According to the Vaishnavite philosophy, both physical sensuality and transcendental love exist together in men. Sensuality fancies on the mental and physical longing. Sexual desire can never be content and is vulnerable to harm and destruction. Itever stays anxious with its longing for the changing external plain and lowly things. But the perpetual tranquil and happiness with some kind of consciousness (nitya-anand), which will prevail eternally rooted, will never ever change its archetype and will never be torn and separated away, and that philosophy is ‘prem’ (transcendental love). In prem there is not a thing called ruin or destruction. Jahera’s dedicated devotion is in the form of prem. Sexual desire has no role in Jahera. Anganghal, who ever finds enchantment in beauty, describes the beauty of Jahera’s physical feature and posture just for the sake of it. The way she showed respect with awe to young Amir, was about to drop fainting in front of Ibemcha and Gopal, was so embarrassed and mortified as if she had committed sin when Kunjo touched her feet, and tried to keep away from her brother-in-law when he perpetrated excesses towards her, observing all these we can reason that Jahera had no mind for physical desire. Her ‘dedicated devotion’ for each other is devoid of physical desire and sexual sensuality. This the novel unveils in the last part. Jahera said, “In ‘dedicated devotion’ for each other there is no separation. In union there is predicament, don’t you think?” Further she said, “If the dedicated devotion is going to be diminished, I will never ever go for the union of romantic love” (p 270). Jahera’s ‘dedicated devotion’ for each other, where there is no separation, no diminution and no predicament is the archetype of prem.
Just to insert this high philosophy, Anganghal makes Jahera get converted into Hinduism. It is not that he converted her into Hinduism just because he loves Hinduism. This is an elegant trait Anganghal added in building up Jahera’s character just to show vividly that Jahera was a woman of worthy virtue, high philosophy, with a sense of piety and love for humanity, who was fond of non-violence too. Thus, Jahera’s wish to be converted into a Hindu the author did not let it occur after she met Kunjo. He shows it as an element that she was born with her love for it.
In the fourth chapter, from the talks between Tom Miya and Fatima, we can understand that Jahera had already had her Hindu manners in her life before she met Kunjo. Fatima said, “From before, she barely likes our way of life. Can’t say if she intends to convert herself into a Hindu. She never eats meat our kind of food, does not even touch eggs, and takes bath daily; what a thing, it’s just amazing. It seems she doesn’t approve those things heart and soul. How many times she fights with her mother because her mother doesn’t take bath! She never has participated in feasts and get-together occasions with food since the time she saw the world” (p 14). From this we can ascertain that Jahera followed the creed of a Hindu since the time she understood the world. And Muslim ways were what ‘she disapproved heart and soul.’ Indeed, that Jahera had Hindu ways of a living was not due to anyone’s instigation; it was what she genuinely liked, her own mind’s instinct. It is something like how in Ramayana, Mandodari, Sarma, Trijta and others in the land of demons became Rama’s devotees, not conforming to the usual traditions and habits of food and drink of the demons; that is how Muslim maiden Jahera followed the creed and traits of a Hindu as she herself genuinely loved to. However, Jahera who loved to be a Hindu since birth did not aspire to marry Hindu youth Kunjo when she was in love with him. She renounced her personal inclination for the cause of some high ideals. Jahera, by virtue of her own resolve became a Hindu more ardently than what Kunjo was by tradition from birth; but she could make a breakthrough in the artificial man-made differences among the castes and races. If viewed at the individual inner level it was love between Hindu woman Jahera who became a Hindu through her own craftsmanship and Hindu Kunjo who had been initially a Hindu from birth. Thus conceivably enough, it did not need a further meaning of an open union for the sake of a paradigm. “Thus this novel of Anganghal is not meant for an open challenge against the society’s tradition, rather is a protest of the inner depth, a war of the heart, a war against the society. As she had already been able to have performed a wishful purpose against the society, it would have gone the same for Jahera without being near Kunjo. As there was a forceful pulsation of becoming a revolutionist in her heart, she could carry out such a great aet of renunciation.”
Indeed, Jahera was a real revolutionist. She was a woman who could challenge the tradition of the society. Thus it will be wrong for us to view Anganghal as one who could not put hands against the social convention of division among castes and races. One can comprehend this notion analysing Jahera’s character. Jahera is seen as a weak and plain girl short of strength. In this world they were only the two, the widow mother and the daughter, they had none else. Their lives were the naked wicker flames against the strong wind. But Jahera’s heart was more solid hard than the stone even. At the ending part Jahera said to Kunjo, “This girl Jahera by name is a weak girl. But you don’t know, isn’t it, that she doesn’t change a decision her mind had already made up.” This is the truth. Therefore, she as a non-believer kafir could stand against orthodox Islam religion. She did become a Hindu. With this reason, they expelled her from the Muslim society. She endured the pain and sorrow due of it. Not only was she able to become a Hindu on her own and challenge against Islam religion, but could she keep strong and firm the genuine, wilful and wishful determination that emerged from the corner of her heart; she could let her mother take bath regularly, she forced sister Ibemcha to teach her how to put chandan mark. At this genuine nature of hers, kind hearted Amir admired Jahera’s nonviolent trait in front of all; he appealed to bring a ban on eating meat and fish. She could as well let her brother-in-law, the tailor, at Sadiya, to follow the Hindu ways to some extent. It is hard to convince ourselves that a Muslim woman, the daughter of a widow, during the days before the World War II, is enabled to stand challenging against the strict regulations of the Muslim society and their religion. However, Anganghal had the courage, the competence, the ability and the strength for the challenge. It will be wrong to judge that Anganghal, who could openly challenge the Islam religion, would not be able to bring the union of Jahera and Kunjo of different races, caste and creed in this novel. Anganghal’s is a venture to show the feature of an essence of love, where it would do without union, of a quintessence, which is higher than love itself. It is an attempt to show the analogy of the two, the philosophy of Kunjo’s materialistic love that he wished it should end with union and the highphilosophy of Jahera’s kind of esteemed love, effused with an inner quintessence of transcendence.
Jahera died for a philosophy higher than love. The philosophy Jahera instituted up, after she was killed, after her soul was sacrificed, remained immortal. It is just a matter only that Kunjo happened to be the cause or agent of Jahera’ s death. The main philosophy of man’s life is that his or her idea remains after death and is accepted by people. Like in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, although Caesar was assassinated, Caesar’s spirit (his thoughts, Caesarism) remained alive, although Kunjo murdered Jahera, Jahera’s philosophy of love remained alive. Death cannot be the last judgement of life. With Jahera’s death we are not to place the judgement of right or wrong on the novel. After Jahera died, Jahera’s thoughts, vision and determination of life met no damage or destruction. Rather they became clearer and more beautiful. After she died, Hindus and Muslims both realised the exemplar of her high love and renunciation. They began to regard her as rare and valuable, began to love her fondly and began to feel remorse. Thus the entire Muslims said, “The Meiteis who act themselves as pure although impure, only recoil from us Muslims. Let us search for the two kids; we will rear them up wrapped in gold, it is their fate that things have happened, what else can we do there. We of the entire big village declare, we are here for them ” (p 274). As concluding lines of the story the novelist brings in words and terms like ‘to be of the same unity pull’, ‘not to regard the other race as obnoxious’, ‘The Bond of Love between Meiteis and Muslims Day’ in a clear footing. So Dr. P. Nabachandra comments, “The culminating adage of Jahera is ‘live together’ and ‘be friendly’. It is the offering of the two hearts to the fire of the ritual sacrificial act (jnajna) which was inaugurated for this end.” The one who brought up the notion of living together and being friendly to each other strongly, firmly and in a good shape of high ideals is Jahera, Jahera’s renunciation (tyag) and transcendent love (prem). All everything goes fine, but one unpleasant thing at the end of the novel is Anganghal did not let Kunjo die. We cannot but feel that the novel must have been regarded more beautiful if Kunjo died piercing the dagger himself after killing Jahera. However, as I cogitate, I cannot believe any longer that Kunjo would be able to remain alive after Jahera’s death. The concluding lines indicate that Anganghal very carefully and secretively gives the hint that Kunjo would have definitely planned to kill himself too – “Kunjo cleaned the blood on the edge of the dagger on his left palm; half gazing at Jahera he stared at the dagger; he raised his face towards the space above; he, like a mad man, had a faint smile. His lips and mouth quivered, but no sound came out, although it seemed he did speak; the tips of his teeth-line could be visible. He stood up abruptly.” It is a sure thing, Kunjo must have died. The two souls would have met in heaven only.
- Anganghal : Jahera 1991
- Aruna, Dr Nahakpam: “Samajik Samasya Neinaba Upanyas Ama Oina Mahakavi gee Jahera, (paper yet to be published), 1991
- Dinamani, Dr : Al1gollgha/: SWIlC!i ut/1odi Sanskrif)l. pp28229, 1992
- Singh, Dr P Nabachandra: ‘Upanyas amusung Rachana’, Seminar Naharo1 Sahitya Premmee Samiti, 1992
The writer is a noted columnist and critic of Manipuri literature