In the Mountains by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
In In the Mountains by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala we have the theme of connection, contentment, loyalty, acceptance, freedom and independence. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Jhabvala may be exploring the theme of connection. Pritam though she has decided upon isolating herself from city life and life in general does manage to maintain a connection with her neighbour Dr Sahib. A connection which she tells her mother teasingly is romantic. Though the truth is very much different. If anything Pritam knows that Dr Sahib is unable to look after himself despite receiving money from his family and as such she ends up caring for him when necessity dictates. This may be important as Pritam’s family disagree with how Pritam lives her life. Yet they do not see her generous side. All they see is that Pritam lives in what can be best described by Pritam’s family as an undesirable way. This too may be significant as Pritam’s family may base their life around possessions and materialism. Something that Pritam herself does not do. It is also noticeable that Pritam is loyal to Dr Sahib. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when she calls him up to her home for some food after her family have gone.
Pritam’s mother is also an interesting character. Though she does not necessarily like how Pritam lives her life. She still nonetheless is supportive of her and accepts Pritam’s choice when it comes to how she decides to live her life. It is a not an ideal situation but the important thing is that Pritam’s mother is allowing Pritam to be free. She is not holding her back or dictating to her the course of action she must take. Like returning to Delhi. Dr Sahib also lives a relatively free life which may be the point that Jhabvala is making. She may be suggesting that to achieve happiness or freedom one does not necessarily have to live their life bound to the mechanics that come with life. Neither Dr Sahib nor Pritam are driven by financial reward nor do they care much for social opinion. They live independently of others. Which is very different to how Pritam’s family and relatives live their lives. Though poor there is nothing that Pritam is in need of. Which highlights that a person can be happy without much in the way of financial means.
If anything Pritam is content with her life even if there may be a difficulty when Bobby arrives. Though Bobby is married to Pritam’s sister. Pritam and Bobby once had a passionate affair and Pritam still has feelings for Bobby. However the feelings she feels she is able to control. Which may not have been the case when she was younger. She knows when Bobby is lying and when he is telling the truth. Any naivety with regards to the relationship when Pritam was younger is gone. Though some critics might suggest living in the mountains has made Pritam tougher. This may not be the case. On the exterior Pritam lives a life that many would not wish to live. However she can still be tender to others. As she is with Bobby when they share the bottle of whiskey. Symbolically the whiskey might also be important as Jhabvala may be using it to symbolically suggest a communion between Pritam and Bobby. The fact that Pritam makes it to the bottom of the hill without slipping could also symbolically suggest that Pritam can stand on her own two feet. Unlike Bobby who slips on the hill.
The end of the story is also interesting as by having Pritam’s mother stay with Pritam. Jhabvala could be further suggesting that Pritam’s mother accepts the life Pritam has chosen to live. Though it is without comfort or at least a comfort that Pritam’s mother is used to. Similarly Pritam’s mother’s acceptance of Dr Sahib might be important as it is she who tells Pritam to let him have some food. Which may leave some critics to suggest that Pritam’s mother is open to Pritam and Dr Sahib having a deeper type of relationship. Something that she would have frowned upon earlier in the story. Pritam’s mother can see the benefits of having Dr Sahib as a friend. If anything there is a sense at the end of the story that Pritam has made her peace with Bobby and likewise accepts what has happened between them and let go of it. Similarly Pritam’s mother is no longer judgemental of Dr Sahib. What could have been an occasion of conflict has went well without any arguments. Despite the fact that with the exception of Pritam’s mother. Pritam’s family and relatives cannot understand how she lives as she does.