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Crosscurrents in Sudha Murty’s ‘House of Cards’




Dr. Girish Kousadikar
Assistant Professor
Department of English
B. Raghunath College
Parbhani, Maharashtra, India


Abstract:

The term ‘Globalization’ is no more a term in association with trade, economy or business policy only. Globalization opened up many avenues to progress for the first world countries.  The effects of liberal economy transcends the thresholds of family customs, traditions and overall the socio cultural fabric of the entire society. The sensible and creative novelists like Sudha Murty minutely observed and traced out such effects through their literary works. Sudha Murty’s fiction ‘House of Cards’ manifests eroding effects of money power on family relations. The crosscurrents underneath the surface of actions in the novel are explored here.

Key words:  Globalization, Sudha Murty, crosscurrents, flat, round characters

Introduction:

Novel, the literary genre has been witnessing ceaseless evolution in themes and treatment from century to century fulfilling the then demands of reader community.   Today’s novelists also address contemporary issues, burning topics prevailing in the society either to expose and/or to mend human tendencies.  The busy life of recent period gave priority to novel reading against drama due to convenience of place and time.  So the novel form got immense popularity at the present juncture.

W.H. Hudson’s following remark can be aptly applied on enormous publication of novels or novellas and rat race of fame to become a novelist,

“Anyone can write a novel who has pens, ink and paper at command, and a certain amount of leisure and patience.” 
                                                                                    (Prasad, 2001, 194)

However, Sudha Murty stands apart and high among these overcrowding novelists justifying their own requirements of self exposures only. Sudha Murty emerged as a promising Indian writer in English due to her consistent writing and uniqueness in handling the familiar milieu in unfamiliar way.  Her first novel ‘Dollar Bahu’ came in to limelight in 2005. Her literary career over a decade and half placed her to esteemed position in the Indian literary scenario. Apart from a prestigious designation as CEO of IT Company like INFOSYS, she has been widely discussed rather applauded for her writing skill and multifarious social and literary aspects of her personality.  As a result, Murty became the recipient of various social and literary prestigious awards including R. K. Narayan Award for literature in 2006. Murty has voluminous literary output including 04 novels 02 novellas and 04 collections of short stories.

The present paper intends to focus on crosscurrents at internal as well as external level in Sudha Murty’s novel ‘Houses of Card’.

Crosscurrents:

Crosscurrent or conflict is an undeniable and integral part of literary work. Sometimes it is surfaced and become visible whereas in other cases it is deeply rooted into fathoms of character’s mind. There are two types of crosscurrents practiced or delineated in literature, one is external crosscurrent and other is internal crosscurrent.

External crosscurrents:

External crosscurrents are easy to understand for being either physical or visible.  Almost every literary work manifests the conflict between protagonist and antagonist representing bright and dark side of the matter respectively.  The author plants two opposite values confronting each other to develop a literary piece.  Every epic irrespective of religion, language, geographical orientation is a long tale of strife between virtues and vices in human embodiments i.e. characters.  The struggle may be a result of ambition for power, wealth, beauty and so on.
 
External crosscurrents may be situation, system, social customs and tradition which compel, allures an individual to think and act in a particular way. The fate or destiny disguised in the form of incident or event impacts the life of characters.

Internal crosscurrents:

Fiction is a narrative literary form.  The novelist has to delineate each and every minute transition and transaction of his/ her characters verbally.  In the literary form like dram, the playwright utilizes soliloquies and asides to pave way to internal crosscurrents within a character’s mind.  But in novel, the creator has to be more cautious to pen down the exact words with appropriate intensity of feelings aroused in the mind of that fictitious character. 
Internal crosscurrents are arbitrary rather intangible for ordinary readers.  Only a skillful literary practitioner can handle this challenging task of making invisible and concealed thought process of a character a viable, external exposure.  Otherwise a novel can be misread or interpret in a different way against the novelist’s intention or expectation from reader’s point of view.

House of Cards:

House of Cards’ is an account of a couple and their materialistic progress from the middle class to upper class economy at the cost of regress from happy, content couple to a couple at the verge of divorce and disagreement. 

Sudha Murty minutely and sensibly observed the effects of globalization on economy, family values, psychology of the Indian society in general and the middle class in specific.  The protagonists Sanjay and Mridula got married to reward their love and honest feeling for each other.  She supported their family income by accepting a teaching job.  Mridula upholds ethical values and family responsibilities during the struggling period of Sanjay. She staunchly supported Sanjay in traumatic situations and injustice done to Sanjay by the hospital management.  In other words, Mridula became the backbone of Sanjay’s life and career. 

The later phase of this fiction records radical changes at internal and external levels of characters.  The novelist traced the devastating effects of money and materialism on the family values.  The materialistic progress of Sanjay ruthlessly crushed down sentiments, ethical values, mutual love and caring attitude towards family. This trauma ends in separation of Mridula from Sanjay. 

As the title ‘House of Cards’ implies vanity and temporality of materialistic progress by sacrificing family life. The palatial house which is a symbol of Sanjay’s enormous wealth becomes the ‘House of Cards’ on the segregation of Mridula.

Sudha Murty is widely read in the Indian reader community for her characterization close to Indian society, familiar settings and lucid indianised English language expression. Familiarity has its own appeal is very much true in case of her works.  The present novel is discussed at length in the marital relation between Sanjay and Mridula but the crosscurrents underneath are ignored. The researcher would like to focus on the following crosscurrents experienced in the fiction ‘House of Cards’.

Ethical V/S Non Ethical:

In modern India, money became the yardstick to measure one’s success. Money became the parameter for a person’s social reputation.  Once up on a time, devoted Sanjay was glad to follow his father’s word by serving the patients as they are gods.  He has no complaint against taxing duty hours which he spent during the government hospital at Bangalore. He was restless only due to corruption and evil practice in medical profession. The same protagonist underwent drastic changes in the later part of the fiction.  He became a money making machine through all possible ways. 

Sanjay’s capitalist philosophy suppressed allegations made by Mridula against his unethical practice; he upholds his view by saying,

“Nothing is black or white in this world.   The cow gives milk for its calf. But we drink that milk. Isn’t that wrong? Mosquitoes and bugs are also creatures. Don’t we kill them because they trouble us? Big fish always eats the small fish.  Is that wrong?”
(Murty, 2013, 182)

This crosscurrent can be traced at internal as well as external level.  At internal level, the psyche of Sanjay became the battlefield for the strife between ethical and non ethical. At the external level, the novel sheds light on unethical external forces like bribe offered in different forms by drug companies to doctors, forced c-operations, selfish and money oriented, business minded hospital management system.

Money v/s Family:

Money took over the control of Sanjay’s life and actions.  Sanjay totally ignored his family for the sake of his greed for money.  His caring attitude towards Mridula and son Shishir in the initial stage became rare now.  Even Sanjay did not take of his own parents located far away in Aladhali.  Sanjay advised Shishir to run infertility centre only for rich patients who can afford to pay handsomely.

Shishir represented dry and fragmented attitude of the next generation towards family.  His respect for his father and disrespect for mother is merely based on the parameter of success in terms of money.  Shishir ridicules her,

“My mother is like a broken record. She keeps repeating the same things over and over again.”
(Murty, 2013, 161)
Past v/s Present:

The initial part of fiction informs that Sanjay came from a lower middle class family located in semi urban area and used to render his medical services in the government hospital.  ‘Work is worship’ was the motto of his devoted medical practice. Sanjay resisted the offers of corruption and injustice done to him by the hospital management.  The same Sanjay feels no grudge to accumulate wealth by unlawful and unethical ways later on.

Sanjay has no time to talk with Mridula to whom he used to share personal and professional matters. Now he found her unfit and impractical in today’s world. Sanjay hid his unethical practices and asset generated through it from Mridula. She felt in love of truthfulness, innocence and ethical values of Sanjay before marriage. Gradually all these virtues stepped out from Sanjay’s life at the arrival of hypocrisy, fame and enormous flow of money.  The hospital is no more a temple and patient as a god to Sanjay. 

Sanjay discarded Mridula’s plea of ethical, charitable practice by saying,

“This is not a temple. We have to give our patients whatever they need.  After all they are paying us. Please don’t try to teach me moral science.”
(Murty, 2013, 156)

Sanjay somewhere resembles to Christopher Marlow’s Dr. Faustus who signed the treaty with his blood for unlimited power of 24 years against his soul subjected to hell forever thereafter. Sanjay became successful from materialistic point of view against his blissful family life.

Mridula was once the backbone of Sanjay’s life and career, now turned drastically to a dustbin in the life of prosperous Sanjay. He made fun of her monthly salary by forgetting its role in his period of struggle. Mridula raised three lakh rupees to set up his hospital. Mridula has no place in this materialistic world of Sanjay. 

Flat v/s Round Character:

The fictitious work comprises two types of characters. One is flat character who remains static and not influenced by external situations.  Mridula is such a flat character as she clings to her social responsibility, significance of moral practice.  She successfully defends her morality and self respect from severe blows of hostile behavior of Sanjay and harsh comments of her son Shishir. Mridula never gets victimized by tempting materialistic gains.

Sanjay is an epitome of round character.  Initial Sanjay marred by inferiority complex, poor, innocent but honest and devoted doctor turned out to be a person with ego, superiority complex, prosperous, stubborn and commercial doctor running after money.

Conclusion:

To conclude, Sudha Murty focused the eroding effects of globalization on the fabric of our traditional, social and familial relations. The supremacy of materialistic progress shattered the blissful house into the ‘House of Cards’.


Works Cited

Ashcroft, B. Griffiths, G. Tiffin, H. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literatures. London, Routledge. 1989.

Chaudhari, M. Feminine Sudha Murty in India, Zed. 2005.

Das, Bijay Kumar. Essays on Post Colonial Literature, New Delhi, Atlantic, 2007.

Prasad B., A Background to the Study of English Literature, Macmillan India Ltd.,2001.

Murty, Sudha. The House of Cards. New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 2013.