Anita Desai the pioneer of the psychological novel in Indian English wherein she portrays the inner conflicts of her protagonists to highlights their individuality and hunger for freedom. She presents the image of a suffering woman preoccupied with her inner world, her sulking frustration and the storm within; the existential predicament of a woman in a male dominated society. She not only highlights the silent miseries, pain, agony and helplessness of women who are tormented by day to day problems, but very silently makes the analysis of the situation thus simplifying it for the readers to reach to the root cause of the problem. Her protagonists are rebels who question relentlessly and their limitations bring them fresh pain.
Fire on the Mountain (1977) is written in three parts, but all parts are closely related to each other. The three parts are inter-related to three woman characters viz. Nanda Kaul, Raka(Nanda Kaul’s great-granddaughter) and Ila Das (Nanda Kaul’s school and college friend), respectively, but there are no water tight compartments. Anita Desai has beautifully inter-related all the three parts, to make it a complete whole. All the three woman characters have fire burning in their hearts. The novel is about the loneliness of the old woman, Nanda Kaul and the way fantasy becomes her life driving force. She does her best to escape from the hunting ghosts of the memories of the past but all her efforts are in vain, as from memory there is no escape. She retreats to the mountains to adapt a compelling seclusion. Although having a busy life in the past, being the wife of a Vice-Chancellor, she wished for privacy. Though she performed all acts and duties, but her relations were a mere formality. Her husband had another woman in his life, but in social circles he always wanted Nanda to perform the role of an ideal wife. First Nanda Kaul hates the intrusion of her great granddaughter Raka in her life, but little later she gives Nanda Kaul an opportunity to accept the stark reality of life. Thus, Raka enables her to confront reality and review her life. Ila Das is the name of both misery and persecution. Her life was nothing but a long series of sufferings and miseries. Things become worse and unbearable when she is raped and then killed by one whose daughter she wanted to save from trauma of child-marriage.
Keywords: Hunger for freedom, man and woman relationship, seclusion, disillusionment, rebel
Anita Desai is recognized as the first Indian author writing in English who delineates feminist themes seriously, focusing on the conditions of women in India. The conflict of her characters is noted to be as one, between reason and instinct, the will and reality, involvement and detachment. She is deep rooted in her native culture that is evident from her themes, style, landscape, images and of course, in her successful experimentation with English novel. Her novels raise many issues of universal relevance and its beauty lies in the fact that it can be interpreted from various angles.