Mahasweta Devi’s ‘The Hunt’

‘The Hunt’ is a story of a rural tribal woman from India. Her name is Mary. She is harassed and stalked by a male logging contractor named Tehsildar who earlier came to her village to buy logging rights. He grows lustful of her. She resists his sexual advances. In an act of self-preservation later on, she turns predator and murders him.

In the beginning, Mary is a woman of strong physical abilities. She is also an astute businesswoman. Even the owner’s wife hails Mary as she says, “you have to take words from a girl who works like an animal, carries a forty-pound bag on her back, and boards the train, cleans the whole house in half an hour.” Mary also gets praises at the marketplace: “Mary has countless admirers at Tohri market. She gets down at the station like a queen.

She sits at her own rightful place at the market.” Mary is easy to like. She is able-bodied, empowered with strength, intelligent, humorous, generous, outspoken, and respected. She is also formidable with her words and machete, two weapons she clearly has.

One persistent admirer she has is the logging contractor Tehsildar. Towards the end of the story, Mary’s virginity is threatened in a potential rape. Mary rebukes the sexual advances with the first weapon she has: verbal threats. He still continues to follow her around. One day when she was returning from the market, “Tehsildar caught her hand. He says I won’t let go today.” Fortunately for her, she was able to escape Tehsildar’s more violent amorous advances. She hatches a plan that day. She decides to finally put an end to the man’s sexual aggression.

She sets up a rendezvous with Tehsildar in the forest during the annual spring festival. According to tribal custom, gender roles are reversed once every twelve years. The women become the hunters while the men dress up like clowns. The men also drink and sing in a festive merrymaking. This year is the twelfth year. Mary will become a hunter in this year’s ritual hunt. She expectedly meets up with Tehsildar who is more than eager to tryst with her. She proceeds to hack him to death with her second weapon: machete.

‘The Hunt’ is a straightforward narrative of a woman who is a victim of male sexual aggression and avenges her oppressive plight by killing her oppressor.


Indian forest