Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 2 February 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Inside the Haveli: A Study

Anju Bala M.A., M. Phil., Ph.D. (Candidate)
Varun Gulati, M.A, M. Phil., Ph.D. (Candidate)

An Interesting Account of Indian Family

Inside The Haveli (1977), the only novel by the sociologist writer Rama Mehta, raises certain pertinent issues that need immediate attention and examination. John Kenneth Galbraith says that the novel presents "A wonderfully interesting account… women should not miss it; neither should men."

The title of the novel itself throws ample light on the issues and aspects that the novelist promises to explore in the novel that won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1979.

Traditional Ways and Modern Girl

Geeta, the protagonist is a girl born and brought up in Bombay. She had studied in co-educational college and had an exposure to metropolitan life. She comes to Udaipur as the nineteen-year-old bride of Ajay Singh, a professor of science. Ajay's ancestors were the ministers of the Ranas of Udaipur and their haveli, Jeevan Niwas, was one of the biggest and the most prestigious havelis of Udaipur. It is an immense cultural shock for a spontaneous, vivacious and educated girl like Geeta to adjust and adapt to the stringent and traditional ways of the haveli, wherein women kept purdah.

The moment she lands in Udaipur, she is chastised for being bare faced and made to realize that she is an outsider even by the maids of the haveli who had come singing to the railway station to receive the new bride:

"One of them came forward, pulled her sari over her face and exclaimed in horror, 'Where do you come from that you show your face to the world?' (P.17)

Geeta finds herself suddenly enclosed and encaged in a huge haveli where she is all the time surrounded by women. From a nuclear and educated family she has come to find a horde of maids, their children and women from other havelis who keep visiting one another on the slightest pretext in addition to her mother- in -law and grandmother- in -law. Malashri Lal opines:

"(M)arriage brought Geeta from the outer world of modernity to the enclosures of the threshold." (88)

Interesting Encounters

Another peculiar and intriguing factor she encounters is that there are different apartments for the males and females of the haveli. The servants have their separate quarters. The upper class women observe strict purdah and do not interact with their men folk during the day. The males conduct their business from their own separate apartments and their visits are announced beforehand. No such rules are applicable to the maids and servants. They intermingle freely and do their jobs:

"In their courtyard there is no dividing wall, the maids are free to talk to their husbands; they don't have to wait till the darkness of night settles over the haveli to share their thoughts with them." (P.06)

Even after two years of her marriage, Geeta has seen neither her father-in-law nor her grandfather-in-law, yet the whole haveli revolves round their needs and demands. Their presence is felt every moment in every nook and corner of the house.


Though the novel apparently appears to be all women novel and dominated by them, yet, in fact, it is the patriarch of the house whose will is command and not even a leaf can stir without his permission. All the activities of the haveli women, maids and servants are motivated to keep the males of the haveli satisfied:

"…In the haveli the men were regarded with awe as if they were gods. They were the masters and their slightest wish was a command; women kept in their shadow and followed their instructions with meticulous care." (P.21)

Getting Adjusted?

Geeta feels subdued and lonely in the haveli. Even the maids try to indoctrinate her in the ways and traditions of the three hundred year old house. Her movements are diffident and clumsy in the beginning. Moreover, she is a matter of curiosity for the women of other havelis as well. On the very first day the women had declared:

" . . . She will never adjust. She is not one of us." (P.29)

While her mother-in-law, on the other hand, wanted to show them that "even an educated girl can be moulded." (P.30) It was her mother-in-law's considerate and sympathetic attitude towards her, and the love and care of her husband that facilitate her adjustment to her new environment.

Gradually, she learns and comes to respect some of the traditions, yet her occasional outbursts are clearly indicative of the fact that she is not prepared to surrender her individuality completely. On being reminded by Dhapu, her personal maid, to restrain herself in showing affection towards her newborn daughter Vijay publicly, she bursts out:

"Stop lecturing me, I am fed up with all the pretence that goes on here' . . .I hate all this meaningless fuss! Don't tell me what I should do with my own child!' (P.32)

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Compounds in Tolkappiyam and Balavyakaranam - A Comparison | Automatic Nominal Morphological Recognizer and Analyzer for Sanskrit: Method and Implementation | A Critical Study of The Wasteland - Poetry as Metaphor | Communicative Language Teaching - An Overview | Cinema and the New Media | Culture and Second Language Learning and Teaching - An Exploration in Tamil | R. K. Narayan's Humour in Swami and Friends | Towards Meeting Global Challenge - Cyber Based Instruction in Foreign Language Teaching | Novel Technologies, Engines and Mobiles in Language Learning | Role of Language in Effective Managerial Communication | Pragmatic Analysis of Politeness Theory | The Varied Horizon of Multimedia & Web Tools for English Language Acquisition in the Information Age | Challenges and Problems in the Teaching of Grammar | Some Features of Tirukkural Telugu Translations | Issues of Social and Ideological Empowerment in Contemporary Indian Women Writing in English | Does Stress-Shift Lead to Word-Class Conversion in English? | Insight through Body Language and Non-verbal Communication References in Tirukkural | Think-Aloud Protocol -- Elicitation of Strategy Use and Solution to Learning Problem | Voice of the Voiceless: Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape and George Ryga's Indian - A Comparative Study | Inside the Haveli: A Study | HOME PAGE of February 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Varun Gulati M.A, M.Phil. Ph.D. (Candidate)
S.A. Jain Institute of Management & Technology
Ambala City-134003
Haryana, India

Anju Bala M.A, M.Phil. Ph.D. (Candidate)
Government College
Naraingarh (Ambala)
Haryana, India

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