Shashi Deshpande is an Indian feminist writer who is known for her stories on marriage, family life and the toil of Indian women cloistered by the pressure and expectation of society at large. She has often used her own experiences and translated them into her stories.
Jaya – a Civilized Girl
This story is based on the life of the protagonist named Jaya. Even as young girl Jaya has always been curious, clever and sprightly. Different from the conventions, she has always been advised her grandmother to behave more like a civilized and cultured girl i.e. skilled at domestic chores, etc.
She should be more accommodating and understanding like other girls as they all have to go to their in-laws’ house one day and use such powers of adjustment and compromise.
After some time, Jaya gets married to Mohan, a family friend. Mohan is placed really well in a comfortable job and they begin the new chapter of their life together. Soon Mohan gets transferred to Bombay and the young couple has to relocate to the city of Bombay.
They adjust nicely to the new city and are blessed with a son named Rahul and a daughter named Rati. Jaya’s life is devoted to her husband and kids and she finds solace in their care. However, the bliss does not last long as Mohan is embroiled in the allegations of forgery at his workplace.
He is named in the official inquiry along with his friend and principle culprit, Agarwal. Mohan and Jaya are advised to move from their place in Churchgate, Bombay to an impoverished flat in Dadar. They move into the dingy place leaving the kids with the neighbors.
They are visited by their relatives in their new house especially Jaya’s sister Kusum, who is grieving after a recent split from her husband. Her afflictions have a negative impact on the family life of Jaya and Mohan.
Meanwhile, they are hit financially as the inquiry causes Mohan to lose his job. At his juncture, he needs Jaya’s comforting words and presence but Jaya finds it hard to shares his grief. Their relationship is strained and they both grow apart.
One day Jaya’s brother Ravi sees her in the market and comments on her husband’s state. When Mohan learns about his brother-in-law harsh words he develops further rancor with his wife.
They become so estranged that Mohan eventually leaves the house and Jaya. Jaya is troubled by her ghosts of the past, difficult childhood memories, dashed hopes as a Writer, disappointment in the grooming of her kids, etc.
Lone and depressed Jaya realizes her fault in not helping her husband when he needed her support and encouragement and rather stranding him at his hour of need.
To make things worse even her son Rahul goes missing and she is left devastated. She is helped and consoled by her neighbors and friends but she finds it difficult to find her lost peace.
The Long Silence
She recognizes that the ‘long silence’ that had crept between the two and how it destroyed their mutual trust and communication. Furthermore, she recognizes the long silence within herself that she had been neglecting since her childhood.
Things do take an upbeat turn when she gets a telegram from Mohan informing her of his imminent return. Even the inquiry at work is completed and he gives a reprieve.
In the end, Jaya transforms into a new woman after going through a period of struggle, doubt, and loneliness. She feels determined to never again let such ‘long silence’ come between the two or within herself.