Fasting, Feasting


Anita Desai

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Seizures Symbol Icon
Uma's seizures represent all of the nonconformist characteristics that make Uma different from the rest of her family and society. From an early age, Uma fails to meet her family and society's standards of self-restraint, passivity, beauty, and femininity. When trying to escape back to her convent school, Uma has her first seizure just after Mother Agnes tells Uma that she can do nothing to fight MamaPapa on the matter of her education. Mama blames the convent school for causing Uma's epilepsy, and then uses the incident as further justification for keeping Uma at home and out of school. Uma is as helpless to her seizures as she is to her family's decision to deny her education. She is equally helpless to the trouble her parents have in finding her a husband who wants her. When her younger sister Aruna marries, Uma has a seizure at the cocktail party the night before. Aruna blames Uma for ruining the party, as if Uma had done it on purpose. Aruna's anger at Uma's seizure mimics the cruelty of Uma's family blaming her for not managing to catch a husband. When Uma runs off with Mira-masi to the ashram, she has another seizure—yet this time, Mira-masi and the other pilgrims respond very differently. Rather than shaming Uma, they revere her as someone sacred, chosen by the Lord Shiva. Their response to her seizure reflects their acceptance of her generally—she is allowed to be herself at the ashram, to wander freely and without judgment. Mainstream society, as represented by her family, has no place for her. Yet religious devotees and others who form the outcasts of society are able to see what is special and unique about Uma's way of thinking and existing.
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Seizures Symbol Timeline in Fasting, Feasting

The timeline below shows where the symbol Seizures appears in Fasting, Feasting. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon Uma should try to learn home keeping. Uma shrieks, and has her first epileptic seizure on the convent floor. Mama blames the convent nuns for causing Uma’s seizure, using the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
...floor beside Mira-Masi, that she has never been so happy as now. Uma has another seizure while there, but the pilgrims and worshippers respond to Uma’s seizure with wonder and respect.... (full context)
Chapter 9
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Tradition/India vs. Modernity/West Theme Icon that Aruna arranges for the family and in-laws the night before, Uma has a seizure in front of a group of extended family. That night, Aruna yells at Uma for... (full context)