2009-10 AM Fictions of India - Expert Group on (Post-)Colonialism

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Expert Group on (Post-)Colonialism

Group: Representations of India


- Kim‘s journey with the lama starts in Lahore (which today belongs to Pakistan) - Come as far as Benares - Make an excursion into the Himalayas, to the very edge of India (quests reach a climax) - Return to the plains => No borders that hinder Kim‘s travel

- Connection of places through the Grand Trunk Road and by the railway “The Grand Trunk Road at this point [at Benares] was built on an embankment [...], so that one walked, as it were, a little above the country, along a stately corridor, seeing all India spread out to left and right.” (p. 63) - The Grand Trunk Road (former Sadak-e-Azam (“great road”) was improved by the British during their colonial rule and renamed “Grand Trunk Road”, one of the major roads in India and Pakistan) - The “te-rain” (railway introduced by the British) ->essential to ensure British colonial rule? – readable as “terrain”? “[...] at every few kos is a police-station.” (p. 57)

Postcolonial readership creates its own perception of the Indian society as they tend to give equal opportunities for everyone to be mentioned and recognized: Open questions: Should the Secret Service (Great Game) be on the same place as the other parts of society -> postcolonial reading? Or should it be above everything else -> imperialistic reading?


- Portrayal of outcaste colony of an unnamed town in colonial India - Creation of two worlds - After Bakha‘s talk to Colonel Hutchinson he comes to see a mass of different people who want to attend a speech by Ghandi

    -> Grand Trunk Road and railway mentioned

“It was the Grand Trunk Road near the railway station of Bulalash.” (p. 134)

- Only situation in the novel in which social harmony is explicitly stated “Men, women and children of all the different races, colours, castes and creeds, were running towards the oval.” (p. 136)

- Symbolic meaning of the Grand Trunk Road? (>comparable to its function in Kim ?)

- No major focus of British colonial rule?

Midnight's Children

- Significance of mobility - Saleem’s family moves house frequently

                          -> Acts  of moving house linked to negative events

- From Kashmir to Amritzar: People are killed during a peaceful morning (p.62), the hummingbird is killed (p.50) - To Pakistan: Saleem’s family is killed by a bombing raid - To India: Magican ghetto is destroyed (p.599), midnight’s children are sterilized (p.612)

- As opposed to Kim and Untouchable, Midnight’s Children does not only covers India’s colonial period

- Various settings linked to historical events - Illustration of separation of India - Representation of India and Pakistan - Saleem and Shiva as opponents in India in every respect

- Position of the British?

Group: Similarities and Contrats in Kim and Untouchable

How fare are the protagonists influenced by colonialism?

- Kim is a part of colonialism as he is a native born English and takes part in the Great Game.

- Bakhas whole life is influenced by colonialism as he admires the British and their lifestyle and tries to imitate them

Discussion result:

- Colonialism as a part of power structures

Some Ideas that were developed by combining the three novels by Hanna Nieber 18:25, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

Combining the three novels a much more refined picture of colonialism is drawn. Starting with the most recent novel, Midnight's Children, we can see how Rushdie uses Saleem, the protagonist, to make a statement about Colonialism. Saleem says of himself, that his life represents independent India. Not only is his life linked to several historical events, not only does he feel responsible for these events, but also his nose, a physical feature that nobody can possibly miss, is linked to India in shape and through his telepathic talent (which is due to his nasal mucus) to a vast number of other representatives of India. Saleem is the biological child of an Englishman and would have faced a life in poverty, if he had not been deliberately swapped with another child. This other child is evil. His name is Shiva, meaning destruction, and is Saleem's counterpart throughout the whole novel. However, the biological father is not the only feature that is important when attempting to combine the upbringing of the character Saleem with the role of colonialism for independent India. Another feature is the care that was given to the baby independent India. From the first moment on, right after midnight, he was given a new family, that fed him, that cared for him in times of sickness, that helped him grow. Although his family was reluctant to accept him after they were informed that Saleem was not their biological child, most members of the extended family did accept him. Similarly Indians needed to embrace the history of their nation in order to move forward and create a future.

Anand, with his novel Untouchable already moves into the same direction. Bakha, the protagonist in Untouchable, is fascinated by British life style and tries to adopt as many features as possible. It may not always be practical (the normal Indian blankets would be much more suitable), but Bakha can accept this. The British have changed Southern Asia, they are present in the novel, and they are contributing to life even to an outcaste.

Kim, a novel by Kipling written even earlier, also sees the colonizers as part of a diverse society. What kind of impact they have depends on the viewpoint. Kipling presents the reader with different possibilities, the viewpoint of the lama on the one extreme and the viewpoint of Lurgan Sahib on the other extreme. Starting with the latter, the reader could think of a subordinate Indian society and the colonizers as the puppeteers, using the Great Game to establish this order. However, the reader could also think of the spiritual journey of the lama as an ultimate solution to all world problems and all the other quests as earthly and therefore unworthy journeys.

In combination these novels trigger a range of thoughts about colonialism. Without colonialism, Kim could not have been part of the Great Game, without colonialism, Bakha would not question his status as an untouchable, without colonialism, what would Saleem (independent India) be?