The story picchi (madness) presents a dilemma that has engulfed a family. The protagonist in this story is Ramana and the antagonist is his mother Damayanti. Ramana’s father was not lucky because Damayanti, his second wife, had turned mad.
The first wife had hanged herself. Misfortunes were following Ramana’s father closely but fortunately he was lucky enough to have had a son with the second wife before she turned mad. The story is narrated ten years after Damiyanti went mad; “Recover? I have no hopes that she will; she’s been mad these ten years” (Tharu and Lalita 359). This implies that by the time the story is being narrated, Ramana is ten years of age. It is worth noting that at this age he had not yet seen his mother even for once but he was pretty aware of the condition of his mum. Unfortunately or fortunately, at this age he had a rough picture of how his mum probably was, “He didn’t know what to think.
She-his mother-that person-would probably have dirty, matted hair and would be wearing tattered clothes” (Tharu and Lalita 359); and this fact really scared him, “That madwoman, what is she to me? I have never even seen her all my life!” (Tharu and Lalita 359). It is evident that the ten years that Damayanti had been mad, the family suffered much. When Damayanti was accepted by the family as a daughter in law, she was popular among the family members: “she had been obedient and hardworking” (Tharu and Lalita 361). The family members were optimistic of her recovery even after all the ten years of madness: “she might get better if she sees the child; after all, she has to be cured somehow and brought home” (Tharu and Lalita 359). At the age of ten years, Ramana is subconsciously aware of the condition of his mum and the need for her to come home.
At this age, it is also significant to point out that a child starts to be aware of his position in the society. The fact that the society is fully aware that Ramana’s mother was mad must have made Ramana uneasy. Probably Ramana had a hard time before his age mates. It was narrated in the story that one time some kids along with Ramana were laughing and jeering at a mad woman. He was embarrassed by this action.
There was also this moment when Naraidu told the class about Ramana’s mother. By then Ramana was still new in school and it must have cost him a lot of psychological torture. It was clear that Ramana’s father could not go for another wife. The family was banking on the recovering of Damayanti so they could bring her back to the family. It is made clear in the story that Sundaramma did not always talk much in relation to Damayanti especially in the presence of Ramana.
Nevertheless, Ramana was able to pick few fragments of information which he coined together to form some vague opinion about his mother. The reaction of the society does not come out explicitly but it is clear that Raman was affected and embarrassed by the fate which had befallen his mum. This kind of embarrassment would probably have far reaching effects on his personal life. It was clear that Ramana was at not at ease with the way he was viewed by the society. In the story, it is revealed that whenever people went on a journey to Madras, among the places they had to visit was the mental hospital specifically to see or say hallo to Damayanti. It is very possible that these constant visitations of the villagers were a constant reminder of the misfortune that had befallen Ramana. It is, therefore, right to argue that whenever the villagers went to Madras, Ramana was somehow reminded of his mother thus the visitations acted as a constant reminder of the situation that had befallen him. The fact that all the villagers including his age mates knew about his mother put him (Ramana) in a vulnerable position.
It could be very easy for him to feel pitied. This could in turn lower his self esteem especially if somebody decided to make a joke out of his mother in his presence. Such a situation, fortunately, did not happen in the story.
The village does not seem to alienate Ramana because of his mother but instead the society seems to take a collect responsibility to ensure that Damayanti is getting cured. It can be assumed that if Damayanti could have recovered within the narration, then all the villagers could have made a big party together with the family of Ramana. Conclusively, the story of picchi can be viewed as a suspense narration which ends without even hinting well what could happen to Damayanti.
Through the narration of the story, Ramana is depicted as a disturbed child who gets a lot of support from his grandmother and the villagers in general. Ramana has good relations with the society and the society was not shown scolding or mistreating him thus he developed positively in his values.
Tharu, Susie and Lalita, Ke. Women Writing in India: The twentieth century. New York, NY: Feminist Press, 1993. Print.