Combating Communalism in a Quest for Harmony: A Study of Esther David’s The Man with Enormous Wings
Feelings of distinctiveness on the basis of religion widen the gap among the followers of different religions. This feeling gets promoted by the customs, rituals, and cultural practices of respective religions, which function as their identity markers. Accordingly, the existence of Temples, Mosques, Churches, Gurudwaras, and Synagogues enable people to feel distinct from others in India. Generally, every religion aims at preserving its unique cultural ethos in various ways, which becomes justified when it is done without harming the sentiments of other religions. But when the people of religion start turning intolerant towards a religion which is not their own, becomes problematic. This religious fundamentalism leads to clashes among the conflicting ideologies of religions. Although the Preamble of the Indian Constitution states it a secular state, feelings of communal hatred resulting in communal clashes are evident even after the independence of India between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Such a state of mind and instances are the biggest obstacles for the growth of the individuals, and for the development of any country and society at large. They are the considerable obstructions for the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of individuals in any multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious state especially for India which is known for unity in diversity since ancient times.
In her novel, The Man with Enormous Wings, Esther David portrays various events and stories which result from the burning of the train (Sabarmati Express) in Godhra (Gujarat) in 2002. Godhra is a place inhabited by the Muslim majority when the Sabarmati Express arrives here laden with Hindu passengers some anti-social elements use kerosene canisters and burn the train. When the train reaches Sabarmati full of burnt carcasses, the Hindus get infuriated and turn into frenzied mobs, and wherever they find a Muslim, they stab, burn alive or kill him/her mercilessly. The only consistent characters in the novel are the narrator and the old man with enormous wings who remain helpless in averting such massacres.
In this paper, I am going to explore the feeling of insecurity, violence and communal tension in Esther David’s novel, The Man with Enormous Wings (2010). Besides depicting the distance between the self and the other, it also projects the quest of a minority community i.e. Jews for peace and harmony struck between two confronting majoritarian communities.
The old man with enormous wings has been viewed by the other characters in the novel as the representation of Mahatma Gandhi. However, the old man has been depicted as helpless and an extremely upset soul, who feels ashamed of seeing his people killing each other. He laments over the fierce bloodthirsty attitude of the people. The novelist advocates the necessity of sometimes forgotten Gandhian principles like non-violence, truthfulness, love, and universal brotherhood for propagating peace and communal harmony.
This paper also highlights the novelist championing the humanitarian values for the larger well-being of society.