Monday, April 8, 2013

Yama's Pots and Pans

Mukherjee talks about Vimla, a girl who Jasmine envied because of her wealth, and illustrates an important theme of widows, death, Yama, and the clay pitcher metaphor.  Jasmine narrates, “when he was twenty-one her husband died of typhoid, and at twenty-two she doused herself with kerosene and flung herself on a stove, shouting to the god of death, ‘Yama, bring me to you’” (15).  Vimla, a woman with wealth and a life worth living, took it fluidly; she soaked her skin in kerosene to escape a culture that stressed the importance of a man.  But the following line encapsulates Jasmine’s homeland; “The villagers say when a clay pitcher breaks, you see that the air inside it is the same as outside. Vimla set herself on fire because she had broken her pitcher; she saw there were no insides and outsides. We are just shells of the same Absolute” (15).  The element of air works smoothly with the nature of relationships and fire.  Air spreads sound, gives space or brings us closer, and is necessary for a spark to make a flame; but most pertinently the ‘air’ of the inside and outside refers to internal fortitude.  This personal strength battles external stress, pressures, and societal norms; becoming a widow obviously shook the life out of Vimla, but this sad story and image of a twenty-two year old lighting herself on fire registers a theme of a developing world’s homeland.  Later, in chapter 18, the clay pitcher metaphor is re-used. Mukherjee writes, “I thought, The pitcher is broken. Lord Yama, who had wanted me, who had courted me, and whom I flirted with on the long trip over, had now deserted me” (120).  Jasmine believed she would be unsuccessful in America by saying, “I had not given even a day’s survival in America a single thought. This was the place I had chosen to die, on the first day if possible” (120).  Mukherjee examines the pressures of feeling helpless by highlighting death and the seductive properties of Yama, draws attention to the plight of the Hindu woman.  The clay pitcher, which seperates the air of the outside and inside, represents the difficulty of pressure and the longing for death.  This seems to relinquish and relieve life for Vimla and Jasmine, but hopefully things brighten up for Jasmine in America, because things certainly got too bright for Vimla…   

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