‘Where Shall We Go This Summer‘ is the fourth novel by Sahitya Academy Award winner Anita Desai dealing with prenatal neurosis of a sensitive middle class woman and her inability to tolerate with the male chauvinistic, loveless and unkind husband.
‘Where Shall We Go This Summer’ was published in 1975. It surrounds around Sita, a sensitive middle-aged homemaker whose mental conflict to choose between her boring urban life and conservative village life.
The virtuoso of the author reveals in the sound picturization of the anguished life of a middle class woman and her mental struggle in a realistic manner.
Desai’s other famous novels include Cry, the Peacock (1963), Voices in the City (1965), Fire on the Mountain (1977) and The Village by the Sea (1982).
WHERE SHALL WE GO THIS SUMMER SUMMARY
‘Where Shall We Go This Summer’ is divided into three parts:
- Monsoon 67
- Winter 47
- Monsoon 67
The division of sections may symbolize the change of Sita’s mind (change of weather in her mind).
At the beginning of the novel she has four children and pregnant for the fifth time. She wishes to abandon the city and withdraws to her native village. But ultimately she begins to reconsider the life in city.
Sita is already a mother of four children and pregnant with the fifth one. When she realises that she’s pregnant for the fifth time, this makes drastic changes in her mind.
She doesn’t want her fifth child to be born into this meaningless and noxious world. The relationship between husband and wife is not interactive.
With her two children Karan and Menaka, Sita arrives in the Manori island where she had spent her childhood with her father. She doesn’t want her fifth child to be born into this world.
She desires to make a miracle by keeping the child unborn. The world around her is corrupted, poisonous and wicked and therefore it doesn’t deserve to hold her child.
Her inner psyche is not completely untraceable. She has maladjustments with her husband, Raman. This makes her feel alienated from her husband and the crack develops day by day.
Raman is a businessman and seems to have no feelings and affection towards Sita. Sita is a normal woman who has all the feelings of a woman. Her feelings are unfulfilled as a married woman.
Sita’s dream go in vain and seems it never become true in her lifetime. They both stand as binary opposites. She begins to hate her husband for his lack of feelings. So she searches for the means of escape.
As a result she ends up developing some bad habits including smoking. She also comes to scold and beat her children even for trivial things. When she has to carry one more child, it adds to her pressure. Finally she resolves to leave the house for Manori.
Manori is a land of freedom and magic. Her father made it a magical land. Sita hopes that her father will make another magic even after his death in keeping her child unborn. So she has come here on a pilgrimage to beg her father to perform this miracle. And thereby she also hopes revive her past.
This section of ‘Where Shall We Go This Summer’ recollects Sita’s past childhood life. Her father was a dedicated freedom fighter. Many people of his village considered him a saint and they used to ask suggestions for their problems. He also had solved many of their problems.
He retired from the public life after India had achieved its Independence from the British. He came to settle in the Manori island which he received as a token of respect from one of his admirers named Dalwala, a Parsi millionaire. He built a house in the island and named it Jeevan Ashram – the Home of the Soul. Sita had no opportunity to attend school. Her brother Jeevan accompanied her most of the times in the island.
Sita was brought up in this island. Her father practiced black magic and the locals revered him as a legend. He also became expert in treating the supposed incurable ailments. He failed as a father. His children didn’t get any comforts from him. He had an affair with a concubine. His wife had found another lover and started to live with him.
Once Sita found her father collecting pearls and gold at the dead of night to be distributed to villagers along with medicine. Later she learnt from Jeevan that this jewellery belonged to their mother, her father’s second wife, who had left him perhaps because he had gone to live in Benares with his lover. Sita also had suspicion over his relationship with her stepsister Rekha. All these make her to develop an unrealistic attitude towards life.
Nonetheless, the atmosphere of the island gave all the comforts the children failed to receive from the parents. Raman is the son of her father’s friend. He took her to Bombay after her father’s death.
Sita’s hope shattered in the island when she becomes more unhappy and restless there. No more she can escape from the reality of life. She is unable to communicate with her father. For the first time in her life, she doubts her father’s black magic and miracle cure.
When her husband finally arrives in the island, she goes with him to accept the reality of life in Bombay. Sita didn’t receive the love of her father and mother and the same is the case with her husband. This makes Sita an emotionally introvert.
Anita Desai beautifully portrays the alienation in the husband and wife relationship in this novel ‘Where Shall We Go This Summer’. The marriage is a choice of lust and hunger and not of love. Sita hoped that the marriage would bring an end to her monotonous life in Manori island with her father. Unfortunately, she has no change of life in the city.