9Jakhoo Hill presents Indian socio-economic and political history of 1960s and 1970s which is considered to be the most tumultuous period in the Indian context due to demoralizing Indo- China war . The play set in Shimla during 1962 is relevant even today in the 21st century. Referring to the context of the play The Hindu stated :
The political turmoil and disillusionment of the outside world, India’s demoralizing war with
China, the gradual decline of Nehruvian Ideals and optimism is echoed in the sitting room of ‘9
Jakhoo Hill’ where once well to do family watches in comprehension as its genteel world
disintegrates in the face of a brash new social climbing middle class.
The play is about two migrant Hindu families from Lahore after the tragic partition of India. The
play investigates the ways of living which governed the attitudes, social norms, the psycho- cultural and socio-cultural behavior patterns of the Simla society .The play is an exposé of changing social order which affected the socio-economic order of the Indian society in the past and is affecting it in the present century as well. The play is a resonant account on the cultural and political history of India.
Gurcharan Das in the ‘Introduction’ to Three English Plays asserted, “ We are Macaulay’s
children, not Manu’s…we have one foot in India , the other in the West, and we belong to neither culture”(18-19).In the 21st century, under the impact of globalization , liberalization our life appears to be fragmented and affected by rapidly changing social and economical order, societal changes ,intensifying debauchery . The ideals of Universal brotherhood, sorority and
forbearance have been substituted by voracity, profligacy narcissism and corruption resulting in creation of estranged and alienated individuals all over the country. Gurcharan Das’s 9 Jakhoo Hill is a realistic portrayal of this gloomy picture of Indian society in 1960s and also in 2010s. Das reverberates Elton’s views that past always determines the present, “ Those who look upon it have survived it; they are its product and its victors. No wonder, therefore, that men concern themselves with history” (Elton 46).
Jawahar Lal Nehru armoured with his idealistic ideals, promoting the policy of non-alignment and The Panchsheel, dreamt to make India a power. The Chinese incursion, Indian defeat and mortification hurt the Nation’s consciousness beyond imagination. The result of 1962 Indo- China war would have been different had Nehru displayed greater leadership acumen and realized India’s military power.
The political hubbub and frustration, India’s disconcerting defeat at the hands of the Chinese,
collapse of Nehru’s impractical beliefs, crass materialistic, apathetic and hostile social attitudes of characters is reverberated in this play. 9 Jakhoo Hill is not only about the traumatic experiences of partition, one individual’s past but of migrant families in particular and community in general. The play highlighting the dilemma of contemporary society, illustrates the impact of Indo-China war on the Indian society in 1962 that ended an age of innocence and completely devastated Nehruvian ideals.
Gurcharan Das in the ‘Introduction’ accentuated that sustainable expansion is not possible without focusing on economic and social development. Maintaing a proper equilibrium between economic and social development, ensuing that this economic development was shared by the whole society serves the very purpose of this growth. These economic reforms must take into consideration the apprehensions of every segment of the society. Regrettably, Indian Government’s structure of socio- economic growth turned out to be a failure and proved to be a nightmare that produced , “ …an untrained army of underpaid engineers operating without clearcut criteria,… licensing committee equally ignorant of entrepreneurial realities also operating upon….The result was enormous delays-years- with staggering opportunities for corruption”( TOI.6).
9JakhooHill is set in the autumn of 1962 in Shimla during Diwali:
The twenty-fourth of October,1962, just before Diwali. The Chinese have invaded India and
every day the papers are full of sad, humiliating news of Indian defeats. It is breaking Nehru’s heart. The country hasn’t yet realized that it is dangerous to put dreamers in power(144).
Here a well-to-do family observes ineffectively its unruffled and genial ambiance collapsing under the impact and influence of the new rising middle class. The writer, through the story of these two immigrant families from Lahore , has tried to depict the impact of ‘money’ on mutual human relationship and reliance. The writer, optimistic of the modern societal set up observed, “ The most striking feature of contemporary India is the rise of a confident new middle class, which is full of energy and drive and is making things happen”(17).
The play probes the lives of two established but displaced families from Lahore during the
partition. Gurcharan Das’s characters reveals that there are two types of people, one , “ …who hold values dear and …those who believe everything relative as long as one’s goal is met”(The Hindu 14).
The play is a resounding critique on the families torn apart due to, “ Partition –-that great tearing
apart ,which reduced people to elemental, fearful creatures; desperate to survive, clinging to the vestiges of dignity”(143). One of the concerned family is a conventional middle class family consisting of Amrita, her brother Karan Chand alias Mamu and Amrita’s young daughter Ansuya. The narrator cum actor Karan Chand discloses , “ Amrita, over there, was born into a distinguished family ,… into a world of grace , refinement and good taste”(144). Ansuya , twenty six years old is an impulsive but intelligent girl who , “ was not born to lead a staid , conventional life. Lonely, withdrawn, but with an almost fierce vitality, she wants to live fully and passionately” (144). Amrita’s husband died during the riots ,they lost all their wealth they had in Lahore and came to Delhi ,where they had a couple of mills and a big sprawling house in the Civil Lines. Due to lack of business acumen in Amrita and Karan Chand they were all at sea. They were forced to sell their mills and their house , as they suffered heavy losses in their business. Finally they moved to Shimla , to their summer residence, 9 Jakhoo Hill. This was all they had been left with, alongwith a paltry income from bonds and shares, too inadequate for their kind of life.
The other family comprises, Deepak, twenty seven years old young man and a successful business executive settled in Bombay. He, “…is full of energy and ambition….talented and smooth, but is also under the excessive influence of his mother. Having had to come up the hard way, he has cultivated the social graces….He has already done well for himself ,and knows he is
good. He has a composed voice, shinning eyes anda bright smile. He is self-possesed and good- natured”(155). His mother, Chitra enduring terrors of partition, moved to Mumbai, where with an obsessive devotion ensured that her son got the best education and then a good job in a good company. Chitra, “ has a husband, but he doesn’t count. …is a survivor: street smart, calculating and unconcerned about her ways” (143).
The play is a pragmatic portrait of the ever changing socio-economical and political situation of
Indian society in the 1960s that influence the outlook and ideals of the society in general and individuals in particular. Economic restructuring prompted by the Indian Government was the main power behind these modifications. The play spotlights on the depiction of positive and negative aspects of socio-economic reforms and their influence on the characters.
The social relevance of the play cannot be negated even in the present century, when Chitra in
Act II tells Amrita about Deepak’s income.
Chitra: He makes one thousand , two hundred and eighty-six rupees per month,Didi!...We rushed here, Didi, because Deepak’s company is bidding for a licence, and the big Government uffsar is here, in Simla(158).
This is reflexive of the materialistic approach of a new rising middle class that was affected by
the fiscal reforms during the 1960s.
After the agonizing period of bloody partition and dejected cost-effective modifications ,people,
particularly the ones belonging to the pre-Independence period , were desolate, frustrated and were nostalgic, always clinging to the rich ancestoral past.
Gurcharan Das in his ‘Introduction’ to the Three English Plays stated that the old middle class, consisting of people like his grandfather and father emerged in the nineteenth century with the
spread of English education. This English education created a class of professionals who, “stepped into the shoes of departing English in 1947”(17) and for a long period have monopolized the rewards of not only 20th century modern society but are still enjoying the rewards of 21st century as well. But, this conventional middle class feels alienated from the mass of the Indian society and is unsure of its identity , even in the present century. The class was leisurely,tolerant and ambiguous as compared to this new middle class which is , “ street smart; it has had to fight to rise from the bottom and it has learnt to manoeuvre the system”(17).Whereas on the other hand , the new middle class of the 20th century, “ is based on money, drive and an ability to get things done. whereas the old class was liberal, idealistic and inhibited , the new order is pragmatic and refreshingly free from colonial hang-ups”(17).
The old middle class was leisurely,tolerant and ambiguous as compared to this new middle class which is , “ street smart; it has had to fight to rise from the bottom and it has learnt to manoeuvre the system”
Before the industrial revolution the old middle class boasting about idealistic, conventional
moral life lost its significance with the coming of new middle class represented by Deepak and
Chitra, as Karan , the narrator comments:
Karan: As you can see,our life had a certain rhythm, a certain quality, even as we were slowly getting poorer. It was this rhythm which was shattered when Deepak and Chitra came into our lives( 153).
The play also explores the conflict between the old, conventional middle class family represented
by Amrita and Ansuya and the new emerging middle class family represented by Deepak and Chitra. Gurcharan Das has portrayed Chitra, as a die-hard money monger fervently against her son Deepak’s decision to marry Ansuya because Ansuya’s family is berift of all the luxuries and affluences and is almost on the verge of being bankrupt.
Chitra:Stop it Ma? All these yearsI’ve been teaching you: don’t marry beauty; don’t marry for love; marry a rich girl!
Deepak: Yes Ma, I heard you,’…marry money.’ But on the train up here,you said yourself that you wanted me to think of marrying Ansuya.
Chitra: that was before I found out that they had become poor.(191).
Ansuya’s family is evocative about its rich ancestral past, where they lived a serene and luxuriant life during the pre-partition period. They were forced to sell even their house to pay off their debts. Ansuya craves for city life more than anything else. She is uncomfortable at home and is unhappy at her Mamu’s advances. She feels stifled by her clogged life and the incestuous elite of Simla’s so called affluent society to the extent that despite Deepaks’s warning , “ Bombay can be heartless and indifferent”(162), she avers:
Ansuya: I’d rather have the indifference than our great hospitality, which suffocates you in the end. You don’t have Mrs Kumar …(and she mimicks.)…’I wonder what’s wrong with that girl,’ or Mrs Mehra…’Arre, what a fast girl!’(162).
She wanted to leave Simla at any cost and felt that to realize her dream, Deepak was the right
person and a true companion. According to Karan Chand , our narrator, Ansuya , “ yearned for the voicelessness of the big city.A great city can be a great solitude. Ansu wanted to disappear in a crowd of strangers. A big city may be squalid,even callous, but it is also more tolerant to our fellow men(164).
Gurcharan Das stresses on the impact and effect of economic changes on the characters and concludes that social relations were based traditionally and conventionally on emotions and fellow feelings but with the advent and under the influence of rising avariciousness these relations suffer and begin disintegrating. This change affected even the pious mother-son relationship. Chitra failed to give Deepak the much needed emotional and affectionate love, although she tried her best and also succeeded to some extent in making him a business executive. Deepak’s verbal outburst describes his anger of being bereft of motherly love.
Deepak : Ma, don’t you care about what I want?Don’t you care about my happiness?(191).
Deepak is infact, a pathetic victim of mother-fixation. Inspite of in love with Ansuya he could not marry her , because of the excessive control of his mother. His pleadings and appeals do not affect the money-monger Chitra.
Deepak: It’s my one chance for an honest life. She is fine person, with ideals. Ma.
Chitra: Oh-ho, that girl is only after your position and your job. She has trapped you, you simpleton. Deepak, think of your future.She doesn’t have a naya paisa to her name. you ‘re on the way up,son. Your star is going to rise. You need a rich girl to help you climb up. Her family are on the way down. She should be satisfied with a municipal clerk (192).
Chitra is obsessed by her concentrated quest of success and materialistic gains that she desperately forces Deepak to marry Rai Saheb’s niece only because of affluent dowry and bluntly tells Deepak:
Chitra: Rai Saheb’s niece!Look Deepak, you won’t find another match like her. Beta, beta
thande dimag se soch. My guess is the dowry is not going to be under two lakhs.And maybe they will also give a car, a fridge and an air-conditioner. Uff ! Main to khushi se paagal ho rahi hoon!I don’t think I shall be able to sleep tonight, Deepak.(192)
Thus, by persuading Deepak to marry Rai Saheb’s niece instead of Ansuya, Chitra craves
happiness at all cost even ignoring Deepak’s frantic appeal for love.
Deepak:( Barking) To hell with my promotion, Ma . I want Ansuya… It’s my one chance for an honest life. She is a fine person, with ideals Ma. (192)
But, Chitra is obstinate to be moved an inch by these emotional hiccups/obstacles. She bemoans her starved life at Lahore in the pre-partition days and now is frantic to lead a contented life .
Chitra: Oh-oh, we always need more money. There’s never enough. Oh, tu kya jaanta hai, What it is like to grow up poor. What do you know what it was like to be the tenants of these people in
Lahore? Kisi ke tukdon par palna, tu kya jaanta hai ? After Partition, what do you know what it was like to be a petty kiranawalla’s wife in Ghatkopar?(191)
Gurcharan Das through Chitra has shown that aspiration for money exceeds the ethical boundaries as well. Here profligacy is not a bane rather a boon,passport for success. Chitra,in
order to get the much cherished licence for her son Deepak’s company and get him married to
Rai sahib’s niece willfully agrees/consents for sexual relations with Rai sahib.
Chitra:( Her eyes light up ) Son , it is done .Your future is pucca, and your licence meri muuti mein hai!... Rai Saheb ke saath gai zaroor thi. But not the club. To his house. Ek ghanta unke saath bita kar aa rahi hoon! Samjhe?(193)
Thus, decrepitude of societal behavior is reflected in Rai Sahib’s trivial and immoral talks
about Khanna’s ayah, who was made pregnant by Khanna sahib and he makes fun of this.
In 9Jakhoo Hill Gurcharan Das shows how intricate it is for a company to get a licence, due to
rising corruption and redtapism rampant in the administrative system of India. Through Rai Saheb he exposes the Government bureaucracy where officers exploit people socially,sexually as well as economically. Karan Chand , correctly accuses Rai Saheb.
Mamu: Tell us, Deepak, will your company have to bribe him for the licence?(158).
The upcoming new middle class hardworking people is quick to learn and ready to imbibe the
positive impact of economic reforms. In portraying Deepak as a successful business executive with brain Das presents the positive impact of economic reforms in 1960sand 1970s .
Deepak : Sir, I am proud of what I do and the company I work for. You may think what you like, but I believe we care more about our people than many academics do for their students.
The most striking feature about the modern economy is that it enthuses optimistic spirit and courage in youth, as evident from Deepak’s plan for ‘9 Jakhoo Hill’ to convert it into a hotel so
that they can make best use of it in their critical financial condition by enabling Ansuya to be confident and self-reliant. He tells Ansuya:
Deepak : ( Speaking like a professional manager). Why not convert it into an exclusive season hotel?...Give it to a professional company to manage it….And , I tell you, in two years , you
could pay back all your debts and keep the house , too.(161).
Ansuya , taking note of to his advice is able to restart and lead a comfortable life.
According to Jaibir S. Hooda :
The rise of the new middle class with its own values prevails upon the older middle class and its
different set of values. The possibility of survival of this old middle class is only through an appropriation of the drive of entrepreneurship and singularity of focus for attainment of personal fulfillment. Ansuya, finally, plans to lead a dignified life and facilitate the well-being of her family by appropriating the economical and financial strategy of converting ‘9 Jakhoo Hill’ into an exclusive ‘ Jakhoo Hotel’. The strategy is Deepak’s brain-child.
The transition in the thinking of the people and especially in the new progressive generation gave
impetus to bring about change in the living condition of the people. There is an increasing dynamism and a desire to change the economic structure in Ansuya from her present state of stagnation echoing the sentiments of the new generation that was rather is progressive ,full of enthusiasm and vigour to build up a new optimistic atmosphere in the country.
Thus , 9 Jakhoo Hill is a well set play. It emphasizes to maintain a critical balance between economic upliftment and maintaining social and moral order. The play was relevant in 1962,
when it was written, in 1996 when it was staged for the first time and is relevant even today in the 21st century as well.
Das’s aim in his play was to shock audience out of their conventional views and attitudes and to encourage them to think rationally and critically, about all aspects of their society,and particularly about its inequalities and injustices. Das shifted the focus of attention in Drama from conventionally well-made plots to the dynamic inter-relations between character, speech action and ideas. Indian English Drama has emerged as a fine blend of the East and West. Das has taken care to focus on the contemporary problems confronting the Indian social milieu. The themes taken up by him are no more limited to India alone but are universal in nature and hence have attracted worldwide attention.