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Arati, played by Madhabi Mukherjee (Mahanagar, 1963)


 In Joy Goswami’s poem, Nondor Ma, Dulali or Priyobala rues the uprooting of (presumably) the 1971 move from east to west Bengal. It is a forced uprooting of war and hunger. I recognize that. But Dulali comes to inhabit the predictable trope of woman as home. Women hold onto roots, to homes, to stable coordinates. It is taken to be the primary quality of femininity. The Masculine is mobile, empowered in its vitality, virility, unburdened, agile. The view of home from the world is essentially, I argue, the view of the masculine in locating the feminine - as redemption, as home, as return. Thus, the subaltern, the housewife, the migrant, the refugee is figured in our social science discourse as a feminized figure. They must all yearn for home. For what else could they want? They do not appreciate the pleasures of expanse, the bourgeois flaneur would say. But Ranciere and Arati and the sandwichman and the whore prove otherwise. 

Home for many is experienced as incarceration! The lonely wife in an opulent household, Charu in Ray’s Charulata negotiates her loneliness and incarceration in the first scene where she runs from window to window looking out onto the garden with her binoculars. It is these binoculars that make her being a little less suffocating. Of course, Charu can access the textual worlds of Bankim’s novels, being an educated woman and an avid reader.In Ray’s Mahanagar, Arati desperately seeks the expanse of the city – the camaraderies of other women at the workplace. In Tagore’s play Dakghar, Amal, a sick child, sits by the window and wonders at the magic of the world beyond. It is this beyond that creates the primary coordinates of home. And capital accentuates the promise of beyond.

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