MISS MALATI, ESSAYED BY SANEA SHEIKH
Ring by Zariin
Blazer is by S&S by Shreeja & Shweta
Sari and blouse by Marg by Soumitra Mondal
Miss Malati is one of the most contemporary characters created by Munshi Premchand. I identified with her when I was a college girl and I deeply appreciate her now.
One of the two daughters of a wealthy father and having studied medicine in London, Malati possesses spirit, courage and determination. In the beginning, the author sets the trap for his readers to label her as a lightheaded flirt by showing her interacting boldly with men, either by teasing them or by making a mockery of their behavior, wearing high heels and by juxtaposing her with a righteous housewife of one of her ardent admirers, Govindi. By doing so, he throws light on our incessant propensity to stereotype people.
Malati has a romanticised view of Philosophers that attracts her to Mr. Mehta, a highly learned and philanthropic person. Perhaps to gain proximity with Mr. Mehta, Malati gets involved in working with the impoverished villagers and her path crosses with that of the Hori and his family.
She finds fulfillment in serving the poor and credits Mr. Mehta to turn her interest towards service when she was getting immersed in pursuit of mindless luxury. She consults poor patients without any charge and is kind with them but is unable to forgo her interest in clothing, cosmetics and fine dressing “to let go of colour-powder was more tough for her than her internal, intrinsic changes”.
In her interactions with poor village women, she tries to understand their deep sense of sacrifice. Though she finds herself appreciating these women and feels embarrassed about her own excessive lifestyle, she also realises that by erasing their individuality, these women were doing disservice towards the future generations, “agreed, that men are cruel but they are the sons of these women. Why do they not educate them to respect women? Perhaps because these women have lost their sense of self worth and identity. No, it would not do to erase yourself. For the welfare of society, the women will have to fight for their personal rights.”
Another aspect of her personality comes into light when Mr. Mehta proposes marriage to her and professes himself to be a jealous lover who, if she ever falls in love with another man, would not hesitate to kill her and himself. Here Malati rejects this, up until now, much sought after proposal as she feels that “love is above the pettiness of doubt. It is not a thing of body but of the soul. There is no place of doubt in love and violence is a result of doubt. It requires surrender.”
She clearly states that she is serving the poor not because she is selfless rather because she puts her own joys first. She sings to please her own soul and not because it is helping the listeners. When, a much-chastened Mehta, proposes marriage again, she flatly refuses, “by setting up a small house hold, we will just imprison our souls and forfeit all chances of merging with the infinite. Rare are the humans who, with heavy chains of domestic responsibility, are able to tread the path of progress. Though I agree that for an absolute growth, family and sacrifice is important, but I don’t feel I possess the strength to walk this path when I am confronted with maternal love as, I’m convinced, it will shrink my world. Mehta, I refuse to pull you downwards. The world needs selfless people like you today, along with yours make my life relevant as well.”
The reader watches intently as Mehta touches Malati’s feet in deep reverence for an evolved nurturer who is committed to progress and growth. They remain friends and enablers to each other’s ambitions.