‘Cry, the Peacock’ by Anita Desai

It is a story of a young girl named Maya who was surrounded by childhood prophecy of disaster. Maya is an extremely sensitive married girl. Her husband’s name is Gautama. She was alone at home with only her father who was a lawyer with her after the death of her mother and her brother having gone to America to carve his own independent destiny. She got all the attention from her father. After her marriage, she expected the same from her husband who also was a lawyer. But being a busy man, he failed to meet her demands. The excessive love Maya got from her father made her have a feeling that the world is a toy especially made for her, painted in her favorite colors and set moving according to her tunes. Seeing her morbidity, her husband warns her of turning neurotic and blames her father for spoiling her.

Although the reason for Maya’s neurosis is not her father but persistent obsession of the prediction by the albino astrologer of death either for her or her husband within four years of their marriage. The terrifying words of the prediction, like the drumbeats of the mad demon of Kathakali ballets, ring in her ears and unnerve her. She knows that she is haunted by a black and evil shadow, her fate and the time has come. And four years it is now. It was no. it was now to be either Gautama or she.

The loving attention of her father makes Maya oblivious of the deadly shadow, but as her husband fails to satisfy her intense longing for love and life, she is left to the solitude and silence of the house which prey upon her. She muses over her husband’s lack of love for her and once, she told him straight to his face that how she wanted love and he did not understand. Temperamentally there is no compatibility between Maya and Gautama. Maya has romantic love for the beautiful, the colorful and the sensuous but Gautama is not romantic and has no use for flowers. The gap of communication between them leaves her lonely to brood over the morbid thoughts of the astrologer’s prophecy. Her attempts to divert herself by visits to her friend Leila and Pom or Mrs. Lal’s party or the restaurant and the cabaret , prove powerless to dispel the creeping terror. The visit of Gautama’s mother and sister Nila brings a brief respite to her and she enjoys her busy life in their company. But once they are gone she finds herself alone with her horrors and nightmares. Maya is so much disturbed by the prophecy that she always think about the prophecy accompanied by a peacocks cry. Listening to the cry of peacock in the rainy season made her realize that she should never sleep in peace. She knew she was going insane. Maya suffers from headaches and experiences rages of rebellion and terror. As she move towards insanity, she sees the vision of rats, snakes, lizards and iguanas creeping over her. Her dark house appeared like a tomb to her. In an interval of sanity, an idea struck her that since the astrologer predicted death to either of them, it may be Gautama not she whose life is threatened. Then she decides to kill him.

One usual day Gautama was much lost in his work, she asks him to accompany her to the roof of their house to enjoy cool air. He agreed and accompanied her to the roof lost in his own thoughts. Passing out of the room, Maya catches sight of bronze Siva dancing and prays to the Lord of Dance to protect them. Climbing the stairs she finds her cat suddenly speeding past them in a state of great alarm. They walk towards the terrace end. As Gautama move in front of her, she in a fit of frenzy pushes him over the parapet to pass through an immensity of air down to the very bottom, thereby terminating her struggle. It remains in the end for Gautama’s mother and sister to take away completely insane Maya from the scene of tragedy of the house of her father.

Reviewed by Aparna J. R.


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