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As the sun is setting, Shabanu goes to gather wood. She hears the bagpipes of the nearby men's camp and suddenly comes upon a crowd of men. The crowd gathers around two men, naked but for their loincloths, who are fighting. One man is strong and heavy, the other light and agile. The two fighting men remind Shabanu of Kalu and Tipu, the two camels battling over the female in heat. With horror, she sees that the smaller man, who wins the fight, is Dadi. As she turns to leave, Dadi notices her with angry eyes. She rushes back to camp. When she sees Mama, she feels repulsion, wondering how Mama can let Dadi, who is so like the angry, lustful camels, touch her.

Analysis

In many young adult novels, the protagonists feel betrayed and confused by the adult world. Grandparents and other elderly people, however, provide sympathy and guidance that parents and other adults do not. Like the protagonists of young adult novels, the elderly may feel shut out and even disgusted by the adult world. They offer the young protagonists a sympathetic, wise, and critical perspective on the norms of the adult world. Grandfather plays this role for Shabanu.

When Shabanu returns from Sibi, she has not finished grieving for Guluband. Dadi has tried to comfort her, but it was he, after all, who betrayed her by selling the magnificent camel. When she tells Grandfather about Guluband, he assures her that she is right to feel such passionate grief for the loss of her proud companion. Shabanu releases her grief and feels relief that someone else understands what Dadi has done in selling Guluband.

Shabanu's developing breasts give her occasion to express her ambivalence about her continuing progress toward adulthood. She regards her sore breasts a bit suspiciously, while simultaneously longing for a body and face as beautiful as Phulan's. Shabanu finds beautiful things and the thought of being beautiful irresistible; at the same time, she understands that beauty brings with it adult responsibilities. Just before she notices her breasts, after all, she has worked with Phulan to create a stand-in teat and udder for the hungry young Mithoo. Even while her growing breasts suggest she will be as beautiful and womanly as Phulan, those very breasts signify her responsibility to bear and nurture children.

The visit to Channan Pir continues the novel's exploration of the divisions between men and women. The sexes, in this chapter, literally divide themselves into two camps. Their actions in their camps reflect gender concerns: the men, mimicking the camels, fight and show off their strength. The women pray that their daughters will bear sons and be blessed with favorable marriages.

The women pray out for their daughters to bear sons out of necessity, not out of any inherent spite for girls: they are, after all, praying for the good fortune of their daughters. In the context of their culture, that good fortune comes in the shape of sons. Both men and women, in their camps, are acting partly on what culture expects of them and partly on their desires and passions. They are working to negotiate how cultural norms and expectations influence their own hopes, dreams, beliefs, and prayers.

Sharma opens an interesting alternative narrative in this society characterized by prescribed gender roles. She has flown in the face of all tradition and, through hard work and good luck, has managed to support herself and her daughter independently. Sharma demonstrates that within any culture, the possibility of challenging and reinterpreting norms and values exists and can be met with success.