The Binding Vine by Shashi Deshpande is a story about life, love, society and the various relationships we build and what they mean to us and some relationships that are build on the grounds of humanity. The novel has the epigraph “ What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here?” These lines taken from the book Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte give us a glimpse into the lives of Urmi the narrator of The Binding Vine and the rest of the women characters who are bound to a life and society, which conforms a woman to certain roles.
It’s a story of these women trying to create a niche in a patriarchal society. They are very much riddled with their own dreams and aspirations yet trying to fulfill their duties towards their human relationships. The book explores these relationships in its various facets, the joys, sorrows and heartbreak and how they bind each and every one of them.
The Narrator Urmi an intelligent and sharp-tongued lecturer and mother is grieving the death of her one year old daughter who is surrounded by her family and best friend caring for her. She rebuffs their smothering and on the other hand gets caught up with a dead mother-in-law’s poetry about her loveless marriage to a obsessive husband who indulges in marital rape and the young Kalpana hanging between life and death in a hospital bed; who dares to dream in a world where women are taught to hide, also gets raped for saying “No” to the advances of a man.
In this dark twisted web of hopelessness and despair there is a glimmer of hope. Urmi understands in the course of events that the tender vine of human relationships, understanding, empathy and sympathy binds us all. Life goes on despite its ups and downs, all its vagaries and troubles has its tender moments that make it worth living, worth clinging to. It is the “spring of life” which her dead mother-in-law spoke of in her poems; we all search for, always.
The novel teaches us a valuable lesson of how to face this harsh world and never be disappointed because what we seek is only within us. Our family and our loved ones around us nurture it. Though the novel speaks of feminism, in no way does Shashi Deshpande urges us to break away from our culture. The characters do not break away from family, they maintain the family ties and feel secure. We as readers understand the importance of relationships.
A classic read from the Sahitya Akademi Award winner The Binding Vine uses “stream of consciousness” to relay the various events. The novel gives the reader hope to carry on the darkest days. To surge on with our heads held high.