The Weed by Amrita Pritam: Brief Analysis
Translated from Punjabi, The Weed is a story about Angoori , a young girl married off to an old man Prabhati who was the servant of the [narrator’s] neighbour’s neighbour. The story throws light on the condition of women in rural India – the marriage, their sexuality as well as their emotions. Although translated the story maintains a natural flow as well as the humour and the seriousness which are intertwined in this story maintains its flavour.
The writer is the narrator of the story and the entire story is told by Pritam who describes Angoori vividly . Angoori was married off at a young age but the union of the husband and wife was delayed by five years owing to her tender age as well as her mother’s ill-health. Angoori is seen to initially have her apprehensions regarding stepping out of purdah but slowly she steps out of it with confidence. She is described as a vivacious and garrulous girl who loves to talk about everything under the sun. Education according to Angoori is not meant for women- a condition added to this statement being that it is not meant for rural women. City women are allowed to read. There is also the introduction of weed by Angoori who firmly believes that it is due to consumption of weed that a woman falls in love with a man and is spell-bound – ” See, what happens is that a man makes the girl eat the weed and then she starts loving him.” It is through these two examples that Pritam shows the readers how superstitions work and how deeply entrenched are certain codes of social conduct in a woman’s mind. When it comes to education Angoori has easily accepted her fate of not reading or writing as has been told to her by others and when it comes to love, she feels that it is not an emotion that naturally occurs but is produced if a particular weed is consumed and hence women should be careful and not be lured by men who would make them eat the weed. The patriarchal set up has been brought to the forefront where the father decides who the girl should marry and when the narrator asks Angoori how marriages are arranged , she replies-
‘A girl, when she’s five or six, adores someone’s feet. He is the husband.’
‘How does she know it?’
‘Her father takes money and flowers and puts them at his feet.’
‘That’s the father adoring, not the girl.’
‘He does it for the girl. So it’s the girl herself.’
The entire story is based on conversations which happen with Angoori and the character of the girl is revealed through these conversations. The concept of love which Angoori attributes to a weed goes haywire when she realized that she had fallen in love with another man who did not even give her a weed to consume. The story ends with Angoori talking to herself how she never took anything from him but tea hence leaving it open-ended that maybe now Angoori might suspect that the man mixed something in her tea to make her fall in love with him.
This short story discusses the stronghold of customs and traditions on women and how it adversely affects them. The concept of love is stifled and termed unnatural. The story is relevant in the present context where the issues related to a woman’s sexuality, the repressive culture in which they grow up and the patriarchal system that is prevalent has been well portrayed.