The Pardah Nashin By Sarojini Naidu
Summary of The Pardah Nashin
“The Pardah Nashin” is a highly moving lyric taken from the last section of the Golden threshold. Sarojini Naidu presents a revealing account of the life fo the lady behind the veil and its short and long terms effects on her life. It is an indirect satire on the conservative attitude towards women and its horrible consequences.
The Pardah nashin, the lady who sits behind the veil, leads a life of ease and leisure, shut off from the temptations of the outside world.
But she feels totally isolated in this life of security and ease. She constantly moves in a world of dream but leads a very boring and mechanical existence. She is not involved in any activity and is totally cut off from the mainstream of life. Her girdles and fillets faintly shine like seas lighted by the mellow lights of the setting sun. Her dress looked like the morning mist and is embroidered richly with threads of gold and shining like opal, gold and amethyst.
The lady behind the veil lives a very safe and secure life, well-guarded from the stolen glances of the wicked persons, from the Sun, and even from the loving or gentle touch of the wind. She finds herself extremely secure behind the windows carved in fascinating designs and patterns of her room. She is hidden from the eyes of the world as jewels are hidden by the peak of a turban. She is also unknown to the external world as secrets are hidden in a lover’s breast.
The pardah nashin leads a sheltered life and no unauthorized person can unveil her hidden graces and charm. None can peep through the veil without the prior approval of her guardians. But all her security is of no use, for they cannot stop the progress f time. She is bound to be affected by the sorrows and sufferings of life, even in this over-protected life of isolation. The movement of the cruel time will ultimately make her face colourless and wrinkled. None can halt the stealthy march of time which will rob her of her happiness, and fill her eyes with tears.
The Poetess suggestively exposes the limitations of the pardah system and its conservative attitude towards women in this poem. It is the life of inertia, devoid of any life. It is not a life of ease, comfort and security. But a life of slavery, suffocation and inertia only. The poem is not a glorification but the condemnation of the very basis of the pardah system.
The poem underlines the limitations of the conventional pardah system in India. It is not the life of ease and security, but the life of loneliness, confinement and suffocation. The poem is a veiled satire on the pardah system which continues to be stumbling block in way of the emancipation of the pardah nashin in India.
Analysis of The Pardah Nashin
‘The Pardah Nashin’ expresses Naidu’s views about the traditional institutions that restrict the rights of woman. It is developed in three stanzas of six lines each, with the rhyme scheme of ababcc, efefgg.
The poem expresses Naidu’s sense of enchantment for the lavish mode of living of the aristocratic ‘The Pardah Nashin’ Muslim women, with whom she has been familiar. In fact she does not praise the custom of pardah, rather criticizes it.
In the first stanza Naidu talks about the life of a woman in Pardah, as is languid and isolated, fearless, because of pardah. Her girdles and fillets are shining in the pardah like sunset on sea. Her clothing is like a mourning water vapor, shot opal, gold and amethyst.
In the second stanza, Naidu describes the protected life of Muslim woman. She is protected from thieving light of impure eyes, from coveting sun or wind. Her days are guarded and secure in her lattices. Her life is as if, a turbaned crest or secrets in a lover’s mind.
In the last stanza, Naidu expresses sorrows of Muslim woman living in Pardah nashin. There are no horrid to unsanctioned, unveil the mysteries of her grace. Only time is there to uncover her sorrow, which is seen on her face. At the end, Naidu ask questions that who will prevent subtle years of her life and who will protect her life from tears.
In the present poem, Sarojini Naidu expresses sorrows and pains of Muslim woman, hidden in the pardah nashin life and which are unknown to the world. Pardah not only hides the freedom of a woman, according to Naidu but rather it binds woman in a miserable life. In the poem Naidu has used stone symbols, such opal, and amethyst to refer to the beauty of woman hidden in the pardah. The image of mist is referred to her cloths.
The social and reformative zeal is voiced in this poem. It has been widely criticized for its alleged glorification of pardah but the close reading of this poem brings the message that Naidu does not approve the pardah, institution, the ill of contemporary society. She fought against pardah, child marriage and other customs of by-gone age. Hers is a reformative attitude against the institution of pardah. She fought for the plight and wretched condition of the women in her whole life and the spirit behind it is to build strong and progressive India.
The poem depicts living of the aristocratic ‘pardah nashin’ Muslim women with whom she has been familiar and friendly. In fact, she does not praise the custom of pardah; but expresses her anguish and indirectly criticizes it. The reformative zeal clearly asserts when she brings the relevance between the pardah system and education. She has written, ‘All my life I have lived in a Mohammedan region of a country which is regarded as a stronghold of the pardah and I realize what a calamity would follow a premature and total abolition of the system’. She believes that the education will abolish this custom. She reveals; ‘I hold that the crowning triumph of education will be the complete emancipation of Indian womanhood. In the fullness of time, like a splendid and full blown flower, she will emerge from the protecting sheath of her pardah’. The poem opens with the description of beauty and splendor of the pardah nashin. Her world is the world of courtesy and charm in which they with gem-studded ornament remain in state of perpetual relaxation. But the poet’s fascination for the pardah world cannot be taken to imply that she approves of this kind of life for Indian women. She is intensely aware of a world of inner frustration and pain. Her heart is filled with sympathy for such women who are compelled to lead an artificial life of isolation and loneliness. The poet acquaints us with a pathetic condition of such woman:
But though no hand unsanctioned dares
Unveil the mysteries of her grace,
Time lifts the curtain unawares,
And sorrow looks into her face…
The poem shows just the poet’s fascination for the mysterious pardah world and to be fascinated is not necessarily to approve of it. Thus, Naidu’s anti-pardah attitude has a purpose to sanction freedom to women from social taboos and make them aware about the self-respect.