Wife of Srinivas: in Mr. Sampath - The Painter of Malgudi

Also Read

      The Wife of Srinivas is the next important female character in the novel. She is a home-bound, traditional, tolerant, accommodating and unpretentious woman. She is untouched by ambition or by any sort of illusory idealism. Her desires joys and sorrows are confined to her family. Hence, she has no cause to go through the high emotional, moral or spiritual situations in life. She is born and bred in a village. She has a son named Balu to whom she is sincerely devoted as a mother. She is literate as she is told to keep herself busy in reading some novel in order to remain awake till the return of her husband, Srinivas, late at night.

The traditional and conservative outlook of the wife of Srinivas becomes evident at her very first appearance in the novel at the office of "The Banner". Srinivas remains completely absorbed in writing for the weekly periodical to the neglect of his wife and son whom he has sent to her parents. village. She suddenly appears accompanied by her son.
The Wife of Srinivas

      The traditional and conservative outlook of the wife of Srinivas becomes evident at her very first appearance in the novel at the office of "The Banner". Srinivas remains completely absorbed in writing for the weekly periodical to the neglect of his wife and son whom he has sent to her parents. village. She suddenly appears accompanied by her son. Sampath brings coffee and tiffin for both of them from a restaurant in the market. She refuses to take the stuff because she thinks that only the home-made is worth-eating. She has all the suspicions about the purity of the food bought from the market. Moreover, she can not take food before she has taken a bath. She has the habit of not taking food before her husband has taken it. All these details' show her customary and traditional outlook. She is so conservative and home-bound that she does not go out unescorted even for a simple job like purchasing vegetables from a nearby shop. She goes without vegetables if Balu is not available for purchasing them. She sticks to the time-honoured habits and ways which have been taught to her by her upbringing in a small village. Srinivas asks her, "Why don't you go out and do the shopping yourself? It will give you a nice outing, too." This, suggestion baffles her. She considers such an act as unbecoming on the part of a woman. She replies, "I don't know - but if someone escorts me I could go and do the shopping; it would be the best thing to do." This shows her prudery and puritanic love for conventional standards of behaviour. She likes to go by public opinion about things. She tells Srinivas not to take coffee outside at a shop early in the morning which he has been doing as a matter of habit before she comes to live with him. She considers it undesirable because people do not approve of it as suitable for domestic life.

      She is a devoted wife. She is tolerant towards her husband despite his regular habit of late coming at night and gross negligence towards the family. She makes no scenes about it. Rather she keeps on telling him docilely that he should mend his ways. She is a stickler to the norm of not eating food before her husband has taken it even if it means keeping hungry till late at night. She feels highly pleased to know that Srinivas has decided to enjoy a free day on Saturday at home as she has been deprived of his day-long company so far. She prepares coffee and special rice cakes for his breakfast. For dinner, she decides to prepare his special drink, 'Aviyal' which is a stew made of over a dozen vegetables. She celebrates his stay at home with festivity.

      Srinivas's wife suffers patiently the habitual negligent attitude of her husband as the latter remains too pre-occupied with his weekly periodical, "The Banner" and later on with the production of the film, "The Burning of Kama" by the "Sunrise Pictures" studio. She complains of his indifferent attitude in her first sudden appearance at the office of "The Banner". She tells him that he has not cared to reply even a single letter out of the four she has written to him. Moreover, he has maintained no communication with her after sending her to her parents home in a village. She weeps. The way the mother and the son are dressed is suggestive of Srinivas's non-chalance towards them. She is wearing "a very inferior discoloured cotton saree, patched here and there." The coat Balu is wearing is "too small for him, appearing to stop at the wrist, his sleeves stopped four inches beyond the wrist, the collar was frayed...." She repeatedly reminds him of his callous negligence towards him as Srinivas comments on her complaining habit that it must be the same sort of causes over and over again about "his late-coming, secondly his lack of interest in home-management; thirdly, his apparent neglect of the child, fourthly, insufficient money, and so on stretching on to infinity." Srinivas, wholly given to the world of speculation and writing, becomes aware of his own indifferent attitude in momentary flashes. He says, "I have neglected her lately." He is conscious of the fact that his indifference has gone to the extent that he has not even touched her since long and has not spoken to her some soft words of love which are so natural in husband-wife relationship. He reflects saying:

"It seems ages since I touched her, for when all is said and done husband-wife relationship is peculiar to itself, being the most tactile of all relationships. Perhaps she is wilting away without the caress and the silly idiom softly whispered in the ear."

      But even this awareness fails to move him to the act. Rather he puts aside this question and launches himself in the work he has on hand and reaches out for "a tablet on which to note down his points."

      The wife-husband association presented in this novel between his wife and protagonist Srinivas singularly differs from the one presented in The English Teacher between Susila and Krishnan. His wife and Srinivas remain alien to each other at the level of thought. That is why, they fail to reach depth in their marital relationship. Each of the duo is confined to one's own world i.e. Srinivas to the world of speculation and his wife to the one of her mundane responsibilities of subserving the interests of her family. They fail to share each other's secret innermost being. Stil, the harmony of their domestic life remains intact because each, especially his wife, is accommodating with the circumstances. Such an adjustment is a hall-mark of the ambience of a conventional middle-class Hindu family. Unlike this association, Susila-Krishnan relationship in The English Teacher transcends the limits of mundane responsibilities, physical accident and death. It is too profound to be disrupted even by the cruel onslaught of death. It is spiritual and undying. Hence, after Susila's physical death, the protagonist maintains spiritual communion with the spirit of his dead wife. They enjoy unfathomable bonds of love.

      Like a traditional Hindu woman, Srinivas's wife is religious-minded. She daily worships the image of god, Nataraj, and burns a lamp and incense sticks before it. Srinivas tells about her that she "lits a small oil lamp everyday before the image of Nataraj placed in a niche at home." She takes keen interest in the shooting of the film, "The Burning of Kama" as it is related with a mythological sequence when Shiva opens his third eye to burn down Kama, the god of Love who stirs in him desire for Parvathi with a view to disturbing his meditation. She tells Srinivas that this subject is better than his. weekly periodical, "The Banner". She comments, "I'm sure more people will like this - that "Banner" was so dull! You will not revive it?" Moreover, her conservative, conventional attitude revealed in her acts like not eating hotel food for fear of tactile contamination, not taking food before bath or before her husband has taken it and not going out of the house unescorted is more so because of the traditional religious sanctity she attaches to such routine behaviour. Her religious belief goes to the point of superstitious faith in the efficacy of incantations and rituals in curing the madness of Ravi which, she thinks, is the result of malignant influence of an evil spirit. That is why, she helps Ravi's mother in organising the ritual of an exorcist at her own house. Moreover, she agrees to look after the volatile, temperamental old father of Ravi when Ravi's mother goes to temple at Sailam alongwith Ravi for the cure of his madness.

      Despite her accommodating, docile and unassertive nature, Srinivas's wife is very sensitive to an authoritarian tone used by someone in dealing with her. She reacts to that with full fury. This happens when Srinivas asks her emphatically to bring a mat for him to lie on while she is busy in arranging beds. She feels enraged at the touch of authoritarianism he has brought in his tone. Similarly on two or three other occasions in the past, she has reacted so sharply that even normalcy of their domestic life is threatened. As a music student at her parents house, she leaves learning music and flings away book in reaction to the hard tone used by the music teacher. That is why, her parents and Srinivas keep wary while talking to her. She is a loving mother who feels bothered about the welfare, health and education of her son, Balu. She waits for him eagerly to return from the school and serves him food affectionately. She assures him that he will accompany them to the cinema.

      Srinivas's wife is considerate and co-operative towards others in their troubles. She discloses to her husband about Sampath's flirtation with Shanti and his resolve to marry her. She feels revolted at this. She sympathises with Sampath's wife and prevails upon Srinivas to dissuade Sampath from going astray on this wrong path. She reveals the same generosity and human concern for the mother and family of Ravi when the latter goes mad. She offers her house for holding the ritual of an exorcist in order to cure Ravi's madness. She readily agrees to Ravi's mother's request to look after her temperamental husband for a week when she will be away to a temple at Sailam alongwith Ravi for getting him cured of his madness. She gives twenty rupees to Ravi's family for help. She is hospitable to the miserly old landlord and serves him coffee and rice cakes for breakfast.

Previous Post Next Post