The short story Dhowli, is a tragic tale about a woman who puts her trust and faith into a love that is forbidden, and how she is ultimately betrayed by that love. The story demonstrates how some of the choices that she made, and her own selfish pride led to the injustices she received.
Misrilal is a young Brahman who is captivated by a young Dusad widow. In the Indian culture, the Brahman caste is one of the highest castes, and the Dusads are one of the lowest. Because of the difference in castes, a relationship between the two is forbidden. Although Misrilal is aware of this, he nonetheless persists in pursuing Dhowli.
Dhowli is tormented with his proclamations of love and wanton lust. She has never experienced such feelings of fear. Fear of the possibility that a Brahman is going to take her virtue, and even more terrifying, the possibility that a Brahman may evoke similar feeling from her. Even though Dhowli is not permitted to engage in the same traditions the other Dusads do, she still longs for them. Alas she is a lowly Dusad widow, an untouchable, and she knows deep within her soul that she will never experience any of these glorious things again. And even as she realizes this, her mind insists that there is a man, a Brahman, standing before her relentlessly proclaiming his love and desire for her. Despite the knowledge that this can not be and against all that she believes, she finds herself surrendering to her own desires.
This concession leads Dhowli into a whirlwind of love and acceptance that she had never imagined possible. She constantly reminds herself that this dream cannot be. No matter how true their love is, it is still a forbidden love. Misrilal, on the other hand, insists that nothing will tear them apart, and that they will be together despite all odds. When Dhowli finds out that she is pregnant, she is extremely worried, but Misrilal is overjoyed and reassures her. Just when she begins to believe in their love, the whirlwind ends. Misrilal alas cannot stand up to the Misraji order. Instead, he is only able to persuade his mother not to let Dhowli starve to death. Dhowli is crushed. All that she has come to believe has been destroyed. Misrilal, however, still will not accept that they will not be together. In his cowardice, or perhaps it was denial, he goes to Dhowli and persuades her that he has not submitted, that in fact, he is simply biding his time until he can get things arranged for them to be together.
Misrilal s family demanded that he go to another village for a month and still he reassures Dhowli that they will be together as soon as he returns. In the meantime, Dhowli has to not only suffer the knowledge that Misrilal is a coward, but she also has to deal with the fact that she is now an outcast to her own people. The menfolk plot to make her a whore for their enjoyment, and the women cease to acknowledge her. Even her own mother blames her for the difficulties that lay ahead and beseeches her to take the medicine that will get rid of the thorn in her womb (Devi 244). Dhowli refuses to take any such measures. She can not imagine destroying something that was created through their love.
Thrice the time has passed since Misrilal said he would return, and in the meantime, Dhowli has given birth to a beautiful baby boy. News of Misrilals impending marriage reaches her. Her heart is torn and finally the anger and bitterness set in. She now realizes that Misrilal does not truly love her and he is not coming back for her. Now she must forget him and concern herself with feeding her baby.
After the wedding, Misrilal returns and Dhowli sends for him. Dhowli asks with bitterness and regret what Misrilal is planning to do to help her raise the child now that he has ruined her and made her an outcast. Even now, Misrilal attempts to tell Dhowli that he had loved her and that he was forced to do what he had done. Finally, Dhowli has heard enough. She no longer cares to hear his cowardice. She simply wants her son to survive. He insists that he will help her, but predictably, he does not.
Times get tougher and not only has the town turned against her but even her own mother does not care whether she kills herself or not. Dhowli decides that she will not take such an easy way out. She instead decides that in order for them to survive, she must become a prostitute. She is ashamed and saddened by this realization because she has survived for so long without doing just that. By denying Dhowli, and refusing to accept what he had done, Misrilal had taken from her the one thing she had managed to maintain, her dignity.
Dhowli was surprised at how easy it was to be a prostitute (253). She knew that something inside her had died, but she no longer cared. She has decided that, as long there is food on the table for her and her son she would do what she had to.
Misrilal is told of what Dhowli has become. He is outraged that she dare do such a thing. He would rather she had killed herself than wound his pride by becoming a whore. He wants to kill her, but deep inside he still loves her so instead he ensures that she will have to leave her home and become a professional prostitute elsewhere. To Dhowli, this is the greatest injustice of all.
Dhowli had thought that the love that her and Misrilal had once shared was special and sacred. She believed that their love was not to be compared with the dominating attitude the other Brahmans took towards other Dusad woman. These women were used and sometimes, if they were lucky, were considered a particular Brahmans favorite kept woman. Dhowli had always believed that she would never become like these women. It was this pride, this belief that she was better than the other Dusad women, that ultimately led to her undoing. Perhaps if Dhowli had accepted her position in the caste she would not have ended up being less than what she already was.
Devi, Mahasweta. Dhowli. Other Voices, Other Vistas. Ed. Barbara H.