THE DOOR OF THE FIRE

INTRODUCTION

When everyone’s pen stood in the nude and wrote in ignorance, a man’s pen had worn the coat of independence. He is none other than D. Jayakanthan. A writer is the one who can pen the unwritten. He did it then – before we were born. Even now, I don’t know if I can talk about feminism with absolute freedom. But in 1966, this man of realism wrote the short story “Agni Pravesam“. 

Oh yes, it is easy to criticise, but it is hard to produce. Thus, in this piece, we are only going to analyse. 

SYNOPSIS

It rains in the evening when all the college girls are waiting for the bus. As their respective bus comes, they leave one by one for their homes. Even after every girl goes, a little girl still waits for her bus. She does remain there all alone in the heavy rain. Apart from an old bull, the road doesn’t have any crowd. Unable to stand under the trees, she tries to move to the college campus. That is when there stops a car near her. Opening its door, the man inside invites her to get inside. Though she says no at first, as she has no other way, she accepts the offer at last. 

The car moves fast, and she is lost in thoughts. Thus, it’s too late for her to realise that the car goes on a different route. His ride comes to rest in a dense forest. Even if she conveys that it’s getting late, he plays the music and gives her a chocolate. As he gets to the back seat, she starts to get afraid a lot. During the time she sweats with shame, he eats chewing gum. His every kiss doesn’t lend ears to her ‘Please’. After seeing her tears, he leaves her near her living place. Feeling pity for her, he says sorry to her. She comes to her house with a red face and wet dress. When her mother asks for the reason, she tells her all about the man. This shocks the mother and makes her slap her daughter. 

Hearing this, the mother thinks to burn her at first. But seeing the girl’s innocence, she brings her to bathe instead. The mother prays to every god and pours the water on her head. She tells her daughter that the water is nothing but fire. Adding to this, she says for sure that the girl has now become pure and mature. Since then, the girl has taken great care not to come across the same car. 

ANALYSIS

Even at the beginning of this story, we can feel that it has been raining already, for the author compares the girls there to a rainbow’s colour. As a few girls bring their cars for friends, other girls share their umbrellas with friends. This dramatic incident does introduce their economic imbalance. When the author calls a bus with the words ‘டீஸல் அநாகரிகம்‘, he tells us in secret that the vehicles pollute our world. How much care he must have had about the environment to write this point! 

“அந்த கும்பலில் பாதியை எடுத்து விழுங்கிக் கொண்டு ஏப்பம் விடுவதுபோல் செருமி நகர்கிறது அந்த பஸ்.”

“Once it gulps half of the mobs, the bus coughs and moves as if it burps,” the author describes another bus like this. I can’t express how much I love this! 

Just like the girls who wait in the rain, a bull, too, gets wet in the rain. Those girls can’t afford a car, and the bull has nobody to care for. They are there, as they are poor. To justify their incapability, the author portrays them concurrently. 

Above all, although it stands single, the orphaned bull contradicts the little girl. When the bull is left alone, it gets wet well in the rain like a stone. This has been explained in the below line. 

“மழை நீர் முதுகின் மீது விழுந்து முத்து முத்தாய்த் தெறித்து, அதன் பழுப்பு நிற வயிற்றின் இரு மருங்கிலும் கரிய கோடுகளாய் வழிகிறது.”

In contrast, when the girl is deserted, she feels devastated and leans against a tree there. And when a rickshaw man honks his cycle bell aloud, the bull doesn’t move from the middle of the road, but when a car man pleads with her to get inside, she decides to go with him instead. 

As the bull sees the bus coming on the road, it goes to the girls’ place by moving forward. But as soon as the girl does glance at the bull that stands in her place, she plans to go with the man to her house. It’s more important to be thoughtful than just beautiful. Yes, this girl must have behaved like that bull. 

The author does address the girl by the word ‘her‘, for he doesn’t wish to disclose the name of a rape survivor. If you worry, I am sorry. He doesn’t even employ the word ‘rape‘ in this story.

” ‘இந்த முகத்திற்கு நகைகளே வேண்டாம்’ என்பது போல சுடர் விட்டுப் பிரகாசித்துப் புரண்டு புரண்டு மின்னுகின்ற கறை படியாத குழந்தைக் கண்கள்.”

“Immaculate infant eyes glow and blaze as though her face doesn’t need any ornaments,” the author exclaims.  

Even though her dress shows that she is poor, her eyes seem rich to the author. I have seen unstained hands, but this is the first time I have known unstained eyes. The word ‘சுடர்‘ denotes that the author is an ardent devotee of Poet Bharati

Not only is she called a child, but she is characterised as such throughout the tale. If you concentrate, the man in the car convinces the girl by giving her chocolate. 

She does admire his car, and he does idolise her face. Here, their choice of wonder differs. Of course, it is not possible for the Taj Mahal to be a marvel to all. For some people, the wonder is the Big Temple, but for other people, the wonder is their pencil. 

“சீ! அழக் கூடாது..”

In this short story, the author has expressed his feministic ideas quite freely. Though the girl seems to be innocent so far, she doesn’t get impatient in the car. And she decides not to cry even when she feels so afraid. At last, the man, too, admits his fault with guilt. Do you still want any incident to call the author a feminist? Wait, he has also warned us not to waste the electricity. Isn’t our JK a great environmentalist? 

“வெளியே… 

வானம் கிழிந்து அறுபட்டது! மின்னல்கள் சிதறித் தெறித்தன! இடியோசை முழங்கி வெடித்தது!

ஆ! அந்த இடி எங்கோ விழித்திருக்க வேண்டும்.”

The author explains the girl’s every pain with the help of rain. When the man assaults her in the car, the author says that the sky is torn by the thunder. And when her eyes rain, the skies join. 

As he comes out of the back seat with a cigarette, his shoes are covered in mud, and the drops of dirt splash on his car and as well as on her. Opening the front door, he gets the soiled shoes removed. And as it does rain, his car will be cleaned. But the dirt on her shirt can not be washed out. By these scenes, the author means that it is not easy for victims to get away from the blemish of abuse, although it is easy for men to use women as chewing gums. 

“நீ சுத்தமாயிட்டேடி குழந்தே, சுத்தமாயிட்டே. உன் மேல கொட்டினேனே அது ஜலமில்லேடி, ஜலம் இல்ல. நெருப்புன்னு நெனச்சிக்கோ. உன் மேலே இப்போ கறையே இல்லே. நீ பளிங்குடி. பளிங்கு.. மனசிலே அழுக்கு இருந்தாத்தான்டி அழுக்கு.”

Is there any blemish that can’t be cleaned by these lines? No. This is not an immediate decision, though. 

Before saying this, the mother has two plans. She does aspire to murder her daughter with fire or marry her to that stranger.  After a deep thought, she decides to bathe her daughter with a lot of water. I wonder! If water can make a woman pure, why did Rama choose fire

CONCLUSION

Though the girl is raped, her education isn’t stopped. Every situation is only for our elevation. This is the lesson we must learn from the story of Jayakanthan

About the author

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Reshma Selvaraj

Hello, my name is Reshma Selvaraj. I am a graduate with a bachelor's degree in English. I am from a village called Kombadi Thalavaipuram in Tuticorin, a southern district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tamil is my mother tongue. Though I studied English as a second language during my schooling, I enjoyed reading English poems and essays. As years passed by, I enrolled to study the literature of English in a college. That was when I began to read a lot of books both in Tamil and English. Thus I started to have a dream of becoming a writer. I have already written and published two short stories. The first short story, entitled “I have an interview tomorrow”, depicts the life of a disabled graduate searching for a job, and the second short story, titled “Aval Oru Maram”, defines the deforestation happening in the Western Ghats of India. This blog is to show the world that I am becoming what I wanted to become, and I hope that it will help you to become what you want to become.

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