Monday, April 6, 2009

The Child of 'The Mother'


'Normal' and 'abnormal' are two highly controversial terms. It is difficult to distinguish the apt word for branding one, between the two, as right or as wrong.
When it seems to be difficult to discriminate the signified meaning of both these terms then that points to a fact that we neither know anything nor every thing but only something about what is 'normal' and what is 'abnormal'.

The behaviour of an individual or group that comes under the collective identity of the common behaviour of the social structure is termed most often as 'normal'. In a social context, abnormal is identified as a highly unacceptable behavioural pattern. So let us stick to such a norm that makes sensibility possible with the least of efforts.

In Paulo Coelho, this 'abnormality' and its attempts to gain legitimacy in a formal social set up can be seen recurrently. In the novel, “The Witch of Portobello”, this legitimacy is attempted through the presence of the child of Athena. Thus the protagonist, Athena, sticks to the notions of ‘motherhood’, in all of its socially accepted images. We can see, , the choices made by Athena, as an individual, were for her own enlightenment. Here, the presence of the boy child is a kind of connecting link between the woman, who pursues her 'mad' dreams,and her social existence as a humanbeing.

The concept of motherhood, which is attributed to Athena, is established through her child. Thus the character of Athena finds a co-relation with the concept of ‘Universal Mother’. Here Coelho presents the concept of the Female God or Mother God. In her quest for the spirituality, which the society sees as something not less than witchcraft, her existence does not owe a very significant correspondence with her son.

Coelho’s concept of female God finds its full expression here. This co-relation between the Mother God and Athena seems to be conditioned through the boy child in Athena’s life. Without a child she will not be a mother. Thus the child gives a legitimisation to the concept of motherhood in Athena’s individuality. Giving birth to a child is one of the archetypal concepts of elevating individuality through identifying ‘motherhood’, as some quality more significant; spiritually, mentally, and socially than being an ordinary woman. Here, Coelho uses this archetypal imagery to enable the comparison or co-relation of Athena with the Mother God.
Athena’s spiritual quest interacts with the society as an abnormal eccentricity. These interactions take the form of a political conspiracy against the existing norms, when it moves from an individual level to a mass level. When more and more people are attracted toward Athena, the environment around her residence becomes violent and the society accuses her with breaking rules of the existing religious order and witchcraft. This reaction from the society can be seen as a reaction toward the imbalance caused to the structural aspect of the society.This reaction owes for its violent nature, the concern over the mass participation in Athena’s rituals related with her spirituality.
The protests that Athena faces are evolved from a social consciousness, from a highly materialistic concept concerning the structure of the society and from the pre-constructed insistence on the order of the society. In other words, it can be read as Coelho’s way of bringing down the ‘abstract’ to the roots of material life. The intervention of spirituality in Athena’s socio-cultural interactions are identified as ‘abnormal’ by the society as per the existing norms or references.

The way in which Coelho undertakes the task of evolving Athena’s spirituality, which can be conceived as an abstract idea, is through connecting it with materialistic ‘concepts’. The first step in this attempt is what he did with the child.
Even at the time of chaos in her life it is, motherhood, being the mother of a child that wins her a little humanistic consideration from the so-called morality keepers. The existence of the child in Athena’s life makes her a mother, who can communicate with God- a God who endows the world with incomparable motherhood, and love.

The Existential Crisis

My father came back after job at 8 O’clock at night. He brought the day’s newspaper. The English newspaper, which was the only one subscribed in my home, allotted a very scant commission to the newspaper's agent, said he and thus it was destined for me and my family to get the newspaper from his shop, at about one kilometer distance from my home, either in the evening or at night; not at any cost in the morning! The agent distributed newspapers at every door in the morning except ours. For his commission, Rs: 18 /- per month, for the English newspaper, never enabled him to shun the temptation of Rs: 24 /- from the Malayalam newspapers.

The newspaper, somewhat like a cold coffee now, merely made its routine journey through my eyes. Suddenly, I was shocked. Terrorist attacks in Assam! Indian soil had been again rocked by the sinister intentions of the terror. The elections are imminent. And so the time when this attack took place made it really a high concern. The intention of the terrorists is very clear--to destroy the political stability of the country.

My eyes stuck on another page in another news and my brain connected the news with the previous one. This news was that, about 43 species of mammals, reached close to extinction. I felt the same thing in both the cases. The common thing, in the terror attack and the news about extinction of 43 species of mammals, is that both deals with annihilation. The terrorist slaughter humans and human societies for their own existence, we slaughter poor animals for our own selfish pleasures embellished with the phrase, ‘for use’ .

Where is the difference? And what?
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