HUSH! Don’t Cry
Siksha Publishing House 2010
HUSH! Don’t Cry is a compelling story of strength and power. The author, Ariti Jankie, is at her best in this intricate but revealing novel deftly woven around themes of diaspora and gender.
The nostalgia and desire of the Indians in Trinidad for their original ‘homeland’ and the sense of double displacement that this nostalgia evokes within those who attempt to trace their ‘real’ roots is skillfully portrayed by Jankie. The story revolves around Meera, who like the saint, endures hardships to became an epitome of sacrifice and suffering before being empowered by her inner strength and determination.
Marrying her daughter to a “suitable boy” from “the golden land of India” (p.15) was a dream that Meera’s mother, Sumintra, had sought to fulfill for her daughter. Meera lived her mother’s dream, getting married to Kapil from the land of her ancestors—a country which she knew “held secrets for her own discovery” (p.82). The groom and bride when married looked like Ram and Sita, legends from the Holy Ramayana. Meera wants to transmit her “pride of ancestry” of India to her daughter Kavita, but the trial and tribulations that Meera goes through eventually makes her realise the worth of her own Trinidadian culture and sense of self, which is a powerful mix of the East and West.
“Getting away from her loved ones” and moving to India liberates Meera and reduces the “pains and humiliations she faced” (p.81). However, she soon realises that Western women are considered by Indian men to have “no culture” and to be jutha bartan (soiled dishes). This view is reinforced by Indian women who, ironically, rebel against being discriminated by Indian society while at the same time discriminating against ‘Western’ women themselves.
The moral frailties of Meera’s husband, Kapil, eventually kills Meera’s love for him. After a long struggle with herself, ultimately coming to terms with her unfulfilled thirst for her husband’s love, she realises that she has been trying to live up to her mother’s false dream. She loses her innocence in that struggle to survive and emerges “a pioneer like her ancestors rooted in slavery and indentureship” (p.167). Home for her, she now recognises, is Trinidad—a space which draws life and solace from ancient Indian scriptures and traditions and yet gives her the power to take control of her own destiny.
HUSH! Don’t Cry thus completes a full circle with the protagonist pledging to work towards fulfilling the dreams of her daughter Kavita, rather than living the dream of her mother, Sumintra. In so doing, Meera finds the strength to live her own dream.
*Dr Priti Singh is attached to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi