changed into a saree. We had chairs put out in the garden and sat there till late at night, even carrying our supper out under the stars."

      Being convinced of the change reflected in his outward behaviour, Sarasa relents her watchfulness and surveillance over Dr. Rann. She does not bother to know about the correspondence that he receives. Moreover, her engagement with her official duties keeps her away from him for the larger part of the day. The constraints imposed on household life by the modern style of working women are evidently illustrated by Sarasa's daily routine. Its inevitable consequence leads to long hours of separation and dissipation of physical energy in professional pre-occupations at the cost of mutual closeness in marital relationship.

      The disastrous occurrence takes place again when Sarasa has to go to Jaipur for three days on some official assignment. On her return, she is shocked to know from her cook that Rann has gone away with a woman in a car soon after his breakfast taking his trunk and suitcase on the day of her departure for Jaipur. After enquiries, she discovers that the woman with him is a nurse named Komal from Matilda's since she has resigned her job and has disappeared. Moreover, this information is confirmed as he, alongwith the nurse, has taken a flight to Rome the same day under the name, Dr. Rann of Malgudi. Before leaving the house, he has left a written slip of paper which is handed over to Sarasa by the cook. It reads like this:

"Good-bye dearest. I have to be off again. It was lovely while it lasted-thanks."

      The incorrigible disloyalty and duplicity, the errant and dubious behaviour of her husband in winning and cheating any woman of the world deal a crumbling jolt to a woman's heart in Sarasa. She breaks down and sobs uncontrollably before TM on her another visit to Malgudi, hoping against hope, that Rann may be there again. She regrets having noticed the news item about the 'Timbuctoo man' in the newspaper and also for not having accepted her father's advice to keep away from him. Her pathetic state of mind moves TM to tears. He says:

It was distressing to see a mighty personality, generally self-possessed, crumbling down.

      To avoid further discomfiture, Sarasa rushes back abruptly into the waiting room. Her heart is broken, with no hope of revival, by the heartless, deceitful and lecherous Rann. She fails to cure him of his elusive, duping tactics of woman-hunting.

      The persistent hot pursuit undertaken by Sarasa for recovering her philandering, wandering husband is comparable to Savitri's dogged effort in following Yama, the god of Death, with unyielding pleadings to revive the dead body of her husband, Satyavan. Ultimately, Yama has to accede to her persuasion and her husband's corpse is put to life again. In the same way, Commandant Sarasa also succeeds in capturing her elusive husband but again loses him with no possibility of recovery for the second time. She, in the end, bows down to the inevitability of the situation.

      Sarasa's conspicuous qualities of sincerity, scrupulousness, love, tegardfulness and human warmth towards her reclaimed husband despite his past global cheating, impostor's behaviour add lustre to her personality. She embodies in her a hormonious combination of a wife's loyalty and faithfulness with sangfroid, self-dependence and tenacious struggle someness of a modern educated woman. Her towering and commanding personality is much above the crook, stealthy, coward, immoral, feeble, treacherous and debauching Rann. He represents a poor, worthless portraiture of a hypocrite who remains irredeemably an incorrigible womaniser and defiler by beguiling men and women with his assumed outward show of false superiority reflected in his westernised dress and pose of an academician working on a UN - sponsored project at an international level.

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