December 11th, 2014


In Madras on Rainy Days, the most glaring theme was the discrepancy in society’s acceptance of Sameer’s secret, versus their condemnation of Layla’s. Although outward expressions of sexuality – homosexual or otherwise – were frowned upon in Indian society, at least according to our discussion in class, sexualities of all kinds were allowed to flourish behind closed doors. This made Sameer relatively safe: Although he couldn’t broadcast his sexuality, he could act upon it without fear for safety so long as it remained a private matter.

Layla, however, harbored a secret that could kill her. The fact that she lost her virginity to a man to whom she was not married, not to mention the fact that she was, for a while, pregnant with his child, would have won Sameer the right to return her as a bride to a dangerous and shameful life. If, that is, she was allowed to live.

Perhaps this results from a traditionally patriarchal worldview in which men were left largely to their matters and women expected to live for the men – including denying themselves sexual pleasure – up until and through marriage. Though this post would leave questions lingering about women in a homosexual relationship, the identification of a male-dominated society could explain this discrepancy.

In order to represent this, I constructed a visual poem that makes use of two figures: One male, to represent Sameer, and one female, to represent Layla. Sameer is composed in this case of his sexuality: It is a large part of his identity, and so I made his body of a short poem regarding the identity he holds and the pressure he faces to hide this. Layla is composed of her decision to have pre-marital sex, and identified as society would identify her for her actions. Both characters are hidden under a culture that surrounds them, dictating the acceptedness of their actions. Sameer’s culture tells him simply to remain quiet, and to continue acting as he is, while Layla’s threatens her existence, talking of “ineffective merchandise” as though she is objectified and reduced to her sexuality. The distance between the two is felt verbally and visually, as represented by the walls separating them in the poem and the strength of the language establishing how different their situations are.

Madras on Rainy Days addressed many questions of sexuality, but the discrepancy between expectations for male sexuality and female sexuality in the novel are very different, and this is represented in the poem that I created.

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