A River Sutra
The Balance Between Family Attachment and Detachment Throughout “The Monk’s Story” and “The Teacher’s Story”
Gita Mehta, one of the most well known authors in Indian literature, is the author of the novel “A River Sutra”. One of the primary characteristics of Mehta’s work is her capacity to exanimate and explore the human psychology and its limits, with the purpose of communicating an overall message or moral to the reader. To accomplish this, the author introduces a unique and interesting technique based on interconnected framed stories, where each one of them has it’s own personal conflict regarding love, desire and family. Moreover, this paper seeks to study and compare both “The Monk’s Story” and “The Teacher’s Story” by linking them and developing the significance of family in each one of them, but more specifically, to demonstrate the balance between personal attachment and detachment.
Primarily, regarding the topic of detachment, “The Monk’s Story” presents an internal conflict between family values with duty and wealth. By being the son of a rich merchant, the monk has always been granted the opportunity of luxury and privilege. Nevertheless, he has never found himself fulfilled or completely pleased by it. It was when the character finally got to see the hunger and poverty in the world that he realizes the impact that money has in his life and how it causes impartiality between his family and relationships. Everyone around him expect for him to follow his father’s business and be another wealthy man who will continue spending instead of investing in a better world. This unfortunate event clarifies the monk’s mind and makes him realize that wealth has completely taken and replaced the role and the values of a family. Furthermore, the personal detachment of the monk can be seen all along the chapter, but an excellent explanation of the character’s honest thoughts can be seen in this citation: “For the first time… hates most, violence.”(Mehta, 1993, p.25-26). Here, the excellent description and diction emphasize the opinion and point of view of the monk towards the life he lives in, revealing a sense of disappointment and discontent. Likewise, Gita Mehta chooses this protagonist to make the narration reliable, seeing that he is the only one who can thoroughly communicate the idea and its significance.
Moreover, the topic of detachment in “The Teacher’s Story” can be similarly contrasted with the previous tale. The character of Master Mohan finds himself unmotivated and despondent towards his family, due to the fact that his wife and kids only care about wealth, eradicating any chance of living in a loving and caring environment. This situation is the product of a past economic occurrence, where Master Mohan’s wife didn’t receive the inheritance of her father’s death, bringing major anger and disagreement into the marriage. As much as the protagonist wanted to, he could no longer provide money by using his true talent and passion, music, because of his severe tuberculosis, forcing him to become a teacher and give music lessons. This business couldn’t provide the lifestyle her wife and children wished for, making him a daily victim of verbal abuse from the people who were meant to love him unconditionally. As a result of his family’s materialism, Master Mohan does not longer have the patience or caring for them, provoking him to enter a desperate state which would lead into an entire emotional detachment. Unfortunately, he no longer had the love or support of a family; no glimmer of hope that would prevent him from committing suicide and ending his life. In order to illustrate his obnoxious lifestyle, in chapter four: “Prevented by pride… to be quiet.” (Mehta, 1993, p. 56-57) the author decides to use the omniscient narrator of Tariq Mia to tell the story, seeing that he is attracted and understanding of the verisimilitudes of the human life. Also, Mehta decides to use long sentences and rich vocabulary in order to infiltrate the reader’s psyche and make them analyze, debate and compare the circumstances between the monk and Master Mohan.
On the other hand, after both characters had accepted their detachment from their families, they now had this emptiness inside them that could only be fulfilled by the true passions their respective relatives and desire for money had kept locked away for years. In the case of “The Monk’s Story”, the monk didn’t feel quite satisfied with his family beliefs and values, until he finally accomplished to unveil his true self through the power of belief and religion. He found the attachment he was looking for in Jainism, a religion that gave him the chance of being who he truly wanted to be by conserving and taking care of everything surrounding him. Furthermore, he sees that life is not a smooth path but one full of hardships and sorrows, and instead of rejecting it, he embraces its flaws and accepts it exactly how it is, giving him the opportunity of choosing his path in life. A universal phrase that thoroughly summarizes this entire occurrence is the one the author gives us at the beginning of the chapter: “I have loved just one thing in my life.” (Mehta, 1993, p. 14). Here, we can implicitly deduce that everything the monk had ever been given in his life hadn’t had much importance like the fact that he could finally be with himself throughout Jainism, the only side of himself that he has truly ever loved. By using simple and concise sentences like this, Mehta allows the reader to have a more personal interpretation towards the text, creating a greater link and impact between the story and its audience.
In opposition to the kind of alternative attachment “The Monk’s Story” has with religion, “The Teacher’s Story” offers a new affectionate connection with the most symbolic feature in the tale: music. As it was discussed previously, Master Mohan had a deep love for music, but due to his illness, he had to leave great part of it behind. Remarkably, the teacher reconnects and finds his new family in the young character of Imrat, a blind boy with a tough life but with an astonishing and angelic voice. Likewise, the teacher and the boy quickly develop a legendary bond and rapidly gain fame and money together, bringing to Master Mohan the greatest and most rewarding feeling of happiness in his entire life. Just like the monk, Master Mohan gets to be the person he always wanted to be and finds his own self within the child, attaching all his buried emotions into his desire and longing dream. To elaborate the profound relationship between both characters, Gita Mehta uses powerful and descriptive adjectives in order for the reader to visualize the scene, for example: “Somehow Master Mohan… for the world.” (Mehta, 1993, p. 67-68). Also, the author uses a happy and relaxed tone to describe how Master Mohan starts to take care and treat Imrat as family, as well as the joy he receives by being finally completed by the power of music.
After thoroughly analyzing and contrasting two of Gita Mehta’s frame stories, we can conclude that the author accomplished to create a strong relationship between them with the help of literary terms and a thematic so valuable such as family. Even though the poor music loving character of Master Mohan had a sad resolution, while the rich and religious character of the monk accomplished all his aspirations; they both had the unique opportunity of interchanging family ethics for fulfilling and aspiring passions that would build them into being the people they sincerely wanted to be. Truly, “A River Sutra” manages to highlight how the human psychology can’t deny the external influences of aspects such as religion, faiths and relationships; and at the same time how it detaches from others such as family and the materialistic world. With this, the author of this culturally acclaimed novel extends a hand to the reader, uncovering the strong ethics and character of the Indian society and its beliefs.