The Woman at the Bus Stop by Mohan Rakesh
In The Woman at the Bus Stop by Mohan Rakesh we have the theme of control, selfishness, abuse, fear and paralysis. Taken from the Best Indian Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Rakesh may be exploring the theme of control. Balo is at the bus stop waiting for Suchcha to arrive. She is late and worried about how Suchcha will react. She knows he has a fiery temper (he beats her) but that he can also be gentle. This may be significant as it suggests that Balo is under Suchcha’s control. He orders her about and she has no independence from him. It is possible that Rakesh is suggesting that some women live their lives unbelievably under the control of men, particularly their husbands. It may also be a case that Rakesh is suggesting that Balo lives in a patriarchal society.
The theme of abuse is self-evident in the story through the introduction of Jangi’s character. Though not seen in the story Jangi has the ability to instill fear into others, particularly young women. If anything Jangi is a predator and a sexual deviant. He preys on people who are weaker than him. It is also interesting that Balo does not report Jangi’s actions to the police. Rather she thinks it is better to tell Suchcha. This says a lot about authority figures. They may not believe Balo because she is a woman or they might not necessarily think Balo (or women in general) have any rights. Which would again highlight the patriarchal nature of society.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be significant. The beggar could symbolise the breakdown in society. That there are men too who are in need of help? The beggar’s dog could also represent independence. Even when the beggar has gone home the dog manages to get himself some food. If anything the dog is resilient as too is Balo. She will carry on regardless of how difficult life may be. The tiffin carrier is also important as it holds not only food but it has the ability to appease Suchcha. Something that Balo hopes for.
The end of the story is interesting as Balo appears to be paralysed. Not only does she dream of what life might be like with another man. Who cares more for her than Suchcha but she continues to wait obediently for Suchcha. Knowing she may face his wrath. In reality nothing will change for Balo. She is to remain obedient to an abusive husband and Jangi will remain free to abuse other women. Which may be the point that Rakesh is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that regardless of an individual’s desperation, in this case Balo’s, people will continue to live in a dysfunctional relationship and a dysfunctional world. There is no avenue of escape open to them because society is controlled by men and women have little or few rights.