Ila and Nanda's clothes are described in more detail than other characters. Both of them wear saris, but while Nanda Kaul wears crisp silks representing her strong and stern nature, Ila Das's saris are cotton, with the lace of her petticoat visible beneath the sari, making her look cartoonish and a subject of laughter. The women had the same background, more or less, but Ila Das's clothing reveals that she has fallen upon hard times.
Desai describes Carignano and its environs numerous times throughout the text, but the description in the first couple of pages is one of the most striking and memorable. For Nanda Kaul, what is compelling about Carignano is its "starkness"..."it had rocks, it had pines. It had light and air. In every direction there was a sweeping view—to the north, of the mountains, to the south, of the plains. Occasionally an eagle swam through this clear unobstructed mass of light and air. That was all" (4). Nanda Kaul clearly cares nothing for embellishment, fecundity, excess: she likes this bleak, barren landscape because it matches her own stripping away of extraneous people, things, and cares.
Nanda Kaul's first impression of Raka is that she is "minute and fine, on thin, precarious legs," with "extravagantly large and somewhat bulging eyes" (39). She is like an insect, a dark cricket. There is nothing that resembles the moon about her, even though that is what "Raka" means. From this first mage of Raka, we see that she is closer to nature than people, that she is wild, and that she is fragile but strong.
Raka loves the burnt remains of the house on the hill: "This hill, with its one destroyed house and one unbuilt one, on the ridge under the fire-singed pines, appealed to Raka with the strength of a strong sea-current—pulling, dragging" (90). In this powerful image/metaphor, Desai depicts Raka being pulled out to the "sea" of the burnt house. We sense that Raka has little control over what appeals to her—and that she does not resist what she wants.
Fire on the Mountain Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fire on the Mountain is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Raka is left to Nanda after her parents, an abusive father and oppressed mother, move to Geneva while she is still sickly after having recovered from Typhoid. She is unlike other children and instead of looking for company of other children, finds...