‘A Stench of Kerosene’ is a fundamental representation of how customs and traditions can become ruthless pressures in life, causing individuals to make complex decisions, for their security in the community on terms of culture and traditions. ‘A Stench of Kerosene’, by Amrita Pritam, follows the turbulent marriage of Manak and Guleri. As a consequence of Guleri’s infertility, Manak’s mother is obliged to wed him to a second bride, in order for Manak to bear a son under his name, and abide by the well followed traditions of his ancestors, and other members of the community, so as for him not to become an outcast of the society.
Manak, is then forced to marry ‘the second bride’ against his own will, and this causes Guleri to become a victim of a catastrophic and traditional suicide, by smouldering herself with lethal Kerosene, and setting herself ablaze. Manak then becomes a cold, hateful character, and even rejects his own child as he claimed that the boy had a stench of kerosene.
This story is an obvious critique of the Indian way of life, which is followed, and based on traditions, which at any cost must be fulfilled, for one to live in amity.
Manak, in this case, is the victim of this great oppression, as he loved his first wife sincerely, and was defeated by the pressure imposed upon him by his mother. The Story follows a number of different aspects and traditions that are implemented and closely followed by Indians in an Indian community.
Points such as the disregard for women are cunningly incorporated in this tale of love and loss, and clearly portrayed as part of the stories plot. For example, a tradition, which has been clearly condemned throughout this story, is the fact that clearly in an Indian community, the woman is not given any respect or value.
She is brought and sold, this is a point, which is clearly underlined when Manak’s mother pays a sum of 500 rupees, to acquire him a second wife. Guleri is obviously oppressed as a woman in different ways, for example the fact that she is only permitted to see her parents only once a year. This is obviously another oppression towards her. The story not only focuses on sexism and oppression, however other minor issues such as superstition and other lesser customs are tackled during the events of this story, for example the customs that are completed when the harvest season ensues, ‘ The girls would have new clothes made for the occasion.
Their dupattas would be dyed The story obviously projects Manak’s trepidation, and vulnerable personality, as he fears conversing with his mother upon the matter of marriage, as he perceptibly fears her, and recognizes that she is also a victim of tradition, and in order for her to become a respected member of the community she, and her son, must pursue the tradition of bearing a child. We can tell from the text that Manak and Guleri’s marriage was a successful marriage, until the mother’s unwanted interference. This is expressed through Manak’s pleads for Guleri to postpone her annual visit to her parents this time.
This obviously showed his dread, which obviously sheds some light upon the fact that they were content. The flute in the story has some kind of significance, and may symbolize the contentment and bliss of this couple or lack of it, as it is obviously a ritual for each of them to play this delightful instrument of joy on exultant occasions. For instance, on Guleri’s departure, Guleri is ecstatic, and so desires playing the flute, however we realize that Manak does not crave to play this instrument, and when attempts to, makes ‘a strange anguishing wail’, which possibly emphasizes his deep despondency.
The disastrous suicide, is also an Hindu custom, for when a female loses her husband, becomes a widow, symbolically, and traditionally, she commits suicide by setting herself alight. Guleri did not physically lose her husband, as he was not dead, however, Guleri had been severed from her dear husband in an alternative direction, and so symbolically committed suicide. This also Highlights Guleri’s immense love for her husband, and her deep melancholy at her husbands separation.
The deplorable suicide is also emphasized by Manak’s reaction to this ill-fated news, and the fact that he even discards his long awaited child, and claims that the redundant, has a stench of kerosene, this is a great emphasis on how poignant this occurrence was, and how it provoked him to become a despondent character. This story is a great emphasis upon how priceless relationships can be, and how true devotion can initiate individuals in to fateful actions. This story also illustrates that even though some traditions and customs in India, and how sexual discrimination can lead to oppression.
The story is an insight in to the sexism of the Indian traditions which have represented woman in the society in a different light, and how they can be mistreated, and how these tyranny infested customs can oppress woman. A custom that has been highlighted as ‘Bride price’ clearly illustrates the way women are discriminated. Women can now be priced rather than paid a dowry to, and even then the bride cannot spend it for the sake of her leisure, in fact her family are obliged to use it as a result of poverty. Guleri has not only been oppressed because of her
However the fact that she is only permitted to visit her parents once a year is also a great oppression on her as a person Obviously the west has altered Amerita Pritam’s ideas of oppression and tyranny, and has taken her world for granted, and has allowed herself to become a victim of the west different ideas. She has not recalled the fact that there are some important points to poverty, and to traditional Ethics. So I think that this story really portrays the message of valuing certain articles, whether materialistic or sentimental we take for granted.